Two months ago things changed with my gut. My perfect digestion turned into bloat and gas after every meal. I couldn’t believe after all this time, I could have digestive symptoms again.
But this time around, symptom wise, it was a walk in the park compared to my first run in with IBS.
This time, I just had some bloating. Not comfortable, but generally I still felt fine, and went to the bathroom regularly. It’s the kind of symptom that people could live with for years before it got unbearable and the rest of the body started breaking down. But of course I knew better, so I investigated.
I knew what test to take to narrow down the cause of my symptoms. I took the SIBO test first because bloating is the biggest sign. The test was positive for methane gas. I had my answer in a week. Last time around it took me 6 years to figure it out.
For those who may not know, SIBO stands for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. You are not supposed to have a lot of bacteria in your small intestine and it causes constipation or diarrhea, bloating, gas and sometimes abdominal pain.
There is a fast and easy home test you can take to figure out if it’s your problem. I order this test for all of my clients because it’s important to rule this out as a cause for symptoms.
This is a the gold standard, lactulose SIBO breath test by Biohealth Labs. It’s $149 and extremely accurate. The glucose SIBO test is not as accurate.
Of course I was surprised. But I’m an empath and I talk to people with SIBO all day. If anyone could get SIBO emphatically it was me.
But as I dug deeper there were more reason that this happen. And just to be clear this is the first time I have SIBO. This is not a relapse but a new case.
The first time I owed IBS to food allergies, candida, inflammation and leaky gut. To fix it, I did a year-long liver cleanse and a no-sugar Paleo diet, during which I ate plenty of high FODMAP foods with no issues. Nor did I take probiotics or antimicrobial herbs to fix it. That’s how I know it wasn’t SIBO.
Nowadays I bloat if I eat some high FODMAP foods. I feel much better eliminating them from my diet. Which of course is just a temporary solution. Life without garlic and onions I think would be quite difficult.
In my experience, SIBO is often misinterpreted or diagnosed as IBS by doctors. No one understands why it’s so rampant these days. Around 80 percent of people with IBS symptoms are estimated to have it according to to expert , Dr. Pimentel. Aside from causing bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhea, it can also cause reflux, abdominal pain, weight loss or gain and food allergies.
SIBO occurs when bacteria from the large intestine travel upward or bacteria that’s ingested is not properly cleared downward. It takes up residence in the small intestine and eats the food that was meant for you. The bacteria produces gases, either methane or hydrogen in response to the food the eat, and they live on sugar, fiber, fermentable carbs and starches. Methane or hydrogen gasses are what cause the discomfort of SIBO.
SIBO, if left unchecked can lead to malnutrition, leaky gut, inflammation and food allergies. And it can cause neurological issues like brain fog, anxiety and depression.
I don’t want SIBO, but now that I have I’m going to treat it as a learning opportunity. I hope to discover things that can help my clients and readers.
At this early point, SIBO is inconvenient. I can’t go out to eat anymore. The die off can be uncomfortable. I have to give up healthy foods that I love. But it’s all going to be temporary. It won’t last forever. That’s what I focus on to lift my spirits.
The SIBO head game
SIBO is difficult to treat. The relapse rate is about 50 to 66 percent after treatment. This can stir up anxiety, in addition to the chemical anxiety that SIBO causes.
But there’s hope, because you can feel better than you do now. Improving overall gut function is the key to feeling better, whether SIBO is completely eradicated or not.
SIBO will likely change your life and teach you lessons about self care. If you’re open to it then it’s a good thing, though it can be tough at first. SIBO is not a punishment, it’s a self education. And a powerful motivator for change.
I know that I eat too fast and have started paying attention to chewing my food better. This is a change that needed to happen a decade ago.
How you mentally approach SIBO dictates your experience. I know it because I’ve observed it countless time. Fighting and worrying will produce much less results than simply surrender to it. Surrendering doesn’t mean giving up. It means not worrying about and fighting with reality (a bad habit that many of us humans tend to have).
I hope that this news is not disheartening to you. I know many of you struggle with faith that you can make progress with your health. I get it. But I hope that I can be an inspiration to you instead of more proof that life is unfair.
Because I caught my SIBO early, with my handy home test, and have already stared treating it, it won’t turn into leaky gut, food allergies or GERD/reflux like it might if I kept feeding the bacteria unknowingly for months or years.
Because I’ve done a lot of work on my gut and have the stress relieving practice of chi gong, I’m one of the healthiest people I’ve seen with SIBO.
What I’ve learned from this is that it’s not the SIBO that matters, it’s the state of your body and gut. I don’t teach people to heal particular diseases, I teach them how to balance and care for their gut so over time they build up more vital reserve to deal with any health issue life throws at them. Vital reserve determines how sick people get when their gut and body is thrown out of balance. This is a holistic, big picture approach.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been following a Paleo low FODMAP diet which has greatly reduced my bloating. I’m starving the bugs through diet and using herbs to reduce their numbers.
It is a process that can take 3 to 6 months, depending on severity.
And because SIBO is a unforgiving. I need to follow my diet and treatment plan pretty strictly. But I’m ok with that.
Most people slip up here. When the diet and herbs make them feel better they will have a small cheat and are surprised to find themselves back at step one. That’s why I urge people not to treat themselves when they have SIBO. SIBO is complicated and need to be approached methodically. There are many moving parts.
I’m breaking my own rule and treating myself. But doing it purposely to test some of my theories on myself. If it doesn’t work, I’ve got a practitioner to work with lined up.
Why did I get SIBO?
There are a few reasons that I got SIBO. The biggest one is low stomach acid. Low stomach acid a top cause of SIBO because it lets undigested food particles pass into the small intestine, which feeds SIBO. Low stomach acid also kills less bacteria from food.
A year and a half ago I ran a stool test analysis on myself and found an h pylori infection in my stomach. H pylori is notorious for lowering stomach acid. I have no idea how long I’ve had h pylori for.
People can be in the process of developing SIBO for 10 years before they start experiencing symptoms. Eventually something happens to make them symptomatic. Some causes are a high sugar diet, multiple courses of antibiotics, a gut infection or chronic/acute stress.
My job is stressful. I’ve been eating a high FODMAP diet. And my stomach acid was compromised. That alone could have done it. But there’s more.
A few months after eradicating h pylori I worked with a nutritionist to boost my adrenals, and energy levels. She told me to eat a ton of carbs at each meal. I loaded up on dairy (lactose), potatoes and fruit. And I found out from a later blood test that I have fructose malabsorption.
I gained 10 pounds very quickly before I stopped that program. I think I had SIBO at that point and was feeding the overgrowth.
The event that pushed me over the edge was a nasty flu in mid December. Many people experience an intense case of the flu or food poisoning a month or two before their symptoms begin. This also happened to me.
A week after recovering from the flu I took a 7-day road trip over the Christmas holiday. I ate all my meals out and went crazy with sugar, gluten and dairy. Stuff I usually don’t eat, but it was the holidays and I had no kitchen.
After my vacation I tried to make up for my indiscretions by doubling up on fermented foods and probiotics but at that point I was only feeding the bacterial overgrowth.
It was a perfect storm. The stomach acid. The stress. Carb overload. The immune-battering flu. The sugar-filled road trip. The overdose of probiotics. And the fact that SIBO is always on my mind….
So as I traverse this new chapter for my gut I promise to be real and share honestly about my experience, what has and hasn’t worked and what I’ve learned.
And my hope is that soon I’ll be able to blog about my own SIBO success story.
Angela Privin is proof that IBS is NOT an incurable disease or a disease at all. IBS is a body out of balance. It’s an invitation for change. After solving her own IBS mystery more than a decade ago Angela trained as a health coach to help others.
Angela uses both science and intuition to help people figure out what’s out of balance in their body. She works with lab tests, dietary changes, supplementation and nervous system rebalancing. Get help rebalancing your digestive system and solving your IBS mystery here.