SIBO and Brain Fog

Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is a condition in which there is excessive bacterial growth within the small intestine — an area that should be fairly sterile. SIBO comes with a wide variety of symptoms ranging from gas and bloating to fatigue and brain fog. While it’s a common symptom, there isn’t a lot of research on SIBO and brain fog. Today we are going to dissect what causes brain fog in SIBO and how to improve SIBO and brain fog.Sibo and Brain Fog

What is brain fog?

Brain fog is a cognitive difficulty that results from neuroinflammation. Brain fog can feel like you are in a daze. People experiencing brain fog often have difficulty concentrating, remembering things, and paying attention. It feels as though your brain is on a dial-up connection. It is slow to process and intake information. It can also take a little longer than you’d like to compute this information into what to do next. 

People experiencing brain fog explain it as brain fatigue and it can go hand-in-hand with overall body fatigue. 

Brain fog can be brought on by poor sleep and lifestyle habits (smoking, drinking, and drug use). It can coexist with other conditions like ADHD, eating disorders, chronic pain, long-COVID, and GI disturbances. 

Brain fog is often seen as more of a nuisance than an actual problem. However, people experiencing brain fog should look into the root cause of it because it often means there is an underlying issue

The Gut Microbiome’s Role in Brain Fog

The gut microbiome, referred to as the second brain, has a lot of control over our entire body. Our health is often a representation of the balance of our gut microbiome. 

An overload of “unhealthy” gut bugs means poor health. The type of bacteria within the gut matters because when they feed on foods we eat, they give off different chemicals for our bodies to use. 

Bad bacteria aren’t necessarily bad, they just give off harmful chemicals to the human body, leading to disease.

The “healthy” gut bugs give off healing chemicals that help to support cells and repair damage. 

This is where the food we eat comes into play. The more healthful and nourishing foods we eat, the more good microbes we have. But the more junky foods we eat the more unhealthy bacteria we have. 

The chemical byproducts that the bacteria give off are able to pass into the blood system to be transported throughout the body. They’re also often able to pass through the blood-brain barrier having a direct effect on the brain function itself. 

In SIBO, Proteobacteria are found in higher abundance while general microdiversity was lower than normal. Proteobacteria, while not always bad, can have pro-inflammatory effects by releasing LPSs which can have direct effects on the brain. 

These unhealthy foods and bacteria can also disrupt the lining of our intestinal tract. It should be tight and not let much pass through, however, the disruption causes the tight junctions to become loose, and more and more bacteria can freely pass from one side to the other. 

Think of a water hose. When it is new, water passes through at any rate and doesn’t leak out. But once you’ve had the hose for many years and it sits in the sun and weather it starts to have minor cracks and allows water to leak out. This is essentially what happens with the bacteria in the gut microbiome.

This is where even “good” bacteria can become harmful. When bacteria escape they can travel anywhere in the body. This causes the immune system to freak out and attack the bacteria wherever they are which leads to damage of cells in that area. It also means your immune system never really gets a break and can contribute to dysfunction and disease. 

Brain fog is a near-constant state of neuroinflammation so it could be an indicator that you are experiencing a leaky gut in addition to other problems.

SIBO Issues That Can Lead to Brain Fog

SIBO means there are already bacteria somewhere they should not be. The large intestine is where the gut microbiome lives. But the small intestine really shouldn’t have any bacteria within it. Sometimes bacteria end up there from infections and this causes more inflammation.

SIBO can lead to nutrient deficiencies because the small intestine is where nutrients are absorbed. Unfortunately, the nutrients cannot be absorbed because the bacteria get to them first. This can contribute to other conditions like hormone dysregulation — especially regarding thyroid and cortisol hormones. 

These hormonal imbalances can also contribute to brain fog, layering on the problems that need to be solved before brain fog can be resolved. 

How to Improve SIBO and Brain Fog

Normally, restrictive diets are suggested for SIBO, but this can contribute to brain fog because of the reduction in nutrients in an already decreased nutrient absorption state. This is a big reason that working with a registered dietician is important when it comes to SIBO. 

One study found that there may be a link between SIBO, brain fog, D-lactic acidosis, and probiotic intake. This study found that patients who experience brain fog have a higher incidence of conditions like SIBO and D-lactic acidosis. When taking probiotics, their brain fog symptoms were higher but once they stopped taking them and took an antibiotic their brain fog was reduced. 

This is another reason to work with an RD because they can help figure out which foods may be adding problems that you don’t even realize. Most people push probiotics as a way to improve gut health, but if bacteria are the issue, adding more isn’t generally helpful. 

Spore-based probiotics can be more helpful so ask your doctor about something like AtrantilPro which offers prebiotics, probiotics, and polyphenols to help your body heal itself. 

Eating a diet that has foods that don’t trigger your symptoms is the best place to start. However, having a healthy lifestyle is just as important. Exercising regularly, avoiding alcohol and smoking, getting enough sleep, and practicing mindfulness can all help. 

Talking to your doctor about setting up a game plan to get rid of brain fog is going to be your best bet. If they can figure out the root cause of brain fog, whether it’s SIBO, histamine issues, hormone imbalance, or something else can help you get on a path to healing. Functional doctors often will look for a root cause rather than just giving you another round of antibiotics which can add fuel to the fire. 

See if Atrantil might be right for you to get your gut in order.

Check out some of our other articles on SIBO here!

How to Treat SIBO Naturally

SIBO, POTS, and Dysautonomias: A new gut connection

Is Your Rosacea Caused by SIBO?