I’ve written a few articles in the past about how to naturally manage minor digestive discomfort, but today, I’m going to get a little deeper (and a little more personal).
Nutrition is more than a passion for me, it’s personal. Some of us, including me, deal with GI issues on a daily basis. And I must confess, after 12 years of this, I’m fed up!
As I’ve been working to get to the root cause of my issues, I have become so much more knowledgeable in the area of digestive health. Maintaining a healthy GI system is absolutely critical for overall health. 70% of our immune system exists in our gut, so if your gut isn’t healthy, then you’re not healthy.
In fact, chronic GI issues can lead to other conditions such as headaches, skin conditions, joint pain, fatigue, brain fog, weight gain or weight loss.
Personally, I’ve been dealing with chronic digestive issues for the past 12 years involving just about every GI symptom you can imagine. Don’t worry; I won’t get too graphic. 🙂 Through numerous doctor visits, I’ve received diagnoses of IBS, food intolerances, leaky gut, fructose intolerance, and small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
While this is all overwhelming, and it has been a rough ride, I feel like I’m beginning to make sense of everything. The SIBO was confirmed through a thorough test, and I believe it is accurate. SIBO is a bacterial infection in the small intestine and occurs when there are abnormally large numbers of harmful bacteria present.
I also feel that it has caused everything else- food intolerances, leaky gut, etc. Based on the common symptoms of SIBO- abdominal pain, cramping, abdominal fullness, unintentional weight loss, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, headaches, joint pain, fatigue– this diagnosis seemed very accurate.
In fact, many people with IBS may actually have SIBO, and I would recommend getting tested if you still experience painful symptoms.
So what now? How do you treat this problem? There are antibiotics that have been shown to help kill off the bad bacteria. Probably the best one out there for this treatment is Xifaxan (rifaximin). I am basing this statement on my research and my Gastroenterologist’s recommendation.
However, going on an antibiotic for 7 days isn’t going to work long term. Incorporating the right type of diet can help heal your gut and keep it healed. Plus, incorporating probiotics to promote the growth of good bacteria is strongly advised.
In regards to diet, there are several out there targeted specifically for SIBO and other GI conditions. A few are GAPS (Gut and Psychology Diet), SCD (Strict Carb Diet), Low FODMAPS Diet, and Body Ecology Diet. While they are all a little different in the foods that are allowed, they have some similarities.
The most important guideline is eliminating sugar. Sugar feeds bad bacteria, so a good way to starve the bacteria and promote healing is by avoiding sugar. See below for the general guidelines:
- No grains or gluten-free only grains
- Fermented foods and drinks like cultured vegetables, coconut water kefir, and regular kefir
- Homemade bone broth
- Limited fruit consumption
- No refined sugar (limited natural sugar)
- Organic, lean protein- chicken, fish, eggs, lean beef, turkey, etc.
- No beans
- Lots of non-starchy vegetables mostly cooked
- Limited nuts
The challenge for me and many others with gut issues is maintaining a healthy weight. Malabsorption of nutrients is very common and can result in weight loss even if you’re taking in a reasonable number of calories.
So, I’ve begun consuming some mega-calorie smoothies for my afternoon snack in hopes of adding pounds. You can check out some of the sample recipes here. If you’re dealing with some of these same symptoms and have not found relief, then a change in your diet may be very helpful.
I’ve always been a healthy eater, but since I’ve cut out sugar and cut down on certain fruits, grains, and beans, I’ve felt better.
If you want more information, click here for a great list of handouts on the different diets and general information. I’ve found this site to be very helpful. I’d love to hear your thoughts and your experiences with any of these diets.
As seen in MindBodyGreen