How HMBT can aid in investgtion and diagnosis of SIBO and IBS

Did you ever have an exam or a competition and get that feeling of butterflies in your tummy?

Or did you receive bad news and felt sick, or may have even vomited?

Then you have experienced the communication pathway that happens between the gut and brain,
often referred to as the gut-brain axis.

Also known as our 2nd brain, scientists call this system the enteric nervous system (ENS) and it has around 100 million nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract. The nervous system also works closely with your endocrine and immune system.

Our second brain communicates back and forth with our big brain—

For many years, it was believed that anxiety and depression contributed to irritable bowel syndrome and other functional gut symptoms, but studies now show that it may also be the other way around.

When the gastrointestinal system is aggravated, it may send signals to the central nervous system that affect mood. There is a notable higher incidence of people with IBS and functional bowel problems that develop depression and anxiety.

The microbiome also plays an important role in the gut-brain connection. They produce many of the chemical neurotransmitters that transport messages between your gut and brain.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, also known as IBS, is one of the most common and debilitating gastrointestinal disorders affecting around 10-15% of the population. It is a functional gastrointestinal condition that most often affects the lower digestive system.

No definite cause of IBS has been identified yet. However, gut inflammation, altered gut motility, gut hypersensitivity to certain foods, and disturbed gut microbiome are all considered to play a role in IBS.

A diagnosis of IBS can leave people feeling frustrated because of the lack of standard or quick solutions, but IBS affect people differently, and therefore a diagnosis of IBS does require support.

IBS is characterised by a group of symptoms which consistently occur together. The most common of these are stomach cramps, bloating, discomfort, diarrhoea, and constipation.

As a functional Gastrointestinal disorder, it comes in multiple forms:

  • IBS-C refers to IBS with constipation, and it is one of the more common types.
  • IBS-D is also called IBS with diarrhoea.
  • IBS-M includes mixed bowel habits, for example, alternating patterns of diarrhoea and constipation.
  • Post-infectious IBS occurs after a Gastrointestinal infection.

Mental stress, anxiety, certain foods, and hormonal changes are some known triggers for IBS symptoms. Other triggers may include alcohol, some medicines, infections, and sudden changes in routine such as travelling. The effects of IBS triggers vary from person to person, what may flare up IBS symptoms in one person may resolve IBS symptoms in others.

This again ties in the gut-brain connection, stress and anxiety affect your nerves and make your digestive system overactive. Patients with IBS often suffer the worst abdominal pain when they are stressed. Because of the interplay between our gut and our brain, IBS is not just about the physical symptoms but can be an emotional rollercoaster affecting every aspect of your daily life.

IBS affects more women than men, and the symptoms of IBS in women tend to be more severe than in men. One of the reasons is hormonal imbalances in the menstrual cycle. Many women with IBS see their IBS symptoms fluctuate with their menstrual cycle. That’s because the hormonal fluctuations that occur during different stages of the menstrual cycle impact gut functions, thereby altering IBS symptoms. However, IBS symptoms don’t always correlate with menstrual cycles in every woman and with other factors affecting IBS symptoms, the impact of hormonal fluctuations varies from person to person.

There is no permanent cure for IBS. Effective management strategies often involve a combination of dietary changes, stress reduction techniques, and sometimes medication to address both the physical and psychological aspects of these conditions. Please note that the effectiveness of these medicines and supplements may vary from person to person, and you’re recommended to consult your doctor before using them for IBS.

So, you think you may have IBS? We recommend consulting your doctor about your symptoms to make a diagnosis. Your doctor may recommend tests such as SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), lactose intolerance test, or other diagnostic tests.

The relationship between IBS and SIBO:
To understand the relationship between SIBO and IBS, what we need to do is to first look at what SIBO means. SIBO stands for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. It refers to the condition where there is an abnormal increase in the bacterial population of the small intestine resulting in a range of symptoms, for example, diarrhoea, abdominal bloating, and even may lead to malnutrition. So, the patients with SIBO suffer almost the same symptoms as the patients with IBS do. Some studies state that approximately 80% of the people clinically diagnosed as IBS have SIBO too.

Take home message:
IBS and SIBO can significantly impact mental health, often leading to anxiety and mood disturbances. Firstly, the production of excessive amounts of gases such as hydrogen and methane from the bacteria in the small intestine may contribute to bloating, discomfort, and abdominal pain, all of which can affect one’s mood, while the social implications of these conditions can exacerbate stress and anxiety.

Secondly, SIBO can disrupt the absorption of important nutrients like Vitamin B12 and serotonin precursors, which are crucial for mood regulation. Lastly, inflammation triggered by SIBO can influence the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, further exacerbating mood disturbances. Overall, addressing SIBO not only targets gastrointestinal symptoms but also holds the potential for improving mood and overall well-being.

BS Awareness Month and upcoming webinar:
Delve deeper into SIBO and IBS leading up to IBS Awareness Month in April with our upcoming webinar featuring Melissa Dooley. Join us for our upcoming webinar SIBO and IBS: How HMBT can aid in investigation and diagnosis on Tuesday 26th March 2024 at 19:00pm GMT. Learn about SIBO and IBS and explore how hydrogen and methane breath testing serves as a powerful tool in identifying and managing these gastrointestinal disorders while also contributing to awareness and discovering effective strategies for integrating them into clinical practice.