One of the things I love about the digital world is being able to connect with others across the world. Josh, based in the US, got in touch recently after setting up Sibo Survivor, keen to share his experiences as someone living with IBS-SIBO. He’s written a guest post packed with helpful tips and, as you read through them, you’ll notice his positive outlook on managing life with this disruptive digestive condition.
Just a note that these tips are based on Josh’s experiences and of course individual experiences will vary. Advice should always be sought from a trained health professional before making any changes to your diet and/or lifestyle.
Enough from me, it’s over to Josh!
6 Top Tips I’ve Learned Living With IBS-SIBO
Living with a digestive condition like IBS-SIBO can be challenging. You have to monitor what you eat and change your lifestyle to accommodate your intestinal symptoms. You end up trying tons of different diets, supplements, and treatment approaches to reduce symptoms. It definitely spices up your life a lot and keeps you on your toes!
My name is Josh from Sibo Survivor and I live with SIBO or small intestine bacterial overgrowth which is found to be a link in IBS. It is a tricky condition to manage but I’ve learned a lot living with bowel troubles. I want to share my top tips for anyone else struggling with stomach issues so that you can learn from my experiences and live a better quality of life.
1.Eating a Healthy Whole Food Low-FODMAP Diet Helps
I have found that the foundation to minimizing symptoms with IBS-SIBO starts with your diet. While diet will not cure you it is an important part of the equation. Throughout my experiences, I have found a low-FODMAP diet without a ton of artificial sugar and processed food really helps control symptoms. If I had to estimate how much it helps reduce my symptoms I would say around 60%.
I have found that watching the types of carbohydrates you put into your body and the amount really helps as well since bacteria feed on carbohydrates. I stay away from lots of cruciferous vegetables as too much fiber is also detrimental. Keep in mind though that it is good to eat a variety of different foods since you want to get enough nutrients and calories in.
The foods that cause my symptoms to flare up the most are lactose, excess fruit, highly fermentable vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, and artificial sugars.
2.Allowing Time Between Meals for Cleansing Waves
We have a cleansing wave in our small intestine called the migrating motor complex. This cleansing wave acts as a cleaner of the small intestine sweeping bacteria and food down your digestive tract when you fast. In people who have SIBO, research has shown that they have reduced cleansing waves. This means it is important to allow some fasting time ideally around 3-4 hours between meals to allow this function to work.
One other trick that I highly recommend for anyone with bowel issues like IBS is to eat dinner before 8 at night. From 8 PM to when you rise in the morning you have your longest period of fasting. It is important to allow this time for digestion to occur since people with bowel issues often times have damaged motility. Give it a try and see how you feel.
3.Find Time For Relaxation and Recovery
When you live with a chronic illness it is important to reduce the amount of stress in your life. Our bodies are already working extra hard to support themselves so we need to do ourselves a favor and find time to get away from the madness of life.
I have found that taking at least 1 day per week completely off from working is essential. Also, if you are an introvert like me then take some time to yourself. Use this time to watch a Netflix series, go for a swim, hike, jump in the bath, or read a good book. We owe it to our bodies to let them recover from the daily stresses. There has been plenty of research that shows that stress reduces digestive motility which is important for SIBO.
It also helps to find a low-stress activity like yoga, walking, swimming, meditation, or light lifting. It is important to keep your body somewhat active but you don’t want to kill yourself because that can cause more harm to your system if you aren’t strong enough. Personally, since I live in Southern California I try to go surfing once or twice a week!
4.Find Work You Are Passionate or Interested In
Do more things that you really care about or love. An illness can be a blessing in disguise. It can help you realize what really matters in life and nudge you towards the things that matter. I have found since living with this digestive disease that my body lets me know when I’m doing something that’s not good for me. Listen to your gut!
A lot of your time will be spent working to provide for yourself. Keep searching for an occupation that you love or a job or business that you are passionate about. I have found that when I’m doing something I really enjoy or am fascinated by that it gets my mind off of my symptoms. This can help reduce anxiety and stress.
5.Find a Caring and Smart Doctor Who is Open To Testing
Finding a great doctor can be a challenge. Keep searching because they are out there. It really does help to have a holistic gastroenterologist who is willing to keep working with you until you get better. Living with IBS-SIBO takes a lot of experimenting with diet, supplements, and treatments to find your ideal management system.
Personally, it has taken me a few years to get my body back to a more normal state. I’ve tried a lot of different treatment options natural and pharmaceutical. I’ve studied a lot of the latest research on IBS and used that to discuss treatment options with my doctor. It has been super helpful to have a doctor who is willing to try different treatments and supplements since there is no cure for the condition.
Continue to take a holistic approach to your health and work with a great doctor who can support you when you’re feeling bad. A chronic illness like IBS is much more than your gut symptoms. Sometimes a doctor who is just willing to give you a hug and let you know that you will be ok helps. One of the toughest parts about living with a digestive condition is the isolation people experience. You need support.
6.Hot Tea, Planning, Drugs, and Love
Lastly, I have found a few tricks very helpful like hot herbal teas. I drink decaffeinated herbal teas like peppermint, cinnamon spice, and other herbal blends. These help calm my gut down and aid digestion. I have found that routinely drinking herbal tea can be beneficial for my condition.
Epsom salt baths help people with gut issues as well. Epsom salt contains magnesium which helps relax your body and ease pain. I try to get a bath in once a week because it allows my body to soak up some magnesium and allows for relaxation.
It helps to plan ahead. For me, living with IBS-SIBO can be uncertain since I don’t know if my stomach will be acting up or not. This is why it helps to at least have a plan of action for your day and work activities. Go through a plan for the worst case scenario so that if you aren’t feeling great you have a strong mindset and are ready to handle the challenges.
The right drugs can help. I am definitely the kind of person who likes to take natural approaches to treatment but I have learned over time living with this condition that it is important to take drugs which may help you. I would advise always starting with natural approaches to treatment but I would also say that there is a need for drugs in some cases. It is important to work with an excellent doctor and get the help you need.
Surround yourself with loving people. When you are healing you need to be around people who are understanding and willing to cut you some slack when you are struggling. Yes, it is important to also have someone who will motivate you a little bit and keep you going but you need love in your life to heal.
Thanks Josh! xo