Hello to my fellow SIBO peeps! I hope you all had a symptom-free Fourth of July (for those that celebrate it). I wasn’t plagued by any of my digestive-related symptoms for the holiday, which I am extremely happy about (but I did have a pretty gnarly headache throughout the weekend, which has been coming and going everyday this week as well). This past weekend, I took the breath test again to see where my numbers are at. When I initially spoke with my doctor, I was still pretty symptomatic, so I believed that re-taking the test would just give us information on my progress, without thinking there would be a chance of the test coming back negative. My doctor also ordered the IBS Detex blood test finally, which is Quest’s version of the test created by Dr. Pimentel, which ultimately identifies if your SIBO is autoimmune in nature (the autoimmune response is from your body creating these anti-Vinculin antibodies, which basically attack your Migrating Motor Complex – you can read more about it here). I’m still waiting to hear back for both tests and will definitely update you all with the results.
My doctor actually explained to me when ordering the breath test that most patients feel the best post-antibiotics about 4-6 weeks afterwards, so relief is not instant for most people–which I can say aligns with my experience. Since I have now been off the antibiotics for about 4 weeks, I can say that I feel 60-70% better. I’m not getting the gurgling-gas feeling that I normally have within an hour of a meal. My bowel movements are super regular. I’m feeling like I can eat more simple carbohydrates like fruit without having a reaction. I am not completely symptom free, and I’m still treading carefully around higher FODMAP foods, but I am incorporating a few while keeping my symptoms low. I think there is a chance that my breath test could come back negative, or at least significant improvement. I actually feel hopeful for the first time since getting this diagnosis, and I feel like even if I’m not negative for SIBO yet (or in the case of autoimmunity, never will stay in remission), I know I can manage this condition. Prior to feeling all the symptom improvement, I had purchased a bunch of herbals to take under the guidance of my integrative dietitian. Since I already spent all the money on them, I decided to proceed with taking them. I will stop if my results come back negative, which I expect to receive in a few days. I started at a full dose rather than starting low and ramping it up because my body tends to not react much to medicine, and I haven’t felt any negative effects, which signals to me that there isn’t die off because there’s nothing left to kill… so I’m super hopeful about that!
Regardless of the outcome, I will keep updating this blog, hopefully with some lifestyle tips that help me manage having digestive issues. So far, I will say the biggest thing that has helped me is just planning ahead as much as possible. The answer for why this is so helpful is two-fold: (1) Managing stress with IBS/SIBO is probably the number one key to feeling better. I know that SIBO isn’t brought on by stress, but it certainly can be exacerbated by it. If you aren’t sleeping well because you’re worrying about things, it has a compounding effect. One of my biggest SIBO symptoms is fatigue, so getting a good night’s sleep has been crucial, and a huge factor in that is keeping stress low–so for me, even if my life is a predictable routine, I like it that way so much better than dealing with the stress of trying to figure out what to eat, when to do the shopping, whether or not to go to the gym, etc. And (2) it gives me more time to do the things I enjoy doing, like spending time with my boyfriend, family, and puppy!
Also remember, it’s about being flexible. I am not very flexible when it comes to my “schedule”, but I can be when I need to be. Yesterday, I went to my parents’ house for Fourth of July dinner (on a work night! – this is rare for me). I knew beforehand that I still wanted to be in bed by about 9pm (yes, I know that’s early, but that works for me– I need a minimum of about 8 hours of sleep every night, and I wake up at 5am so I have time to work out before going to work, which sets my digestive system up for success too!). My life is very regimented normally, so my plans for the evening were to take a shower, prepare my breakfast and lunch in advance (sometimes I cook eggs in the morning, but I wanted chia pudding, which needs to soak overnight), and also lay out some clothes for the next day (both a gym outfit and work clothes). Since I knew I wouldn’t be coming back until later, I took my stress out of the equation by working ahead. I took a shower before heading over to my parents’ house, prepared my meals early, and laid out weather-appropriate clothes. By thinking ahead, I was able to enjoy my time with my family much more, knowing I could come home and basically put on my pajamas and head to bed. Of course, we’re all different and what works for me may not work for some of you, but preparation is huge for me.
Anyways, I will continue with the herbal protocol until I hear the results of my SIBO test! Wish me luck ya’ll!