SIBO, POTS, and Dysautonomias: A New Gut Connection

SIBO, POTS, and Dysautonomias

Oh the wonderful world of medicine – there’s always new connections being made, uncovering some truth about mysterious disorders.

A new connection emerging from research has shown a possible connection between the bacteria in your gut and dysautonomias, which are disorders coming from your autonomic nervous system.

This is still “hot off the press” research, but it’s worth looking into since your gut bacteria is easily manipulated through diet, supplements and environmental inputs – like exercise and stress levels.

You have multiple nervous systems who all talk to each other. Whether it be through hormones, enzymes, gut bacteria, electrolytes, or stressors – your entire body is connected.

Even when you’re sound asleep these factors are still on “work mode” keeping you alive through automatic movements.

Your gut is part of your enteric nervous system (ENS) consisting of 100 million neurons, trillions of bacteria, and 3.3 million genes – that’s 150 times larger than your human genome.

And on top of that an overwhelming rate – 99% – of your genes actually come from your gut bacteria. This is all the reason why your gut has been called your “second brain.”

It is a powerful system affecting your body’s immune system, metabolism, nutrition, digestion, and physiology. So it’s important to keep a good balance of healthy bacteria in your gut to keep all systems working smoothly.

What Does the Gut Have to Do with Dysautonomia?

Dysautonomia is an umbrella term used to describe multiple medical conditions involving your autonomic nervous system (ANS). Your ANS controls your “automatic” functions of your body that you don’t have to consciously think about such as:

  • Heart rate
  • Blood pressure
  • Breathing
  • Digestion
  • Temperature regulation
  • Dilation

Your gut communicates to your central nervous system (CNS),  which consists of your brain and spinal cord, through your ANS via the vagus nerve. This is a two-way street of communication – meaning either system can affect the other.

Knowing this, you might be less surprised to hear that an imbalance in your gut bacteria has been linked to neurodegenerative disorders.

We know our body is connected.

We also know that each nervous system is connected by a bidirectional means of communications via nerves.

And when our enteric nervous system – your gut – is in direct contact with your autonomic nervous system, imbalance could cause it to go haywire.

What is POTS? Plus POTS Causes and Symptoms

Shaking and Sweating

One of the most common dysautonomias is postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). POTS affects 70 million people worldwide and is also commonly linked with people who have an autoimmune disease.

Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome is diagnosed when a patient’s heart rate increases from their resting heart rate by 30 beats per minute or more upon standing. Or an increase to over 120 beats per minute when standing.

POTS signs and symptoms include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Gastrointestinal issues (cramping, bloating, diarrhea, constipation – all signs of SIBO)
  • Shaking and sweating
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Flushing

Dysautonomias are usually inherited.

But those that are not inherited are normally due to a degenerative disease, result from injury, certain diseases, or prolonged inflammatory reactions.

Basically, doctors can’t pinpoint one cause. As with any syndrome or disease, this is usually the case because there’s no “one cause fits all.”

One groundbreaking study linking the gut to dysautonomia reveals how a patient who suffered from POTS was nearly symptom-free after treating her small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).  

Her gut health was directly affecting her autonomic nervous system! This is just the breakthrough some patients need to treating and healing their dysautonomia.

SIBO and Dysautonomias Connection

SIBO, which is an overgrowth of bacteria in your small intestine have been shown to possibly lead to autoimmune disorders and neurological issues such as Alzheimer disease Parkinson disease, and fibromyalgia (both are forms of dysautonomia).

With some cases of dysautonomias, various stresses on their immune system cause an increase of norepinephrine in the body. This increase of norepinephrine from their sympathetic nervous – one branch of the autonomic nervous system – causes them to respond in the flight-or-fight reaction.

During times of stress, your body has an influx of norepinephrine. With this being said, remember that two-way street?

Between your gut and your brain?

Research shows that your gut bacteria can sometimes be linked to these high-stress time releasing tons of norepinephrine. This is also another major connection between small intestinal bacterial growth and POTS.

In Dr. Lenny Weinstock’s research, he found 27 out of 35 patients with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome also had small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.

An alarming 69% of POTS patients had SIBO. This is the beginning of research for SIBO and dysautonomias connection. We are just beginning to scratch the surface, hopefully, to unveil a root cause for these patients.

Histamine Intolerance and POTS

Another solid connection is the connection with mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS) and patients with POTS. This is because of the prolonged inflammatory reaction taking place in MCAS patients.

Histamines are released into your bloodstream due to inflammation or allergic reactions. But those with MCAS don’t ever “turn off” this release of histamines so there’s a major influx.

Symptoms of histamine intolerance look like:

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Vertigo
  • Tachycardia
  • Itching/Rash/flushing
  • Abnormal cramps
  • Anxiety
  • Acid reflux
  • Difficulty falling asleep

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth can lead to leaky gut in certain patients.

This results when the permeability of the epithelial lining is compromised and allows for the passage of toxins, antigens, and bacteria in the lumen to enter the bloodstream thus creating a “leaky gut.”

This can lead to histamine intolerance and food intolerances like gluten in your system since your body is recognizing these things as bad. This constant attack with histamines can be causing the above symptoms.

Rebalance Your Gut Bacteria

One of the major complaints about dysautonomias and POTS patients is surprisingly not their heart rate or blood pressure issues, but their gastrointestinal issues.

Dysautonomias stop all motility in the gut, which could lead to SIBO in patients, but what if we look at the other side of the street?

Could SIBO be causing your dysautonomias/POTS?

The connection between SIBO and POTS is like peeling back a banana layer by layer until you find the root cause.

When doctors chalk up a syndrome like IBS, SIBO, POTS or any dysautonomias as an “autoimmune disease”, it’s because they are done peeling back the layers and have made up their minds.

But when you are struggling with POTS, you are struggling with the daily effects it has on you – and you are NOT done peeling back the layers.