This is the story of an IBS and SIBO sufferer who has learnt how to manage his symptoms by changing his lifestyle and diet.
Hi Josh, would you like to share your story with the readers of Journey Into The Low FODMAP Diet?
My name is Josh and I am a fellow IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth) sufferer and survivor. Like a lot of people, I’ve struggled with the digestive disease throughout my life. I’ve been at a point where it was hard seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I have managed being a college baseball player, moving across the country, and graduating from college. Learning to treat and manage SIBO was a struggle and I often found myself lonely and in a dark state of mind trying anything to feel better. I understand the silent suffering that people with this disease experience.
My story started a number of years ago, when I came down with nasty digestive symptoms while in college. I recall a bad episode of food poisoning which may have helped trigger the condition. It was most likely a combination of genetics, altered gut flora, and food poisoning which helped contribute to the disease. It’s very difficult to pinpoint the exact causes. Anyway, I began to have the typical symptoms like gas/bloating, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, and the feeling of being infected. These symptoms were very severe, and like most people, I tried everything possible to feel better. It was devastating, especially as a younger kid in college. This is when I started searching for ways to reduce my symptoms. I started trying different diets, medications, and natural supplements.
How has SIBO affected your personal life and your relationships?
It has been a challenge. I’ve struggled to keep relationships, skipped classes, had gut attacks in the worst places like on a plane or at an important event. I’ve lost a lot of friends because I wasn’t able to hang out 24/7 and do typical things 20 year old kids do. I had to self-teach myself to get through college and had a hard time sitting through a full class. It was often times really difficult to fit in with normal kids in college since a lot of people that age like to drink, party, and indulge in comfort food.
Getting sick also ended my childhood dream of becoming a pro baseball player. I know what it feels like to have your confidence and hope stripped out from under you. I have found it fascinating how your gut affects your mood, energy, brain function, and much more. Going from a strong college baseball player to someone who lost 20 pounds and sat on the bench because his strength was zapped was tough.
When were you diagnosed with SIBO and what tests did you do to get a diagnosis?
I was officially diagnosed in 2014 with IBS and small intestine bacterial overgrowth from my gastroenterologist even though I had been experiencing the symptoms a year before that. I undertook hydrogen breath testing which showed an abnormal flat-line test result, indicating hydrogen sulfide producers.
I am a typical IBS-SIBO patient. The name IBS is really just a diagnosis of exclusion meaning the doctor has ruled out other bowel diseases and doesn’t quite know what is wrong. I did the typical colonoscopy and endoscopy which didn’t show any structural damages. That is one of the most frustrating parts about living with the condition because it is so uncertain.
In term of diet, what type of diet do you follow that does not exacerbate IBS symptoms?
Since being diagnosed, I have been following a low FODMAP diet, which helps keep my symptoms under control. I have found foods like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, garlic, onions, and many fruits like apples are not good for my gut. I stay away from all dairy, artificial sugar, and processed foods.
I consume very little fruit. I am able to eat carbohydrates like rice, potatoes, and occasional sourdough bread. My gut does well with root vegetables like carrots, rutabaga, zucchini, squash, and I can even have mushrooms. I have found that controlling the amount of carbs I eat as well as limiting high FODMAP foods is the most helpful for me. I only drink water and tea and avoid dairy. I also try and allow 3-4 hours between meals to let my cleaning waves work. Personally, I do not do well with alcohol so I stay away from drinking for the most part.
What are the lifestyle changes you have made since being diagnosed with SIBO?
I have learnt to manage stress by incorporating light exercise like surfing, walking, and hiking which I love. I also make sure to get enough sleep and live an overall healthy lifestyle. I think getting sick has been a blessing in disguise in this regard because it has forced me to really re-evaluate my life and dive into things I am really passionate about. I find that when I am not doing something I enjoy my body has a way of letting me know.
How can people get in touch with you?
You can get in touch with me at my website SIBOSurvivor.com. I created the site to share valuable information I’ve learned on my health journey and to create products and services that improve quality of life for people with digestive issues. I’d love if you checked it out!