As many of you know, when you have an autoimmune condition you are prone to other pesky medical problems. SIBO is one of them. SIBO stands for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. In a nutshell, it’s when an over abundance of harmful bacteria take up residence in the fairly sterile small intestine. It’s like an annoying house guest that overstays his welcome, not unlike cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation. And it’s very difficult to eradicate.
With SIBO, the bacteria take over by consuming the nutrients meant for your body and they leave their nasty gasses to fill the small intestine. So, not only does it cause a decent amount of pain and discomfort, it leaves a person feeling fatigued and adds more brain fog to the mix.
It took a while for me to get tested and diagnosed properly for SIBO. I had it for at least a year and then it took another year and a half to finally get in under control. I had very little energy because it caused several vitamin deficiencies within my body. It was all I could do to just perform the basic duties of life. I’m hoping my pain will be your gain so it doesn’t take you or a loved one nearly as long.
I won’t go into great detail here, but it’s important to get tested. There are just too many overlapping symptoms in the illness world. You don’t want to waste your time or make your condition worse by treating it incorrectly. There are a few companies out there that test for SIBO. The only way to diagnose SIBO is through a breath test and the most accurate one is essential. The one I used was the Lactulose Breath Test through BioHeath Laboratory. The test takes 90 minutes to complete. It’s not the easiest test, but at least it’s pain free.
The popular nutritional protocol to help get rid of and prevent SIBO from returning is called a low FODMAP (fermentable oligosaccharides disaccharides monosaccharides and polyols) diet. FODMAPs are a collection of short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols found in foods naturally or as food additives. These foods ferment too early within the small intestine and that fermentation is what feeds the bacteria. This is no bueño so it’s imperative to starve those suckers. To make your life easier Monash University has done a lot of research on what foods are low vs. high FODMAP. I found their app to have the most variety regarding what foods are okay for consumption. In order to gain access to the food list you’ll need to download the app. It’s about $9.00, but well worth it. If that’s not in your budget right now with all the other expenses you can get a free shorter list with the low FODMAP diet guide. It’s a little more confusing to follow. The key is to focus on eating the foods in the green column. I think it’s important to pay attention to the items with portion sizes because I didn’t and that contributed to a delay in my healing.
Unfortunately, diet alone most likely won’t get rid of the bacteria. A type of antibiotic, either prescription or herbal, is needed to aid in eradication. There may be a trial and error period with treatment because specific antibiotics are needed for certain bacteria and you won’t know which bacteria you have. The testing is fairly new and basic so a lot of detail just isn’t available yet. My doctor prescribed me several rounds of different combinations of herbal microbials and antibiotic prescriptions.
I happened to have a difficult case to get rid of so I had to go drastic. What finally worked for me was the elemental diet. This diet consists of a powdered drink. Yes, that’s it. They call it a shake, but don’t be fooled, it’s a powder added to water that changes the water from clear to cloudy. Not a lot of substance to it. This drink includes partially digested vitamins etc. that are easy for the body to breakdown. It alone, is consumed for 2-3 weeks. Each scoop is 150 calories and 1 scoop 3 times a day is the recommended amount.
The goal of the elemental diet is to starve the bacteria to death without doing the same to you. Out of all the difficulties I had gone through, since being diagnosed with an autoimmune condition 3 years earlier, this was by far the most difficult obstacle to tackle. The difficulty was mainly psychological. For me, the first week was the worst and it got gradually easier (which seems weird). Meditation was crucial for me during that time. I made it 18 days on the diet and with the first bite of food the floodgates opened. I was just so thankful and relieved it was over.
Even with all the turmoil I went through, I would do all again several times over because it finally got rid of the bacteria that had sabotaged my health for so long. If you happen to have a difficult case like I did, please consider asking your doctor about this option. It’s better to go through a short bout of turmoil than months or years of sickness. I am a much stronger person having gone through it.
I’ll send you further insights and information via personal blogs. If you are interested in more technical information, I found Functional Medicine Nutritionist Angela Pifer offered some helpful short videos that explain the SIBO diagnosis and symptoms in a bit more detail.