What is SIBO?
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) is a chronic bacterial infection of the small intestine. The infection is of bacteria that normally live in the gastrointestinal tract but have abnormally overgrown in a location not meant for so many bacteria. The bacteria interfere with normal digestion and absorption of food and may damage the lining of our intestinal tracts causing Leaky Gut Syndrome.
My IBD Story
I have been successful at managing Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), more specifically Crohn’s Colitis for the vast majority of my life for the most part naturally as part of my Personal Vitality. But every now and then, I experience a flare up which requires special attention. A few years ago, I started to experience an increase in joint pain, bloating, gas, insomnia, and depression that I couldn’t associate with a normal flare-up. Throughout my life, I’ve tried to maintain a level of athleticism but the chronic pain was keeping me from everyday life enjoyment. After visiting an orthopedic specialist, physical therapist, and chiropractor with little relief, I decided to see my naturopath.
My SIBO Diagnosis
My naturopath immediately suspected SIBO and urged me to complete a SIBO hydrogen breath test. The test required blowing into a tube every 15 minutes for 90 minutes after fasting on meat and rice the day prior. It is important not to eat anything that feeds the gut bacteria the day leading up to the test. The test measures the hydrogen or methane that is produced by the bacteria in the gut that may feed on the sugar water you are required to drink at the start of the test. Simply put, if there are a lot of bacteria in the gut, there will be a lot of hydrogen and or methane produced from the sugar. When the results came back, sure enough, I had SIBO.
My Treatment Protocol
My doctor suggested I try the antibiotic Rifaximin. Unfortunately my insurance provider wouldn’t approve the cost of this expensive medication and they suggested I try other, less expensive antibiotics first. Not wanting to go on a series of different antibiotics prior to getting the antibiotics that my doctor originally recommended, I decided to try an herbal antimicrobial protocol.
While SIBO is not uncommon for those with histories of IBD or other autoimmune disorders, it was the first time I heard of such a diagnosis. In true Superwoman fashion, I set out to read every book that was remotely related to SIBO and browse every website and forum that could offer me any insight into my new condition.
My doctor suggested I adopt a low FODMAP diet for the treatment. While I was quite familiar with low FODMAP, it didn’t coincide with the Paleo lifestyle I had currently been trying. I decided to do more research and find a more specific and intensive SIBO Diet Plan.
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Most herbal protocols are prescribed for a minimum of 30 days. I had completed 21 days, following a very strict SIBO specific diet, and experiencing a tremendous amount of weightloss, discomfort and diarrhea. I decided to quit the herbal protocol and retest for SIBO. This second test came back negative for SIBO.
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My SIBO Maintenance
The SIBO treatment and my very low carbohydrate diet left me very depleted in weight and energy. The worst part, I was SIBO free, and still experiencing quite a bit of muscular pain. I decided to consult an acupuncturist and Chinese medicine doctor. She immediately ordered an organic acid assay test for a nutritional profile. The test suggested I had a significant amount of lactic acid producing bacteria in my body. The probiotics prescribed by my naturopath were lactic acid producing strains. I ditched those probiotics, stopped fermented food, including homemade yogurt, and purchased probiotics with specific non-lactic acid producing strains.
The months that followed, I managed to maintain a somewhat strict SIBO diet along with quite an array of supplements. I started feeling much better with decreased pain. Eventually the psychology of my SIBO diet restriction finally got to me and I fell off the SIBO diet wagon. It really doesn’t take long for me to completely fall off of a restricted diet wagon into full blown eating whatever I want disorder. It also doesn’t take long for my symptoms to return in full force.
My SIBO Today
So, here I am again, one year from my initial diagnosis with SIBO, once again, testing positive for SIBO. I am trying a different protocol, more of a medium grade, more manageable protocol. I’ve listed some of the herbs and supplements that I am tolerating much better. I am still in my second phase of treatment and haven’t moved onto maintenance. I am also seeing a therapist this time around, who is helping me deal with my all or nothing mentality, my underlying eating disorder, and trying to instill mindful and intuitive eating into my life. I’m hopeful and still experimenting.
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If you have a history of SIBO or have been recently diagnosed with SIBO, I would love to hear from you. Please send me an email or leave a comment on this post.