Does Stress Cause SIBO?
SIBO, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, is a condition in which you have the wrong type of bacteria or too much bacteria in your small intestines. It’s healthy to have a normal amount of bacteria, but SIBO occurs when there is an overgrowth of that bacteria or of a type of bacteria normally found in the large intestine.
But what exactly causes this influx of bacteria? Many assume it is all stress related, but there are actually other factors besides stress that can cause SIBO. And in order to effectively treat and beat SIBO, you need to understand the causes.
What Really Causes SIBO/IBS?
SIBO and IBS have many similarities in causes and in the past, IBS was strongly connected to stress. But, all the studies that were conducted to determine whether stress was a major factor did not specifically show the causation between stress and IBS. What was needed was a level 1 study that could pinpoint a change in health before and after a stressful event.
Of course, testing stressful trauma on individuals would be unethical, so researchers needed to find a way to see changes in digestive health in a controlled way. The answer was the military. The objective of this study was to separate stress from the potential other causes of IBS and SIBO. Researches did this by testing and observing soldiers before, during, and after their deployment.
By the end of the experiment, the researchers had a laundry list of psychologically traumatic events that would be considered stressful, such as shooting another human or being injured in combat. These events were then able to be tied to IBS. The results were shocking because out of all the stressful experiences these soldiers had, only one was truly tied to causing IBS, and that was food poisoning.
It didn’t matter if the soldier was at a desk or in the heat of combat, those that experienced food poisoning developed IBS. This also applied to many SIBO cases since many IBS cases are SIBO (but note, not all SIBO cases are IBS). Even though this study showed how stress is not essentially the cause of SIBO or IBS, it certainly is a contributing factor at making one more susceptible to food poisoning or making one’s IBS or SIBO worse.
Effects of Stress on Health and Digestive System
While stress isn’t the main cause of SIBO, stress can definitely impact your digestive system and overall health. It’s no mystery as to why people can feel “butterflies” in their stomach in moments of high anxiety or stress. Or why athletes will have to run to the bathroom before a big game.
Circumstances like these are normal digestive reactions to stress, but frequent stress can negatively impact your digestive system and make you more susceptible to infection. All sorts of things can happen when you experience stress. Your esophagus can go into spasm, you can have an increase in stomach acid causing indigestion, or your colon can even react in a way that gives you diarrhea or constipation.
The important thing to note here, is that all this stress will not be the cause of serious stomach illnesses like ulcers, celiac disease, or SIBO. But, consistent stress will create inflammation of the gastrointestinal system, making it that much easier for you to get SIBO or other stomach problems.
Ways to Manage Your Stress
Everyone will experience stress for a variety of reasons, that’s why it’s important for you to find a method that works with your type of stress. Chronic stress can mess your whole body up, especially your digestive system. But if you learn to manage it correctly, you can bring your stress levels down and decrease your SIBO symptoms.
A great way to bring your stress down is with meditation. This does not mean you need to sit down with candles and tibetan singing bowls playing as you center yourself. You can meditate whenever and wherever you go (check out this article to see the different ways to meditate). Taking the time to breath and focus on the present moment can be much more powerful than you think. I suggest meditating at least once a day. An hour would be ideal, but honestly taking 15 minutes out of your day to think about your breathing and the current moment can dramatically help bring down your stress.
Another sure way to help with stress is exercise and eating well. By engaging in physical activity at least 30 minutes everyday and sticking to a healthy diet, you will be able keep your weight in control and relieve more stress than you thought you had. Replacing harmful substances such as caffeine, alcohol, and refined sugars, with clean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats helps regulate your hormone levels, including stress hormones.
Stress and SIBO Conclusion
Even though stress is tied to SIBO in many cases, thorough studies have found that food poisoning is a main cause. Stress can make symptoms much worse, but it will not be the sole cause of SIBO. To learn more about why SIBO occurs check out this article. But by keeping a healthy diet and practicing ways to manage your stress, you can ease the symptoms of your SIBO or prevent yourself from future health complications.