Small bowel bacterial overgrowth

Definition

Small bowel bacterial overgrowth is a condition in which very large numbers of bacteria grow in the small intestine.

Causes

Most of the time, unlike the large intestine, the small intestine does not have a large number of bacteria. Excess bacteria in the small intestine may use up the nutrients needed by the body. As a result, a person may become malnourished.

The breakdown of nutrients by the excess bacteria can also damage the lining of the small intestine. 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:

Symptoms

The most common symptoms are:

Other symptoms may include:

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask about your medical history. Tests may include:

Treatment

The goal is to treat the cause of the bacterial overgrowth. Treatment may include:

A lactose-free diet can be helpful.

Possible Complications

Severe cases lead to malnutrition. Other possible complications include:


Review Date: 4/2/2018
Reviewed By: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

This information should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. © 1997- 2007 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.