I believe there is a feeling of mourning connected with sickness. While news of the flu or a common cold are probably more connected to sadness or frustration, chronic and certainly life threatening sickness is paired with grief. Sometimes its a fleeting moment of heart break and other times it can lead to longer lasting depression. At times I have felt alone in this state of grief in response to sickness, but the more I connect with people the more I see it in others too. The news in devastating as you start to consider the symptoms, treatment time, and treatment money that will take away from the life you imagined for yourself.
I was in this grief space once before, in the beginning of my autoimmune diagnosis in 2012. This was before I overcame digestive horrors, chronic pain, and fatigue, among other things. In 2018, when hearing about SIBO, the grief came back to visit me. I had to sort through the emotions of believing I had done so much to care for myself and It couldn’t be true that I had even more mountains to climb. The grieving stage for me is always followed by a period of determination, and I hope it is for others as well. I consider what attitude and what tools I will be need to climb the mountain and I go for it! Here I am sharing the tools that have been more important for healing my SIBO. I hope you find they bring you good health.
Tool # 1: SIBO Breath Test
My doctor had me test for SIBO by doing a breath test. This test is done at home following very specific instructions. They even provide a video link with directions to be sure it’s done correctly. It starts with a fast from the evening before. Next you have to drink the provided sugar liquid and breath in a bag while collect samples of your breath. This happens over varying intervals of time. Then you send the samples away to a lab so they can analyze what kind of bacteria you have growing in your digestive system. I was lucky enough to do this test over a holiday break so I didn’t have to worry about work. If you do not have this stay at home option, I suggested taking a sick day to complete this process or clearing a weekend without much on the schedule. Otherwise the test could be done incorrectly causing faulty data or the frustration that you need to get a new test and start over again. This test was also only useful for me when I had my doctor to read the results and make a treatment plan.
Tool #2: A Good Doctor
Some people choose to see a medical practitioner to treat SIBO with a very specific type of antibiotic. While this can be successful, often times SIBO will reoccur because the antibiotic is not addressing the underlying issues.
I chose to see a Functional Medicine doctor who treated me with a very specific supplements to kill off the bacteria. She was very careful to determine my protocol considering when it was the right time to “kill off the bugs” and when it was the right time to heal the gut. This included enzymes, probiotics, charcoal, magnesium, among other things. To be clear, these are not just over the counter products. My doctor uses carefully vetted companies with high quality products.
While I understand the urge to go the a vitamin shop and begin curing yourself because it can feel like you are saving money. In the long run, you may be wasting money on products that aren’t strong enough and aren’t used in the right combination or even at the right time. Find areas of your budget to pair down so you can invest in yourself with a quality treatment plan. I’m lucky enough to be married to my investment advisor. He has me use an HSA to pay for my treatment. While it’s still money out of our pocket, it is at least tax free money.
Tool #3 Diet
My doctor recommended a Ketogenic diet while also paying attention to FODMAP foods and fermented foods. Keto takes out the sugar and carbs that bacteria like to feed on helping them die off quicker. FODMAP is a way of managing digestive distress symptoms. Wow! This was an adjustment for a few reasons. I was already a clean eater removing grains, dairy, eggs, and soy for the last 6 years of my life. The tricky thing about this was considering all my food allergies in conjunction to Keto. Dairy, eggs, and nuts are part of the Keto diet but are not safe for me. Since my diet was already so restrictive I had to slowly figure out the FODMAP and Keto world, testing out the right foods for my body and making sure I didn’t remove too many foods making me nutrient deprived. Some of the best foods that make Keto possible can be major FODMAP triggers. Avocados are my true love, after my husband, but they caused some serious FODMAP bloating in the beginning of my SIBO treatment. I could only handle 1/4 of an avocado a day, while now I can consume a whole avocado in 1 sitting.
Each week I learned more, tested more recipes and continued on my supplement protocol to eradicate the SIBO. There was truly a cycle of try and fail to see what my body needed, offering myself plenty of grace along the way. I realized a FODMAP plan was necessary in the beginning of my treatment but now that the SIBO is almost gone I don’t have to worry about it. This shift has made my commitment to Keto so much easier.
There is a difference between a regular Ketogenic diet and a Clean Keto diet. Some people who follow a Keto plan live on a lot of meat and dairy which is closer to an Adkins diet from the 90’s. This does not work for me. I still fully believe in vegetables as an important part of my diet. I have to be more careful about the veggies I consume, but they are certainly part of every meal. I am finding that my commitment to very low carbs and intermittent fasting is a huge part of my healing. My digestive system is finally starting to find relief allowing my whole body to function better.
Check out my recipe page for some good food options. Not all are KETO because I cook for Jonathan too, but you can definitely find good options. All my recipes follow my clean eating commitment to real food and are free of eggs, dairy, soy, and grains. Some of my favorite Keto recipes are Keto Pumpkin Chili, Lamb Medalions with Greek Salad, and Italian Zucchini Boats. Follow me on social media for regular recipes and lunch box tips.
Tool #4: Rest
Stress is really bad for SIBO which is a problem for me because I am a natural workaholic. This tendency is made worse because my job feels more like a calling. Teaching and Instructional Coaching is the business of people. My heart notices the needs of the teachers and students I work with and all I want to do is care for them. My first reaction is to skip my lunch time, come in early, or work on the weekend so everyone has what they need.
This is true with my family and community as well. It’s so hard for me to see a need unmet. I get some much joy in giving gifts, brining people meals, and serving at church.
While all of these things are honorable, I still need to have balance. I am learning to be very carefully with my “Yes” and strategic about my “No”. Reading Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist really helped me change perspectives a couple of years ago. I’m currently reading The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. His books have yet to disappoint. This one is reminding me to change my worries into prayers letting God take care of the things out of my control. If you feel too busy to read, you might like the free audiobook app Libby. All you need is a smart devices and a library card to get started.
Sleep has always been a priority for me, but I started taking melatonin at night to be sure I stay asleep and rest well. I’m pretty serious about my bed time routine!
Time to decompress matters too. If my schedule is hectic, this might mean 5 minutes doing simple yoga poses without noise on my lunch break. Other times it means a walk through the woods or 20 minutes sitting in the sun reading or listening to a favorite podcast.
Finding this balance is not always easy. To paraphrase Brene Brown, do a 30 second pause, really consider if your choice is going to deplete or restore you. It is not possible to do it all and if you step back it might make space for others family members, colleagues, or friends to step up.
The Next Phase of the Journey
I know I still have a ways to go. My main goal is to get rid of SIBO completely. It’s taking longer than most with me. Some people only have one form of bacteria. I on the other hand had a whole colony of serious offenders. I understand my treatment will take some time. I’m committed to the plan and using all my tools to help.
With anticipation I await the day when I can share my success and celebrate with you all in good health.
Leave a comment if you have questions or tips to share!