If you have Histamine Intolerance, you know how frustrating it is to deal with symptoms that seem to come out of nowhere.
You’re at a restaurant with friends enjoying a few drinks and experimenting with new dishes when, suddenly, you have a monumental build-up of gas in your belly that could explode at any moment.
Or, your latest blood test reveals you have an iron deficiency – but the cause of the problem is a total mystery.
While histamine has a lot to answer for here, it’s important to realise there may be more to the story. And that’s because these ‘random’ symptom scenarios are also a key feature of SIBO.
In case you don’t know much about SIBO, or its link to Histamine Intolerance, let’s take a magnifying glass to the condition to see if it could be blocking you from reaching your health goals.
What Is SIBO?
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) relates to an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine.
In a healthy person, the small intestine is home to a tiny amount of bacteria that contribute to wellbeing. Most notably, these bacteria are involved with vitamin B12 synthesis and utilisation, which is essential for supporting your nervous system, blood, and DNA.
If the amount of bacteria in the small intestine becomes too high bacterial overgrowth develops. This can evolve to become either:
- Hydrogen Dominant SIBO (most common)
- Methane Dominant SIBO, or
- Hydrogen Sulfide SIBO (stealth SIBO)
All 3 types of SIBO can cause big problems by impairing your ability to extract nutrients from food. Not only does this make you feel not quite right, but it also means you’re prone to nutrient deficiencies, food intolerances, leaky gut, malabsorption, and/or malnutrition.
What Causes SIBO?
Your intelligent body usually knows how to keep intestinal bacteria in check. However, SIBO is able to thrive in the following situations:
- Low stomach acid
- Long term stress (this lowers stomach acid)
- Chronic constipation
- Crohn’s disease
- Diets high in sugar and/or refined carbohydrates
- Diets high in red meat or saturated fats
- Antibiotic overuse
- Use of medications that disrupt gut bacteria, lower stomach acid level, or contain opiates (e.g. NSAIDS, Proton pump inhibitors, codeine or morphine)
- Structural abnormalities in the digestive tract, such as scarring from surgery
- An impaired nervous system due to trauma or chronic illness.
SIBO Sign & Symptoms
As I mentioned earlier, SIBO and Histamine Intolerance can have a similar symptom profile. If you have SIBO though, it’s likely you’re experiencing a number of the following symptoms – some gut-related, while others are the result of systemic inflammation:
- Reflux or heartburn
- Diarrhoea (common in Hydrogen Dominant SIBO and Hydrogen Sulfide SIBO)
- Constipation (common in Methane Dominant SIBO)
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Food Intolerances
- Gluten sensitivity
- Iron or B12 deficiency
- Burning or painful bladder
- Joint pain
- Nerve pain or tingling feet or hands
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Facial flushing
- Sinus congestion and mucous
- Unexplained weight loss.
Individual body chemistry (including your histamine level) determines which symptoms you experience, as well as how severe they are. While all of this may seem quite random, it’s common for SIBO symptoms to flare up after eating. You can also occasionally have SIBO without many obvious digestive issues!
The SIBO-Histamine Connection
SIBO is a major catalyst for histamine intolerance.
This is because bacterial overgrowth disrupts digestion by increasing the potential for foods to be converted to gas in the intestines. This gas is detrimental to the body and triggers the release of histamine (which creates inflammation), damages tissues and cells, and instigates SIBO symptoms, like bloating and flatulence.
At the same time, cellular damage in the small intestine lowers its ability to make and secrete the important histamine-digesting enzyme Diamine Oxidase, also known as DAO. Microvilli (tiny hairs) in the small intestine, which are responsible for storing DAO, are also damaged as a result of inflammation.
As the small intestine becomes more injured, it becomes less capable of doing the jobs it used to do so well. This leads to an unhappy small intestine that is overloaded with histamine it cannot degrade because the DAO enzyme has been compromised. With so much unregulated histamine in the small intestine, the body has no choice but to create many of the inflammatory symptoms listed above, like headaches, insomnia, flushing, and more.
As a practitioner, I’ve learned that the best way to resolve SIBO – and improve histamine intolerance – is to combine patience with an individualised treatment plan that addresses:
- Dietary Changes – A SIBO-friendly diet is one that feeds YOU while starving your gut bacteria, as this helps to keep fermentation (and gas levels) low. While this doesn’t completely get rid of excess bacteria, it can minimise symptoms. A low FODMAP diet is often recommended, but there are a few options available. It is important to only stay on this diet temporarily.
- Medication Assessment – Certain types of medications make SIBO worse and it may be necessary to talk with your GP about alternatives so that your SIBO can heal properly.
- Antimicrobial Treatment – Using anti-microbials help to remove the excess bacteria from your gut. Natural and conventional options are available.
- Stress Management – Managing stress is beneficial for digestive health. Effective stress-relieving choices include exercise, meditation, breathing exercises, removing yourself from stressful situations, neuroplasticity tools and allowing yourself time for self-care.
Navigating a SIBO-friendly low histamine diet can be complex, which is why I’m here to assist you.
Click here to book a discovery session with me to find out how I can help you in my 6-month 1:1 support program.