Can SIBO Cause Iron Deficiency? Let's Find Out!

Can SIBO Cause Iron Deficiency

Do you always feel tired? Have you consulted a medical practitioner and been diagnosed with iron deficiency or anemia? Do you take iron supplements and find that it does not make you feel better? The chances are that you might be affected by SIBO.

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, commonly called SIBO, is the accumulation of excessive bacteria in the gut. This condition can contribute to various symptoms, ranging from abdominal bloating to nutrient deficiencies, which include Vitamin B12 and iron.

By consuming iron and B12, which are both useful for the normal functioning of RBCs, the bacteria in your small intestine can cause your body’s iron levels to become depleted.


Iron Deficiency and SIBO – The Connection

It is a well-known fact that SIBO is one of the most common causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). However, people are not aware that this bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine can have serious consequences on their absorptive and digestive functions.

Unlike your large intestine, the small intestine cannot cope with massive bacterial colonization. If your small intestine is occupied with too many bacteria, they consume iron and utilize it for their growth.

They take it before your gut can absorb it, thereby causing a deficiency of iron. It may lead to anemia or just an iron deficiency without anemia. In both cases, unexplained iron deficiency may indicate that you are SIBO positive.

Does SIBO Lead to Anemia?

By causing a deficiency of iron in your body, SIBO disrupts the proper functioning of hemoglobin, which is used for transporting oxygen to the red blood cells. It results in too few healthy RBCs that are capable of carrying oxygen to the body tissues leading to a condition called anemia. Infants, the elderly, and the women who are expecting are more prone to anemia.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Iron Deficiency and Anemia

Mild anemia can be asymptomatic, but severe forms are accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • Lethargy and fatigue
  • Problems thinking or concentrating
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Light-headedness upon standing up
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pale skin
  • Bluish color to the white portion of the eyes
  • Swollen tongue
  • Thin concave nails or brittle nails

Why is Iron Important for Human Health

As mentioned earlier, an iron deficiency in the blood can cause serious health issues, including anemia. Approximately 10 million Americans are now affected by low iron levels, while around 5 million of them have been diagnosed with anemia 1.

   anemia 

In addition to the proper functioning of hemoglobin and red blood cells, iron helps in preserving several vital functions of your body, including the immune system, gastrointestinal processes, controlling body temperature, and boosting energy and focus. Here we discuss some more benefits of iron that usually go unnoticed.

1. Iron is required for staying healthy during pregnancy

The formation of red blood cells along with the volume of blood increases significantly during pregnancy to provide the developing fetus with enough oxygen and nutrients. Therefore, the need to take iron increases. Although the body generally maximizes absorption of iron during pregnancy, low iron intake, along with malabsorption of iron (resulting from SIBO), often leads to an iron deficiency.

pregnancy

If you do not take enough iron during pregnancy, the risks of low birth weight and premature birth increases. It also causes impaired cognitive development and behavioral issues in infants. Expecting women having a low iron level in the blood are at risk of developing infections because iron plays a vital role in supporting the immune system.

2. An adequate amount of iron is needed for boosting energy

If you do not take sufficient iron in your diet, your body’s efficiency gets affected. Since iron is essential for carrying oxygen to the tissues, muscles, and brain, it is extremely important for improving your physical and mental performance 2.

Low iron in the blood caused by poor nutrient absorption in the gut may lead to increased irritability, reduced stamina, and a lack of concentration and focus.

3. It helps in improving athletic performance

Research shows that deficiency of iron is somewhat more common in athletes, especially the adolescent female athletes and runners, than in those who lead a sedentary lifestyle 3.

athletic performance

For all athletes, iron deficiency is a natural enemy because it can drastically reduce their athletic performance by weakening their immune system activity. The lack of hemoglobin significantly reduces performance since it reduces the transportation of oxygen to tissues and muscles.

How to Take Care of Iron Deficiency Caused by SIBO

Iron does not have a high bioavailability, which means your small intestine cannot readily absorb a large amount of iron. For this reason, the likelihood of iron deficiency increases.

In order to deal with iron deficiency and anemia, these guidelines may be followed:

  • Identify and address the underlying cause (a CBC test shows whether you have anemia)
  • Change the nutritional factors (folate, iron, Vitamin B12) when needed
  • Make sure to facilitate digestion as well as absorption
  • Diagnose and correct conditions caused by microbial overgrowths, such as gut dysbiosis and SIBO
  • Identify and treat methylation imbalances

Foods that Help Treat Iron Deficiency

In several countries of sub-Saharan Africa, infant formulas and wheat products are usually fortified with iron. Dietary iron is typically divided into two types – heme and non-heme. Foods that are derived from animal sources, including seafood and meat, consist of heme iron. Whereas non-heme iron is found in plants, and it requires your body to take several steps for absorbing it.

foods for iron deficiency

Plant-based sources rich in iron include soy, nuts, vegetables, beans, and fortified grains. Although non-heme iron is more difficult to absorb than heme iron, you can increase your gut’s iron absorption ability by eating Vitamin-C-rich foods along with non-heme iron sources.

The efficacy of iron absorption from food sources also depends on various factors, which include:

  • Source of iron
  • Components of your diet
  • Your overall iron status
  • Your gut health
  • Use of supplements or medications
  • Presence of iron absorption promoters like Vitamin C

If you are following a vegan diet, make sure to consider medications and components of food that reduce or completely block iron absorption. These include:

  • Omeprazole and proton pump inhibitors that are used for reducing the acidity of your stomach’s contents
  • Tannins in tea, coffee, certain berries, and some wine
  • Polyphenols in legumes, cereals, and spinach
  • Phytates in grains and beans
  • Phosphates in carbonated drinks like soda

Given below are some of the excellent dietary sources of iron:

  • Fortified dry cereal oats
  • Cooked Pacific oysters
  • Dark chocolate with 45%-69% cacao
  • Cooked spinach
  • White beans
  • Canned clams
  • Boiled, drained lentils
  • Beef liver
  • Canned, stewed tomatoes
  • Firm tofu
  • Medium baked potato
  • Lean, ground beef
  • Roasted cashew nuts

Aside from the above food components and medicines, calcium can interfere with both non-heme and heme iron absorption. A typical Western-style diet gives you a more balanced result as far as enhancing or inhibiting iron absorption is concerned.

Conclusion

If a complete blood count test reveals that you have low iron levels, your doctor may advise you to take some oral iron supplementation. Although the daily oral dosage can range from 60-120 mg in adults, these are usually applicable for pregnant women and those who are severely iron-deficient. Studies have shown that adults with a healthy digestive system are less likely to be affected by iron overload from food sources. However, excessive iron consumption can be harmful and may increase the chances of type 2 diabetes and liver cancer 4, 5.

Since some of the symptoms of excessive iron intake are similar to those of iron deficiency, you should always discuss it with your healthcare professional before taking any iron supplement. If you have a diagnosed deficiency or are prone to developing iron deficiency, only then your doctor will recommend iron supplements. It is always a safer option to achieve the desirable iron level through diet. It ensures minimal risks of iron overload as well as allows you to take other nutrients found in foods.

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