SIBO Update #2 – Managing the Holidays

Well, Thanksgiving happened. How did all you SIBO sufferers do?

I did okay, but it was difficult. Because of the incredibly restrictive diet I’m on, it was very challenging to stick to it during a feast which was shared by family and for which I only did about 10% of the cooking (I made the pies). As I looked at the beautiful feast set out for me, I was both excited and dismayed – even the vegetables were on my limited or avoid lists – green beans, brussel sprouts, salad filled with cabbage. So I recognized that this was going to be “one of those weekends” and I did the best I could. Except for the pie. I didn’t even try to stay away (but I made nut crusted, gluten- and sugar-free pies and topped them with the 24-hour yogurt instead of cream. Winning!)

After the weekend, I definitely noticed some worsening symptoms, including the bloating, digestive discomfort, and some fungal issues, but I noticed that I bounced back fairly quickly. I was afraid that I had set myself back weeks, but it really only seemed to be a set back of a few days to a week at most. My post Thanksgiving detox included a rather strict adherence back to the diet (except my normal alterations), hitting the gym on a more regular schedule, and a few mornings a week of fasting. This plus the regular therapies of activated charcoal to help with the detox, my regular killing agents, castor oil packs at night, liver tea, proper hydration and stress management.

I saw my naturopath early in the week. I was afraid that she would be disappointed in me for the holidays (but expecting disappointment is one of my old belief systems/patterns). She wasn’t. For the therapies she prescribed, she thought I was doing a great job and reminded me that this is a long-term management plan, not an overnight quick-fix. I’m really glad to be working with her, because at this point in my life I recognize that I can’t handle a diet or lifestyle more strict than I already have. If that means I don’t heal quite as quickly, so be it. I’m doing the best I can, and she supported that. We agreed to keep my diet, killing agents and therapies status quo through the rest of the holidays, then check back in January. She also suggested a stool test through Genova labs to get a better understanding of what we’re dealing with. Has anyone tried this test?

Regular work outs have been incredibly helpful in reducing my physical symptoms and helping to speed up my metabolism and keep my gut moving. I’m lucky in that I don’t have a thyroid imbalance and I’m actively supporting my adrenals, so my energy levels have remained high. I’m able to teach three to four yoga classes a week, hit the gym three to four times and still get out for a seven to ten mile hike on the weekends. Due to my history with back injury and instability, I stick to a routine that strengthens and stabilizes my pelvis, hips and legs and strengthens my core, then do some upper body strengthening geared towards strong shoulder muscles and handstands (because I just love handstands). This takes 30-40 minutes, then I finish with a brisk 30-minute walk on the treadmill (email me if you want more detail on the workout. I’m happy to share).

Another thing I’ve been playing around with is morning fasting. On the days that I’m not working out at the gym (or not until later in the day), I’ve been making a cup of bulletproof coffee and giving myself an extra four to five hours without food. I know that coffee isn’t technically on the SCD-Low FodMap diet; but weak coffee is. Coffee has been one of my personal allowances. I’ve gone years without it before and been fine, but during a diet with so much given up, this the one constant I kept (and yes, I realize it could come to bite me in the butt later on, but for now I’m sticking with it). The thing about coffee is that it’s extremely drying to the body and difficult on the gut. Ayurvedic medicine tells us that fall is the driest season of all, and my skin and lips would agree. It also tells us that we can balance the qualities of food with their opposites. So if coffee is drying, we can add something that is moistening, like oil.

Back when I was eating grains, I had a daily bowl of oatmeal (I think this is the thing I miss most!). My Ayurvedic teacher in India taught me how to make it properly for my doshic type and tbullet proof coffeehe climate, and I’d toast the oats, stir in cashews and raisins, add a dash of cinnamon and good tablespoon or more of ghee.  The ghee was important to help lubricate the dryness in my body (I’m a Vata/Pitta type), provide a grounding quality and bring calm to the nervous system. It also tasted amazing. This is the principle, in my eyes, behind adding oil to coffee. Often called bulletproof coffee in popular culture today, it’s become a Paleo staple for starting a morning of slow fat burn for a body used to burning proteins and fats. Just like a body healing from SIBO. There is also quite a bit of dissent on the benefits, as there would be for anything, but what I notice is that it helps. My doctor agreed that as long as it seemed to help AND wasn’t making my stools looser, then it was fine by her.

I use my regular brew of organic, shade-grown, fair-trade coffee, 1 Tbsp organic grass-fed butter, 1 Tbsp coconut oil (both melted) and a couple of Tbsp lactose-free cream. I’ve adjusted to life without sweeteners, so I don’t add any, but you could add a small amount of honey if you needed to. I put it all in the Vitamix for a few seconds and it turns out frothy and delicious. If you are still sensitive to butter, opt for ghee instead. It’s easy to make yourself, see my (very old and homemade) video here. You can also leave out the lactose-free cream if you need to.

Oh, also, before I was diagnosed I had developed a super embarrassing problem with body odor. I’d wake up in the morning with a very “spicy” smell, take a shower and go to teach my first yoga class, only to smell again afterwards. I didn’t use any regular antiperspirants due to their high levels of aluminum, and found some natural deodorants to help, but it lingered. It took me a while to notice because we often don’t notice things that aren’t a problem anymore, but that has gone away – hurray!

All in all, things are looking up, even through the holiday season. I’ve even started to lose a couple of the pounds that crept on before I was properly diagnosed. I’m not focusing on weight loss, but I notice how good my body feels when I work out, stick to the diet and eat smaller portions (following the Ayurvedic rule of eating until I am 50-75% full to aid with digestion). How are you doing in your recovery? Feel free to leave comments or contact me from my website; I’d love to hear from you!

8 Comments on “SIBO Update #2 – Managing the Holidays”

  1. Dear Anna,

    I am so glad I found your blog on SIBO. I was actually diagnosed about 1 1/2 yrs ago, but didn’t follow through on much since I was in the beginning of a stressful separation from my husband. I have just started working on attacking SIBO and my gut. I am pursuing the antibiotic treatment but I started the SIBO diet 6 days ago. (using Dr Allison Siebecker’s lists) I am actually doing even stricter modification because I also just had a LEAP test done through my integrative nutritinist. The LEAP tests 150 food/chemical sensitivities. Curiously I found out some things that I am reactive to, but are allowed on SIBO diet (turkey, pork, some herbs, some fruits). I am also reactive to coffee and black/green tea which isn’t allowed in full strength anyway on SIBO.

    BTW, I also had the “poop” test and it showed that I had some good bacteria and some funky bad bacteria which my nutritionists said is not commonly seen here in the U.S. but in people who travel abroad to different areas of the world. I thought about when I went to Tunisia about 20 years ago after college. When I was there I had some serious bouts of digestive problems. When I was young between, 6-7 I had reoccuring strep and doses and doses of antibiotics. Who knows, but the groundwork was forming for these issues.
    2 years ago I was diagnosed with Sjogren’s, which is an autoimmune disorder. It attacks the salivary glands. I am supposedly a mild case according to the Rheumologist. What iniitally led to doing the autoimmune panels were low across the board vitamin defiencies. My nutritionist is the one who had ordered the stool test and SIBO breath test actually, not my GP.

    Finally, now as things have calmed a bit in my personal life. I am taking charge of my health and I have noticed the diet so far is helping tremendously. I didn’t realize how much bloatation factor I had in my life!

    Funny how I found your website. I was wondering where “vanilla” fell on the SIBO diet. I googled that and your vanilla cinnamon cupcake recipe popped up on your blog! I have a really good almond meal banana bread recipe that is SIBO friendly, and I would use real vanilla bean.

    Even though I do not wish this on anyone, there is great comfort in hearing other stories of people fighting the SIBO battle out there! Please keep posting, I am very interested to here about your herbal treatment. I too realize that I am in for the long haul!

    take care! Catherine

    1. It’s great to hear from you, Catherine! Sorry that you are suffering from this annoying infection, but happy that you are finding the resources you need. I like what you mentioned about being abroad – I was in India a few years back, and while I didn’t get sick while I was there, I noticed that things generally got worse once I was back, so I’m curious as to what affect that had on my current condition.
      What kind of a stool test did you get? My ND has recommended one through Genova labs, and I see some mixed reviews about it online (mostly because they seem to be running some kind of interesting payment program that kind of scams insurance companies, in order to bring you lower prices). Just curious if this was the test you did. The results of the test look fascinating (my doc showed me a sample) so I am definitely interested. Did your results change your treatment plan?
      I will definitely keep posting about it. I’m off for about 10 days to my parents house for the holiday and it will be interesting to see how that goes.
      Wishing you lots of luck!

  2. Anna,

    you certainly inspire me to keep going on with the dull diet. The low fodmap diet is the only one that seems to work and it is not easy. I am curious how you make your yoghurt? What cultures (brand) do you use?
    My doctor has advised me to take digestive enzymes. Do you take as well? Has it helped?

    1. It’s definitely not easy, is it? Especially right now. I had a very small cheat last night (some popcorn) and really paid for it overnight with pain and bloating. I make yogurt SCD style (ferments for 24 hours) and use the regular Yogourmet brand that has a few strains, but NOT the Bifidis strain. That’s the one I know I’m supposed to stay away from. It was recommeded that I take a form of HCL/Pepsin, but I had a really bad reaction to it (intense, burning stomach aches) so I’m taking more of a digestive tincture right now. I’m not sure how well it helps. The thing that helps me the most is sticking to the diet, making sure to not overeat, and to fast a few mornings a week. Good luck!

  3. Thanks Anna. How did you find out about Staying away from Bifidus strain? Is it from the symptoms or comprehensive stool test? I Should perhaps ask my doc to do one for me. My doc doesnt think the test results can be accurate. But then all docs don’t think alike. Does your doc support the stool test?

    1. I learned about staying away from the Bifidus strain through the Breaking the Vicious Cycle website and book, which outlines the SCD Diet, which I’m following along with the Low-Fodmap diet. They have a specific type of yogurt you ferment for 24 hours, along with which strains to make it with. It explains it in the book and website. I have just recently been asked by my naturopath to do a stool sample through Genova labs. My doc seems to think that the results will be really helpful. This test, which is only done at this specific lab, comes back with a bacteria type analysis, gives information about inflammation, yeast and all kinds of things. I will be taking it in January once I’m done with the holidays. I’ll be writing about it and how it helps to inform my treatment.

  4. Hi,

    I read in your first update that you started MotilPro to increase your gut motility. Did this help for you?

    1. Hi Jay,

      Yes, I think it has, although I’ve also been getting regular (~1-month) sessions of visceral manipulation to help with gut motility. I’ve had several overuse injuries in my hips/pelvis, which are a factor in my lack of gut motility, so the body work really helps with those. Good luck!

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