I’d been waiting to get the results of all of my tests to update you all on my “IBS”.
(Read about my initial doctor’s appointment here.)
As expected, my celiac test came back negative, but I do have one of the genetic markers that makes me susceptible to the disease. My thyroid was also normal.
Then last Friday my doctor’s office called me and told me that my SIBO test (that one I had to fast 12 hours for — read about it here) was positive. I have Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth, and my doctor prescribed me 10 days of an antibiotic called Xifaxin. They asked that I make a follow up appointment when I finish the medicine.
**Note: My doctor wasn’t even going to run this test on me, but I specifically asked for it. If you are having GI issues with no known cause, ask for this test! It’s expensive, though, so make sure your insurance covers it. **
At first I was happy just to figure out what was wrong! “IBS” is a pretty annoying thing to have because it’s not a true diagnosis and is rather just a collection of symptoms. You just have to try to figure things out on your own, which was proving very difficult. At least SIBO is something!
What is SIBO?
However, after reading more about SIBO to figure out how to handle it, it got a little frustrating. There is no real known cause of SIBO (though there are a few suspects, such as chronic stress), and it has a very high recurrence rate. That’s not to say this is for everyone, but many people end up having to go on the antibiotics repeatedly because the SIBO keeps coming back.
SIBO is pretty new to the mainstream digestive arena (I’ve heard it described as how celiac and gluten intolerance were 5 years ago) so there isn’t a whole lot of research on it yet. What I can find, for example from Dr. Andrew Weil, is that making some dietary changes is a good way to assist the antibiotics in healing your digestive system and preventing the SIBO from returning. Natural herbs are also used as a remedy, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing those without the help of a natural/holistic expert because I’ve heard they are very strong.
The dietary recommendations for SIBO focus on eliminating sugars that “feed” the bacteria and cause fermentation in your small intestine. The Elemental Diet is one that has about a 80% success rate, but I could NOT do it. It is just 2 weeks of drinking this “pre-digested food” concoction that supposedly tastes awful. It provides all the nutrients you need but starves the bacteria in your intestines of the food it needs to live.
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (which is very similar to and incorporates some of FODMAPS) is recommended as an easier version of the GAPS diet. Basically it limits just the foods that are feeding the bad bacteria in your intestines. These are mainly carbohydrates of the di- and polysaccharide variety. Luckily monosaccharides are okay because they are broken down before they get to your small intestine. I say luckily because that means there are still fruits and vegetables that I can eat! It does mean no grains or lactose (which probably explains why eliminating dairy made me feel better!) which could prove difficult.
SIBO Is strongly related to anemia, as it often disrupts absorption of iron in your small intestine. I’m wondering if that’s why I’ve been so exhausted lately and requiring so much sleep with extra naps. I will be SO happy if taking care of my SIBO gives me more energy!
I started my antibiotic last Saturday and I’m really hoping that it gives me some relief. My dad (a GI doctor) is on board with making some dietary changes to assist in the removal of the bacteria, and I will talk to my GI doctor here in Louisville about it at my follow-up appointment. I can’t do anything too drastic until after the Bourbon Chase next weekend since running that much won’t go well if I remove so many carbohydrates. After that I can focus on rest, yoga, some weights and definitely less cardio endurance which will go better with the SIBO diet requirements.
I don’t know how this will play out or how strict I’ll end up being. I tend to go back and forth about how I feel about it, and am NOT good at eliminating sugar. I am way better at talking the talk than walking the walk – dietary changes are TOUGH! It’s going to take a lot of food prep and planning if I do it right, but I know it’ll be worth it to feel better. I’ll probably just do my best and not sweat the small stuff.
For more information on SIBO and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, check out these resources:
IBS and Digestion Reading List (My post!)
If anyone has experience with SIBO or anything I’ve talked about in this post, please let me know!