• Dr. Caroline Ricker

Feeling worse on probiotics? Your mysterious tummy woes are about to be explained!

Nobody wants to be the gassy one at the party (except maybe a five year old).

Standing over the buffet table wondering which thing is going to set you off this time. Debating whether one beer is worth feeling like the keg for the rest of the night, eyeing the spinach dip as if it might betray you.

You might be struggling to find out what’s wrong, or maybe you’ve already had a diagnosis like GERD or IBS, but nothing seems to be working. And then someone said probiotics would help. So you hop on google where people are hailing probiotics to as a miracle for tummy troubles! You stock up on yogurt, grab a spoon and kiss your sneaking off to the bathroom days goodbye, only to be struck down like you ate five pounds of Taco Bell!

Are you one of a growing body of people who jumped on the good bacteria bandwagon, or maybe your doctor put you on them to help with a diagnosis like IBS, only to take a literal gut punch of increased gas, bloating and upset stomach? You’re not crazy, but it’s not the probiotics’ fault.

If you started taking probiotics because you are dealing with tummy troubles, only to have your situation mysteriously worsen, you may actually be suffering from a condition known as SIBO! SIBO stands for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth and while it sounds like a mouthful, if you take a minute to really slow it down it’s exactly what it sounds like. In certain situations, someone may have too much bacteria (even the good guys!) in their upper intestine, which can lead to just as many problems as not having enough.

If you’re still confused, let’s compare your intestines to an ecosystem. There are over 500 different kinds of bacteria in your intestines. Some of these are labeled as “good” bacteria and some as “bad” bacteria, but it’s really about balance. In our own earth’s ecosystem example, think about how carefully balanced the living things are. Creatures that we might not like such as spiders can help keep down the bug population, while if we had an abundance of cute little rabbits we would have a shortage of crops. Just like if we had too many or too few of one creature it would throw the whole system off balance, if we had too many of ALL species there would be an entire environmental crisis (think greenhouse effect).

This is what is happening in SIBO. You can have entirely too much of all your bacteria in the upper gut, or you can have a huge imbalance in your types of bacteria. So while a probiotic will generally help someone who is overall low in good bacteria, it can make someone with too much bacteria feel worse! Not only can you feel worse, but your overall health is at risk as well if you truly have SIBO. Bacterial overgrowth can also lead to damage to the intestinal lining known as “leaky gut”, and decrease nutrient absorption leading to deficiencies.

So what are the symptoms of SIBO?

Most common:

- Gas

- Bloating (especially in the upper abdomen)

- Diarrhea/constipation

- Belching

Other symptoms:

- Heartburn

- Nausea

- Symptoms of Leaky gut

- Malabsorption

So what to do?

If you’re super disappointed that taking a probiotic is doing the opposite of solving your digestive woes and now you’re starting to suspect you might have SIBO don’t give up yet!

There are some great studies showing that there are other alternative therapies to get rid of your bubbly tummy symptoms and that they are just as effective as conventional medicines or even more so! Not to mention, these alternative treatment options have fewer side effects and are more cost effective than medical treatments.

If you suspect you have SIBO and are so ready to feel better, my best suggestion is to find a qualified chiropractor or functional medicine doctor near you to assess your symptoms and let you know what types of treatments fit your personal needs. If left untreated SIBO has been shown to lead to nutritional deficiencies or even autoimmune diseases.

Our Top Tips for those with SIBO

1. Decrease Sugary Carbohydrates

Bacteria in the gut love sugar, so decreasing sugary carbohydrates will ease the “greenhouse effect” causing the gassy gut issues.

2. Watch out for broad spectrum antibiotics

Broad spectrum antibiotics can wipe out entire species of bacteria in the gut leading to crazy overgrowth of another. While there may be times where an antibiotic is vital, be sure the one prescribed is specific and absolutely necessary.

3. Seek out permanent treatment

Finding someone in your area skilled in treating SIBO is key, and we recommend using natural treatments first when at all possible to limit side effects and increase effectiveness. Treating SIBO will not only finally relieve your painful embarrassing symptoms, but it just may help save you from autoimmune disease and the effects of nutritional deficiencies!

You CAN feel great again!

Dr. Caroline Ricker has been passionately helping people avoid unnecessary medications and surgeries since 2009. She combines a very logical functional medicine approach to digestive disorders and more using a more alternative holistic approach, utilizing standard lab tests and in-office evaluations as well as nutrition, acupuncture and homeopathy.

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Whole Health & Wellness

10807 Big Bend Road

St. Louis, MO 63122

P: (314) 269-3847