Arguably one of the most underrated aspects of our anatomy with respect to the impact it has on our health is the gastro-intestinal tract (GIT). But, ironically, in some ways it is not really part of us. Some health professionals consider the GIT to be external to the body – with an opening at the top (nose and mouth) and another at the bottom (anus).
It could be debated that the GIT is less about us and more about the bacteria in the GIT. It has recently been estimated that we have more bacteria there than the actual number of cells in our bodies.
This bacteria plays a vital role in our wellbeing. It is well known that much of our immune system is influenced by the healthy colonisation of GIT bacteria.
As a naturopath, I also see a correlation between skin problems (like psoriasis, rosacea and eczema) and the state of the GIT. Consequently, when we improve the GIT function we often see an improvement in the skin.
While for many people not enough beneficial bacteria in the large intestine may be an issue, the small intestine can have very different problems with respect to bacteria. In the small intestine, even beneficial bacteria can be a major problem if their numbers are too prolific. This is a condition called Small intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO).
SIBO can be a complex problem with many variables and factors that can cause or contribute to it. It is now thought that many cases that had been diagnosed as candida (thrush) were actually SIBO-related problems instead. Similarly, research is now showing that some cases thought to be irritable bowel syndrome are actually SIBO.
To assess for SIBO, a comprehensive interview is performed. If key signs and symptoms are present then breath testing can be used to ascertain if it actually is a SIBO problem.
The breath testing looks for levels of methane or hydrogen gas produced in the small intestine and excreted into the lungs via the blood stream.
A positive test indicates SIBO. Treatment typically includes killing the bacteria with herbs or antibiotics, followed by temporary diet modification and establishing correct bowel emptying.
It may sound disgusting, but what comes out of your bowel can tell us a lot about your health. Your number two is number one for your health.
Eugene Sims, Warkworth Natural Therapies