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Small bowel bacterial overgrowth

Overgrowth - intestinal bacteria; Bacterial overgrowth - intestine; Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth; SIBO

Small bowel bacterial overgrowth is a condition in which very large numbers of bacteria grow in the small intestine.

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Small intestine

Causes

Most of the time, unlike the large intestine, the small intestine does not have a large number of bacteria. Excess bacteria in the small intestine may use up the nutrients needed by the body. As a result, a person may become malnourished.

The breakdown of nutrients by the excess bacteria can also damage the lining of the small intestine. This can make it even harder for the body to absorb nutrients.

Conditions that can lead to overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine include:

Symptoms

The most common symptoms are:

Other symptoms may include:

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask about your medical history. Tests may include:

Treatment

The goal is to treat the cause of the bacterial overgrowth. Treatment may include:

A lactose-free diet can be helpful.

Possible Complications

Severe cases lead to malnutrition. Other possible complications include:

Related Information

Gastrectomy
Vagina
Short bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome
Alcohol use and safe drinking
Intestinal obstruction and Ileus
Dehydration
Toxic megacolon
Liver disease
Osteoporosis

References

El-Omar E, McLean MH. Gastroenterology. In: Ralston SH, Penman ID, Strachan MWJ, Hobson RP, eds. Davidson's Principles and Practice of Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 21.

Lacy BE, DiBaise JK. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 105.

Manolakis CS, Rutland TJ, Di Palma JA. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. In: McNally PR, ed. GI/Liver Secrets Plus. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 44.

Sundaram M, Kim J. Short bowel syndrome. In: Yeo CJ, ed. Shackelford's Surgery of the Alimentary Tract. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 79.

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Review Date: 5/27/2020  

Reviewed By: Jenifer K. Lehrer, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Aria - Jefferson Health Torresdale, Jefferson Digestive Diseases Network, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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