Small bowel bacterial overgrowth is a condition in which very large numbers of bacteria grow in the small intestine.
Unlike the large intestine, the small intestine does not have a high number of bacteria. When there are too many bacteria in the small intestine, these organisms use up the nutrients that would otherwise be absorbed into the body. A person with small bowel bacterial overgrowth may become malnourished as a result.
The breakdown of nutrients in the small intestine by the excess bacteria can also damage the intestinal lining. This can make it even harder for the body to absorb nutrients.
Conditions that can lead to overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine include:
The most common symptoms are:
Other symptoms may include:
The goal is to treat the cause of the bacterial overgrowth. Treatment most often consists of antibiotics. In some cases, drugs that speed intestinal movement (motility-speeding drugs) may be used. A low carbohydrate diet can be helpful.
Treatment also involves getting enough fluids and nutrition. A person who is dehydrated may need intravenous (IV) fluids in a hospital. A person who is malnourished may also need nutrition given through a vein (total parenteral nutrition -- TPN).
Severe cases lead to malnutrition. Other possible complications include:
Overgrowth - intestinal bacteria; Bacterial overgrowth - intestine
Semrad CE. Approach to the patient with diarrhea and malabsorption. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 142.
Updated by: Jenifer K. Lehrer, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Frankford-Torresdale Hospital, Aria Health System, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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