This is a topic that’s been far from easy to write about; it’s my stomach. Nope, before you ask, I’m not pregnant and I’ve been asked that a lot recently. I say recently but what I mean is, I’ve had the most swollen, bloated, could be 8 month’s pregnant looking belly for over two years now. Yep, you heard it, TWO WHOLE YEARS. I think there are a lot of people out there who might have had the same thing so I wanted to share my story to hopefully help you understand to not give up on finding out what’s wrong and to keep pushing for answers.
I’ve been through the worst time, having no idea what on earth was wrong with me. It’s been unbelievably painful (physically and mentally), confidence destroying (to put it lightly) and food limiting experience of my life, until recently, the heavens opened and some sort of magical angel came down and just like that, I got a diagnosis! I HAVE SIBO.
You’ll see some pictures of my stomach throughout this post. I actually only took them of my severe bloating to send to my brother back in England so he could understand what I was going through. It’s a bit weird showing them to you but I knew I needed to, to create this post. Here’s my before SIBO days and currently now with SIBO. The difference is dramatic.
SIBO stands for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. When you’ve been on a journey, having no idea what’s wrong with you for so long, having a diagnosis means everything.
It’s been horrendous, but I’ve sort of been waiting to finally get somewhere with this before I shared it on Londoner In Sydney. I wanted to be able to tell my story, of how I over-came it and what I did to at least help others going through it and to let you know you are not alone. I haven’t over-come it yet, but I think (and hope) I’m on the right path which is the biggest path I’ve been on since this started. I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of money on trying to sort this out, but money becomes priceless when you go through this kind of pain. I’ve been to so many doctors, screamed at doctors, had surgery, scans, been on various diets, even seen a Medium in the hope they would be able to foresee my future without this problem, and anything else I could do to find out what was going on with me.
Here’s my story of how I’ve had a bloated stomach for 2 years which led to me finally finding out I have SIBO.
In June 2015, I woke up one night with the worst stabbing pains in my stomach that I actually passed out on my floor on the way to the bathroom. It worried me but because I was so busy with my job, I actually put it down to being over worked, stressed and tired (a classic doctors diagnosis). My stomach started to flare up randomly. I thought it was down to eating chocolates sometimes in the office (that would be all I could eat when I was working until 9pm most nights) after I’d been on a very healthy diet for 18 month’s previously.
By December 2015, I was in so much pain with my stomach and lower back, I was calling in sick from work and after having many scans, CT scans, blood tests, poo tests, and so on, the doctor referred me to a gut specialist because there were no red flags. I decided to go down the route of having a gastroscopy and endoscopy where they put tubes down my throat to see what was going on. Again nothing came up. I just didn’t get it; how could there be nothing wrong with me when I’m seeing a dramatic change in my body?Another before and after image
So, the only thing that would clear it up was doing a 10 day juice cleanse which is what I did every 3-4 months. This worked for about 6 weeks and then it would just magically came back out of nowhere. I put it down to certain foods but it was so random, it just didn’t make any sense. I gave up alcohol which helped but when I did drink again, it would just add to my swollen body. You see, my entire body was swollen, from my thighs, legs, boobs, even hands, it wasn’t just my stomach.
During Christmas 2016, I was in a hotel room in Melbourne crawled up on the floor in the biggest pain of my life. I didn’t know what to do. It felt like someone was actually stabbing my stomach. We waited it out for half an hour and in two minds whether to go to hospital, but it got better. I went to the doctors the next day to be prescribed some constipation tablets. I knew there was more going on with that pain than constipation.
So, beginning of January 2017, I started the year with another juice cleanse. I knew it would help big time before I started a new job. I didn’t want to be in pain, or worrying about this with a big new job on my hands, worst of all, it seemed to cause depression and I wanted to be in the right frame of mind for this job. It worked for about 2 weeks until the bloating and pain started to come back with random bouts of depression from time to time.
The Diet Route
I gave up alcohol again on Jan 1 2017 to help with it all and I decided to go down the diet route seeing as no-one could work out what was happening to me. I’ve had so many people think I was ill because I was vegan, but the funny thing is, it all started six months before I even turned vegan so I knew that wasn’t right.
I Quit Sugar Diet
I started on the Sarah Wilson 8 week I Quit Sugar diet. Now I love my fruit and although I wasn’t a big fan of her ethos, I was desperate and started to think, it must be from all of the fruit I eat – it’s feeding it. So I gave her diet a go for 8 weeks. It made me worse. Her diet was bizarre, which included processed pastries, eating loads of processed carbs like pasta, freezing most of my food, and basically just a lot of foods I wouldn’t usually eat.
The No Carb Diet
So I went and saw a herbalist and she gave me a load of concoctions to take. I told her my symptoms and she said she had something similar to me before which felt amazing to hear that someone had been through something similar and had been CURED. She directed me to a Chiropratic naturopath based on the other side of Sydney (1h30m drive each way from my home). I thought, if she can be cured, then so could I! So I went to see her. She put me on an extreme version of the Low FODMAP diet, literally called a no carb diet and as a vegan I could only certain veggies that were only grown above the ground, avo’s and nuts. I ate A LOT of nuts and it was THE worst diet I have ever done. I was very ill, with zero energy and I’d fall asleep with exhaustion as soon as I got home from work everyday. I did that for two very long months.
After 6 sessions of muscle test after muscle test from the Chiropratic Naturopath, every week she was making me buy more pills from her pharmacy in the reception of the clinic. It was making me worse. The pain used to be on my left side by my bowl, now it was consuming my entire stomach to the point where The Aussie couldn’t hug me, it hurt too much.
So I sacked this chiro off. I was angry, I’d spent a lot of money again with her to only feel worse.
Through all the pills I was made to buy, my digestion was getting worse. Food felt like it was sitting at the top of my rib cage and burping was all that would relieve it for me. I was constantly burping all day long. I also didn’t have a period for months. From Dec-June 2017 I had like 2.
The Medical Medium Diet
I was at the point of having absolutely no idea what to eat, or what to do anymore. A friend guided me to Anthony William, known as The Medical Medium. He’s claimed since the age of 4, he could spot and cure unexplained illnesses through his spirit guide he magically calls ‘Spirit’. I bought his book straight away and read the whole thing in a day.
Finally, I found other people with unexplained illnesses. This was a huge relief.
I signed up to his Facebook page straight away and started his protocol diet of eating only raw food with pure celery juice first thing everyday. He claimed celery juice is the only cure for stomach problems. And it worked (for a while). As soon as I ditched the awful extreme no carb diet and started having smoothies and fresh salads, I felt amazing. My skin cleared up, I could finally exercise again and it was amazing… for 2 weeks.
I noticed with all of these diets, within the first 4 days, I felt much better, like I thought I had cracked it with what was happening to me. In actual fact, I was wrong. The Medical Medium diet was the longest working diet for me and made me feel great for two whole weeks. I continued on the diet, mixing in spiralina, barely wheat grass and wild blueberries into my diet. At least my concentration was back and I felt focused again.
The Digestive Wellness Clinic
Eating raw only made my digestion worse. Food just wouldn’t stay down at all. I got to the point of not knowing what to do anymore so The Aussie found a naturopath gut specialist in the city called Matt from The Digestive Wellness Clinic. He had this understandable presence about him and so the next steps were to do another poo test which I did. It came back clear and after reading about SIBO thanks to The Medical Medium, I asked if I could do a SIBO test which he was also going to suggest. After breathing into a bag every 20 minutes for 3 hours at home, I sent it off and it came back positive! Amelia Liana taking the SIBO test. She talks about her battles with SIBO in her You Tube video here.
I also went to a doctors to do some blood tests as well which came back negative and it was THE worst doctors I have ever been to. The doctor was terrible. She never had any recollection of my previous appointments with her, so I’d turn up for a blood test and she’d say why are you here? She also didn’t have any idea about SIBO which I’ve noticed none of the doctors I have ever been to have heard of SIBO. I had to advise her on how to help future patients with similar symptoms! I ended up walking out with the dramatic, I’m never coming back here again fiasco.
The Emotional Trauma
So after more than two years of going through a painful, bloated stomach where it’s not only been physically painful but also mentally. Having such a swollen stomach which would flare up at any given moment has meant that I’ve had to give up on my love of fashion because I just can’t buy anything anymore (probably a good thing for the pennies) but also, I’ve ended up selling most of my clothes because I just can’t fit into anything after putting on so much weight. I now have to wear floaty (baggy) tops and dresses most of the time to the point where I’ve had heavily pregnant women ask me where I got my dress from because they wanted to buy it too! I’ve also aged a lot in this process as well. It’s funny because I’ve been told that it’s all emotional and that your emotions can be related to your stomach, but how does one get out of this cycle? I have done loads of meditation and yoga courses during this time to help but I’ve noticed that it doesn’t matter whether I’m happy or sad, it’s still there.
How Did I Get SIBO?
How did this all start? Here’s the interesting but heart breaking fact I learnt. I was invited to a sit down press event dinner at a well known Sydney restaurant back in February 2015. As I sat opposite the oyster farmer from the restaurant that night, he went on to explain how his oysters were the best in Australia whilst we were eating them (pre-vegan days). That night and for the next three days, I had food poisoning. It turns out this is what caused my SIBO. If only the restaurant knew what they had put me through all this time…
I ended up buying new jeans a few weeks ago (3 sizes bigger than I used to be), yet they are now too small.
How To Cure SIBO
Matt from The Digestive Wellness Clinic told me there’s two way to cure SIBO, either take some herbs called BACTRAX and follow a similar Low FODMAP diet or splash the cash ($670) to do the Physicians Elemental Diet – a diet originally formulated for astronauts in space which consists of nutrients condensed into a powdered form to be taken with water for 2 whole weeks, five times a day and only that – no food, just a powdered drink that’s supposed to be pretty foul tasting.
The Elemental Diet kills off the SIBO.
After spending so long with this problem, I decided this was the avenue I wanted to take. I’ve researched the option of antibiotics but there’s only a 45% chance of it working or worse off, making it worse. The Elemental Diet gives you an 85% chance of it succeeding. If it just means drinking a rank drink for two weeks then sign me up!
The Physicians Elemental Diet comes in powdered form and shipped from USA.
If it actually works, the next process will be keeping it from coming back. There are a few elemental diets to choose from, one where you can make it yourself, one by Nestle (of all companies!) and this one, the Physicians Elemental Diet which is where you need to get a prescription from the doctor. It’s also meant to be the best of the three and not as bad tasting either.
I’ll be documenting the elemental diet, going into more details about it with a video of my entire experience throughout the two weeks, so look out for my next post and I’ll keep you updated with my ongoing road to recovery.
Have you had any gut problems similar to this or any unexplained illnesses? I’d really like to hear about them below because it seriously helps to have the support from others who are going through or have been through something like this too.
Thanks for reading!