Aloha from SIBO world!  Not to be confused with sea world…though I do sort of have whale belly sometimes.  I am 12 days off the elemental diet and into eating REAL FOOD!!!!  It’s been a very interesting transition.  As usual, you can read the first installment here, the 2nd installment right cheeeeere, the 3rd installment hurrrrr and the most recent (other than this one) here. I awoke my first day off of the elemental, sooo excited to shove food into my gullet. Like…SO. EXCITED.  I got up early and started cooking my meat broth.  It smelled so gloriously decadent while simmering on the stove.  I cannot even tell you.  I had only broth at first and it tasted like a warm hug; salty, herb-y, and delicious.  My stomach immediately (within about 20 minutes) reacted, but that was to be expected.  I’m sure my digestive system was like, “Whoooooa now, what’s goin’ on here?!?!  We were used to that stinky fart drink garbage you’ve been guzzling!  Now we have to remember how to process this…”


After the first meal, I added a little bit of shredded chicken to the next bowl of broth.  I continued eating only broth and chicken for the first day.  The next day was mostly broth and chickenftblog1 again, with a little more chickeny-chicken.  I then slowly added back pureed carrots and pureed butternut squash, then red meat, then a little cheese (starting with dry curd cottage cheese, otherwise called DCCC), then a few more roasted veggies (all veggies deseeded and skinned). It was funny because once I started eating, I didn’t want to stop.  I WANTED TO EAT ALL OF THE THINGS!!!  I swear I could have holed up in my house for a week just eating non-stop.  But I tried really hard to hold back.


I had decided to combine several aspects of several diets.  The Fast Tract Digestion Diet (FTD)SCD, and low fodmaps.  Well, that lasted about 3 days.  Trying to combine all 3 was not only miserably limiting, but damn near impossible.  So while I had visions of being able to ftblog2seamlessly meld these, it quickly became clear that I am an idiot and that was impossible. Certain aspects of the diets are in direct opposition to one another. For example, an orange is considered low fodmap, so yay!  But an orange is considered high in fermentation potential on the FTD, so boo.  😦  Conversely, watermelon is considered high fodmap and is a no-no, but on the FTD it has the lowest fermentation potential of all fruit so it is considered the safest.  WTF? What’s a girl to do?  I’m running out of food options here!  That air diet above is looking more and more likely…


It was then that I decided to hell with it, I was going to give the FTD a sincere chance.  I had done SCD + low fodmaps after all for over 2.5 months with very little results.  Why not try something new and a diet that was created specifically for the little SIBO assholes?  So, I immediately threw all of my combining research out of the window (actually, in a moment of pure hatred and frustration I threw it on the floor, stomped on it, and then threw it in the recycling…and no, I am NOT kidding) and decided to work with the FTD.

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Allll my charty-charts for FP values!


Sooo the Fast Tract Diet in a little bloggy nutshell?  The diet is a quantitative approach to gut health (meaning, it is numbers-driven). Like the low fodmap diet (the most common suggestion for SIBO sufferers), it limits lactose, sugar, fiber, fructose, and resistant starch in an effort to reduce foods’ intestinal fermentation potential.  We ingest foods with high starch, fiber, sugar, lactose, etc. and it sits in the intestine, fermenting. These foods are harder for our bodies to process and break down, giving them time to ferment and feed pesky bacteria shitheads that make us all miserable human SIBO zombies.  The point of the diet plan is to limit these foods that have high fermentation potential (FP) so that we can more easily digest what we consume, leading to an ease of SIBO symptoms.  The author, Norm Robillard, specifically addresses SIBO over and over again in book, which was a relief after reading Breaking the Vicious Cycle (the SCD food guide), which not once discusses SIBO.  The book has a total of 15 different food charts so that

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All my many food charts!!!

you are able to calculate your individual food’s fermentation potential. The ideal is to have as low an FP per day as possible. This is where it gets tricky for many people, including yours truly.  I hate to be the stereotypical girl that is terrible at math (because that is a dumbass stereotype with absolutely NO merit!) but math = YIKES in Katie-land!  And not because I’m a chick.  Shit people, I can barely add and subtract. And we’re talking algebra, here!  But honestly, once you get the formula down, it’s easy-peasy…even for a math moron like myself. The trick is to not let yourself be intimidated by it, as it’s sort of a lot of work at first.  You must weigh your food by using a food scale to get the correct serving size to calculate the FP.  This is annoying at first, and I was a little forgetful at times (brain fog, anyone?), but after a while, I started making my own charts of foods that I eat regularly, and it became a much quicker process.  And you have to be diligent about writing down your every food particle. ***EDIT: Since writing this blog, an FTD app has come out that has made my life soooo much easier! It has an FP calculator and allows you to search and save foods (and their FPs) that you eat regularly. So read the book AND be sure to get the app for a much easier go of it.*** Shout-out to Norm…your book is amazing and I am seeing great results thus far…thank you and mahalo for your diligence and expertise!  If you want to read a little more about the diet and compare it to other common SIBO diets like SCD, low fodmaps, and Paleo, click here to learn about it from the Digestive Health Institute website.  (where there is a ton of useful information!).  Also, for a Q&A with the author about fodmap versus FTD, click here.  


One thing about the FTD gave me great pause, and well, I’ll just say it (you all have never known me to hold back anyway, right?) suspicion.  Many of the foods in the charts are processed foods.  Even the FP of diet soda is listed!  At first this bothered me greatly.  I’m not a certified nutritionist, but I have worked long and hard to educate myself about food and I know that many of these foods are not healthy.  Should I be taking the advice of a person that tells me the FP of wonderbread and Snickers?!?!?!  However, eventually I came to the conclusion that this book is written for the masses, and that (sadly) most Americans eat a heavily processed, poor-nutrition diet. And as such, many have IBS.  And if those people don’t want to make a major life-style change (because so many people resist), the author gives them a way to eat certain foods that will aggravate their symptoms less.  For dis’ girl though…I’ll be eating only real, healthy foods.  You won’t see diet soda or wonderbread in my vocab (you will see chocolate occasionally though, which is far more exciting, anyway!), but I do think I understand better why the author made this choice.


How am I doing you want to know?  Well, thanks for asking!  Guys, you know you’re gonna get honesty here!  I’m doing really well.  The elemental, I am coming to realize, gave me far more healing than I originally thought upon completion.  After that initial digestion trouble over my first meal, everything has been much improved. Not perfect, not totally healed, but greatly improved.  Totally normal ftblog7BMs…I’m talkin’ normal poo!!!! For dayssssss!!!!  I know it’s sad that I am this excited about poop, but this is my life now.  I’ve had virtually zero pain and my bloating, while still there, has decreased. I even ate out for the first time in nearly 5 months at the Hawai’i Book and

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I’m eating out! IN public!

Music Festival.  It was only a grass-fed, no-hormone, plain burger with swiss cheese, but it was TERRIBLY exciting! I felt like a normal person for a hot second! Several people have asked me if I believe it was the elemental or the Fast Tract Diet that has brought me so much relief. Well, I have no idea. That is a very chicken-or-the-egg question, isn’t it? I guess my best answer is: both. I have a feeling that the FTD would have been a far better option for me about 4 months ago than low fodmaps or SCD. I also think that had I not done the elemental, I wouldn’t be where I am now, either.  I know people in my SIBO forum that have been fighting this SIBO battle for years and I can tell you that I do not want that to be me.  So I am happy with how things have progressed, as I feel like I am moving at a rapid healing pace compared to most people (as of right now…I am well aware that can change in an instant).  I think this is largely due to diligence and determination to be better, to a good caring doctor, and to this new diet that has started to allow me to not bend over in pain after having a simple meal.

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Makin’ my glorious homemade almond milk!


Having sung the praises of FTD here, I need to mention that I still keep aspects of SCD around, though. Namely, that I will cook and create most everything I eat with my own two hands. I see many people on the SIBO discussion boards still eating store-bought almond milk, store-bought gluten-free breads, store-bought jams or sour creams…and lamenting that they are feeling awful.  I get it, folks.  I really do.  It’s not only hard as hell to have to cook and create everything you eat (from your own mayo to your

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Homemade almond nut butter!!!

own nut butters!) it’s like a damn part-time job. And the clean-up? Crazytown.  I swear I spend half of my life washing dishes. But these (and many, many other) foods have all sorts of terrifyingly disgusting things in them.  And for people with digestive illnesses, they affect us more than most.  Things like carrageenan, MSG, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors and preservatives, and soy. Hell, I have even read appalling things being included in our foods like human hair (HUMAN HAIR, PEOPLE!!! Otherwise known as L-Cysteine), Sawdust (used as a caking agent in spices and in cheese…in our glorious cheese, ya’ll!), anti-freeze (I shit you not, it’s also known as Propylene Glycol) and much MUCH more. And we wonder why we have gut issues when we are eating human hair and sawdust, right? I feel like a cat when I read that stuff…like I should be hacking up sawdusty hairballs every morning or something.  The point is, just because you buy it at Whole Foods or Trader Joes, or just because it says it’s organic or healthy or gluten-free, does NOT mean that it’s good for your body.  And it most certainly does not mean it is good for your gut.  Hell, if it hurts some of us with gut problems to eat organic cauliflower, you bettah believe ingesting sand (otherwise known as silicon dioxide and found in canned soups…yeah) is gonna do a sad little number on your intestines. I actually recently had a friend say to me, “I’m really lucky that nothing bothers me, food-wise. I can eat pretty much whatever I want!” This was AFTER she confessed to me that she suffers from cystic acne and rosacea and often has such severe constipation that she has to get regular colonics.  I just blinked at her.  I didn’t say anything…what was the point?  If you are in such ftblog9denial about your body, a lecture from me would not only be unwelcome, but would fall on deaf ears. Still, it shocks me that people don’t connect what they put into their body with how they feel. Even people with diagnosed digestive issues still want to believe that food is not key.  I am here to tell you…you’re wrong.  I’m so very rarely right about anything…trust me, I’m often wrong about many things…but this is one thing I KNOW to be true. So if you want to get better and feel better, start looking at what you’re consuming.  If you want to continue with your symptoms, happily munch away on your jet-fuel laden cereal (also a real thing).  I won’t say a word (I’ll just sit in the corner judging you silently).


Now that I’ve lectured you, if you’re still with me (thanks for hanging in while I rant on like a smug lunatic), I will happily admit to falling with a mighty KERPLUNK! off of that high horse.  We can’t eat perfectly all of the time.  We just can’t.  We’re bound to cheat now and then, we’re bound to slip up and not read a label perfectly, or we’re bound to just get depressedftblog14 and say screw it, I NEEDS MY CHIPS!!!!  It happens. When it does, just accept it, try not to beat yourself up too much over it, and get right back ON that high horse.  🙂  So, confession time.  I learned last week that my last breath test for SIBO was “contaminated” and couldn’t be read.  They think that perhaps the seal on one of the test tubes was faulty.  I have been on PINS AND NEEDLES wondering what my numbers are and how helpful the elemental was.  I was super frustrated when I heard that I’d been waiting 2 weeks for nothing, and that I’d have to re-test all over again (and wait all over again, too). My doc felt horrible delivering the news to me, I could tell.  I looked her straight in the eye and said, “I. AM. EATING. INDIAN. FOOD. TONIGHT.”  She didn’t even try to talk me out of it.  Sheftblog10 knew I meant business.  I think she was probably scared.  I likely looked like some sort of deranged masala-drooling zombie.  I went home, ordered my favorite dishes, and went to TOWN on those puppies. And you know what?  I don’t even feel guilty. Firstly, it was my first and only “cheat” in 5 months.  Secondly, it amazingly didn’t really bloat me (just a little more than my average dinner) or cause me any pain, and no all-night parties with my toilet, either! Everything came out normally (**trumpets sounding!**). And lastly, it was crazy, crazy, CRAZY good.  Now I must admit, the fact that it didn’t seem to derail me took away from my guilt exponentially.  I must have had some serious healing happen over the elemental and the million and one other things I’ve been trying.  So I don’t recommend this until you are pretty sure you have successfully beaten back this SIBO dragon significantly. Otherwise, it’s not worth it.  But in this case, it totally was.  😛 My always long-winded point being, I f*ck up, too. So please don’t take my lectures as sanctimonious.  They are as much for me as for you.


ftblog11So I just completed my 2nd SIBO retest and am eagerly awaiting the results. The last few days have been a little more rough.  Just slight tummy pain here and there, and I think it’s due to that damn lactulose solution that we have to drink to complete the test, and the fact that I had to drink it twice in 2 weeks. I handled it MUCH better than in the past (a little bloating but no running to the toilet or pain) but I feel like my stomach hasn’t recovered yet. Which makes me MAAAAAAD!  However, what can you do?  It’s the only way to test for this trollish bacteria-eyed asshat.


On that note, have you heard the news about the new SIBO (blood) test to diagnose IBS?  It was just released today by Dr. Pimental.  Check out the video here.  And the press release here from First Line Media!  Exciting things are happening!!! Maybe doctors will start to actually take us seriously?!?!?!


I’ve been putting together a recipe page for you, since that is a huge topic of discussion for many with digestive illnesses, but it is taking some time.  I’ll be following the FTD while doing so, but I invite you back soon to check it out! That’s all I’ve got from this side of the Pacific!  Thanks for reading, and for stopping on by the SIBO world according to Katie.  🙂  

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My last shake E-V-A-R!!!

My last post as the postergirl for Elemental dieting! Roll out the friggin’ red carpet ya’ll, ’cause Katie Caldwell just went 23 days without eating!  I feel like I deserve a medal with a picture of a chocolate-covered taco on it or something.  This blog has been really interesting and fun. You guys have pushed me INTO the blogosphere, for realsies!  Now I’m going to have to come up with some new crazy thing to keep your attention! For my next post, I will shave my head and jump naked off a mountain of garbage trucks while juggling scorpions into the world’s largest pile of cotton candy! Make sure you tune back in!  (and Mmmmmm cotton candy…)


This is my last day on the elemental diet (Vivonex T.E.N.).  As per usual, you can see the first installment here, the second update here, and the most recent post (other than this one) here.  All you really need to know however is that thesiboblog2 elemental has been my dark, somewhat abusive master for the last 3 weeks. One time, furious at its intercession in my otherwise glorious days of chewing and swallowing, I exclaimed before my first sip, “Are you happy now you stinky asshole?” My husband thought I was talking to him, and it almost started a fight.  And when I explained, I think he was frightened, as the elemental causes my crazy to rear its ugly, deformed head.  I extended the diet 2 days, as I had enough packets of the Vivonex T.E.N. to last me past the 21 days.  On my 21st day, I will admit I was cursing that decision.  All I could think over and over was , “I was supposed to be done today.”


Before I jump into a bloggity blog, I have to comment on the tragedy that happened this week in Nepal.  I am horrified at what I’ve read and seen. Please consider donating to one of these organizations.  Prayers and warm loving thoughts are wonderful, but they do not clothe, feed, shelter, or soothe those desperately searching for their loved ones.  Give what you can, and continue to send your love and aloha to the people of Nepal.


Because so many have asked, here is what I’ve done thus far to put my SIBO into remission:


1) Took a full dosage of Xifaxin (14 days)

2) Started on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) + Low FODMAPS and followed it (strictly) for 9 weeks
3) Took Berberine
(after completing the round of Xifaxin) for 5 weeks

4) Began Low Dose Naltrexone for motility issues (began with 2mg, eventually moved to 3.5 mg)
5) Started weekly acupuncture
6) B12 shots once a week (this REALLY helped my energy level!)
7) After seeing very few results from the above treatments, began the Elemental Diet by taking Vivonex T.E.N. for 23 days
8) Began a second round of Xifaxin while on the elemental
9) 1 week into the elemental, added a Biofilm Disruptor called ProTease
10) I’ve also taken countless other supplements, that I won’t detail here as of yet.
11) I exercise every day, (even if it’s just a walk).

12) I work on the Vagus Nerve by using a tongue depressor to gag myself multiple times a day. If you have SIBO, you should really look into the Vagus nerve/gut connection.  It sounds like crazy witchcraft, but there is sound science behind it.
13) I juice low fodmap veggies (no fruits) every morning, but I limit it to 1/2 cup ONLY (as advised by my n.d. and a nutritionist because of the sugar and starch that still exists in juice).  I obviously don’t do this while on the elemental, but otherwise. 

14) But of all of these things, the most important thing I can recommend to anyone battling this or any other gut illness: GET A GOOD DOCTOR. There are some really uninformed doctors when it comes to diseases of the gut. And they can not only convince you that you are on the cray-cray end of the bonkers scale, they can lead you very astray. A friend of mine with SIBO was told by her G.I. to eat a ton of fiber.  She did just that, and writhing in pain 24 hours later (fiber is HORRIBLE for SIBO), she started seeing my Naturopath. Now, n.d. or m.d., I don’t care…just get a doc that listens.  YOU are the expert on your body.  My n.d. spent 1.5 hours with me our first session and never makes me feel silly or belittles my questions.  This is hugely important, folks. Don’t settle for less than what you deserve.  

Going forward, I will be combining 3 separate diets, as I mentioned in mysiboblog1 first post.  SCD+ low fodmap and the Fast Tract Digestion Dietby Norm Robillard. The first diet was simply not enough.  I wasn’t getting symptom relief, which was leaving me feeling not only hugely deprived, but hugely frustrated.  I mean hell folks, if you’re gonna have to watch every. little. thing. you put into your mouth with the diligence of a Buddhist monk, you’d better be seeing results.  This book really made sense to me.  It specifically addresses the fermentation potential (FP) of any food we eat.  Foods are assigned an FP, and you keep it as low as you can throughout your day to manage symptoms.  It works sort of similarly to weight watchers in this way, in a “don’t go over your points!” kinda way.  I am hoping that this is the missing link for me. Now, to be honest, I do not believe that I can heal SIBO through diet alone.  But I do believe that diet can be one of the best ways to lessen symptoms.  So…here’s to another strictly wild diet!  🙂


Something that has very frequently come up in my conversations with others about the blog is the subject of exercise.  I’ve talked about this a bit, but because I have gotten so many questions about running while I have SIBO, I feel like I should address it more thoroughly.  Many people with SIBO say that siboblog3exercise is impossible. I have a tendency to believe one of two things: “Wow, some of these people are waaaaay more sick than I am.” or “Wow, some of these people are perhaps a little too  committed to being sick.”  Now, before you chase me with virtual sticks and torches, let me be clear that I too am guilty of the 2nd one.  I think anyone that has a chronic illness has likely let it rule their decisions, even when they shouldn’t. It’s a built-in excuse not to do things.


When I first got diagnosed, I stayed in bed with an upset stomach and decided that I was sick and didn’t need to run.  I felt vindicated in my decision.  I wasn’t making it up, I didn’t feel good.  But after several days of feeling the same way and sinking lower and lower and lower…I knew I had to quit using this thing as a reason to stop doing something that was overall good for me, and something that makes me, ME.  And while yes, I can certainly understand pain and diarrhea and running do not a good combination make, there is still something so healing and lovely about simply moving your body outdoors.  I believe the benefits outweisiboblog4gh the negatives. Just, uh, stay close to home for those first few walks/runs.  Trust me on this.


I have definitely had to cut back however, most especially while on the elemental.  I went from running 40-50 miles a week to barely squeaking out 20 miles.  Right after being diagnosed, when my energy was the lowest, I was so exhausted after MAKING myself complete 2 measly, sloth-like miles that I couldn’t even stand to wash my hair in the shower.  I had to sit in an exhausted heap on the shower floor, wondering if my running days were actually behind me. But, after some kick-ass B12 shots (better than steroids, I say!) I was feeling far more capable and energetic.  And after I started the elemental, I had to cut back yet again, moving to running only siboblog5every other day and cutting out weights and swimming, as well as a lot of biking. To be honest, there are days when my belly hurts the entire run, days where I am still inexplicably tired and sluggish, and days when I might have to do that awkward Immodium-commercial run (you know…”gotta go, gotta go, gotta go…”) to the nearest beach bathroom, but I never regret it.  I’m always happy and proud that I did it and I find my mood is far better throughout the day when I do it.  So, unless you are TRULY bed-ridden (and I do know some of you legitimately are right now), get out there and do something.  I promise with all of the fervor of the fires of mordor that I am not shitting you…you will thank yourself. You may have to sit in the shower for awhile at first, but you’ll eventually get into the standing, homosapien upright position.


Now, it is not only probable, but likely that many of you feel worse than I do and have far more debilitating symptoms.  So please, please know that if you are truly housebound or bed-bound, I am not talking to you.  Rest up, and do everything you can to get your life back.  The above message is meant for people like me that yes, don’t feel good often, but also don’t feel terrible enough to skip out on exercise, all social events, or work.  This is your kick-siboblog6in-the-pants post…I had someone do it for me and now I’m paying it forward. Get out of your pj’s, turn off the Netflix, and throw out the self pity long enough to DO something for yourself, your family, or for others in need. This illness can make us self-absorbed, but let’s not let it.  I went to a potluck and donation day for the homeless in Kaka’ako park this last weekend.  THOSE people have it rough, THOSE people are suffering.  Me, not so much.  Who cares if I had to go 3 weeks without eating?  There were little girls and boys there that have likely gone months without a decent meal…who often go to bed in their tents on the hard ground with rumbling bellies.  There are people in the world that would LOVE to have my stinky, farty-smellin’ Vivonex shakes.  And I selfishly write a blog lamenting the fact that I have to drink them.


*Steps daintily off sopabox*   Now that I’m coming to the end of this , ironically it didn’t seem so bad.  Isn’t that funny?  It felt soooo SLOW going through it and now I’m like, “I can’t believe the 3 weeks are over!”  Or maybe it just solidifies my siboblog7suspicion that I am bat-shit crazy.  Since I have now come to the point where I look forward to my shakes, I think bat-shit is fairly accurate.  Really though, this was not as crazy
hard as I made it out to be, pre-diet. I was sooo scared of this, sooo sure I would fail, sooo certain that I would wake up at 2am and sleep-cook a vat of macaroni-n-cheese, but here I am!  Sans macaroni!


I have tried to let go of the illusion that this totally worked.  I am not in remission, that I know. I am still bloated every day.  I’m sad, but I am holding out hope that my numbers will have improved and that SOME healing has occurred.  If not, watch out, doc.  I am likely to throw am adult-sized toddler tantrum in your clinic.  My hydrogen peaked at 133, which is very high, so my doc has been trying to prepare me that since I had such a severe case, the elemental might not be able to eradicate it as easily as most.  But…onward!  I will not be thwarted, oh ye SIBO beast!  I shan’t be defeated!  (Fighting SIBO brings out my Shakespearean side, ok? Shut up.)

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Joyfully kicking my last Vivonex box like the mature adult that I am.

 

ELEMENTAL DIET DAY EIGHTEEN:
I’m doing much better this weekend.  It must be because I know it’s my last.  I didn’t even flinch when Joe ordered Indian food (the food I crave most!).  I decided not to run today, because I lost another pound this week (whoops! and after I just reported to all of you that my weightloss had stabilized!).  Joe and I went for a long walk instead.  I’ve been having this dangerous thought lately though.  I want just ONE delicious meal.  I would LOVE to have one fat-ass Indian meal of chicken tikka masala and cheese-stuffed, buttery naan. I crave it sooo badly sometimes.  I even start to rationalize it to myself thinking, “Would ONE meal REALLY hurt me THAT much?!?!?!”  But this isn’t weightloss, folks…it’s an illness.  One meal would actually hurt me…not only physically, but it would likely set back healing for weeks.  That’s what I keep going back to when I get really tempted.  I did not stop eating for 3 weeks just to undo it all with one delicious Indian curry.  At least not yet.  😛


ELEMENTAL DIET DAY NINETEEN:

Four days left!  Again!  In case you missed it, my n.d. advised me to keep going on the elemental for a few extra days, since I had extra packets.  So even though I crossed this threshold once and celebrated it, I’m here again!  Ha!  I had my first normal bowel movement in nearly 3 weeks today.  Ohhhhh yeah baby!  Poopstar, right hurrrrrrr!  It’s sad how thrilling this is, but I know all of my fellow SIBOers will understand.  For the others, sorry.  This is what my life has become.  I am still bloated, though it has been better the last few days.  I’m trying to get over being disheartened that this didn’t put me into remission.  I knew this was a long road from the beginning, so I need to remember that it took me years to develop this and it will take more than 4 months to recover from it.  But still, it’s hard.  It’s hard to keep perspective and it’s hard to live this way.  It’s JUST food though, dammit.  It’s just food.


ELEMENTAL DIET DAY TWENTY:

3 days left, people!  I had a good run this morning, had a busy day planning and preparing for my class (in case I haven’t mentioned, I teach Women’s Studies at the University of Hawai’i).  I spent the last half of the day pouring over recipes and trying to figure out my shopping list for Thursday night, as I begin eating on Friday.  Broth, broth, broth for the first few days.  As many of you know, bone broth (which is often touted as the holy grail of digestion-healing food for many gut illnesses such as UC or Crohn’s) is often not good for SIBO patients.  It’s important to know this, because many of the diets we are told to follow include bone broth. Please read about why this is so right here (under the heading of Bone Broths and Fermented Foods).  So, because of this, I was given a yummy-looking meat broth recipe from an SCD + low fodmap group. Find the recipe here.  And leave out the garlic, onions, and

//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js” width=”275″ height=”275″ /> My homemade meat broth…first meal in 23 daysssss!

celery (I used celeriac root!) if you’re trying to avoid fodmaps.  I will have this for a few days, then slowly add in some turkey or super moist meat, then some pureed veggies. It’s weird, I feel like I’m starting all over again. I guess in a sense, I am.


ELEMENTAL DIET DAY TWENTY ONE:

Holy shitballs folks, I made 3 weeks!  I did it!  Wild!  I had a busy day, with a crazy ending.  I went to my n.d.’s office for acupuncture and to pick up my test kit, which I am supposed to take tomorrow (whooooo!).  Wednesday is the latest I can take the test because it has to be mailed to the mainland.  Well, when I got to the clinic, they informed me they were out of tests.  I was like, “Uhhhhh whaaaa?!?!?!”  I knew my n.d. had told them to order the test weeks ago.  This put me in a tough position because if I don’t have one, I would have to follow the specific diet for the test to take it early next week.  But because I haven’t been eating, I wouldn’t be able to follow the diet (not without severe trauma and pain to my intestines) for some time.  I was out of the Vivonex, so staying on it longer wasn’t an option.  My n.d. called all over the island and couldn’t find a single test kit.  She came back into the room and told me that I might have to make the homemade version and stay on it until Monday. Otherwise, my only other choice was to start eating and wait until I was strong enough to take the test in a few weeks (when I could properly follow the diet).  This would mess with the “true” results of the elemental.  I could tell she felt really terrible, but I immediately started laughing.  This is so my life.  I often joke with Joe that timing is a problem over and over again in my life…things are just always the TEENSIEST bit off, timing-wise for me.  And it just struck me as comical that I have not eaten for 3 weeks and I would have to go a whole other week because of not having a test kit.  My doc probably thought I was nuts.   BUT, the clinic hustled and not only found a test kit, but called the lab and got them to agree to take the kit late (so it didn’t sit in a lab over the weekend and mess up the results).  So now, back on track.  It taught me something though…the old Katie would have FREAKED the f*ck out about this, but I swear this illness is teaching me greater patience.  Some things are just out of our hands.  I went to talk to the clerk that had supposedly been the one to drop the ball in not ordering the test on time…she seemed horrified. She apologized frantically and I just gave her a hug and said, “Girl…it’s okay. Stuff like this happens to everyone, and it wouldn’t have been the end of the world if I had to wait 6 days.”  She looked at me amazed and I even thought to myself, “Who the f*ck am I?!?!  That didn’t sound like me at all!” Hahaha…life is funny.


ELEMENTAL DIET DAY TWENTY TWO:

Last couple of days!  Weird!  I’ve been SUPER hungry today, so I decided to skip my run.  I didn’t want to make myself even hungrier.  I’ll have a few packets left over (2) when I’m finished tomorrow, so I suppose I’ll use those to supplement my meals the following few days. Ease into this a bit.  I spent most of my day working on lesson plans and taking it easy.  I have a busy day ahead of me tomorrow, including my test!  I’ve noticed no new changes in the last few days.  Still bloat with regularity and still getting frustrated by it with regularity.  😛  I’m starting on Allimed in just a few days (the first day I eat), so that will be my new treatment protocol for awhile.  I had some nausea today, but it was brief and mild.


ELEMENTAL DIET DAY TWENTY THREE:

FINAL DAY!!!!  I woke up this morning and started my second lactulose hydrogen/methane breath test.  I drank the solution and it was like a WHAM!!!! to my taste buds. I haven’t had sugar in forever and it was sickly sweet.  I was really happy at first because I didn’t react as terribly as I did the first time I took the test, which made me think that maybe things had improved! But I celebrated too quickly (as per usual) because after about 30 minutes, my stomach was hurting and I was chillin’ with my old buddy the toilet.  DAMMIT.  It REALLY got me down. Like, REALLY.  I was sincerely tempted to call my favorite Indian joint and order my old stand-by favorite dishes and just tear into those bad boys.  I kept thinking (rationalizing), “I already feel like shit, this damn diet didn’t work, and all I want is to eat something yummy for the first time in months!”  But I’m being dramatic and I realize that I don’t even I know  that I won’t have much better results from testing this time.  I called my doc and said, “I need you to talk me out of shoving an entire pizza in my mouth right now.”  She was really sweet and supportive and did just that.  After I got off the phone with her, I cried like a child, and then felt better.  But PHEW…it was a tough go there for a bit. Sometimes you really just wanna throw your hands in the air and say F*CK it. I think my willpower and patience have been extra low these last few days, because I only had 2 packets each day (because of the test which you have to fast for).  The limited amount of calories changed things for me…I was legitimately hungry again and that made the cravings far more intense. I’m proud that I didn’t crack though, because I really almost did.


So, there ya have it, folks!  My elemental journey = COMPLETE!  I thank you all for tuning in, for listening, for cheering me on, for sharing your stories with me, and for laughing at all of the absurdities that this illness brings.  It has truly helped.  I will update again when I get test results in and figure out the next steps to tackle this bastard.  I’ll also be adding a recipe section because we all know how hard it is to eat while trying to rid our bodies of this bacteria-eyed monster.  Mahalo nui loa and thank you for going through this with me.  🙂

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Here we are again, 3rd update!  I’m chugging along verrrrrry slllllowly, like a little SIBO sblog1snail. But a pissed one.  Imagine a pissed, bloated, starving snail.


I have only 4 days left on this elemental journey.  I can’t believe it.  If you would like to hear about it from the beginning, please click here for the first entry and here for the second entry.


Since I’ve been putting myself out there more with this SIBO thing (blogging openly, making a point to be more social or to go to community events like I used to) I’ve been explaining this over and osblog2ver to people.  People are curious because they’ve read my blog or because they see me drinking my “fart shake” (or “farty” as my husband and I so lovingly refer to it in our household) instead of eating.  They naturally have questions, but I’m not very good at explaining all of this in a tidy little nutshell. And I still haven’t found a way to explain it without being totally gross and off-putting.  “Lemme tell ya about the ins and outs of my poo!” isn’t the most palatable way to explain.  Even with all of this practice, I still totally suck at it.


Something I get a lot when I talk to people about this is, “Well…you look great.”  Sometimes it’s delivered with a side-eye, like they don’t really believe I’m sick.  Sometimes it’s said with genuine surprise, like they are honestly shocked that you can be ill and not look like a crusty troll that just crawled out from under a bridge.  Sometimes it’s meant to comfort me I think…they don’t know what else to say so they want to throw me bone.  Not that it isn’t a sincere bone, but these are usually said sadly or awkwardly or with a little lilt on the end…”Well…you look great?”  Like, “At least?”


I wonder if men get this.  We place such an emphasis on women and beauty that I am willing to bet that if they do, they don’t hear it as often.  Nor do they probably hear, “You look so thin!  How DO you do it?!?!”  Uhhh…how do I do it?  I poop out everything I eat, which is usually relegated to pureed mash and bland meat.  Therefore I am not absorbing any nutrients and am essentially starving my body.  Most don’t seem to wanna jump on THAT poopwagon of a diet when they figure out what it really is, but like I mentioned in a previous post, a select (misguided, insane) few seem to think it is the ticket to getting thin.  We could totally start a new diet trend here, SIBOers!  Let’s figure out how to infect people with SIBO and we could make millions getting people thin!  They would all be hangry raging monsters, but…they would be thin!


A friend of mine that recently lost a ton of weight and I were talking about this a few monthsWoman stands on scales which have two categories: Too Skinny / Too Fat. ago…how people felt it necessary to constantly give her a running commentary about her (new) weight. Everything from asking her “secret” to congratulating her to telling her she was “beautiful now!”  It was very disheartening for her and confusing.  Was she not beautiful before? (she was). The comments were never about her health, it was only about her appearance.  For all they knew, she was starving herself (she wasn’t) and making herself very, very sick, only to be congratulated on a daily basis for getting thin.  I remember being confused about it myself. When she posted new pics on instagram, I absolutely noticed her weightloss and wondered if I should comment on it.  Did she want comments?  It’s a socially acceptable thing to do, right?  If someone loses weight, we think they are TRYING to lose weight on purpose and we make a congratulatory comment about their physique.  It is meant to be kind and supportive, but we were discussing how strange it truly is.  I would never be able to walk up to someone that put ON weight and make a comment about it (even if they needed to gain weight…the comment would still be considered rude), so why is it perfectly acceptable to do it to people that have lost weight? I will tell you why…because women are supposed to be thin. That is the never-ending pressure.  When I noticed others commenting over and over about it I decided against it.  I didn’t want to jump on the congratulatory bandwagon and send some sort of message that she wasn’t amazing and beautiful before, because she absolutely was (is!).


Now, in an effort to always try to be transparent, I’m not going to pretend like this illness doesn’t come with majosblogr insecurities.  Please do not think that I am above caring that it makes me feel like the blueberry girl from Willy Wonka. I know I shouldn’t care, but I do.  I hate not being able to wear jeans because my belly is extra bloated.  I hate that this thing has made my skin and hair dry (lack of nutrients and water) and makes me feel like I’m prematurely aging and starting to resemble Nick Nolte’s mug shot.  I hate that I”m losing muscle definition that I spent years and years and years working for.  But mostly, I hate that I hate it.  I need to learn to just accept my body, in whatever state, once and for all.  Hell folks, I’m not gettin’ any younger and this big-mouthed feminist needs to be better about practicing what she so LOUDLY preaches. So, I’m working on it.  It’s very hard to undo a lifetime of conditioning.  I am trying to accept that my body will never be the same again.  Sure, I have hope that I will get healthy and get this into remission…I am nothing if not determined, but I need to let go of the dream that I will be the way I was before.  I will not, and that needs to be ok.  We need to stop defining women by their looks, and we need (as women) to stop internalizing that message and continuing to buy into it. Because I know that every woman reading this has amazing strengths and passions and intelligence and warmth and brilliance to share, way beyond her outward appearance.  And before it is said, I know that men too are scrutinized about their weight and appearance, but it is not even close to the way in which women are treated and evaluated. Just go to any magazine isle and I will rest my case.

 

sblog4Quickly, before I get into the daily updates, I want to answer some questions I’ve gotten from readers:

Question: I would love to hear if you think your mood swings are blood sugar related, and how you’re feeling for blood sugar generally on the elemental diet?

Answer: One thing that has been interesting about this entire SIBO process is how much I’ve come to learn that I am NOT in touch with my body. Because I am so in touch with my emotions, I thought (in the past) this automatically translated to me being in touch with my body, but it doesn’t.  I am more inclined to believe that my moodiness comes from not getting to eat.  I tend to be more moody at night, because I historically ate my biggest meal in the evening.  I tend to be more moody on weekends, because I associate that with fun food times.  I got kinda grumpy today after meeting a colleague at a donut shop (her suggestion) and sitting across from her watching her lick her fingers while smelling the delicious aroma that only donuts can produce.  The only time I think blood sugar comes into play is when I wait too long to have a shake.  Then, it’s that same hangry feeling you get when you wait too long to eat.  Something else interesting though…when you are very hungry and you have a shake, you IMMEDIATELY start to feel satisfied.  Because it’s pre-digested, it hits your body quickly. Last night I was at an event and couldn’t have my last drink until 8pm.  I was HUNGRY. After my first few sips I felt immediately better. It’s very different from food in that way.


Question: 
Would you recommend the elemental to everyone with SIBO? You seem to have done really well on it, do you think it takes a person with a huge amount of endurance or can anyone do it?

Answer: This is tricky.  I want to encourage anyone that wants to try it to give it a whirl, but I DO tend to think it takes a certain mentality or mindset. I am a particularly determined person.  If I set a goal, I WILL make it happen.  I also take my health very, very seriously. Having said that, as someone that has definitely struggled with food issues her entire life (using it as a crutch, as an escape, to self-medicate or self-soothe) I was really worried I wouldn’t be able to do this.  But from even the first day, I knew I could.  It just wasn’t as hard as I was expecting.  As mentioned before, when I’ve done juice cleanses, I could barely make it 3 days. I was MISERABLE.  I was hungry and suffering from crazy intense cravings and all I could think about was pizza.  I literally dreamed (I’m serious…I had real dreams) about eating cheeseburgers.  And yes, I have had some cravings while doing this but NOTHING like that.  I think the big thing with the elemental is knowing what you’re getting into. Be prepared for it to suck and be hard, but know that you can handle it. People do this for months, ya’ll…some for years, and some are forced to do it for life.  When I really start to get mad about it, I think of those amazing folks.

sblog5
Hammy, playing in my Vivonex Box 😛


Question: 
You sound like you’re still having symptoms. Are you scared this isn’t going to work? What will you do next since you’ve already tried antibiotics and herbals?

Answer: Uh. YES.  A resounding, bell-ringing, symbol-clanging YES!  I’m petrified I am a part of the 15% that don’t move into remission with the elemental.  But all I can say to myself is this: all studies have shown that this diet gives the digestive system a much-needed break and allows for healing to occur.  Even if my SIBO is not cleared, I am highly doubtful that my numbers won’t improve.  I had crazy high hydrogen counts (like, off the charts), and I greatly expect them to dramatically fall.  And if I have to do this again in the future to completely move myself into remission, I will.  I will throw a tantrum and probably cry like a 4 year old, but I will.  As for next steps, my doc and I have discussed trying Allimed (more herbals) and I am looking into FMT with my husband being the donor.  For those of you that are of the queasy variety, do yourself a favor and DO NOT google that.  And for the rest…when you are desperate you are desperate and there is NO shame here. FMTs are the number 1 treatment for SIBO in China and in parts of Europe.


Question: 
I am extremely thin and I am fearful I will lose too much weight on this.  How much have you lost?  Should I be worried about doing this if I am already too skinny?

Answer: Tough call, but I think it would be ok, unless you’re dangerously thin.  My doc was a bit worried about this with me.  I am 5’4 and started at 113 lbs.  I have lost 5 lbs. while doing this.  That happened in the first 1.5 weeks and has stabilized, so I’ve been the same for the last 5 days.  If you are concerned, you just need to keep on top of the shakes.  Don’t skip any, and if your doc allows it, add in some coconut oil for fat (this greatly helped me to keep weight on).  I typically have 3 shakes on non-running days and 4 on running days.  I do not feel hungry unless I wait too long and if I do get hungry, I just have an extra drink.  I would NOT recommend this diet to anyone that has a history of eating disorders or severely disordered eating, however.  


I think I covered all of the ones that I haven’t personally answered in private messages, and these are a few I’ve gotten over and over.  I’m so honored you are all reading this and feel it is helping you. Whether it just gives you insight into the elemental, makes you laugh, or makes you nod your head because you know the struggles of which I speak…I thank you for going through this with me.  IF it actually works, I will post my entire regimen, as that is also something I am often asked.  But I do not want to post it until I know I’ve had success, as I don’t want to lead others astray.  And the next time I update, I’ll be done!!!!!!!  I only wish I could celebrate with a cocktail! (or 8!)  😛


ELEMENTAL DIET DAY ELEVEN:

No question about it, my hardest day yet.  I have no idea why, but I really struggled today. Both this morning and last night I had stomach pain (die off…I hope?) but it went away by this afternoon.  Joe and I went for a nice long walk (4 miles) just because I needed to get out of the house and get my mind off food.  I feel like I’m in the middle of a marathon and have hit “the wall.”  I’ve pushed past that wall through many a marathon and I will get through this one too, dammit.  But I have been daydreaming about food all day.  I want asblog7 cheeseburger with a donut bun on top of a pizza stuffed into a burrito topped with heaps of sour cream.  I’m clueless as to why on day 11 I suddenly get intense cravings. I’ve been so proud of myself, because I feel like I’ve handled this like a friggin’ rockstar, but today was just brutal.  Again, I do think the weekends are harder for me though, because for years I’ve associated them with “fun” eating. Joe and I would ritually get Indian food on Friday nights and have a delicious brunch somewhere on Sunday mornings. Mmmmm…brunnnnch…NO! Fight the brunch! Fight it!  I’m really hoping tomorrow will be better.  I also talked to a few people who just finished this diet and I think it kind of got me down and discouraged.  One relapsed within a week, and the other doesn’t feel it worked (she still has symptoms).  That kinda knocked me off my SIBO horse.  It petrifies me to know that I could be doing this all for nothing.  But, I’m pushing on through because what else can I do at this point?  Most everything else has been tried.  Anyway, 11 days down, 10 to go.  FRACK that seems like a long time.


ELEMENTAL DIET DAY TWELVE:

I had a solid night’s sleep (11 hours!) and I felt MUCH better today. Definitely perkier and less food obsessed (though still a little).  I went for a run in the sunshine, and ignored my husband’s Thai food for dinner (though it smelled like what I imagine heaven to smell like.  I wanted to crawl into the curry and bathe in it whilst eating it…don’t judge me).  I really think the weekends are just hard for me and are going to continue to be so.  BUT, I only have one more left!  I am still having bloating issues, and it sincerely amazes me every day that it’s hanging on SO HARD.  I’ve been on the Protease (Biofilm Disruptor) only a few days, but haven’t noticed anything different, except that my stomach is quite loud after I take it (gurgly) so maybe that’s a good thing.  No nausea from it, thank goodness.  And still no die-off symptoms, which is strange.  I cannot decide if that makes me lucky or makes me unlucky. Another person I know doing this said her bloat did not go away until day 14.  Welp, here it is day 13 and I would be shocked if it magically disappeared overnight.  I get frustrated if I think about it too long.  I am working so hard to get healthy and even THIS doesn’t appear to be working!!!!  ARGH!  But I try not to let myself slide into that way of thinking too far, as it isn’t going to help me.  And I don’t really know what’s happening inside my body, so catastrophizing it in my mind is just silly.  Buuuuuut das’ what I do! I’m a pro!  😛


ELEMENTAL DIET DAY THIRTEEN:

I cannot believe I am almost at 2 weeks!  Some time ago this seemed impossible.  It’s amazing what we can do, isn’t it?  Hahaha, I act like I just won the Pulitzer or climbed Everest without oxygen.  Well this is my Everest, baby!  My Food Everest.  I woke up and went for a great run, met a friend and colleague for coffee (and sipped my disgusting drink) worked for several hours, then went for another short run.  Someone was cooking something that smelled glorious next door and it took everything not to barge in and knock them out just to steal their food.  Imma tellin’ ya…Everest.  So, I ran instead.  Now I’m sipping on my last shake of the day and feeling pretty good. I have noticed 2 things: I do better (mood-wise) on days that I run, and on days where I get out and do something social.  Today I did both and I’m feeling much more optimistic.  I am still bloated (which is annoying as shit) but I’m just waiting for the day when I wake up and have my first shake…and nothing happens.  No bloat, nothing.That will be a marvelous moment.  If it ever comes.  Still no die off.  I am starting to think that will not be a part of this equation for me.


ELEMENTAL DIET DAY FOURTEEN:

I woke up soooooo excited that I made it 2 whole weeks!  It seemed like this day would never come!  Funnily enough, I went from SUPER stoked and proud to totally depressed at night, because a whole other week seems soooo long.  Hahahaha…this damn thing is making me nutty as shit.  I am also very sad because tonight after my last shake I was more bloated than I’ve been in several days.  My belly is GIGANTANORMOUS right now.  I feel like a water buffalo.  I keep rubbing it lovingly like there is a child inside.  Will this ever go away?  I finished my round of Xifaxin today (my 2nd dose) and I’m wondering if my doc will put me on herbals again.  I think I am starting to try to prepare myself that this might not have worked.  I know I have a week left, but since I’m seeing so little results in terms of bloating, I think I need to start getting myself ready for that moment of IMMENSE disappointment.  I feel like something this hard should come with a guarantee of remission for at least a year, but there are no guarantees, are there?


ELEMENTAL DIET DAY FIFTEEN:

I am officially getting to the end of this and starting to feel like I can see the finish line.  But it’s like when running a marathon and you can SEE the finish line from the top of a hill and it feels sooo close, but then you realize you still have 3 miles to go.  You kind of want to be hopeful and you kind of want to cry at the same time.  That’s where I am right now.  I am thankful I only have one more weekend left on this.  It’s only Wednesday and I’m already dreading the weekend.  Something weird has been happening these last few days though…my stomach has been really rumbly.  I consider this to be a very good sign, as motility is an issue for me with SIBO and even when my doc listens to my stomach with a stethoscope, she says it is always silent. Maybe thing are improving in this way?  I will be getting retested at the end of this and will have to wait 5-7 days for results. I so wish I could get them right THEN, but it is what it is.  I am now starting to try and plan for reintroducing food and it’s scary.  I cannot WAIT to eat but I’m also terrified.  Someone posted in our support group about being a recovering anorexic and this whole disease triggering those issues again, because you start to learn to really fear food in a dramatic way.  I can totally understand how that would be difficult for someone with an eating disorder.  I’m scared to death to eat again!


ELEMENTAL DIET DAY SIXTEEN:

OH MY GOD.  5 days left!  That’s crazy!  I felt fine today and have little to report.  I felt less bloated today, though still had some at night.  I didn’t get my last shake until late (8pm) because of a women’s networking event and I was DYING for it.  I was so hungry that I swear the damn thing even tasted good!  Ha!  It’s funny how fast that changed! The event had DELICIOUS looking pupus (appetizers) and everyone was sipping wine and I was jealous.  But I know that is just how my life is gonna be.  I think thLiz-Lemonat part will slowly get easier.  For some reason the brie was calling my damn NAME.  I felt like Liz Lemon when her stomach growls and says what she’s craving…”Cheeeerrrrrse Frrrrrriiiiiiiiessss.”  🙂  But overall, a good day.


ELEMENTAL DIET DAY SEVENTEEN:

For some reason, 17 seems sooo much longer than 16!  Not sure why.  Had a great run today and I’ve oddly been much hungrier all day.  My stomach is still rumbly and I’m hoping that the increased hunger and stomach noise means my motility is improving.  I saw my n.d. todaysblog8 for acupuncture…I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but there are acu points on my shins that I often have trouble with; serious achiness when she inserts the needle and sometimes (like today) I jerk so hard when she puts it in that I shoot the needle right out of my leg.  It doesn’t hurt exactly, it’s more like a crazy reflex.  She told me a few weeks ago that this spot is the “command center” for the gut and that is why I have such a strong reaction. Interesting stuff, no?  I also asked her about continuing the diet for a few more days, because I have enough solution to last 23 days instead of 21.  I have to admit, I was secretly hoping she would tell me it wasn’t necessary, but instead she said, “Yes, I think that’s a great idea since you are still experiencing bloating.  That is what I would do, if I were in your position.”  DAMMIT.  So, instead of only 4 days left, I have 6 days now.  Sheesh.  But, I’m going to do it. I’ve made it this far, what’s a few more days? *sobs quietly over her keyboard* We also discussed easing back into food and getting tested for some other things should the test come back positive.  I think I’ve still got a long journey ahead of me.  But I WILL lick this thing.  That I know.

Ok, peace out all…’till next time!

Another update from…SIBO GIRL!  She runs faster (to the toilet) than a speeding bullet!  Her ability to bloat is more powerful than a locomotive! She’s able to leap into uncomfortable conversational topics (like her bowel movements) in a single bound!  Ok, so I need to work on this particular super hero bit.  She’s coming off a little…gross.  And sad.

Greetings from the land of no food.  For those of you that didn’t read the first installment in my SIBO saga, please click here to get caught up.  I am updating on the progress of my elemental diet, a 3 week all liquid diet designed to help move my body into remission from Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO).

I have gotten an overwhelming response from the first blog post.  I had no idea that my small intestine was so fascinating!  I have received many messages and emails regarding others’ journey with the beast that is SIBO, and other chronic illnesses.  I feel honored to hear your stories, so keep sharing them with me.  🙂

Before I get into my elemental updates, I wanted to talk a little about what it’s like to have a chronic illness that largely involves your bowels.  Well…it’s awkward.  It’s constantly awkward. I’ve always been a social butterfly and I love keeping busy and being involved in 623 different things at once.  sb9But since trying to heal from this, I’ve become somewhat reclusive.
I don’t want to do this at all, but when you have to lug your pureed butternut squash to a beach bbq and sip water while everyone else chows on cheesebugers and beer, it does put a damper on your fun.  And then there’s the explaining…and this isn’t exactly an easy illness to discuss.

Let me invite you to a common scenario in my life:

A dude comes over to me at a beach bbq with a hot dog topped with melty cheese in one hand, dark beer in the other.

Me (resisting the urge to take a giant bite out of the hot dog and rip delicious-looking beer out of dude’s hand): Hey there!

Hot dog man: Hey!  Aren’t you hungry? WHAT is that you’re eating? (looks disdainfully down at my pureed carrots that I am eating with a spoon…on the beach).

Me: Heh. They’re carrots.  

Hotdog man: Don’t you want a hot dog? 

Me: Nah.

Hotdog man: Why not? Why did you bring your own food? 

Me: I’m on this special diet for medical reasons and I can’t have things like hot dogs or beer. (still resisting the urge to punch him in his healthy gutjust so I can steal his hot dog and have my way with it)

Hotdog Man: (Asks a million questions, mostly seemingly out of obligation…what illness I have, what I can eat, what I can’t eat, what causes it…) then asks: So, what are the symptoms of this SIBO thing?

Me: Uhhhhhh…errrrrr…wellllll…stomach pain, bloating, brain fog, joint pain, excessive gas, diarrhea, constipation (hotdog man looks at me rather disgustedly), that kind of thing.  I then give him one of these: 

sb1

Hotdog man: That sucks.  

Me: Yeah. 

Soooo, social situations can be tricky.  I am also constantly being asked, “Why are you eating like that?  Are you on a diet?  You’re so skinny already!!” or “ONE beer isn’t going to hurt you, I’m sure.” or the old standby, “I almost wish I had an illness like you so I would eat healthier and lose weight!” For those who throw out that last one…stop. Just stop.  Not only do I not wish this on anyone, it’s demeaning to those that find this situation to be very difficult and limiting.  Being skinny does NOT equal happiness, I promise you.  Also, the desire to share silver-lining scenarios (of the “at least you…” variety) in an effort to be positive is understandable, because I realize you often don’t know how to respond or what to say, but it can be frustrating to someone struggling.  Sometimes, people need to be able to feel their feelings.  It’s ok (and healthy!  and normal!) to be sad, or mad, or frustrated.  We all need to learn to be more comfortable in these uncomfortable spaces, because we all have these feelings. And lastly, no, you absolutely do not want this just to “get healthy.”  Guess what?  You can get healthy all on your own without having to drink your food like a baby!  Be happy about that. Like, fo’ real.

With a big diet overhaul like this, you surrender yourself to a lot of judgment. It’s really strange when you think about it.  I am so committed to getting my body back to healthy that I’m doing this incredibly difficult and hard thing, yet I’m still being judged.  For what, not eating frenchsb6sb5 fries?
 I’ve come to learn, friends with similar illnesses, that this isn’t about us or our choices at all, it’s about the person judging.  It ignites something within them. Perhaps it’s shame because they don’t take care of their own bodies, or maybe it’s guilt because they feel strange eating around someone that has to drink their meals, or it could be that they feel judged by you, simply because you are doing something that they “would never do” or “could never do.” Many people tend to think that if you don’t choose their choices or their way of living, that you are subtlety saying something negative about their choices. I think it’s a great divider in our society.  I believe it’s why others sometimes get so defensive and judge me so harshly for not having children.  Sure, they may genuinely think I am missing out and feel sympathetic for that (which by the way I can understand), but I believe they may also feel like by not choosing Motherhood, I am making a statement that it’s not good enough for me or that I’m somehow above it. I would understand more if I were making unfair, cruel statements like, “What you’re eating is disgusting and terrible and you should stop!” or “Motherhood is stupid!” But I would never make those statements, because I do not feel that way…however it seems they are projected onto me anyway from time to time because my choices are different.  The key word here is “projected.”  We all project onto each other in big and small ways everyday.  I try to remind myself when someone says something judgmental toward me about my eating choices, that need to remember to be empathetic towards them because they might be struggling with something that I cannot understand.  Do I always succeed? Hell nah. Do I try?  Yes.  (When I am in the right frame of mind.  Or like, when I’ve had enough sleep.  Or like, when I’m in a good mood.  Or like, when I’m having a good day healthwise). Ok maybe I could be a little better about this in general.

But wouldn’t it be nice if we could instead just step back, take a breath and listen? And empathize?   I have said it a million times over, but I believe empathy is one of the greatest (and most missing!) tools we have as human beings.  If we could only learn to let people be where they are and hold our judgment or decipher if we are judging based on our own issues, I believe we could be much happier people.

A new friend that reached out to me after reading my last blog explained how much she was sb2struggling with SIBO. She genuinely wants to live a healthy, happy life, but finds herself feeling depressed and hopeless at times.  She wrote to me and asked, “How do you manage to stay so positive?”  I nearly spit out my grotesque liquid shake, and not because of its foul-osity, but because it made me laugh.  I cannot think of a single person in my life that wold describe me as “positive.”  Positively combative?  Yes. Positively Opinionated?  Yes. I have definitely often been described as “perky” (See above photo) because I am friendly and smiley and goofy, but I am NOT of the sunshine-y variety.  So just in case I let my silliness and humor come through a little too much on my last post, rest assured that I have indeed struggled with this. Tremendously.  In fact, it has made me realize that if I ever get a truly life-threatening illness I will be the biggest baby on the entire planet.

As I briefly alluded to in my last post, when I was first diagnosed I was depressed and scared after learning that this was a chronic illness that would require a drastic lifestyle overhaul.  I decided to bravely face this diagnosis by eating MY BODY WEIGHT in pizza and chocolate for 5 days while binge-watsb8ching Gilmore Girls and weeping.  (Ha, you should have seen my belly THEN…it looked like I was having triplets). I have also fallen victim to complaining/crying/talking ad nauseam about this to my poor husband so much that he has likely developed caretaker’s fatigue (when you are helping take care of a chronically ill person and become bitter, resentful, stressed, and exhausted from everything being all about them).

Now, let me be clear: I often don’t feel well.  I feel tired and bloated and have tummy sb3pains and sadly the toilet and I have become new besties…but I am not THAT sick.  I think we (some SIBO sufferers) can really make the mistake of confusing discomfort with sickness and I have often done this. I need to learn to deal with uncomfortable.  I need to learn to better control my need to whine because whining makes me feel better (while making everyone around me miserable).  I need to understand that other people with far more debilitating issues have it much, much worse and I am crazy lucky (knock on porcelain). My own sister has severe Ulcerative Colitis, an extremely awful bowel/intestinal disease with far worse symptoms than my own, yet I am embarrassed to admit that I have spent over 30 minutes complaining to her on the phone on multiple occasions.  Basically, I am not above being a huge, dramatic, completely self-absorbed wussy assface is what I’m saying.  And while sometimes that is ok, maybe even necessary, we (and I!) have got to learn that something like this cannot rule our lives. There is still so much to see and do and be and accomplish. And conversely, on especially bad days we should gives ourselves  break, take a much-needed rest, whine to someone kind enough to listen, then get right back to living our lives when we can. Because as cliche as it sounds, life is a gift.  So that’s how I stay positive.  That, and a sense of humor go a really long way.  I’ve learned to make fun of the ridiculous situations this illness puts you in, which helps more than you know.  And lastly, get outside and get moving.  There are some days I feel too terrible to do much, but there are many times where I feel fine or somewhat fine adjacent, and that’s when it’s important to be outdoors.  There is something healing about nature.  So go for a light jog, a long walk, a short hike with the kids or your significant other, or just go to the park and lay in the sun and read a book.  You will feel better, I promise.  These things are healthy and good for the soul and body and I am convinced that exercise is good for the gut as well. And bonus! The outdoor options don’t have to revolve around food.  🙂

ELEMENTAL DAY SIX:
I had some trouble sleeping last night.  I am definitely having kidney pain.  It feels like a burning in my lower back and is definitely reminiscent of a UTI infection.  It woke me up several times.  I decided to cut out the coconut oil today, since I couldn’t help but wonder if I was reacting to it.  But of course that eliminated more calories and fat so I ended up feeling much hungrier because of it.  I am STILL bloated (DAMMIT!) and I followed the usual pattern of perky as a cheerleader on cocaine in the morning and then crestfallen and depressed at night.  Not sure what that’s about.  I’ve also discovered that this lovely solution gives me “fart breath” as Joe calls it. Lovely.  Not only am I sexy as hell with a giant belly that looks like it belongs on a beer-guzzling redneck, but now I have fart breath to boot. Fantastic. Don’t be jealous of him, lads, not everyone can land a hot ticket like dis’ girl. The one piece of good news I have to deliver is that I ran today!  I only squeaked out 3.5 miles but it felt great.  I was quite tired when I got home however, and definitely hungry.  I might have to add a packet on running days, we’ll see.

ELEMENTAL DAY SEVEN:
I’m one week in, bitches!!! 1/3 through!   *Happy dance for week 1!!!*  (I know. I am super cool).   

It feels good to say that though I WISH I were saying, “Hurrah!  two weeks in, bitches!” 😛 I threw away yet another empty box of Vivonex (it comes with packets of 10) and I even kicked it when I did. Take that!  And that! (I am very mature).  Still bloated and I have NO idea why. Seriously??? It’s starting to piss me off.  The one good thing I had in my mind about suffering through this was that I might look like a normal human being for 3 weeks. Nope!  In other news, I have now started to poo baby poo (sorry but when you get a bowel disorder you lose all ability to be concerned about talking about poop).  Meaning, it looks like baby poo…no consistency and yellow and creepy.  Since they compare the elemental to breast milk (because it is a completely pre-digested food source) I guess this makes sense.  I feel like The Curious Case of Katie Caldwell, as I am now slowly becoming some sort of baby-adult hybrid like Benjamin Button. I eat baby food, I poop baby poop, I certainly whine like a baby.  I haven’t added coconut oil to my shakes the last 2 days to ascertain if I was bloating because of the coconut oil. I never really suspected I had a reaction to it, but figured this was the time to test it out. So far no difference, but I will probably continue this way for a few more days to be sure. The kidney pain seems better today, so that’s a plus.  I think – and I cannot BELIEVE I am saying this – that I am getting used to the taste more.  I no longer have to take a whiff of the coffee before drinking, but I still utilize the straw in the back of the mouth method.  Who knows, maybe by the end of this I’ll be guzzling it?  I suppose I was on the tired side today, because I didn’t go to the gym as planned, just a mile walk with Joe after “dinner.”  I had a harder time with food today.  Thinking about it more, daydreaming about it more.  I also had some minor acid reflux after my last shake of the day, which is very odd, as I never get acid reflux.

ELEMENTAL DIET DAY EIGHT:
I woke up this morning ECSTATIC because my belly was the flattest it’s been in months!sb Hardly any bloat at all! (Please ignore my ragamuffin Orphan Annie look…I’d just woken up).  I thought, “Maybe this nasty shit is finally working!”  I went for a nice run and felt pretty energetic.  I cleaned my house and did some work (I work from home).  I was feeling good until I had my lunch drink, when POW! Bloat city.  Excuse me belly, I did not just swallow a boulder, I swallowed LIQUID ya rat bastard.  Anyway, still no die-off.  It’s making me hugely nervous.  WHAT IF I AM DOING ALL OF THIS FOR NOTHING!?!?!  I am seeing my n.d. for acupuncture today and am going to ask her about biofilm disruptors.  If I’m doing something this hard, I’m going to attack it with all I’ve got. I think it’s time to add them in.  I was a moody today.  I feel like I went from Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm to Voldemort.

ELEMENTAL DIET DAY NINE:
I AM ALMOST IN DOUBLE DIGITS!!!!  So ready to be.  I’m still hanging in over here!  12 days left.  Again I woke up with very little bloat and again it came on later in the day.  I saw my naturopath and asked her if I should be concerned that I am not experiencing die-off.  She said that it is not necessarily an indication of whether or not I am healing.  The fact that I am still bloating at day 9 concerned her more.  She did put me on a biofilm disruptor: Protease. In case you don’t know, biofilm is a thin, slimy substance that adheres to a surface.  We all have it lining our intestines, and it is thought that the bacteria causing SIBO can hide in this filmy lining, so that treatments and medication cannot reach it.  Then, when we start feeding it again, it comes out to play.  Hopefully the disruptor will infiltrate the biofilm and brutally murder the sneaky little shitheads that are hiding out like bacterial pansies.  I am getting out more and being more social these last few days.  I’m going to a talk at the college and meeting a friend for coffee tomorrow (well, she will have coffee and I will sit across from her and drool).  Again, we cannot let this thing rule our lives!

ELEMENTAL DIET DAY TEN: 

Double digits BA-BY!!!!  I made it!  I made it 10 days!  I never thought in a million years I would be able to do this.  Truly, my food issues in the past have been so severe that if someone told me I would go 10 days without food I would have busted something laughing.  But here I am!  I was a little more bloated this morning than the past few, which was disheartening for sure, but I’m trying not to let it get me down.  I haven’t really been doing my #2 business the last few days, so that might be why. Which is strange for me.  I had a really solid run this morning, however.  I’m trying to run only every other day and just walk on the other days or do some light yoga.  The drink also tends to make me burp a lot afterward, which is also weird for me.  I know it sounds funny, but I’ve just never been a gassy girl.  Joe always jokes that I am just going to explode one day, because in nearly 12 years of marriage he’s heard me fart like 3 times.  I just…don’t.  I don’t know why.  But after a drink now I burp quite a bit.  I think Joe is getting some kind of weird kick out of it.  Ah, marriage.  It’s interesting, isn’t it?  😛  I went to a talk last night at the college by the great Janet Mock and had to bring my shake with me.  I was paranoid about its smell because it’s soooo super strong and foul, but it had to be done!  Anyway, she is so inspirational because she’s overcome so much adversity and so much oppression in her life.  It’s a good thing for a person to hear when she’s struggling with something, because next to her life struggles, mine look like small potatoes.  Except potatoes are high fodmap so we’ll say…small carrots. 😛 It’s all about perspective, folks.    

Wha?!?! A non-travel blog? Yes, that is correct, dear reader! Instead, this will be a bitchfest blog about my current health woes. I’ve not talked about it much online and on social media, but today I actually found out that I got a friend diagnosed with the same illness that I have, and while that was depressing for us both, it was also a relief to know that she had an answer. I began to think that my story might actually help someone else. So sit right back, get comfy, and proceed only if you’re comfortable with the occasional graphic detail. For years, doctors have been telling my friend that her symptoms were “in her head” and have been prescribing her anti-depressants. Yeah. Thanks, doc. Bitches be loco, right? I would like to print out this article and give it to all doctors as mandatory reading.

 

sibo1So, here is my story in all of its lacking glory…in case you too are struggling with the same thing, or something similar.  Stop on by, and we can commiserate and complain together. But not with a cocktail or chocolate, because that is not allowed. So have a steaming cup of coffee – WAIT. F*CK that’s not allowed either. Oh here…just have a glass of water. Mmmm…isn’t that decadent? Well get stoked, because this is your life now.

 

Some time ago (probably 3 or 4 years ago), I began to notice some strange symptoms. I was often very tired in the afternoon, almost to a crashing point. I had stomach pain when I ate certain fruits and I often bloated just by looking at food. Most of this I ignored, as we often do. Being a girl however, and always privy to the never-ending scrutiny that girls have on their bodies, I couldn’t ignore one thing: I was quickly gaining weight.sibo3 As many know, I have long been a serious runner. I’ve completed 4 marathons and nearly always (except for in times of injury or great depression) hit a minimum of 35-40 miles a week. Combine this with weight training, yoga, and biking to commute and you have one very active Katie. I was confused by how easily I packed on the ole LBs. So, I decided to clean up my diet. And by “clean up” I mean a SERIOUS overhaul.

 

While I’ve long been dedicated to fitness, I have not really been dedicated to healthy eating practices. Sure, I ate “healthy” compared to many others, but I was uneducated about food. Joe (my husband) had decided to get smart about food and wanted me to be his Agent 99. He went gluten free and started following the Perfect Health Diet (PHD), after almost a year of pouring over nutrition books and websites. I dabbled, I dipped my lil’ toe in, but I didn’t REALLY commit. I added a few more veggies, I ate a little more meat. I decided to throw out things like vegetable oil (TERRIBLE!  If you do ONE thing to clean up your diet, ditch the shitty oil and ditch the diet sodas!) and moved from Sweet-n-Low to real sugar. Joe kept subtlety dropping hints about some of my food choices; being Joe though, he was mostly kind enough to just make soft suggestions and let me get there on my own time. I slllllllllowly incorporated more of the PHD into my life over the next year. One day I suddenly realized…hey! I’m not getting sick anymore! (I used to get sick quite often), and hey! I actually feel good and have energy and my mood swings are better! I know it’s difficult to imagine me with mood swings folks, being the stunningly diplomatic woman that you know me to be, but occasionally I could tie on the crazy and bring it EXTRA hard. Once I noticed these things, I really committed more. I decided to learn how to cook. I’ll give those of you that have known me for years a few seconds to laugh at that one before continuing…

 

Are you done? Yes, I Katie Caldwell, hater of vegetables and all things sibo2domestic, decided that learning to cook was the only way to REALLY eat healthy. I started slowly and got confident with some easy recipes. I switched from go-to processed foods to real dinners and while I absolutely sucked at it for quite a long time, I eventually got some delicious healthy recipes down and was feeling pretty dern good about myself. I still hated to cook, however, and Joe steered clear of the kitchen because it often stressed me out and apparently, made me as “mean as socks for Christmas” (his words) but I was trying and couldn’t wait to reap the rewards of my new-found healthy lifestyle.

 

Several months in…rewards not reaped. Yes, I had more energy and still wasn’t getting sick. Yay. But I was still having a “crash” every afternoon and I was still gaining weight. WHAT. THE. HELL. BODY? I couldn’t understand it. I was eating healthier than I ever had in my whole life. I was running and exercising like a maniac, but still the scale just kept inching up. And while I was not in any way fat, I was frustrated. I kept thinking to myself, “If I am working THIS hard, I should look like a damn supermodel.” Yes. I was focusing too much on my appearance. Yes, I was being vain. I’ll admit it. I’m not proud of it. But evensibo4 a well-educated fiercely staunch feminist like myself falls into these trappings. Being aware of them doesn’t erase a lifetime of being taught that women are only as important as their beauty, and their beauty is closely tied into their ability to writhe and wriggle into skinny jeans and how much men find them sexy. Too often I find myself in the role of anarchist AND victim with these societal pressures, which is a strange role indeed. It’s wildly confusing in this head sometimes. Hence, perhaps, the mood swings.  😛 I eventually gave up and thought to myself, “This is my new body. This is aging. You’re being ridiculous and too hard on yourself.” Of course I continued to be hard on myself and continued to be frustrated, but I stopped looking for answers.

 

I spent that summer in the Philippines, working with young girls that changed my life in the most drastic and wonderful way sibo5(pictured here dancing with my girls – I did music therapy with them all summer). I saw REAL suffering, REAL pain, and my privileged/American/  white self didn’t think at ALL about my weight. I did however, manage to contract a parasitic amoeba while there. It was absolutely the sickest I’ve ever been in my whole life. I’m talking both ends, people. I’m talking about both ends in 110 degree heat without a flushing toilet and mosquitoes swarming all around you while leaning over your porcelain rival.  It was brutal. Having now gone through this experience, I (and my doc) believe that this greatly exacerbated the troubles that I face now. However, if I’ve learned anything, it’s that this body of mine is a mystery wrapped up in a mystery and many things contributed to my health woes.

 

I was on multiple antibiotics for over 6 weeks trying to rid my body of that infection. They were super strong and powerful and while they did indeed get rid of my not-so-welcome Filipino souvenir, they essentially WRECKED my body. Even after I seemingly recovered from the parasite, I never really bounced back. I was extremely low energy and really struggled through my runs. I noticed that my hard-earned muscle tone had really diminished in my legs and stomach. The parasite had made me skinny – the female holy grail – but it had made me skinny by eating my muscle. So I was left with more cellulite and wrinkles and poor muscle tone. Great. All of this happened rather slowly…I  began to notice that I was having poor digestion. Loose stools (sorry, but I warned ya!), bloating after eating practically anything, and occasional tummy pain. I made an appointment with a new doctor with the hopes that they would test me for something, ANYTHING to explain what was happening. And once again, they told me that I presented (that’s the key word, here…you’d think doctors could look beyond presentation) as healthy. I might as well have been seeing Dr. Leo Spaceman from 30 Rock. sibo6I was at a healthy weight, my blood pressure was normal, everything was “FINE.” I left feeling lower than ever. That very night, I decided I was DONE with doctors. I had long talked about seeing a Naturopath but had never actually done it. Joe and I both avoid over-the-counter meds and only take antibiotics when it is absolutely necessary…why not try the natural route? I immediately began searching through google and yelp for esteemed Naturopaths in Honolulu. When lo and behold, the most highly rated one was on my very STREET. A two minute walk from my door to her office. It seemed fated. I made an appointment and hoped for the best.

 

A week later, I was sitting in her office. I was waiting; feeling asibo7ll haggard and depressed and like this,  ——————– >
when in walks this gorgeous, bright-eyed, dewy-skinned woman that seemed to float into the room. I just looked at her and had to squelch the urge to say, “MAKE ME LIKE YOU!!!!” because she exuded the epitome of health. She spent over an hour with me. She REALLY listened to me. She took my symptoms seriously. She ordered several tests and put a rush on them. I left feeling hopeful instead of belittled.

 

When my tests came back, we got down to business. She told me that I was extremely hypothyroid and that I had tested positive for an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s. (Side note: many with Hashi’s develop it because of a gluten insensitivity, but my fabulous N.D. also happens to be from Kentucky [my home state!] and she informed me that Hashi’s is incredibly common in the bluegrass state. This is because of living in a coal mining area. Heavy metal poisoning also causes this disease because lead/metals in these areas can sneak into the water and into the ground and subsequent crops. Ever since I’ve been diagnosed, I’ve had SEVEN people that I know from Kentucky be diagnosed with Hashi’s. I think there is something to this). She wanted to treat me with a natural thyroid supplement (Naturethroid). I learned that my adrenals were super stressed and she put me on herbal supplements for that as well. She also gave me the super-amazing-magic-bean pill: Seriphos (read more about this on my SIBO Guide page). sibo8Seriphos is a cortisol-regulating supplement that turned this anxiety-ridden, lifetime insomniac into a sound sleeper. Seriously guys, when I was a little kid I would sneak a book and a flashlight under the covers with me when I was put to bed because otherwise I would lay there for hours staring at the ceiling. Now I fall asleep in 30 minutes, ya’ll! She put me on some other herbals and vitamins and told me to completely cut out gluten for the Hashi’s.

 

I went home armed with a plan and went hard-core gluten free. Not dabbling, not sticking my toe in, the whole she-bang. It took a few weeks, but I began to feel much better, more energetic, less moody, and the pounds came MELTING off. A few short months later, we were heading out to France and Morocco for a 5 week vacation. I told my ND that I wasn’t sure I could be gluten free in France (buttery croissants??!?!?!) and she told me that I should try bread there and see what happened because other countries use far less gluten in their bread (and less sugar, too!) Plus, they buy everything fresh, so there aren’t harmful chemicals or preservatives in their foods. SOLD. Ya don’t gotta convince me to dive headfirst into a pile of bread.

 

Well, she was RIGHT! I indulged. Like, BIG TIME. I had croissants everysibo9 morning, fresh from the bakery. I had pasta, I had pizza, I ate whatever the hell my little Katie heart desired. It was GLORIOUS. It really didn’t affect me at all. In fact, I felt better in France than I had in YEARS. Years! It made me think (and still makes me wonder) if my Hashi’s is, in fact, due to lead poisoning instead of gluten issues. It was enough to make me move permanently to France, but Joe didn’t seem so on board with that idea. WHY ZEE ELL NOT? J’aime la France!

 

After I came home, we went RIGHT into Christmas. This meant lots of sugar and not eating as well. All of a sudden, I started feeling REALLY off. I had major digestion issues, diarrhea, stomach pain. The main symptom was bloating…like, EXTREME bloating. I hesitate to post this because it’s embarrassing, but I want you to know what I’m talking about. sibo10Here I am, 110 lbs. and 5’4. With THIS belly. Check out the lower stomach. Wild.  nd in the effort to be completely transparent, I must admit that this is even on the smaller side. The final straw was someone in a grocery store asking when I was due. I horrifyingly composed myself and squeaked out, “Uhhhh…5 months?” I just couldn’t bear telling him otherwise (of course it was a dude, right? No woman would ever be so brazen or, ahem, stupid) because we would then BOTH be traumatized. That very day I called my N.D. and told her what was happening. She immediately said, “We need to get you tested for SIBO.”

 

SIBO? What the f*ck is SIBO? Have you ever heard of SIBO? Nope, me neither. But I suspect that much like Celiac disease, you will be hearing much about it in the coming years. It stands for Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth, and is exactly what it states: too much bacteria in the small intestine. We all have bacteria in our guts, good and bad, all of the time. But most of this bacteria is in the large intestine, not in the small intestine. The bacteria that normally reside in the gastrointestinal tract have abnormally overgrown in a location that isn’t designed to handle so much bacteria. This can result in numerous issues; interfering with our digestion, damage to the lining of the small intestine (leaky gut), food and nutrient malabsorption, stomach motility problems, damage to the immune system (aggravating already-existing autoimmune issues or creating them), and bacteria that can get into the bloodstream and wreak havoc on one’s body. In short, it’s a damn mess. For more info on symptoms, treatment, diet, etc. click here. Dr. Alison Siebecker is one of the leading SIBO experts in the nation.

 

I left her office feeling better…I knew what was wrong! I could start to fix this! She had talked about putting me on antibiotics and other herbals and going on a diet for SIBO. I was armed with information and felt empowered! I was ready to kick some SIBO ASS!!!!

 

Then, the internet. Damn ALLLLLL of the internets! siboI started researching and as I gained more information and read and read and read until my eyes were watery, I had a horrible sinking feeling. This wasn’t ever going to go away. I learned that it’s usually a chronic condition (something that I will relapse with likely over and over) and it’s a BEAST to get into remission. My ND had been rather solemn when she delivered the news, but I had blown past it in my happiness to finally have an answer. The more I read, the more forlorn I got. EVERY story was about people that had been fighting this thing for years with little results. They would get it into remission, then relapse just a few months (or even weeks!) later. I spent the better part of a week researching and came up with only two REAL success stories of people that moved SIBO into remission and kept it there. I was supposed to start this new diet called the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) + Low Fodmaps (basically a far more strict version of SCD) that was wildly restrictive. Instead, I went on an emotional binge eating spree that would have made Liz Lemon herself recoil in horror. sibo11I rationalized it as a “goodbye” to food, but really I was just sad and in denial about changing my life in such a profound way.

 

I’ve long been an emotional eater and it is deeply ingrained in me. While over the years I have managed to eat pretty well and get in control of my eating habits, I could all-too-easily backslide when something difficult occurred. I could normally pull myself out of the cheese fry rabbit hole in just a few days, but it still happened on occasion. I was so scared that I wouldn’t be able to stick to such a strict diet. I was petrified that I was going to let my body down and fail, fail, fail, only to end up sick and miserable and hangry with myself.

 

After a good 5 days in perpetual pity-party mode, I finally decided to get to sibo12work. I bought the SCD book (Breaking the Vicious Cycle) and read it cover to cover. I went shopping and spent a boatload on healthy food and everything I would need for the “intro” diet. The diet restricts SO much. No dairy, no grains, no wheat or gluten, no alcohol (at least for quite awhile), no chocolate, no FUN. To make matter worse, because I had to combine the two diets, the low fodmap portion required extreme limitations of fruits and vegetables, too. For the first several months, I had to cook all veggies (many for 4 hours and then puree them like baby food) and make certain they were skinned and deseeded before consuming. This is all incredibly time consuming. The first few days on the intro diet were spent only eating chicken broth, jello, and pureed carrots and beef patties. I was very ill while on the intro and drastically dropped weight off my already thin frame.

 

After going off the intro, you slowly start to introduce other foods. You have to go very slowly, as to ascertain your reaction. You introduce a new food (even something as small as a new herb or spice!) every 2-4 days. My first banana on day 5 was so exciting I thought I would cry. I gradually introduced eggs and cooked bananas, then turkey, a few spices and herbs, and almond milk. I began to feel better as I added more foods, but only emotionally, because I was feeling more like normal person. I really wasn’t feeling that much better physically. Plus, all of the food prep was, no joke, like a part-time job. My symptoms persisted, and every week I went to my doctor frustrated and sad. We added more supplements, we added weekly acupuncture. I took an allergy test and eliminated even more foods that came back as a problem for me (eggs, bananas, blueberries, pineapple, broccoli, cabbage, peanuts, coffee, certain teas, etc.) We added B12 shots, which were the ONLY thing that I can say truly changed how I felt. I immediately saw my energy improve and was able to run and lift weights without being crazy exhausted afterward.

 

Fast forward nearly 9 weeks. I stormed into my acupuncture appointment pissed off. I was frustrated and sad and felt like I was doing virtually everything exactly as I was supposed to…no cheating at all, no skipping of treatments or pills, yet my symptoms hadn’t changed. I’d had two rounds of Xifaxin (14 days) and then 5 weeks of herbal antibiotics (Berberine, ADP) without much change. I burst into tears in her office and told her I needed to take control. I needed something drastic. I would have been willing to drink the blood of a snake if it meant I would see some results. 'It's time for drastic measures - I'm taking you off food and putting you on chew toys.'That’s when she floated the idea of the elemental diet.

The elemental is a solution that they use to keep feeding tube patients alive. It’s a mixture of proteins and carbohydrates that provide enough calories to keep you around, while simultaneously starving the bacteria in the small intestine. It’s incredibly difficult because you cannot eat A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G for 3 weeks. Not a morsel. You drink this (incredibly nasty) solution as your meals and hope and pray that the little assholes in your intestines starve to death and leave your body for good. It sounded awful, and I was scared and nervous, but the choice was clear. I looked her in the eye and said, “SOLD. I will do it.” She said, “I knew you would.  You’re one of the most determined patients I’ve ever had, and I only let my really committed patients try something so hard.” Yes madam, feed my ego, because I will be feeding nothing else for quite awhile.

 

sibo14I ordered the solution (Vivonex T.E.N.), and here we are (to the left, my reaction when the solution arrived in the mail, as accurately represented by my cat, Hammy).  😛 Presently, I am a measly five days into the wretched diet, with sixteen more to go (It is depressing as hell to type that out). I’ll outline my daily reactions below and post every once in awhile for you to read, because as I’ve come to this diagnosis, I’ve also gotten lots of good support and info from a few online facebook groups and there are a few people that want to follow my elemental journey. I WILL figure this thing out. I hope. Sorry for the sad novella, but if you think you have these symptoms (and others outlined in the website I posted above!) DEMAND that you get tested (the test is a very simple at-home or in-clinic breath test measuring hydrogen and methane and costs about $150 USD). Many doctors are simply very uneducated about SIBO, and they throw you in the “You have IBS” category. While SIBO could most definitely cause IBS (or the reverse) stats have shown that nearly FIFTY PERCENT of IBS sufferers also have SIBO. Those are big numbers. And treatments for the two vary wildly, so you really want to know what you’re addressing. And lastly, I’m always here for questions. I really wish I’d had someone to help and guide me through this process a little better. It’s an emotional and physical spiral that takes immense patience and commitment. But hey – things could be MUCH worse. This isn’t a life-threatening illness. This is a first-world illness.sibo15 Not to say that those in other countries don’t have SIBO (they inevitably do) but many others who are not as privileged as we are have bigger, more pressing problems. I am fortunate enough to not only be able to figure this out through a good doctor, but to be able to afford to treat it and to do everything I can to get my body back to where it needs to be. When I get REALLY down, I try to keep that perspective. I hope those of you that are suffering do, too.

DAY ONE ELEMENTAL:

I woke up today almost feeling excited. Stupid ass. I perkily put my concoction together and when it was mixed, I dipped a finger in to taste it. I was warned that the taste was horrific. “It doesn’t seem that bad,” I thought as I tasted the two drops on my finger. Hahahahahahahahahahahahaaha. Ohhhh stupid child. Oh little dreamer. I took a giant swig of my first drink and nearly vomited. Yes. It’s THAT bad. I learned to drink it through a straw by placing the straw on the back of my tongue to avoid my tastebuds. I also take a big sniff of coffee by sticking my nose in the coffee bag while drinking, because the smell is almost as foul as the taste. I feared I would feel AWFUL, like I had in the past when I’d attempted juice cleanses. I’d wanted to die on those cleanses because I was so miserable. The last one I did, I was literally dreaming about cheeseburgers. But even though this is liquid, it’s far more calories than a juice fast would provide, so I’ve discovered that really helps. I felt more tired than usual, but not terribly so and not super lethargic. I decided not to run for the first several days, as I am already thin and didn’t want to lose more weight than necessary. By the fourth and last drink of the day, I had to choke it down. I also added coconut oil and salt to the last two drinks (as advised by my doctor), hoping against hope that it would help negate the taste a bit. It did not.

DAY TWO ELEMENTAL:

I woke up and rushed to the mirror to assess my bloat. Still there. Still looking like a preggo. I dejectedly went to the kitchen to make my first shit shake drink. The second day was much like the first. A little low energy, but not hugely so. My mood was a little lower than normal, as I found myself picking a rather silly fight with Joe, only to sheepishly say after about 10 minutes…”Um, I’m sorry. I think I just want to eat.” He just nodded solemnly.  The boy is not a dummy. He knows when to be quiet. I slept crazy hard that night, almost 11 hours. Which is good…sadly if I could sleep away the next 3 weeks, I probably would.

DAY THREE ELEMENTAL:

Today was about the same, maybe a little harder. I had slight headaches on and off and I cannot tell if this is from “die-off” or from lack of calories. They weren’t terrible, however. My mood was a little on the low side as well. Bloating was, disappointingly, the same. The only difference was that I started to get nauseous around 4pm. It only lasted a few hours and it was quite mild. I used only 3 packets this day instead of four, trying to test it out. Perhaps that is why? The last shake of the day is always the worst. I dread it like the revolting asshat that it is. Joe has been very sweet, but his food smelled soooo delicious tonight. I locked myself in the bedroom while he ate. Surprisingly, my cravings are not super intense, but smelling food is hard because you just intuitively want to eat. This is like asking someone to get the BARE MINIMUM of sleep required to function on the most basic level. Sure, you’re still sleeping, but you’re feeling constantly deprived and tired. And irritable, and cranky-pants, and probably “mean as socks for Christmas.”  🙂

DAY FOUR ELEMENTAL:

sibo16Finished off my first box today!  (this is me trying to be stoked)  Only 7 more to go. Dear GOD that’s upsetting in print. I felt slightly less bloated this morning. I was prancing around showing Joe my belly and singing it’s less-bloated praises, but after my first drink it was back. Suckered again. The weekends seem a little tougher. For the past decade, I have eaten super well during the week and then let myself relax more (diet-wise) with food on the weekends. So I still associate weekends with “fun” eating like Indian food and beer and gluten-free pizza. The idiots at Vivonex should make a pizza-flavored drink. They would make a fortune and waaaay more people would do this. You’re welcome, Vivonex. Try not being so bitterly disgusting if you want to move products. I’ve noticed that I tend to feel happier and more positive in the mornings when I have my first shake. By the time I get to the last one I’m sad and depressed and feeling more scared that this isn’t going to work. I don’t know if the ingredients in the drink are activating my crazy, or if by the end of the day I am just more hungry. Either way, it kinda blows. I keep looking ahead to double digits, and how proud I will be to be on Day 10, 11, 12…

DAY FIVE ELEMENTAL:

I REALLY feel like it should be day 10 or 11 at this point. It hasn’t been as bad as I expected, so there’s that…but it feels like a long-ass five days. I’m ready for the double digits, yo! I started out the morning poorly by observing that my bloat is still there and then while making my shake, didn’t place the top on the shaker cup correctly, and threw that god-awful solution all OVER myself, the cat, and the kitchen. Right on. It smelled so bad that we had to bathe the cat. She looked horrified and was constantly trying to outrun the smell on her (which…okay…was pretty funny). The thing that is freaking me out the most is that I’ve had virtually ZERO die-off. Almost every person that has done this has reported major flu-like symptoms, which sound horrible but at least indicate that it is working. I feel fine. I just want a burrito. I am going to try to go for a short run tomorrow, and I’m excited. I miss it. We went to the park and walked 4 miles yesterday. It felt good to get out of Hermitville, where I seem to have taken up permanent residence. I also tried to drink my afternoon “lunch” at room temperature, since I read that it is supposed to help bloating. Take it from me: DON’T. Just don’t. Horribly, viciously awful. I have also noticed the slightest bit of kidney pain I think that’s what it is, anyway, as I have a weird (albeit light) burning sensation in my lower back sometimes. I’ll keep an eye on it. Onward!

That’s it so far, folks!  I’ll keep updating and will post every now and then if you’re interested.  🙂

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