Discriminate between Bacterial Overgrowth and IBS

Many factors affect the type and distribution of the bacteria along the gastrointestinal tract, starting from the type of delivery and nursing in the first days of life, up to the food habits during the adult life: a SIBO is often present in adult population of westernized countries, because of poor daily intake of fibres and faecal stasis; such an overgrowth contributes to a chronic inflammation on intestinal mucosa and development of symptoms, such as abdominal pain, diarrhoea or stipsis.

These symptoms look like those of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBS) and, unfortunately, most of these patients with a bacterial overgrowth are inappropriately treated with topically-active non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents. In fact, these compounds have no antibacterial activity and, therefore, they do not remove the causative factors of the symptoms, the bacterial overgrowth, and are likely to provoke even severe adverse events.

The "breath test" is a recently developed test, which is able to detect elevated concentrations of hydrogen in the expired air. In presence of a SIBO, dietary carbohydrates are metabolised with production of massive amounts of hydrogen that are eliminated with the breath. Thus, the "breath test" consists in administering 50-75 grams of lactulose and assaying the concentrations of hydrogen in the expired air; if these concentrations exceed 10 to 20 part per million, the subject is suspected to have a SIBO and should be appropriately treated with antibiotics.

Clinicians should be encouraged to perform a "breath test" to promptly identify a bacterial overgrowth, because the disorder has several systemic consequences ranging from malabsorption of lipids and liposoluble vitamins and loss of electrolytes, to a more severe translocation of bacteria (usually, gram-negative and aerobic bacteria, such as Escherichia, Proteus, Enterobacter and Klebsiella) from the GI tract to extraintestinal tissues; all these factors may lead to sepsis and multiorgan failure.

MEDICA.de; Source: World Journal of Gastroenterology