Health Update- My SIBO Success Story

The past

After two years of determination, I finally feel like a healthy person (again)…or maybe for the first time ever!  It has been two years since my SIBO diagnosis and five years since I was originally diagnosed with “IBS”.  But the truth is, I was dealing with poor health much earlier- I just never knew that my symptoms weren’t normal.  Or that they were all related to my gut health.

I used to think that migraines were my destiny because they ran in my family.  That acne was just part of being a teenager…and then adult.  That menstrual cramps and Midol were the way of life for a menstruating female.  And that seasonal allergies just happened to some people.

Eventually my symptoms kept piling up until I couldn’t ignore them anymore.  I was miserable- my legs itched so badly that they would bleed.  But I couldn’t stop itching them.  The only way to suppress the pain and fall back asleep after the itching woke me up on a nightly basis was to take Benadryl, numb my legs with ice packs, and hope that I fell asleep before the numbness went away.

I had to give up many things that I enjoyed because my symptoms made them miserable and embarrassing.  I discontinued my membership at a yoga studio I loved.  I stopped playing racquetball.  I abandoned social activities because my symptoms were unpredictable.  I even declined a lucrative career opportunity.  And the list goes on.

The change

When western medicine failed to provide me with anything more than a “you’ll just have to learn to deal with this for the rest of your life,” I started searching for alternatives.  I was fortunate to find a caring, bright naturopathic doctor who pointed me in the right direction when she diagnosed me with SIBO.

Receiving a diagnosis of “SIBO” was a turning point in my health.   I finally had some sort of understanding of what was happening inside my body and some hope that it could be changed.  I began seeing improvement in my health immediately- a stark contrast to the seemingly never-ending addition of symptoms I had been experiencing for several years.

The initial stages of healing involved treatment with antibiotics followed by herbal antimicrobials.  For a long period of time during my treatment, I was reliant on their use along with an extremely strict and unsustainable dietary regimen.  Eventually, I was able to transition off the antimicrobials and have remained off of them since.  I am now to a point where I can maintain my health with just two supplements: probiotics and fish oil.

I believe that the keys to my successful healing have been the following:

  1. The right supplements (and pharmaceutical drugs when necessary) at the right times.
  2. Eating a well-balanced diet that is dynamic and catered to my gut health.
  3. Listening to my body by learning to interpret and biohack its cues.
  4. Allowing myself to go at a pace of life where I can maintain good health.
  5. Time- and learning that patience truly is a virtue.
  6. Reducing toxic exposure- clean household products, kitchenware, beauty products, etc.
  7. Drinking adequate fluids.

Basically, the past two years I have been taking exceptionally good care of myself.

Clarification

When I tell you that “I finally feel like a healthy person,” I have to put things into perspective and make some clarifications.  What I mean by “healthy” is that my symptoms are well-controlled.  It is similar to the saying “putting an autoimmune disease in remission.”  If I went out and abandoned all of my healthy behaviors for an extended period of time, I would surely wind up back where I started.  The susceptibility is still there.

The majority of my meals are still prepared at home using foods that I am more likely to tolerate, but I can also frequently enjoy meals out with friends.  I can even get away with an occasional late night here and there (and by that I mean home by midnight).  And I can do these things with zero or minimal symptomatic repercussions.

I think it would help paint the picture by sharing the symptoms that I have seen improve over the past two years. It is not to say that I no longer get any of them, but some are completely gone while others appear infrequently and I have simple remedies for making them go away.

Here’s the list of symptoms/conditions that have improved as my gut has healed:

  1. Itching
  2. Flatulence
  3. Constipation
  4. Food sensitivities
  5. Psoriasis
  6. Menstrual cramps
  7. Migraines
  8. Acne
  9. Fatigue
  10. Abdominal pain
  11. Seasonal allergies
  12. Chronic muscle pain

When I was first diagnosed with SIBO over two years ago, I was told that I would have to remain on a severely restricted diet for several years (maybe even 5-10) in order to fully heal my gut.  At the time it seemed like an eternity.  It seemed overwhelming.  And it certainly hasn’t been easy.  But it has been worth it.  My symptoms have improved dramatically and I no longer feel crippled by my health conditions.  Instead, I feel powerful, strong, and HEALTHY!

Ready to make big changes for your health?  Feel free to ask me about how to get started or for troubleshooting tips!  Beginning summer 2016, I will begin offering nutritional counseling services so that I can help others find the healthiest versions of themselves.

28 thoughts on “Health Update- My SIBO Success Story

  1. I need more info bc I’ve found myself suddenly in a state of confusion. I’ve treated my Candida and always knew it was working yet something else is still happening in my lower gut. The bloating, painful belching, inability to fully empty(which has become much easier to eliminate once all that Candida and it’s toxic waste was out of the way). So I now know it’s SIBO. Since I’m still in the treatment diet for Candida, I just kept going with that and changed my herbals from specifically for Candida over to those specifically for SIBO. I’m still taking the digestive enzymes as well. But in trying to pinpoint any changes from the Candida diet that I should do for SIBO eradication, I HAVE FOIND IT VERY CONFUSING AND NOT AS HOPEFUL AS when I looked up the Candida stuff. There are too many conflicting things on what to eat and what to avoid. Where five sites may tell me nuts and sprouted grains and onion, three others will tell me avoid all nuts, all grains and onions. And this is just 3 of the food examples. With Candida, everywhere I looked told me pretty much the same thing, so I could recognize when 1-2 said differently. I need some mental reassurance of what’s best to treat it or my hopelessness could prevent me from eradicating them! Please help! Shelli…903-705-8924 . When can your stuff be purchased?

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    • Hi Shelli, I know it can be very confusing to navigate the diets for SIBO. I will be opening up my services within the next month and can help clients navigate this. In the meantime, some good resources are Dr. Siebeker’s SIBO Specific Food Guide (more restrictive) and the Monash University Low FODMAP App (less restrictive)

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  2. Hi Riley, thanks for all the info!

    May I ask you a few things? Do you recommend any lab for stool testing to address sibo and leaky gut more accurately?

    Or even a microbiome genetic testing (done by saliva)? I’ve seen a few labs offer the latter; I wonder how reliable are those and if it helps figure out the best approach to heal our very specific gut flora.

    Do you know if one should take a break from herbal therapy (such as ADP etc) before doing a GI/stool panel? My functional medicine doctor hasn’t advised to wait (only when I do the breath test, not the stool test), but I do wonder.

    How much time did it take you to overcome extreme hunger and low vitamin D absorption (you mentioned in another post) due to sibo and low stomach acid? Any specific product that helped those symptoms? I have both but I guess they don’t seem to occur in every type of sibo (maybe are more likely in hydrogen sulfide? maybe not?), as some people report lack of appetite and no issues with vitamin D.

    Many thanks!

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    • Hi Kat, my understanding is that stool testing will only test what is in the large intestine, not the small intestine. That means that a stool test or microbiome genetic testing would not be helpful for diagnosing small intestine issues. However, if you had dysbiosis, candida overgrowth, parasites, etc, it could help detect that. Some stool tests also check other markers than can give an idea of pancreatic function. The extreme hunger and low vitamin D are actually two things I have not completely addressed. I just got my vitamin D checked for the first time in a long time, but I am still awaiting the results. We will see if it has come up! In regard to the extreme hunger, it is a transient symptom that I have been trying to pin down. It seems to correlate with how well my digestion is working though. For example, when I a little constipated, the extreme hunger goes away. But when I have perfect digestion and can eat tons of beans and FODMAPs without problem, I am usually extremely hungry! I have stumped multiple docs on this one! HCL w/ Fenugreek worked for the hunger at one point. I will keep you posted if I come across anything. But extreme hunger can be caused for many reasons, so I am not sure what works for me will work for you.

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  3. Thank you for sharing this, Riley! It is very encouraging for a fellow SIBO sufferer. But, I also have Lyme Disease which my Lyme literate medical doctor believes is the underlying cause of my SIBO. Have you ever heard of this — a link between Lyme’s (gastrointestinal) and SIBO? I have only found one or two articles on-line calling this kind of Lyme Disease “Bell’s Palsy of the Gut.”

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    • Great question! I have definitely heard other individuals with Lyme say that they have SIBO and believe it is connected to their Lyme. It makes sense- Lyme impacts the immune system which would have effects on the gut. I wish I had more info for you but it sounds like you could be onto something!

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    • Dr. Erika Siegel is my primary care practitioner. She was the one who diagnosed me with SIBO and was able to help with the initial stages of treatment. She referred me to Dr. Melanie Keller for more intensive SIBO care.

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  4. Thank you for your story. I’m currently having trouble adjusting to SIBO and knowing there’s others gives me hope that there’s help and support.

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  5. Thanks for the encouragement. Did you have to create a lot of your own protocols in addition to following the advice of your ND? How did you find a good ND?

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  6. Happy to see this update ! Congrats on all your hard work to get you to this point.
    I feel like I’m at 85% of my Sibo healing journey. Many things have improved which I’m happy for. Have needed lots of patience in this journey.
    Thanks for all your posts they have been very helpful !

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