The normal small intestine, which connects the stomach to the large bowel, is about 18-21 feet long. Bacteria are normally present throughout the entire gastrointestinal tract, but in differing amounts. Relatively few bacteria normally live in the small bowel (less than 10,000 bacteria per milliliter of fluid) when compared with the large intestine, or colon ( 1,000,000,000 or more bacteria per milliliter of fluid). And, these types of bacteria normally found in the small bowel are different from those in the colon.
When in balance, the bacterium in the colon helps digest foods and the body absorb essential nutrients. However, when bacteria invades and takes over the small bowel, it can lead to poor absorption of nutrients, symptoms commonly associated with IBS, and may even lead to damage of the stomach lining.
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