It’s hard to miss the symptoms of food poisoning: stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea. You usually know it when you have it. However, what you may not know is that having food poisoning today can lead to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) tomorrow.
How can food poisoning cause SIBO?
This is a long story, but stick with me.
Food poisoning bacteria make cytolethal distending toxin (CDT). As the name implies, CTD can lead to cell death. Therefore, to fight food poisoning, your body makes antibodies against CDT.
Unfortunately, CDT has a very similar shape (a.k.a molecular mimicry) to a human protein called vinculin. Sometimes, your immune system, confused, makes antibodies to your own protein (vinculin) in addition to the bacterial protein (CDT). This results in autoimmunity.
What’s dangerous about anti-vinculin antibodies?
Vinculin is important. Indeed, it regulates the interstitial cells of cajal (ICC), which, in turn regulate the Migrating Motor Complex (MMC). Therefore, when the body attacks vinculin, it indirectly shuts off the MMC.
Why is the MMC important?
The MMC is the “housekeeper of the digestive tract.” It sweeps food debris and opportunistic bacteria from the small intestine into the colon. This is a good thing. While it is OK for the large intestine to house 10 billion to 10 trillion microbes, the small intestine should only have 1,000 to 100 million.
In summary, a nasty side effect of food poisoning is autoimmunity that shuts off the MMC. When the MMC stops working, food debris and bacteria stay in the small intestine. Those bacteria eat up the extra food and then reproduce like crazy, resulting in bacteria overgrowth in the small intestine. In other words, food poisoning can cause SIBO!
Good news! There’s a test for anti-vinculin!
If you had food poisoning and now have SIBO (or IBS you suspect is SIBO), there is a test that can tell you if autoimmunity is contributing to your IBS-related SIBO. Two laboratories offer the test:
Note: You will need a healthcare professional to order and interpret the test.