Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: What Do We Know in 2023?

Nutrients. 2023 Mar 8;15(6):1323. doi: 10.3390/nu15061323.


Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a chronic liver disease associated with the pathological accumulation of lipids inside hepatocytes. Untreated NAFL can progress to non-alcoholic hepatitis (NASH), followed by fibrosis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The common denominator of the above-mentioned metabolic disorders seems to be insulin resistance, which occurs in NAFLD patients. Obesity is the greatest risk factor for lipid accumulation inside hepatocytes, but a part of the NAFLD patient population has a normal body weight according to the BMI index. Obese people with or without NAFLD have a higher incidence of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and those suffering from NAFLD show increased intestinal permeability, including a more frequent presence of bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine (SIBO). The health consequences of SIBO are primarily malabsorption disorders (vitamin B12, iron, choline, fats, carbohydrates and proteins) and bile salt deconjugation. Undetected and untreated SIBO may lead to nutrient and/or energy malnutrition, thus directly impairing liver function (e.g., folic acid and choline deficiency). However, whether SIBO contributes to liver dysfunction, decreased intestinal barrier integrity, increased inflammation, endotoxemia and bacterial translocation is not yet clear. In this review, we focus on gut-liver axis and discuss critical points, novel insights and the role of nutrition, lifestyle, pre- and probiotics, medication and supplements in the therapy and prevention of both SIBO and NAFLD.

Keywords: NAFLD; SIBO; gut dysbiosis; gut–liver axis; nutrition; probiotics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / metabolism
  • Fibrosis
  • Humans
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / etiology
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Risk Factors

Grants and funding

The project is financed under the program of the Minister of Science and Higher Education under the name “REGIONALNA INICJATYWA DOSKONAŁOŚCI” in 2019–2022 (Project No. 002/RID/2018/19, financing amount PLN 12,000,000).