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I found out I had SIBO after over a year of abdominal pain

I found out I had SIBO after over a year of abdominal pain

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  • For over a year I had abdominal pain and other gastrointestinal problems.
  • I tried to reduce my stress levels but this did not relieve my symptoms.
  • I went to a gastroenterologist and was diagnosed with SIBO, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.

I’ve always had a sensitive stomach. I’ve known since I was a kid that eating fried foods, lots of pasta, and lots of dairy products can cause stomach aches that last almost 24 hours. Then, two years ago, everything I ate started making me feel sick and bloated.

For over a year I ignored my symptoms – until I started experiencing diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue and loss of appetite. I convinced myself that stress was to blame, so I did what I could to reduce my stress levels; I meditated, added exercise to my schedule, and tried to get more sleep. But for the most part these things didn’t do much to relieve my symptoms.

Finally, after struggling to climb the stairs in my house eight months ago, I decided to see a gastroenterologist, a doctor who specializes in diseases and disorders of the digestive system.

The gastroenterologist diagnosed SIBO, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth

As I sat in the doctor’s office, I realized how tired I was and how bad I felt every day. After the exam, the doctor sent me home with a stool culture kit to test for salmonella. She also provided breath test at home to measure fermented gases (hydrogen, methane, and hydrogen sulfide) in my gut.

The stool sample was negative for salmonella. But the breath test came back positive for SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, bacterial imbalance in the small intestine as a result of slow bowel movement.

Although my gastroenterologist isn’t sure how my SIBO developed, she said that stress may have caused the intestinal infection. Mayo Clinic reports that SIBO can also result from surgery or diseases that affect the small intestine.

My first attempt at treating SIBO failed, but I continued

As soon as I was diagnosed with SIBO, I was desperate to get rid of it. I saw a nutritionist who recommended that I treat my SIBO with an antibiotic and an expensive powder called Elementary Diet of Doctorswhich involved drinking a mixture of powder and water every 45 minutes for two weeks as my only form of sustenance.

When I got home and started the diet, I struggled to get the mixture down without gagging. At one point I was so sick and had a raging headache. I watched YouTube videos of people who had gone through this diet to try to convince me to study but eventually gave up. I knew getting rid of SIBO would be a challenge, but I didn’t want to feel even sicker than I already felt to do it.

I called the gastroenterologist who suggested I treat the SIBO with temp low FODMAP diet. FODMAP (which stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols) is an acronym for a specific type of carbohydrate that can be particularly difficult to digest. I turned it on low FODMAP foods like eggs, meat, almond milk, oats, rice, zucchini and oranges in my meals and avoided wheat, lactose, legumes, apples, avocados and sweeteners like honey and corn syrup.

My symptoms have eased. After four weeks on this strict diet, I reintroduced foods one at a time for three weeks to try to determine which foods might be causing symptoms. A study published in October linked a low-FODMAP diet to a reduction in symptom severity in people with gastrointestinal diseases, including SIBO. This is because the diet reduces the intake of carbohydrates, which can ferment in the gut and stimulate bacterial overgrowth.

I have learned that large amounts of soft cheeses and gluten cause stomach discomfort, so I refrain from eating them.

Now I know how to keep my symptoms at bay

Five months after completing my low-FODMAP diet and reintroducing foods, I felt like a new person. I wasn’t tired, my mood had improved and my stomach pain was minimal.

But in the last month as I have attended holiday gatherings and calmed down my SIBO-friendly dietI started to feel discomfort in my stomach and sometimes I had to force myself to eat.

Although it is frustrating, I have made an appointment with my gastroenterologist and plan to have another breath test. If I am diagnosed with SIBO again, I know that a low FODMAP diet along with meditation and hiking can help ease my symptoms and stress.


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