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Alternative NamesOvergrowth - intestinal bacteria; Bacterial overgrowth - intestine
Definition Return to top
Small bowel bacterial overgrowth is a condition in which very large numbers of bacteria grow in the small intestine.
Causes Return to top
Normally, the small intestine contains a relatively low number of bacteria. This is different from the large intestine, which contains large numbers of bacteria.
The abnormally large numbers of bacteria in the small intestine use many of the nutrients for their growth that a person should absorb. As a result, a person with the condition may not absorb enough nutrients and will be malnourished.
In addition, the breakdown of nutrients by the bacteria in the small intestines can damage the cells lining the intestinal wall.
Too much growth of bacteria in the small intestine can occur with many different conditions, including:
Symptoms Return to top
The most common symptoms are:
Other symptoms may include:
Exams and Tests Return to top
Low red blood cells (anemia) is a sign.
Treatment Return to top
The goal is to treat the cause of the excess intestinal bacteria growth. For certain conditions, antibiotics or drugs that speed intestinal movement (motility-speeding drugs) may be considered.
Treatment also involves getting enough fluids and nutrition.
Someone who is dehydrated may need intravenous (IV) fluids in a hospital. If the person is already malnourished, a type of nutrition given through a vein (total parenteral nutrition (TPN)) may be necessary.
Possible Complications Return to top
Severe cases lead to malnutrition. Other possible complications include:
References Return to top
Prather C. Inflammatory and anatomic diseases of the intestine, peritoneum, mesentery, and omentum. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 145.Update Date: 10/13/2008 Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.