If you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), you may be looking out for what could have possibly caused it or contributed to.  You would not be the only one to think this way. Many people wonder if bacterial overgrowth, as seen in SIBO, is the cause of GERD.

We will be discussing these conditions and providing you with details from our research.

Let’s dive in!

What is SIBO?

What does SIBO stand for? SIBO stands for Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and is a serious condition of the small intestine. SIBO occurs when there is an undesirable increase in the overall bacterial population in your small intestine. The population of certain bacteria in a healthy individual is usually small and removed regularly but it increases drastically when contracting SIBO. 

How does SIBO affect me?

Typically, bacteria are present in everyone’s gut, and they play a vital part in digestion. However, when the proportion of the population shifts, problems arise. They cause pain, diarrhea and may lead to malnutrition as they start using up the body’s nutrients. 

What causes SIBO and what are some risk factors?

The following are some of the causes and risk factors of SIBO:

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Causes: The exact causes of what causes SIBO is not clearly understood; however, SIBO can occur when: 

  • There are pH changes in your small intestine 
  • Malfunctions in the muscular activity of the small intestine 
  • Anatomic/structural abnormalities of the small intestine 
  • Malfunctioning of the immune system 

SIBO is often associated with other various disorders such as: 

  • Nerve damage 
  • Low acid levels in the stomach (hypochlorhydria)
  • Irritable bowel disease 
  • Cirrhosis 
  • Portal hypertension 
  • Specific gastric bypass procedures 
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Specific surgeries 
  • Celiac disease 
  • Stomach bug 

Risk factors: Various chronic conditions or procedures can put your gastrointestinal tract at risk. Also, certain diseases and chronic conditions can increase the incidence of SIBO, such as: 

  • Parkinson’s disease 
  • Diabetes 
  • HIV
  • Crohn’s disease 
  • Hypothyroidism 
  • Scleroderma 
  • Structural abnormalities of the small intestine 
  • Gastric surgery for ulcers 
  • Injury to the small intestine 
  • History of radiation therapy to the abdomen 

What is GERD? – What is ​​Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease?

What does GERD stand for? GERD stands for Gastroesophageal reflux disease and is a chronic disorder that occurs when stomach acid regularly flows back in the tube connecting your mouth and esophagus (stomach), irritating the esophagus lining. The main symptoms of GERD are acid reflux, difficulty in swallowing, nausea, chronic cough, chest pain, and heartburn.

What causes GERD and what  are some of its risk factors?

Causes:  GERD mainly occurs when LES (lower esophageal sphincter), a band of muscle that is in between your esophagus and stomach, does not close properly. While there is no single cause of GERD; however, GERD may occur because of the following causes: 

  • Frequently consuming large meals 
  • Sleeping or lying down immediately after eating large meals 
  • Hiatal hernia 
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Risk factors: Various conditions may put you at a risk of GERD that includes: 

  • Obesity 
  • Smoking 
  • Pregnancy 
  • Eating large meals 
  • Consumption of certain medications 
  • Delayed stomach emptying 
  • Pregnancy 
  • Connective tissue disorder 
  • Eating specific types of food 

Why the incidence of heartburn increases with bacterial growth?

There may not be a direct link between heartburn and increased bacterial growth. But medicines used to manage GERD, such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), increase bacterial growth risk. Studies suggest that 50% of the individuals on PPIs for heartburn have SIBO.

Are Bacterial infection and stomach acid reflux are correlated?

Norman Robillard, Ph.D., suggests that SIBO may be the causative factor for GERD. According to his theory, the gas formed by bacteria in the small intestine may push the acid content from the stomach in the esophagus.

However,  studies done on the same are small and insufficient to prove this. More studies are needed to prove this claim.

So, while SIBO may cause GERD, it is not always the case.

Can probiotics cause acid reflux?

Acid reflux occurs when acid from the stomach comes back and irritates your esophagus. Consuming probiotics may help treat acid reflexes as probiotics contain good bacteria and check the growth of harmful bacteria. However, probiotics do not cause acid reflux. They help in treating acid reflux.

Experiencing acid reflux after antibiotics?

Certain medications and dietary supplements can irritate your esophagus and cause heartburn. These medications include: 

Not all antibiotics may cause acid reflux in everyone, but some may cause acid reflux in most individuals. 

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So, can SIBO cause GERD?

All in all, while SIBO may cause GERD, it is not always the case. However, recent research indicates a possibility that GERD may cause SIBO due to treatment with proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). 

Usually, the presence of stomach acid in the small intestine prevents bacterial growth. However, treatment with PPIs reduces the acid content in the stomach. Thus, contributing to increased bacterial growth in the small intestine.

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