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Why is SIBO so difficult to diagnose and treat?

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is a common condition that doctors can diagnose and treat. SIBO can be very difficult to diagnose and treat, unfortunately, so many people with the digestive problem do not receive the relief they need. Fortunately, state-of-the-art medical technology can help doctors detect, diagnose and treat SIBO.

SIBO is a condition in which there is too much bacteria in the small intestine, or when the type of bacteria living there changes. SIBO often happens where there is too little movement within this section digestive tract.

Medical professionals do not know exactly how many people have SIBO. Research suggests that 2.5 to 22 percent of all people have SIBO, but that the condition is substantially underdiagnosed, largely because it is so difficult to diagnose.

SIBO is Difficult to Diagnose

SIBO can be difficult to diagnose for a number of reasons. Some people do not experience symptoms, for example, or they experience non-specific symptoms that could be the result of any number of conditions. The symptoms of SIBO include:

  • Abdominal pain/discomfort
  • Bloating and abdominal distention
  • Gas and belching
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss and symptoms associated with vitamin deficiencies may occur in more severe cases

Many doctors are unaware of how common SIBO is, so it may not be the first thing doctors think of when patients come in complaining of these symptoms. Doctors might also mistakenly attribute the symptoms to other conditions that led up to SIBO, or improperly diagnose SIBO as being another condition altogether. People who have had diverticulosis, which is a condition in which tiny bulging pockets develop in the small intestine, are at higher risk of developing SIBO. Symptoms of diverticulosis include abdominal pain or discomfort, bloating and constipation - similar to SIBO symptoms.

SIBO is more prevalent in patients with other gastrointestinal disorders, including celiac disease, Crohn's disease, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). These disorders also create signs and symptoms similar to SIBO.

In many cases, the methods doctors used for diagnosis could not detect the signs of SIBO. Bacterial overgrowth does not show up on imaging or in standard blood tests, for example. To complicate matters even further, there are several types of SIBO, and each person will respond to a different type of treatment.

Fortunately, doctors can now use state-of-the-art breath analyzers manufactured by QuinTron Instrument Company to determine whether a patient's symptoms are the result of SIBO, IBS or other digestive disturbances related to sugar or food intolerances. When bacteria ingest and ferment sugar in the small intestine, they emit hydrogen, methane and other gases. These gases enter the bloodstream then release into the air when a person exhales. Breath analyzers can detect and measure these gases to help doctors make accurate diagnoses of and treatment plans for SIBO.

While SIBO can be difficult to diagnose and treat, an accurate diagnosis and determining what the underlying or root case of SIBO is essential to relieve symptoms of SIBO. QuinTron's products help provide medical professionals another piece to individuals puzzling gastrointestinal issues with analyzers and test kits that are simple, accurate and reliable. To learn more about QuinTron non-invasive breath tests and how they may be able to help you, visit ww.BreathTests.com.


 

The Incidence of Gastrointestinal Diseases is Rising, but Why? A Discussion of the Factors Contributing to the Increase in GI Conditions 

The number of people suffering from gastrointestinal (GI) diseases is on the rise, with millions more people suffering from digestive disorders than ever before. These GI disorders can cause significant health problems, decreased quality of life and even death, so it is essential for scientists to identify factors contributing to the increase in GI disease. A greater understanding of the contributing factors can help patients reduce their risk of developing GI disease, and perhaps decrease the incidence of GI disorders worldwide.

The Incidence of Some GI Diseases are Rising

A number of GI disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) affect an increasing number of people around the globe. The number of people in the United States with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) has grown from 2 million adults in 1999 to 3 million adults in 2015, for example, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A number of modifiable and non-modifiable factors increase the risk of IBS. These risk factors include smoking, ethnicity, older age, family history and gender, with ulcerative colitis occurring more frequently in men and Crohn’s disease more common in women. Geographic location can also be a contributing risk factor, according to Healthline, as people who live in urban areas and industrialized countries have a higher risk of the GI condition. This is most likely because people in these areas tend to eat larger quantities of fat and processed foods, which can have a negative effect on the gastrointestinal tract.

Another GI condition, diverticular disease, has become increasingly common for many of the same reasons that IBS and other GI problems are on the rise. Diverticular disease causes small bulges or sacs, known as diverticula, to form in the wall of the large intestine. Research shows that rate of diverticular disease has increased from between 2 and 10 percent in the early part of the 20th century to up to 50 percent of people over the age of 60. Consuming a diet that is low in fiber and high in red meat may play a role in the development of diverticular disease.

Many digestive disturbances are associated with sugar or food intolerances. The Western diet consumed in the U.S. and in other industrialized nations tends to consume considerably more sugar than do other nations. People with gastrointestinal issues, such as IBS, celiac disease and functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGD) may have trouble digesting these sugars. Even people without known digestive issues may suffer from sugar intolerances, which can cause fatigue, abdominal cramps, gas and painful bloating, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. MedicalNewsToday says that sugar intolerances are now relatively common.

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) occurs when bacteria grow to excessive levels in the small intestine, which can lead to bloating, gas, abdominal pain, nausea and fatigue. In extreme cases, the bacterial overgrowth of SIBO can prevent the digestive tract from absorbing nutrients from food, resulting in poor nutrition, weight loss or anemia. The overall prevalence of SIBO is unknown, largely because it is under-diagnosed because some patients may not seek care and because doctors may not be able to properly diagnose the condition.

GI Disease Causes Negative Health Effects

GI conditions may be associated with certain chronic conditions. People with irritable bowel disease are more likely to have cardiovascular disease, respiratory problems, cancer, arthritis, kidney disease and liver disease than are people without irritable bowel, for example.

Gastrointestinal diseases like IBS can significantly lower quality of life, according to the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research. More than 40 percent of people with IBS avoid work, traveling or socializing because of their digestive issue, and many with GI problems suffer in silence.

Appreciating the rise in the number of GI diseases affecting the public, and identifying the reasons for the increases, can help more doctors properly diagnose these conditions and provide the care that patients need. Many gastrointestinal problems respond to treatment and lifestyle changes if detected early.

Studies have suggested that nearly 80% of people with IBS may also have SIBO. If you or someone you know is suffering from IBS, you should consult your physician and consider performing a breath test for SIBO to rule out this condition.  Testing is relatively inexpensive and easy to perform at home or at various hospitals nationwide.


 

Animals Suffering from GI diseases

dog being examined

Gastrointestinal diseases are not unique to human beings. They affect farm animals as well as wild animals that are kept in captivity at zoos. Wild birds who come to feed from feeders set out by humans also are known to contract GI disorders. The sick animals we are most familiar with are dogs, cats, and birds that are kept as pets.

GI Diseases in Dogs and Cats

A digestive disorder is anything that “reduces the digestion or absorption of food or alters its passage through the digestive tract.” Digestive disorders are the most common reason cat owners seek veterinary care.

Some of the most common disorders dogs and cats are susceptible to include diseases also known to humans, like pancreatitis, colitis, gastroenteritis, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Actually, almost any other GI disease known to humans is also found in cats and dogs.

Dog and cat problems that lead to GI disturbances include, but are not limited to:

  • Eating a foreign object
  • Eating high-fat human food
  • Eating rancid food
  • Eating poisonous plants
  • Internal parasites
  • Stress
  • Food allergies

Symptoms

Dogs and cats who have a GI disease or disorder commonly exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood in the stool
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Flatulence
  • Signs of abdominal pain

Treatment

Dogs and cats who have diarrhea or who are vomiting need prompt medical attention from a veterinarian. The animals can quickly become dehydrated, which can have serious consequences. In many cases, an infusion is required in order for the animal to get well.

Other treatment depends on the specific cause of the GI problem. Pets may need testing, as do human beings, to determine the cause of the GI disorder. Antibiotics may be necessary if the GI disease is due to an infection. Insulin may be required if testing shows the dog has diabetes.

Dietary changes may be necessary. In some cases, treatment is quick and effective. In other cases, long-term treatment may be required. As in humans, treatment will be specific to the cause of the GI disease.

GI Diseases in Birds

GI diseases in birds are more serious and more difficult to treat than for humans, cats, and dogs who have digestive diseases. Birds in the wild who feed at feeders have a different set of disorders than birds who are kept as pets. Pet birds most common problem is that they suffer from bacterial infections.

Symptoms

Birds have a natural instinct to hide signs of discomfort or illness. This stems from their need to protect themselves in the wild from being perceived as weak or vulnerable. So, if you have a pet bird, watch for:

  • Any sign of lethargy. If you find your bird lying at the bottom of its cage, take it immediately to the vet.
  • Refusal to eat. Your bird may be a picky eater, but a complete refusal to eat means your bird is in need of immediate medical attention. Birds have a high metabolism rate and cannot survive for very long without nourishment.
  • White spots around their mouths and throats, indicating Candida, which is caused by an over growth of yeast, which is naturally found in the bird's digestive system.
  • Slow to empty crop
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of feathers

Treatment

Antibiotics or anti-fungal, depending on the cause of the disorder. Due to the high metabolic rate of bird, treating them is challenging. Humans, dogs, and cats can “rest their gut,” but birds cannot. During their recovery, they need to be fed a high-energy, low fat diet that is high in protein.

Upcoming Conference: April 2019 in Seattle, Washington

Quintron is proud to be a sponsor of SIBOCON (an Integrative SIBO Conference) being held in Seattle April 13-14, 2019, by the Synergy CME Resource Group, Inc. The conference will include presentations by a number of experts in the fields of gastroenterology, microbiology, immunology and veterinary medicine. Veterinarian Jan Suchodolski, MedVet, DVM, PhD, AGAF, DACVM, will speak about “Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) in Dogs – The Veterinary Approach to Diagnosis and Treatment.” The speech is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 13, 2019, with a question and answer period to follow.


 

 

Treating Children with GI Problems

 

Doctor speaking with child and parents

The diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal (GI) disorders in the pediatric population can be challenging. Children are not just "small adults" - pediatric patients have different physiology, metabolism, pharmacokinetics, and abilities to describe symptoms. These differences, and other factors, can make treating GI problems in the pediatric population more difficult than managing digestive issues in adults.

While GI disorders in children share many of the same characteristics as digestive issues in adults, there are frequently important differences in the diagnosis and management of gastrointestinal disorders between the two groups. Performing evaluations for GI disorders in children presents unique challenges, for example.

Patient cooperation is a major consideration when it comes to pediatric care and, because children are often more fearful or antsy during the exam, they may wiggle and protest in ways that interfere with the diagnostic process or cause inaccurate results.

Diagnosing and treating GI problems in the pediatric patient can be difficult because there is limited information about the number of children with IBS and other gastrointestinal problems. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) cites studies that suggest 6 percent of middle school students and 14 percent of high school students have IBS, but says that earlier studies had put the prevalence much higher at 20 percent. While common, numerous misconceptions and insufficient knowledge or inadequate application of that knowledge among various health care professionals may contribute to a lack of effective management. Furthermore, most research is done on adults, so there may a lack of control information in children for many tests and treatments.

Differential diagnosis for pediatric GI problems can be tricky. Evaluation and testing can detect the measurable physiologic changes of organic diseases, but blood work and imaging tests often come back negative for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other functional syndromes. Technical challenges, such as catheter sizes and dosing differences, can also complicate the diagnosis and treatment of pediatric GI problems.

Underlying gastrointestinal developmental maturation issues can mask or otherwise interfere with the diagnosis of IBS or other digestive disturbances. Breath analyzers can be helpful and easy for diagnostic use in the pediatric population, in that these tests can detect higher levels of hydrogen and methane associated with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).

Treating Children with GI Problems

Chronic abdominal pain in the pediatric patient is usually the result of a functional disorder rather than an organic disease. Because functional disorders do not usually cause physiological changes evident on imaging or laboratory testing, they can be difficult to diagnose and treat. An accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan for children with both acute and chronic GI problems are essential to a good outcome.

Treatment for GI issues is condition-specific, but generally includes lifestyle changes, medicines or surgery. Treatment for celiac disease includes a gluten-free diet, for example, while IBD requires dietary changes along with immunosuppressive drugs to control the inflammatory process. Surgery is usually reserved to correct anatomical problems or to address complications of GI disease.

Treating children with GI issues can be more complicated because treatment tends to involve the entire family. The affected children and their families experience anxiety and distress over the GI condition and its treatment, which can significantly interfere with family’s ability to carry out their regular daily activities. To keep meals convenient and cost-efficient, for example, the entire family may need to make dietary changes to accommodate the pediatric patient’s diet. To complicate matters further, many children are resistant to dietary changes and medication routines. Experimenting with food triggers may be recommended by a medical professional to determine if certain foods are the reasoning for the GI disturbances or they may try a special diet such as the Bi-Phasic diet for SIBO using various recipes to help alleviate symptoms.

Advances in research and medical technology are helping clinicians, both in pediatrics and in other practices, treat children with gastrointestinal problems.

 

Manipulative Medicine and GI Health

Patient having GI tract adjusted by physician

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases reports that up to 70 million people in this country have a digestive disorder such a Crohn’s Disease or irritable bowel syndrome. Gastrointestinal disorders are notoriously hard to treat because there are so many variables attached to controlling them including lifestyle choices. Often people will look beyond drug therapies to lesser-known treatment options like manipulative medicine.

What is Manipulative Medicine?

Manipulative medicine is a term that is poorly understood. From a professional standpoint, it means osteopathic manipulative medicine, a specialized branch of medicine. Often healthcare consumers will lump alternative therapies into this category, too, such as chiropractic treatment and acupuncture. Manipulative medicine can also include allied health professions like physical therapy.

All of these fields have one thing in common; they use tissue manipulation to promote healing. By manually manipulating muscle and soft tissue, these treatments may improve the quality of life for those suffering from digestive disorders such as:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Dyspepsia
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal bloating
  • GERD
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) sometimes called Crohn's Disease

Since mainstream medical therapies don’t always work for gastrointestinal conditions, it may be beneficial to explore other treatment options like manipulative medicine.

Osteopathic Manipulative Therapy

Typically, osteopathic treatment is for problems of the joints and muscles like arthritis or back pain. There is evidence that manipulative treatment can help digestive disorders, too. A 2014 study published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found manipulative therapy worked for those with irritable bowel syndrome, for example.

The goal of most osteopathic treatments is to make use of the body’s ability to heal itself. Osteopathic doctors (DOs) use stretching techniques to improve fluid movement and enhance digestive functioning.

Some common osteopathic treatments would include:

  • Stretch of the lesser omentum
  • Stretch of the vertical region of the duodenum
  • Stretch of the first part of the duodenum

It’s important to remember that osteopathic doctors are medical doctors with additional training so that they may use these techniques in combination with drug therapies and medical procedures.

Chiropractice Manipulation

Like osteopathic techniques, a chiropractor uses tissue manipulation to treat disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Some practitioners use their treatments to manage digestive disorders, as well. They theorize the nervous system is in control of digestive function and correcting spinal misalignments improves that connection.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture uses needles to manipulate certain points on the body and improve the flow of energy. Acupuncture practitioners believe a disruption of energy is the ultimate cause of many gastrointestinal disorders. Treatments can work to:

  • Change the levels of acid secretion
  • Improve GI mobility
  • Reduce visceral pain

Applying needles to the lower limbs may cause contractions that improve digestive functioning. Application to the upper abdomen relaxes muscles that affect the GI tract.

Physical Therapy (PT)

Physical therapy specialists use mechanical force and movement to improve mobility and enhance healing. The combination of manipulative techniques and exercises treat the symptoms of some gastrointestinal disorders such as bloating or constipation. Decreased physical activity is often a source of intestinal problems, as well, so a physical therapist may improve internal mobility by stimulating and exercising those muscles.
Physical therapists can manipulate the visceral structures in the gut to:

  • Relieve symptoms
  • Release adhesions
  • Relax the parasympathetic nervous system
  • Improve the peristaltic movement

The may also recommend home exercise in conjunction with PT to strengthen muscles and support the GI tract better.

It's never wise to ignore chronic intestinal problems. See your doctor and find out why they occur then maybe consider how manipulative medicine might help.


 

 

The subtle differences in gastrointestinal diseases

Gastrointestinal (GI) diseases are extremely common and affect virtually everyone at some point. Approximately 60 to 70 million people are suffering from these diseases at any given time in the United States, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Many GI diseases cause symptoms that are merely nuisances, while others can be life-threatening if left untreated. However, these diseases often produce the same symptoms, making it difficult to distinguish between them without laboratory tests. Fortunately, careful observation of these symptoms can often help identify the subtle differences in GI diseases.

Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC) are both inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) that cause GI problems. They have many of the same general symptoms, including diarrhea, loose stools, rectal bleeding, abdominal cramps and weight loss. Both diseases cause inflammation, typically manifest in young adults, and are indiscriminate as to gender. Doctors must therefore consider specific differences between these two G.I. diseases to make a diagnosis.

UC often causes blood in the stool and diarrhea, but these symptoms are significantly less likely in Crohn's disease. Both disorders can cause abdominal cramps, but they're typically more severe with Crohn's disease. Nausea, weight loss and vomiting are also more common in Crohn's disease than UC. Inflammation is common in both disorders, but its location can be a distinguishing feature. For example, Crohn's disease can affect the entire GI tract, from mouth to anus. In the case of UC, only the colon becomes inflamed.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a collection of symptoms that generally includes abdominal pain and changes to bowel movement patterns in the absence of an underlying cause. Symptoms are typically chronic and may last for years. As a result, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is also common among people with IBS.

Healthcare professionals recognize four primary types of IBS based on the presence of constipation and diarrhea. Frequent diarrhea without constipation indicates IBS-D, while frequent constipation without diarrhea indicates IBS-C. Both symptoms are common in IBS-M, while neither symptom is common in IBS-U.

These symptoms usually occur as separate acute attacks that subside after 24 hours, although recurring attacks are also common. Abdominal bloating can occur in all form of IBS, along with an urgency for a bowel movement and a feeling of incomplete evacuation afterwards in the case of IBS-C and IBS-M. However, the symptoms of IBS-D and IBS-M are more likely to be relieved by a bowel movement.

IBS is more likely to cause gastroesophageal reflux and genitourinary symptoms than other GI diseases. It's also more closely associated with backaches, headaches and fibromyalgia. The chronic nature of IBS routinely affects the sufferer’s quality of life, resulting psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression. These symptoms are relatively rare in other GI diseases, especially those that aren’t chronic. Another symptom that can help distinguish IBS from similar disorders is a loss of libido, which affects about one third of sufferers.

Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity

Celiac disease is an auto-immune disorder in which an individual has an immune reaction to gluten, which is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. Gluten sensitivity is a related disorder that occurs when someone has a low tolerance for gluten, although it isn’t an auto-immune disorder like Celiac disease. HealthGrades reports that up to five percent of the U.S. population has gluten sensitivity, while less than one percent suffer from Celiac disease.

Both Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity cause similar GI symptoms when gluten is ingested, including abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea. However, the immune reaction in Celiac disease also damages the lining of the small intestine. In contrast, gluten sensitivity doesn’t actually cause damage, despite its symptoms.


 

The Connection between GI Problems and Autism

Seventy percent of children on the Autism Spectrum have some type of gastrointestinal problem. Compare that to 28 percent of kids who meet the standard developmental milestones such as talking and making eye contact by a certain age, and there seems to be a clear correlation. Although the data does show a link exists between GI problems and autism, medical science isn’t clear as to why.

What are common GI Problems Found in Autistic Children?

The most common complaints, according to a 2010 report published in Pediatrics, are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Gastroesphageal reflux or heartburn

The incidents of constipation, especially, are potentially severe. A 2015 study published by the International Society for Autism Research found that children with autism have four times the risk of hospitalization due to severe constipation.

A second 2015 study listed in Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease suggests that diet might be a significant factor in controlling or triggering behaviors in those with autism. The report would seem to indicate that gut health may be a factor for kids on the Autism Spectrum.

Eating Habits and Autism

Food and eating problems are also common with autism. These children tend to have sensitive palates, so they refuse foods with a particular texture or taste. Those limitations can leave them with a restrictive diet and even unhealthy eating habits such as:

  • Overeating
  • Pica or eating non-food items like hair

Both can contribute to potential GI issues like small intestinal bowel overgrowth (SIBO).

Small Intestinal Bowel Overgrowth and Autism

The presence of small intestinal bowel overgrowth (SIBO) in autistic children is a theory gaining traction when it comes to the obvious GI issues. Small bowel overgrowth means there are more microbes in the small intestine than usual. Typically, bacteria live mostly in the large intestine where they help break down food to allow for the absorption of nutrients.

A healthy small bowel, on the other hand, rarely harbors many bacteria. In cases of SIBO, bacteria from the large intestine grow where they don't belong - in the small bowel. That bacteria overgrowth can wear down the lining of the intestine leading to a condition called leaky gut.

With leaky gut, undigested food, bacteria and byproducts pass through the intestine into the bloodstream causing inflammation in other areas of the body. SIBO can also lead to poor nutrition. The nutrients necessary for good health never make it to the large intestine for absorption.

What Can Parents Do?

Monitor things like behavior, gas, bloating and cramps when eating specific foods and before going to the bathroom. Take that information to the doctor to help assess ongoing gut problems. Keep a diary to write things down such as:

  • Foods the child likes
  • Foods the child refuses to eat
  • Any complaints about stomach pain
  • Behavior patterns before and after meals
  • Number of bowel movements
  • Consistency and color of stool

Consider testing for SIBO, as well. The simplest way to detect bacterial overgrowht is with the hydrogen breath test. Once identified, SIBO specific diets might help manage the GI symptoms and provide relief.

 


 

How Eating Disorders Can Affect Your Intestinal Tract

woman examining stomach in mirror

Eating disorders affects nearly every tissue and organ in your body, but they can have serious consequences on your digestive tract. Food restrictions and purging interferes with the normal function of nearly every organ in your digestive system, including your stomach and intestines. Very low calorie diets and other diets with severe food restrictions do not provide the nutrients your digestive tract needs for good health.

Purging is common in many types of eating disorders. Purging behaviors include self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse to speed bowel movements and the abuse of diuretics, which are drugs that remove excess fluid from the body by increasing urine. Research shows that vomiting causes the most medical complications, but other purging behaviors also cause health problems.

Digestive Problems Associated with Eating Disorders

Gastroparesis

Eating disorders can cause slowed digestion, also known as gastroparesis. Purging and food restrictions interfere with the way your stomach empties into your small intestine and affects the way your small intestine absorbs nutrients from food.

These can lead to a number of uncomfortable and potentially serious problems, such as:

  • Stomach bloating and pain
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Fluctuations in your blood sugar
  • Solid masses of undigested food blocking your intestines
  • Bacterial infections
  • Feeling full after you eat only small amounts of food

Eating vegetables and high fiber foods can cause bloating and pain. Consuming sugar-free foods that contain sorbitol can also cause painful bloating.

Constipation

Prolonged food restrictions can cause the muscles along your entire digestive tract to slow down, or atrophy. This means the muscles that push food and stool through your intestinal tract slow down, and this can lead to constipation. Long-term food restrictions can weaken the intestinal muscles so much that they are too weak to push stool out of your body, leading to severe constipation.

Many people with eating disorders use laxatives in hopes of pushing food through their digestive tract before their intestines have a chance to absorb the calories from food. Laxatives work by stimulating the nerves in the digestive tract walls in ways that speed up bowel movements. Abusing laxatives can damage the intestinal nerve endings, leaving your body dependent on laxatives to have a bowel movement.

Rupture

Even binge eating can cause digestive problems. Eating large quantities of food in one sitting can actually cause your stomach to rupture, which is a life-threatening emergency. The risk of stomach rupture, while small, is higher after fasting for a long time.

Chronic and frequent vomiting can cause problems – including ruptures – in other parts of your digestive tract. Frequent vomiting for weeks or months can wear down your esophagus, which is the food pipe that connects your throat with your stomach. This erosion can eventually cause your esophagus to rupture, which can be life threatening. Frequent vomiting can also cause persistent sore throats and a hoarse voice. Chronic vomiting can even cause swelling in the salivary glands that sit under your jaw and in front of your ears.

Pancreatitis

Your pancreas produces insulin, which is a hormone that helps your body absorb sugar from your bloodstream. Purging and malnutrition can cause inflammation of your pancreas, a condition known as pancreatitis. Symptoms of pancreatitis include pain, nausea, and vomiting.

Excessive use of laxatives can damage your pancreas to cause pancreatitis and affect the way your pancreas produces insulin, which can lead to high blood sugar.

Bacterial overgrowth

Eating disorder behaviors can lead to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), a condition in which bacteria that normally grow in other parts of the body suddenly start growing in the small intestine instead. SIBO can cause pain and diarrhea.

Treatment for eating disorders can alleviate intestinal problems for many people, but eating disorders can cause long-term digestive problems for other people. For more information on how eating disorders can affect your intestinal tract, or to find out if an eating disorder has left behind a long-term intestinal problem, speak with your healthcare professional.

 


 

Opioids and GI Problems: What's the Connection?

Opioid addiction is on the rise in this country. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports more than 42,000 overdose deaths in 2016 and that number continues to grow each year. The consequences of this epidemic go beyond the risk of overdose, though. the chronic use of drugs like heroin, Oxycontin or Roxicodone has a staggering effect on the human body, as well, including the gastrointestinal tract. Consider some ways using opioids can impact your GI tract.

Why is Opioid Use on the Rise?

The National Institute of Drug Abuse states the opioid crisis actually began in the 1990s. Pharmaceutical companies marketed opioid drugs to the medical community claiming they were not addictive. With that reassurance, physicians began prescribing these drugs to their patients to relieve pain. The increase of prescription opioid drugs circulating among the population eventually led to rampant misuse and addiction.

Anyone who takes an opioid drug has the potential to become addicted. Opioids stimulate the pleasure center of the brain in such a way that users feel they can’t live without that feeling. Their tolerance level builds up, so they need more of the drug to get high and fulfilling that craving takes over their lives.

The Gastrointestinal Side Effect of Opioid Use

There are a number of complications associated with the short and long-term use of opioids. For example, the drug may lower your blood pressure, especially when combined with over-the-counter medications or alcohol. It’s the gastrointestinal tract that is affected the most, though. Opioids work by acting on opioid receptors throughout the body and there are a great number of these in the GI tract.

It is estimated that around 25 percent of people get physically sick after taking an opioid but nausea and vomiting tend to pass quickly. It’s the long-term consequences of addiction that are the most alarming including opioid bowel dysfunction.

What is Opioid Bowel Dysfunction?

Opioid bowel dysfunction is something that can happen to anyone taking opioids whether it’s to feed an addiction or for therapeutic use. The primary symptom of Opioid Bowel Dysfunction is constipation, a problem that affects around 40 percent of opioid users. There are a number of factors associated with constipation but often it is the result of poor muscle control in the intestines. Ineffective muscle contractions lead to waste material becoming trapped, making bowel movements difficult.

With opioid bowel dysfunction you may also experience:

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Bloating
  • Gastroesophageal reflux

Chronic gastroesophageal reflux can cause burns to the esophagus and lead to permanent damage.

Managing GI Tract Problems Associated With Opioid Use

Opioid-induced constipation is a potentially debilitating side effect of these drugs. What can you do to reduce the risk if you do need narcotic pain relief? The first step is to talk to your doctor. It is possible that there is a way to treat the GI side effects and reduce the impact of the drug.

You should also take steps to prevent constipation such as:

  • Drinking hot water or herbal tea in the morning
  • Drinking more water throughout the day
  • Eating more fiber or taking a fiber supplement
  • Talk to your doctor about taking a laxative or stool softener

Before taking an opioid pain reliever, tell your doctor if there is a history of drug or alcohol abuse in your family, if you smoke or have a drinking problem and if you have any mental health issues like depression.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that around 80 percent of people who use heroin initially became addicted by taking prescription painkillers. Talk to your doctor about other ways to control chronic pain and avoid taking opioids when possible.

 


 

The Difference between Allergies and Intolerances

 

Food allergies and food intolerances may seem similar at first glance, but are really quite different. It is important to know the difference between the two, especially if you prepare food for others.

Physical reactions to certain foods are common. In most cases, though, these reactions are the result of food intolerance rather than food allergy.

Anyone who suffers a reaction after eating a certain food should see a medical professional, who can perform an evaluation and tests to determine whether the patient has a food allergy or a food intolerance. Getting tested is important because those with food allergies are at risk for anaphylaxis, which is a life threatening allergic reaction. Even people who have had mild allergic reactions to food in the past are at increased risk for anaphylaxis.

Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance

Food intolerance often causes the same signs and symptoms as food allergy, so it is easy to confuse the two reactions.

A food allergy causes a reaction of the immune system; this reaction affects several organs and body systems to cause a wide range of symptoms. Reactions associated with food allergies can affect the person’s skin, gastrointestinal tract and respiratory tract. In the most serious cases, food allergy reactions can even affect the cardiovascular system. An allergic reaction to food can be severe or even life threatening.

Symptoms of a mild to moderate allergic reaction to food include hives, which are itchy, swollen and reddish areas on the skin. Eczema may occur as a persistent dry, itchy rash. Skin redness, especially around the eyes or mouth, may occur. Itchiness, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, cough, and a runny nose may develop.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis include swelling of the throat, lips, or tongue that blocks breathing, trouble swallowing, wheezing or shortness of breath, turning blue, and feeling faint, weak, confused, or passing out.

Food intolerance, by contrast, usually causes mild to moderate symptoms that are usually limited to the digestive tract. Symptoms of food intolerance usually take longer to develop than symptoms of food allergy. These symptoms include nausea, vomiting, gas, bloating, stomach pain or cramps, heartburn or diarrhea.

Someone with intolerance to a particular food may be able to eat small amounts of that food without experiencing symptoms. The individual may also be able to prevent a gastrointestinal reaction. A person with lactose intolerance may be able to take a lactase enzyme pill to aid in the digestion of milk, for example. Someone with a food allergy can never consume that food.

Causes of Food Intolerance

A variety of factors can cause food intolerance. Causes of food intolerance include:

  • Lack of lactase, an intestinal enzyme normally that breaks down the lactose in milk and dairy products, which causes lactose intolerance
  • Irritable bowel syndrome, which causes cramping, constipation and diarrhea
  • Sensitivity to food additives, such as the sulfites used to preserve canned goods, dried fruit and wine, can trigger asthma attacks in people sensitive to sulfites
  • Recurring stress or other psychological factors can make a person feel nauseated at the mere thought of food

Celiac disease presents some features of a true food allergy because it involves the immune system. Because the symptoms are localized to the gastrointestinal tract, and because the condition does not cause anaphylaxis, celiac disease is usually categorized as food intolerance. Celiac is a chronic condition in which eating gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains, triggers digestive symptoms.

People diagnosed with food allergies may need to carry injectable epinephrine to self-administer in case of anaphylaxis.

Medical professionals often recommend steps to aid digestion of certain foods or to treat any underlying conditions causing the localized reaction of food intolerance.

Recognizing anaphylaxis and knowing what to do if one occurs can save lives. So can preparing meals with food allergies and food intolerance in mind. Anyone cooking for people who may have food allergies or food intolerance should look into purchasing a cookbook that provides recipes for those with food allergy or food intolerance.


 

Options for Treating Gastrointestinal Diseases, Especially SIBO

doctor holding intestine diagram

Abdominal pain is one of the most common complaints seen in emergency rooms and doctor's offices, according to a 2012 report published in Gastroenterology. The reason for GI tract disturbances vary but more and more practitioners are testing for small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) as the possible cause.

The normal flora of the small intestine includes both good and bad bacteria. For people with SIBO, one form of microorganism has overgrown, disrupting this balance. The result is symptoms of bloating and stomach pain. What causes SIBO and what are the treatment options?

What is SIBO?

The human digestive sustem is supposed to be a balance of pathogenic (bad) and beneficial (good) bacteria. They keep each other in check to maintain this delicate ecosystem. In some people the system fails, though, and one type of bacteria takes over and disrupts the normal functioning of the digestive tract.

Some symptoms of SIBO include:

  • Abdominal bloating and distention
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain
  • Malnutrition
  • Unexplained weight loss

It's a condition that is often associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), so the two have similar symptoms.

The Dietary Approach to Treating SIBO and Other Gastrointestinal Disorders

Proper diet is an essential first step in the management and treatment of disorders like SIBO. The Physician’s Elemental Diet, for example, offers a nutritional balance to ensure those with gastrointestinal problems get essential vitamins, electrolytes and minerals. The diet consists of a powdered formula that is gluten, soy and dairy free and hypoallergenic. This plan should be used under medical supervision and is effective both as the sole food source or in combination with a strategic half-diet plan.

The nutrients in the elemental diet come predigested, making them easier to process. For best results, the elemental diet should not include any additional food beyond the powdered formula for at least two to three weeks. It is a strategy that has proven to improve the symptoms of SIBO.

Once food is reintroduced into the diet, the timing of meals is essential. Fasting can trigger contractions in the small intestine that help clean it of excess bacteria. For this reason, treatment recommendations for gastrointestinal diseases often include four to five hour gaps between eating and, at least, 12 hours at night.

What About Medical Intervention for GI Diseases?

For SIBO, the most common treatment is antibiotics. The problem with this approach is that SIBO is typically chronic. As soon as you stop taking the antibiotics, the problem recurs.

Some people respond well to the long-term approach offered with herbal antimicrobials and other herbal supplements that support a healthy intestinal tract. Supplements that contain Oregon grape, for example, are used clinically to control bacteria growth in the small intestine. For other GI diseases like IBS, adding fiber supplements and pain medication help manage the symptoms.

SIBO is just one of a number of gastrointestinal conditions that can have an impact on your life. Finding the right balance of therapeutic treatment, diet and supplements may be the key to feeling better.

 


 

What is Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)?

Bacteria

Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is a disorder characterized by an excessive growth of bacteria in the small intestine. The large intestine normally has high levels of bacteria, but the small intestine should be virtually free of bacteria by comparison. SIBO causes various gastrointestinal symptoms that are also shared by many other disorders, making a positive diagnosis challenging. 

Symptoms

The symptoms of bacterial overgrowth include the following:

  • Abdominal distension
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Flatulence
  • Nausea
  • Weakness

Bacteria in the small intestines metabolize nutrients, which prevents those nutrients from being absorbed through the intestinal walls. The byproducts of this metabolism can inflame the small intestines, causing many of SIBO’s symptoms. The malabsorption of nutrients can also cause weight loss and malnutrition, which can have particularly severe consequences in developing children.

Long-term Effects

The long-term effects of SIBO include anemia, which can develop through a variety of mechanisms. The production of red blood cells is particularly sensitive to nutritional malabsorption since iron is primarily absorbed by the first parts of the small intestine, primarily the duodenum and jejunum. The malabsorption of iron can cause red blood cells to be smaller than normal, a condition known medically as microcytic anemia.

SIBO can also result in the malabsorption of vitamin B-12, which normally occurs in the last part of the small intestine, or ileum. This type of malnutrition can cause many conditions, including large red blood cells, or megaloblastic anemia. Older adults with chronic SIBO also have a lower body mass index, a higher rate of diarrhea and a lower level of serum albumin.

Diagnosis

Bacterial metabolism of carbohydrates in the small intestine produces a number of byproducts, including hydrogen and methane. These gases can be detected by various methods, which are often used as presumptive tests for SIBO. Testing the level of hydrogen and methane in the breath generally requires the patient to fast for at least 12 hours before drinking a substrate containing a sugar such as glucose or lactulose. The level of these gases in the patient’s expired breath can then be measured over a period of several hours. This type of test compares favorably with the measurement of aspirates from the jejunum, which is the gold standard for diagnosing SIBO.

The small intestine normally has less than 104 bacteria per milliliter (ml) of aspirate, so a level above 105 bacteria/mm is typically considered to be SIBO. However, some experts set the threshold for SIBO at 103 bacteria/mm if the bacteria are primarily colonic types, which are more likely to cause pathological conditions in the small intestine.

SIBO has a significant overlap in findings with other gastrointestinal conditions such as post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome and tropical sprue. Furthermore, an acute gastrointestinal infection can occasionally trigger SIBO.

Treatment

A course of antibiotics is the most common treatment for SIBO, although it isn't always a first-line treatment. Some experts recommend probiotics, prokinetics, specialty diets and/or herbal antimicrobials as the first-line treatment, while reserving antibiotics as the second-line treatment for severe cases of SIBO. Rifaximin provides the best evidence for use for diarrhea-predominant SIBO, although the following antibiotics have been referenced for use to treat SIBO:

  • amoxicillin-clavulanate
  • cephalexin
  • fluoroquinolones
  • metronidazole
  • neomycin
  • nitazoxanide
  • tetracycline
  • trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole

A one-week course of antibiotics is usually sufficient to treat SIBO. However, a recurrence may require a cyclical course of treatment with to prevent the bacteria from developing a tolerance for the antibiotic. A cyclical course may consist of using the same antibiotic for one week, then discontinuing treatment for three weeks and repeating this cycle. Another type of cyclical therapy is to change the antibiotic at regular intervals. Prokinetic drugs are another treatment option for SIBO, although the current research on this application is still developing.

The underlying condition resulting in the patient’s predisposition to SIBO should also be treated. For example, if the SIBO was caused by chronic pancreatitis, the patient should receive pancreatic enzyme supplements.

Summary

QuinTron Instrument Company, Inc. is an industry leading manufacturer of non-invasive breath analyzers and breath test kits. We provide patented breath tests to help physicians narrow down the root cause of their patients’ gastrointestinal issues. We also have developed specialized testing products for other applications such as cancer research, veterinary sciences, naturopathic medicine and pharmaceutical research. Call us today to find out how we can help you.

 

Disclaimer: These articles are meant to be informative and are in no way an endorsement or suggestion by QuinTron. Individuals should always consult a medical professional regarding any treatment methods.