GI Conference Update: SIBO and Women’s Health

This past weekend I attended a live virtual conference on Chronic Gastrointestinal disorders hosted by Advanced Applications in Medical Practice (AAMP). As someone who specializes primarily in women’s health this conference was extremely valuable as both a refresher and an update on how treatment and testing options have changed over the past few years. It was fascinating to learn the links between conditions like Interstitial Cystitis and SIBO, and to have solid, clinically relevant tools to use starting as soon as the next day. This is the detailed, comprehensive education that is very satisfying to receive as a clinician. I especially appreciated the mix of effective natural remedies as well as pharmaceutical options.

A Gut Feeling

Many people are unaware of what SIBO is. SIBO stands for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. Our small intestine is where most of the absorption of nutrients happens and so transit of food through this part of our body should be slow. However, if pathogenic bacteria start to flourish in this region, they will start to feed off ingested foods causing significant pain, gas, and inflammation. Due to the slow transit time of the small intestine it can be difficult to eradicate these pathogenic bacteria. A leading cause of SIBO is food poisoning, but environmental factors such as heavy metal exposure, stress and a weakened immune system can contribute to developing SIBO.

A Plethora of Microbes

The human body is filled with bacteria – our skin harbors staphylococcus, we have beneficial flora in our vaginas (if you have one) which help to set up our newborns immune systems, and we have a plethora of bacteria in our colon. This list does not take into consideration bacteria, viruses, fungus, and parasites we encounter on a day to day basis from outside our body that our immune system deals with constantly. In fact, there’s quite a lot of research supporting the fact that the bacteria we harbor has quite a lot of interaction with both our immune system and our nervous system. Bacteria are involved in modulating the release of histamine, as well as up or down-regulating neurotransmitter production (things like serotonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine) – even to a greater degree than our brain. That’s right, we have more neurotransmitter activity going on in our gut than in our brain!

Gut and Autoimmunity

When we have overgrowth anywhere it can throw all of these complex systems out of balance. We can start to develop auto-immune diseases, including:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Chron’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Rosacea
  • Chronic pelvic pain
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Mast cell activation syndrome
  • POTS
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

The good news is that there is help and treatment for those patients who are suffering from these ailments and I was fortunate to be able to learn many of them at this conference. 

Since this conference was virtual, I didn’t have to take too much time away from my wonderful family. You can see my son and I enjoying a brief break from the conference: