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I know, I know. Bad blogger! It’s been awhile. I’ve been a busy Katie. It’s been an interesting few months. The last we spoke, I was deep into cancer mode and my consequent hormonal insanity (what? it’s a thing) while also trying to figure out how to navigate others’ reactions to this newfound diagnosis. Now, it’s 2016 people, and I’m ready to leave cancer Katie behind. She was kinda a drag, anyway.

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I feel like I have so much to say to you! Yes, YOU. Just you. Not anyone else. (Ok I’m going to go ahead and admit that I’ve had a few gluten-free beers on the beach with my little sis and then decided to sit down and write this. This usually means I think I am HILARIOUSLY funny and no one else does, soooo…just a warning that this will be unabashedly and monstrously hysterical. To me.) And my beer top said, “Drinking is believing,” which, come on…that shit is like Shakespeare. And oh-so-true.


Joe and I decided to go to our home state of Kentucky for Christmas this year. We try to go every other year. I’d noticed that I was having some tummy issues again before our trip. Nothing huge, but it still concerned me. Like all other people that have ever dealt with SIBO, I am always fearful of a relapse. I feel like at ANY moment those little bacteria dickheads will stage a revolution, blowing me up like a water buffalo. I decided to do a quick elemental fast before going home (read about my original elemental 23 day fast here) ideally hoping to starve some of the disgusting jerks that like to have an orgy inabsorbplus my gut (yes, I went there) reproducing their bastard bacteria babies. I decided this time to do it with Absorbplus AND leftover Vivonex T.E.N. shakes. But first, I have to take a hot minute to make fun of the Absorbplus website, because this picture ————————>

is hilarious. NO ONE is that ridiculously and psychotically happy about those f*cking shakes. And I also love how they include a piece of fruit on it. Fruit you cannot consume while on the elemental. Brilliant marketing, ya’ll. But anyway, lemme just admit to you that I struggled hard this time around. I’m not quite sure why. It’s not like the first time I did the elemental was a breeze or anything, but I didn’t struggle like this. I did it for 4 days and thought I would die of hunger. And anger. I was so RAGE-Y (are these bacteria anger-producing?)


Previously, when I relied solely on Vivonex T.E.N., I really wasn’t ever hungry. I mean I wanted to eat, but I didn’t feel like I was starving. Absorbplus for some reason (while it tastes much better than the pure fartiness of Vivonex) just doesn’t fill me up in the same way. I had intense headaches and hated every single second of those 5 days. It might not help that I’m still dealing with some hormonal stuff, however. I’m sure you couldn’t tell by how dramatic I’m being. As soon as I finished those 5 days I was happy as a f*cking clam to eat again. I went to Kentucky and was SO proud of myself. I stayed gluten free EVENblog2 over Christmas. I didn’t even think it was possible in the South (especially a tiny coal-mining town where everything is fried and delicious and horrible for you). I made my own food for Christmas with my sisters, even making my own gf pizza and having gf Rice Krispies delivered via Amazon to make Krispy treats with. I resisted beer and opted for enough bourbon while I was home to kill a derby horse (Kentuckians LOVE their bourbon…AND derby horses) and managed to run nearly every day while home.

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It’s always fun to be home…the accents, the familiarity, the fact that I can go to the local coffee shop downtown and run into 12 people that I know or that know my family (i.e….”You must be a ‘Young’ because you look JUST like yo daddy!”) 🙂 Seeing my cousins and high school buddies and running around my hometown fills me chock-full of memories and nostalgia. Hanging with my sisters – drinking booze and opening presents and playing cards. Hanging with my nieces and nephews – playing games, singing karaoke (Joe and I got our niece a karaoke machine and she and I sang Taylor Swift all the livelong night. It was glorious) and stuffing our faces. It’s super wonderful and makes me miss everyone and lament being so far away. But, it’s intense too. It’s crazy and busy as we rush from one family to the other. Iblog4 felt like I was always rushing through a lunch or breakfast, just to finish and then run out to meet the next person. And we get so busy that Joe and I hardly see each other over the holidays that we do spend in Kentucky. It’s also just strange being home, as it reminds me of where I come from and how different I am now. I LOVE my home, please don’t misunderstand, but I simply don’t belong there anymore and it leaves me feeling almost…sad. Or lonely. And that loneliness is never more palpable than being home at Christmas. I love Christmas so much. It’s my Mom’s fault. She was like Mrs. Claus. I’ve seriously never met another human being that loves Christmas more. But ever since she passed away, Christmas at home has never been the same. I’ll always love it, because she taught me to. And I love it because loving it is a way to honor her and makes me feel closer to her; however, it makes me miss her so badly that it aches. It aches the way that blog5fresh grief aches. I always go for a run out to her grave when I’m home. This year I decided to bring Christmas decorations and place them there for her. I picked up two armfuls of decorations and ran with one bag under each arm. I looked ridiculous and I jingled and jangled all of the way there, because some of the decorations had bells. I laughed at myself and how ridiculous I looked/sounded. She would have loved it. I sang carols to her. I cried. I tried to imagine what she would say or think of my life and my choices…choices so very different from hers. I love being home, but there is a sadness there that will I suppose will always be present. ‘Cause you never get over missin’ your Mama.


But even with all of the craziness and sadness, we had a great visit home. It’s bittersweet, because we love seeing friends and family but we hate saying goodbye. Anyway, here is a little slideshow of some of the rest of our trip.  🙂

 

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After a fun and busy visit, we went to Nashville to see my Granny (aka…the mostblog24 amazing woman I’ve ever known) and stay in a nice hotel for a night before getting on a plane again for 10 hours. I was awoken in the middle of the night by a phone call with a recorded voice telling me to hold – that my flight had been cancelled due to “weather.” Weather?!?! It had been crazy warm the entire time we were home. No snow, nothing. I looked outside…dry as a bone. WTF? TWO HOURS later (at 2am, mind you, after I’d about lost my damn mind listening to the recorded voice tell me it will only be “20 minutes” and had about drop-kicked Joe every time he fell asleep because dammit I was NOT going to be the only one kept awake with this ridiculous robot woman) a person comes on to tell me that the flight is cancelled due to weather in Texas. We cannot get out to Honolulu for FIVE more days,

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Maggie’s Cat purrrthday

and we will get absolutely zero compensation nor a hotel stipend during that time. Well, ok. Thanks a lot American Airlines. Class act. So the next day, we sheepishly packed up and headed back to Kentucky for New Year’s! Wasn’t what we’d planned, but we had fun anyway. I got to hang with my sisters and niece some more and actually spend myblog31 sister Maggie’s birthday with her (she’s a New year’s baby!) I don’t think I’ve been able to do that since I was a kid! Naturally the theme was Cats. Because cats. It was, however, the first New year’s that Joe and I have ever spent apart. Which was kinda sad considering how much I love New Year’s, but we both wanted to be with our respective families that night, so we caught up and “kissed” via face time. Ah, technology. You are a wonderful, weird thing.


I am sad to admit that even though I was a SIBO friggin’ ROCKSTAR the first part ofblog26 the trip, after we got stranded there, I fell off
the SIBO horse. Into a pile of gluten. And chocolate. And booze. And every other thing terrible for me. I caved and it was bad. I felt gross and bloated and SHOULD have felt ashamed. But I cannot lie. I totally enjoyed it.


When I got home, I decided enough was enough. I needed to get my SHIT TOGETHER. My LIFE together.

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Last IV session!

 


I’ve been diligently going to my natural chemo sessions, and am happy to report that I’m finished!!!! I am SO happy to be done with those. Not only were they quite boring most of the time (sitting for 3 hours twice a week at the doctor’s office), but they made me heachache-y and tired. Still, hard to complain when so many others on my ovarian cancer forums are going through the brutality of REAL chemo. I also made a few friends sitting in the doctor’s office…people who are going through breast or kidney cancer or getting IV treatments for MS. Great

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Celebrating with friends that I’m cancer free!

 

women, and having company makes the 3 hours fly by! It also helps to keep my issues in perspective, which as you know (because I talk about it ad nauseam) is a really important component of this health process for me. But the really exciting super good news is that I learned that I am officially in remission!!! [TRUMPETS SOUNDING, beer glasses clinking, Katie doing a happy dance] Shortest bout of cancer EVAR, ya’ll! I was strangely super stoked to hear those words. I mean it’s obviously good news, but since I never really reacted to having cancer in the first place, it kind of shocked me that I reacted so much to being told it was gone. It’s a funny thing…I think I am more freaked out and frightened about it coming back than I was about having it in the first place. The fear of a reoccurrence is oddly palpable. But hey – I’m cancer free and ready to move on. It’s time. Also, as I mentioned last post, I sent my Debbie Dammit Doll out on her very first adventure! She went with lots of prizes and gifts from Hawai’i nei to another women struggling with cancer. I hope she’s now on her way to brighten someone else’s day! Go Debbie, go!

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So, what have I been up to? As mentioned above, I’ve been trying to get my friggin’ shit together. This last year has been so dedicated to healing and getting well and figuring things out health-wise, that I sort of lost myself. I tried not to, but it happened anyway. blog30Between SIBO and the slew of other health issues that accompanied it (h pylori, hashimotos, hiatal hernia, illeocecal valve dysfunction, hormonal and adrenal issues, and finally ovarian cancer) I felt like a damn disaster of a person. At 36 years old. I came to the realization that I’ve been sort of living with a low-grade depression. Not SUPER down, but not ever really happy either. My oldest sister, who ALWAYS speaks the truth (both awesome and annoying depending on your mood – love ya, sis!) sort of called me out on this last month. She pointed out that I wasn’t myself…that I wasn’t volunteering as much, that I seemed distant, that I wasn’t invested in work. It hurt to hear, because it immediately felt like a criticism or an accusation. But once I took a step back, I understood; she cares about me, she is worried. And honestly, for good reason. I began to think about it. I hadn’t played guitar in 10 months (something I used to do nearly every day). I hadn’t read an entire book (other than books about my health conditions) all year, and I’m

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The old Katie. :/

 

normally an extremely avid reader. I’ve been avoiding the outdoors other than running, or occasionally biking to health-related appointments, which is supremely rare for me. I love the ocean, I love to hike, I love just sitting in the park in my hammock reading a good book, but had barely done it all year. It wasn’t that I was actively hiding out, it occurred to me – it was that there was no desire to do these things. It was a profound lack of motivation, which told me that I had been ignoring feeling down and had been leaning into this general sort of malaise. And anyone that knows me knows that I very much despise laziness and apathy. But here I was, feeling apathetic about almost everything. I had stopped doing all of the things that made me, me.


Wow – I’m just jumping right in here, folks! Nope, haven’t written in months so lets talk in depth about my depression! (If this is your first time reading, this is pretty much par for the course. I don’t mess around). I started to analyze WHY I was feeling this way. What was really going on? I don’t want to be this person. I missed being who I was, but I certainly wasn’t feeling motivated to change it. I decided that perhaps it might have something to do with my health issues, and not just psychologically or hormonally speaking. I had gene testing done this last year through 23&me, but never had the results analyzed. I decided to finally take the results to my ND to see if anything would be uncovered. As it so happens, there were just more rocks we hadn’t yet managed to look under. It turns out I have an MTHFR mutation (which my husband also has), a blog33CBS up regulation, and a MAO mutation. To water this down to the most basic of info, this affects my body’s ability to properly methylate and use folic acid or folate. That only means something to but a few of you, but trust me…it matters. I was also insanely low in Vitamin D, despite spending quite a lot of time in the sun, running and biking. These new results certainly don’t redefine my whole health puzzle, but they definitely influence it. For example, once my husband was diagnosed with MTHFR and started getting treatment for it, I REALLY noticed a change in him. He seemed more engaged with me and with work, less apathetic and more connected to his feelings, and more motivated to do things. He started becoming the dude I fell in love with. And after living with a man that is prone to depression, it was wonderful to witness. If I didn’t see Joe’s transition, I don’t know that I would have invested so much in learning about my own genetic mutations. These mutations are INCREDIBLY confusing, however. I feel like you have to be a damn rocket scientist to figure them out. I learned that my combo of mutations makes me prone to gut distress (Nah, REALLY?) and to depression (ding, ding, ding!) both of which run in my family heavily. It’s also greatly related to thyroid issues, which of course I also struggle with. So here we are again, finding yet another “root” cause to my SIBO. It seems like there’s a new one about every 2 months or so. What will we uncover next? Yellow fever? Elephantiasis?


So, I used the New Year as an excuse to get back to Katie. As I mentioned, I love New Year’s. I love goal-setting and resolution making. I love the idea of a fresh start andblog34 the excitement of ringing in the new year with bells and whistles and kisses. When we got back from our trip to  Kentucky, I picked up my dusty, out-of-tune guitar. I clumsily strummed it and sang. I only made it a few songs before my fingers hurt, and my rhythm was terrible, but I did it. I’ve played every single day since. I agreed to teach Gender and Violence for the University of Hawai’i over the summer. I took on a temporary (but totally awesome!) gig as a writer and social worker for Making Media That Matters with Hawai’i Women in Filmmaking (PUHlease support blog35us by liking us on Facebook!) – a group dedicated to using film as a means for teenage girls to express themselves and the issues that they deal with. It’s been SUPER fun so far. I met with my boss for my other job and asked for more hours. He agreed as we are moving into the Legislative season here in Honolulu (it’s a political org) and it’s been keeping me hoppin’! I submitted a story that was accepted for another local magazine, and I’ve made a concerted effort to get to the beach more and be outside in nature more.


So basically, I’m trying. It’s still sort of an effort some days, but I will admit that I DO feel better when I get out and do what I need to do and what makes me happy. My guitar-playing blisters are back and I’ve learned 3 new songs. I’m loving my new job and excited to start planning my syllabus for the summer for UH. I’ve missed teaching. My ND and I are addressing the mutations (I feel like an alien when I refer to myself as havingblog36 “mutations”) and I will start “treatment” (i.e. a lot of methylated vitamins) for that very soon. I hope this improves my mood and motivation. Plus, I’m still dealing with residual hormonal issues from the surgery, so there’s that. But that’s been significantly better, thank God. I’m sure Joe and everyone else in my life thanks God, also. 😛

What a crazy-ass rollercoaster of a year 2015 was. While I really hated a whole damn lot of it, I certainly also learned a lot about myself. And I’ve had a lot of fun with you guys and with this blog. It’s nice to know I’m not alone and it’s nice to connect with strangers over small intestines and ovaries. 😛


To add insult to SIBO injury, my poor little sis was diagnosed with SIBO a few weeks ago. I had a sneaking suspicion she had it, but I felt SO terrible when she told me it was official. This means that all 4 of us (my 3 sisters and I) have gut issues and disorders. Thanks, parents. 😛 It sucks to watch her struggle and go through all of the stages I went through blog37last year. It’s also hard not to play doctor. I’ve read so much and learned and researched sooo much that I think I’m some kind of SIBO savant (I’m not), but I have to hold my tongue and let her handle it her own way. We’re alike in so many ways (this is how alike we are – this picture was NOT staged to be the same. Here we are getting our Master’s degrees from the SAME school in the SAME thing, social work, and these pics were taken one year apart. YEAH. :P) I forget sometimes that we’re going to react differently; she’s not me and I’m not her. And hey – if we’ve learned ONE thing, it’s that no one reacts to SIBO in a predictable or similar way right? I try not to send her stuff I know she won’t read, but it’s harrrrrd. It’s so tempting!  I’m er, obviously not so good at that whole holding back thing I’m afraid. But I’m working on it. (Sorry sis!) Several people have said, “Oh she’s so lucky to have you to help guide her through this!” and it makes me want to laugh, because I think that’s the last thing she wants.

Next on my to-do agenda is to get back on the wagon. Theblog38  Fast Tract Diet wagon. For those that have never read my blog before, I am a HUGE lover of the Fast Tract Diet for SIBO. To see why I chose it, read my post on it here. I get so frustrated that newbies never know about this diet option, since doctors only ever recommend FODMAPS or SCD (which, let’s face it…if that shit were working for all of us, there would be far fewer people reading this blog right now). I see success stories in the Fast Tract Facebook group every day, so if you’re feeling frustrated by your diet and not getting results, or you’ve been on your diet for months and you’re still a bloated miserable monster, look into the FTD (plus the new app is totally kickass!) Here is the website for the diet with tons of great info for you. **And no, I’m not selling it or getting kickbacks for this ringing endorsement (but ahem, I would glad accept them…I’m lookin’ at you, Norm, for I think I’ve brought you a lot of business there, buddy! :P) In all seriousness though, I actually just really believe in it. However, if whatever diet you are currently on is working for you, by all means continue.**


Ever since that initial food slip-up on vacation, I’ve never REALLY gotten back to it, not entirely. I need to tighten up the diet, make a concerted effort to keep up with my workouts, and treat my body better. I swore I would never take my body for granted again after getting sick (much like a little kid that promises they will appreciate feeling normal if they can JUST get over the stomach flu!) but I totally, like, lied. Just a few months after feeling better I’m slacking off and putting crap in my body. I’m skipping my runs and binge watching high school dramas on Netflix (high school dramas are sort of my thing…my secret tv shame). It wasn’t TOTALLY terrible, but it wasn’tblog39 great. You would think I would have learned from this last year, but I’m clearly dumb as dirt. So…who’s with me? Let’s DO THIS. If you’ve been slacking and you’re ready to recommit or you just need a good kick in the ass because you haven’t really started your SIBO diet yet, let’s do it together!  I swear I wish I had someone to walk around behind me and whisper fear-mongering things in my ear or smack food out of my hand. Someone needs to be my virtual hand-slapper. I’m crawling out of the sugar and gluten quicksand and draggin’ yer ass with me.


Before I forget, I’ve noticed that many people after reading the blog try to find and follow me on facebook. If you’ve tried this and are offended that I haven’t added you, my sincere apologies. For now, I’m trying to keep facebook to people I actually know. Sometimes that includes people that I spent a lot of time talking to in the SIBO groups, but I very rarely add complete strangers. Please don’t be offended by this, I just post a lot of personal stuff on there. However, I’m totally fine with you following me on instagram, if you’re so inclined. I do post pics of yummy FTD/low fodmap recipes on there pretty frequently if you are in need of food help (as well as copious amounts of cat pictures).  🙂 


Click on the little icon below to follow!

 

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Let’s make 2016 amazing. I’ve dubbed it #theyearofkatie. And it’s going to be, dammit! Make it the #yearofyou, too. 🙂

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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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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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