I only found out I had SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) in July 2017 after spending two and a half years constantly trying to find out what on earth was going on with my stomach.The before and during the worst of SIBO
I had a very swollen and painful stomach that had started to take over my entire body. From my fingers to my toes, my whole body was swollen and I got to the point where nothing fit me anymore and the more food I ate, the worse it got.
So once I found out I actually had SIBO, I did the Elemental Diet, which had an 80-85% success rate of killing the overgrowth off. All I had to do was drink the liquid powder I had shipped over from USA for two whole weeks. That’s two whole weeks without any food, just the liquid drink.
I decided to do this diet over doing the SIBO Low FODMAP diet with the combo of taking more herbs first, because I was on a bit of a time limit. You see, I was about to embark on an around-the-world trip that I had been saving for the last four years. It was going to be a trip of a lifetime and I definitely didn’t want my SIBO ruining it so I wanted to get rid of it as quickly as possible. When my gut naturopath told me about the Elemental Diet, I was 100% committed to it because I had got to the point where I just couldn’t eat anymore. I had just done 10 days on a green juice cleanse because that’s all I knew would help calm the extreme symptoms down so I thought the Elemental wouldn’t be too difficult.
If you’ve seen my review of the Elemental Diet, you’ll know I actually continued the diet on to 26 days. That’s 26 days of no food whatsoever, just the liquid diet. I continued it on because I felt like it wasn’t working during the first 14 days. Towards the end of the diet, I started to feel great. It was still difficult to walk very far without being in pain, but I felt so much better.
But what happened when I finished the Elemental Diet? What foods did I eat and did it actually work in killing off SIBO? Here’s an update with what’s happened since.
Diet after the Elemental Diet
After I finished the Elemental Diet, I pretty much just ate homemade pumpkin soup for a few days. It’s funny because I couldn’t actually taste any of the first few soups, all I could taste was the elemental drink. The irony of spending the majority of the 26 days wondering what my first few sips of having soup would be like, only to be let down.
But, as soon as I started eating the soup, I didn’t feel light headed anymore, and the diahorrea calmed right down. My poo’s didn’t go back to normal until I reintroduced meat into my diet again. I hadn’t eaten red meat for four years and had gone vegan two years previously (six months AFTER the SIBO symptoms started). I decided to eat meat again because it was honestly my last resort. It’s not something I wanted to do but I knew I was going to have to go onto Low FODMAP which makes up a big percentage of meat in the diet. I had also read a lot of articles of people who had a bloated stomach from being vegan and hoped that maybe that was the reason I had this although SIBO started before I went vegan.
Once I started eating meat, it was like something magically changed. For the first time in over two and a half years, I was producing normal stools. This was massive for me. I also didn’t need that much to eat anymore. You see, on a vegan diet, a lot of food is taken up with grains so I was eating a lot of rice, quinoa, sometimes pasta and potatoes to fill me up. Now all I needed was a small steak and a couple of cooked veggies. That was it. I then introduced eggs into my diet and noticed my stomach was flaring up after three days of eating them so I resorted back to pumpkin soup.
Since I finished the elemental diet six weeks ago, I have pretty much eaten soup almost everyday. I went for about a month on just pumpkin soup for breakfast and lunch with oven roasted pumpkin, parsnips, carrots and sometimes sweet potato with an organic steak for dinner. I’d try new foods out but if something didn’t work and blew my stomach up, I had to go back to the soup.
The problem I’ve found with doing all of the diets (see here for all of the diets I have done so far) is because they were so restrictive, I sometimes just thought sod it, I’ll eat whatever I want and went on a binge eating everything from chocolates to cheese on toast to cereals, you name it. And I was OK eating this for a while, maybe a week or two, then SIBO came back with a vengeance.
In this case, I really didn’t want to do that after everything I went through with the elemental diet, but I did, slowly. I started eating a treat size chocolate almost everyday and I thought I was just invincible, you know, because I had lost all that weight (4 inches off my waist). I lost the swelling, the tiredness, the depression, it had all gone. I thought, I’m better now, I can have this sweet as long as I stick to my pumpkin soup and steak at night surely?
The SIBO retest and results
I then got the retest results back for SIBO. I did the retest about 10 days after I finished the elemental diet when all I was eating was pumpkin soup and steak so at this point I hadn’t started to binge yet. The only herbs I was still taking was the wild oil of oregano. The results came back about 2 weeks later.
I was shocked, it looked like SIBO was worse than when I had my first test. When I did my first test, I was really ill, like a million times worse than when I did my second test, but now the results are worse? I couldn’t believe it. It made me so angry that after all that effort I put in, it made it worse! How could that be? I knew deep down that it hadn’t gone away but at least it made me feel so much better, but for it to be worse? I just didn’t get it.
Here’s the results below:
First test on 13 July 2017
Second test on 27 October 2017
I accidently did 2 breath tests at once during the middle so 10 wasn’t collected. I carried on with the test as normal when I messed it up!So I went back to see my gut naturopath to talk about what to do next. Because I was about to embark on an around the world trip for about a year, he told me to buy the following herbs:
I took these for 3 days and had to stop as my digestion became really bad. For now, I’ve decided to stop taking herbs all together because I honestly believe they were making me worse which is why I’ve had such a bad year with SIBO this year. The only thing I take most days is the wild oil of oregano liquid with water. It worked during the elemental diet and I’ve continued it on although I’m not sure if it’s actually doing anything for now.
Since I wrote my post about having SIBO and my experience on the Elemental Diet, I’ve heard from loads of people who have it too. I never could have imagined how much these posts would have done for me but it’s made me feel a lot better knowing that I’ve helped others in some way. It’s also incredibly comforting to know I am not alone in this process.
I also became friends with Josh from SIBO Survivor. Meeting someone else who has SIBO too was amazing for me. I couldn’t believe that I wasn’t on my own, going through this anymore. But with Josh, he’s come a very long way in his path to treating SIBO. I’ll always remember him saying that SIBO is something you have to learn to control. In that moment, it dawned on me that there isn’t a quick fix to getting rid of SIBO, you just have to be able to learn to manage it through finding out what foods and herbs work for you. And I’m OK with that. Yes it sucks not to be able to eat normally again, but if I can learn to control my symptoms then that’s a whole lot better than being in constant pain and forking out more and more money on trying to fix this. I’m sure you have spent a lot too on SIBO, it’s insane how much it costs because of the lack of knowledge on it out there. Because it’s taken me so long to work out what was wrong with me, I had been putting all the wrong foods in my body, only to make it worse. Now I know I have SIBO, I just have to make sure I don’t keep going on binges anymore.
I read a Facebook post on a SIBO forum recently that said get serious with SIBO, stop dancing around and going on binges, just eat what foods work for you. And they were right. It’s going to take a long time to work out what foods work and what don’t but at least it’s a starting point.
I’ve also made friends with someone else who has SIBO who also lives in Australia and she told me about The Healthy Gut SIBO recipe books. How on earth did I not know these already existed? I bought the phase 1 restricted plan from the site to start a new eating pattern because let’s face it, I can’t be eating pumpkin soup forever but unfortunately a lot of the recipes contained eggs which for me is a no go. I would have definitely done the diet if I didn’t have that intolerance. The good thing about it is, it’s cheap, and at $19.99 so it wasn’t anything to get upset about. For more information about The Healthy Gut recipes books, click here.
But I’m just hoping that when I go off on my travels next month, SIBO will magically disappear. When I went back to UK for three weeks over a year ago, it was the only time SIBO actually went away. I couldn’t believe it. Within two days, I had lost like two dress sizes and my stomach, stools, mood, well everything really went back to normal. I didn’t even change my diet if anything I ate worse foods like sandwiches and chocolate. I’ve heard that when people travel, SIBO can just go away so I really hope that happens because I’m not going to have that much control over what I can eat.
When I went to see the travel doctor recently to get some pills for when I go away, I mentioned I had SIBO and she said quite a few people had seen her with the same symptoms. Her theory was that doxycycline would be able to control it. Now doxy is an anti-malarial but her theory was that if you take a very low dosage of it for the rest of your life, it would control SIBO. She gave me a packet of them (and I’ve taken them before when I spent six months in Africa) to try if my symptoms flare up when I’m away. I’m very curious to see if it will work and will keep you posted on this as I’ve not heard anyone else mention doxy being linked to SIBO.
A really interesting thing that’s happened recently is because I’m about to go away, I quit my job and moved out of my flat in Sydney. As we were about to leave Australia, I had an accident and had to stay put for 6 weeks so we went to stay with The Aussie’s mum a few hours north of Sydney. Almost immediately, the pain in my stomach and back disappeared. But, because I started to binge again on chocolate and cheese toasties, SIBO started to flare up, but with bloating and no pain. It made me wonder, was the pain due to stress? I know the gut and brain are linked and I was told it was to do with stress, a vicious cycle I found hard to get my head around. How can you not be stressed when you’re in so much pain? Going to travel is one of the reasons why I just couldn’t put up with my current life with SIBO anymore, it was taking over everything and made me miserable. I knew a change was needed. So for now, I have no pain and I’ve started to eat better and am actually feeling pretty good. I also don’t look nearly as ill as I was when I lived in Sydney. Maybe that’s to do with it being summer here, but I feel much better that I’m not working in a full time job anymore. I know this isn’t something everyone can do but I’m glad I made a decision to change my life for the better. Being in constant pain was horrible.
Anyway, that’s all the information I have for now on my progress and yep, I’m still on a mission to be able to control it like Josh from SIBO Survivor can and hopefully it won’t flare up too much on my travels.
How are you getting on with your SIBO? I’d love to know in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!
Read more about my SIBO story below: