happiness

SIBO: Inflammation

Well the good news is I’m feeling much better than I have been – both during my horrid shake drinking episode and the weeks that preceded that. Unfortunately I’m still feeling pretty crappy – but I’ll take it compared to where I’ve been

I saw my naturopath the other day to assess were we are at and figure out what to do moving ahead. His concern is that I seem to still have a lot of inflammation. I agree- I can feel it throughout my body. And I’m so, so, so tired from all of this.

The inflammation part I am kind of curious about. I think I’ve had inflammation in my body for years- decades. And on a side note, I think I’ve had some pretty intense food intolerances that have periodically created inflammation as well as other things since I was a little kid. But I’ve had a few weird inflammation flare-ups in the last 20 years or so. After I had the boy my tailbone became so sore I couldn’t sit for 2.5 years. It was awful – I sought help everywhere you could think of and had some pretty amazing professionals on my side. But I couldn’t seem to get the pain to go away, until finally it did and I immediately got pregnant with the girl (no tailbone pain with her fortunately). Years later I had plantar fasciitis for almost 2 years – that was awful as I could barely walk. I worked for a long time with my chiropractor and eventually it went away too. Not too long after that, I developed a frozen shoulder and could barely move that arm for almost a year. But then I left my marriage and so many of those issues went away. I figured it was extreme stress that brought on many of my physical issues.

I still think a lot of this is brought on by stress. Life (thank Goodness) has been a lot more quiet the last couple of years, but I’m still processing and recovering from the shitstorm that we walked through and apparently that is also what my body is doing. I’m learning how to have a better relationship with myself, learning kindness, learning to rest (as opposed to sitting and stressing and calling that rest), and deepening my relationship with the Divine.

Whatever this is that I’m going through I feel like I’ll be a happier and much more complete human when I reach the other side- but damn this has been a long journey. I’m really grateful for all the people I’ve got in my life who share their love and support. I haven’t talked recently about my “tribe”, but I continue to feel very blessed and thankful for the people who God has put in my life.

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happiness

SIBO: ElementALL Diet Day 9

I quit! I was hoping to make it until next Monday when I see my naturopath, but this morning after I had my 26th shake in a row I felt like complete crap. Foggy head, massive anxiety, upset stomach, and just gross gross gross.

Is it more die off? Is it a reaction to one of the ingredients? I don’t know. All I did know was that I wasn’t making it for lunch. I went back to my hamburger soup. I was a little worried because it’s been so long since I have had to digest anything I wasn’t sure how it would go.

So far it’s meh. I didn’t get sick from the soup but I wouldn’t say I feel better. I figure if I need to I can do partial elemental diet but at this point I have a fairly strong aversion to the shakes.

What is weird to me is that there’s nothing in the shakes that should be aggravating the sibo. But my aches in my neck, throat, shoulders, other joints, and the general anxiety for no reason tell me something is up. Hopefully I get answers by Monday!

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happiness

SIBO: ElementALL Diet day 7

It’s been a week since I’ve had food I could chew. Or felt full. And I’m very whiny about that.

One thing I’ve realized throughout this process is that I’ve never been really, truly hungry for a prolonged period of time – and that is a privilege that I have totally taken for granted. Even now when I constantly feel so hungry, I’m not really – my nutritional requirements are being met.

Back in the days when I was teaching there were 2 schools I worked at that provided meals for the students and often those meals were the only times those kids ate. Which of course means that holidays and weekends were extra rough on these young souls. I always felt for them, and was so grateful that they were at schools where they were being fed, but I don’t think I really understood how awful it must have been for them having nothing to eat. And honestly, I am aware that even now I don’t have a real understanding of what it must be like for one of these kids because like I said although I’m hungry my nutritional needs are being met. And also I’m fortunate enough that I am getting professional help to deal with this – how many people are living a life where they can barely function because helping with these kinds of illnesses isn’t covered through regular medical care? I’m ashamed to admit I had very little understanding of things I would have lumped into the larger term of IBS. This isn’t just an upset stomach or feeling kind of crappy. It affects my mental health, my ability to digest food, my joints and general pains in the body, brain fog, and so much more. Quite literally it stops me from being able to do the things I want to do, things I need to do. It feels like I’m debilitated by the equivalent of a paper cut – but it’s so much more than that.

I’m still having my existential crisis. Although it now comes with a side order of grief, which makes sense since I’ve stuffed down so much of my grief to “deal with it later” – which I suppose is now. I have stayed committed to staying off social media while I go through this aside from posting on my blog. But yesterday when I opened my ipad I saw a notification from this dog I follow on Facebook. Poor Bradley Bear (BB) is a Pyrenees/beagle cross and is just the cutest little guy. On Friday his 18 year old cat sibling crossed the rainbow bridge and poor BB had been quite distraught. So when I saw the notification I figured I’d just go on fb to see how poor BB was doing. Not well it seems. He had a rough couple of days and on Monday they took him to the vet to find out that his kidneys were in total failure and they made the decision to put him to sleep yesterday.

I spent the whole day crying for this dog. Which kind of shows you where I am at emotionally. So this morning I once again cheated and looked on FB to see how the poor owners were doing. What I discovered was that when they went to go to the vet for his rainbow bridge appointment he was doing so much better – so he’s home on hospice care and being loved for a few more days. You just never know what is around the corner.

I don’t know why I’m sharing BB’s story but it really affected me – and made me realize how much of my own grief I’m holding in and probably need to deal with.

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happiness

SIBO: ElementALL diet day 5

Well, I’m still doing it. Still feeling like crap, but still doing it. I keep thinking “this is the die-off phase and it won’t last long”, but it is still going on. Today has more sibo-like feelings in that I’m quite achy and joints are a bit sore. But I know there’s no way I’m eating anything that is activating sibo so it must be die off.

Although I feel like I’m starving to death I’ve actually gained 3 pounds. Because.. of course I would. So that’s great. I’ve lost about 30 lbs though since I’ve been working at this so I suppose in the bigger picture it’s not the end of the world. It seems as though sibo either causes massive weight loss or weight gain – and my body has always responded like a 17th century peasant heading into a famine: “Oh I must preserve every ounce of fat I have to survive what is coming ahead”.

I have also entered into some kind of existential crisis. Who am I? how do I fit into the world? What is the meaning of life? Who is God? What is the Universe? A lot of these are questions I often ask, but they feel different right now and the answers I’m coming up with are significantly different. A Course In Miracles talks a lot about the willingness to see things differently, and the further I go on this journey the more I understand that phrase. Just when I think I kind of understand things, something inside shifts and once again I see things differently.

My current existential crisis is asking for quiet to absorb and sort things out, so I’ve stepped away from social media (I’ll post this but I’m choosing not to look at or scroll through my social media) so that I can have some quiet time for my brain. I have to say, it’s nice having my phone off and not getting constant notifications about every little thing. Of course that needs to be balanced with some social interaction because we need each other. I keep thinking of Thoreau and his quiet time at Walden Pond – not totally isolated, but living in seclusion – and also his famous quote about leading lives of quiet desperation.

I think about this quote a lot. And I think it is as true now as it was in the 1840s – at least for me. Maybe even it’s this quiet desperation that led me to be sick. For sure it was the anxiety and trauma that surrounded it. Or maybe I’m just hungry.

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happiness

Sibo: ElementALL diet day 3

I had no idea it was possible to be so damn hungry and so repulsed/scared of food at the same time.

After I drink my lunch today I will have completed 3 full days of the ElementALL diet and have 10 more to go. I have to say at this point that the 10 days is stretching out in front of me like eternity.

The bad: I am soooo hungry. I’m getting enough calories, and I’m getting proper nutrition, but I’m so so so hungry. The shakes still taste like unsalted horse sweat after said horse went swimming in a stagnant swamp. I’m also hungry. I am in a committed relationship with the bathroom at this point. I get quite hungry. Still quite bloated. And finally, the hunger.

The good: this is the third night I’ve slept straight through. I’ve struggled so much with my sleep over the years and being able to close my eyes and not open them until it’s time to get up is something I had kind of accepted wasn’t in the cards for me. A lot of my sibo symptoms have lessened. I have a bit more anxiety today, but in general my anxiety is so much less than it was a few days ago when I was in active flare up. Same is true for depression and intrusive thoughts. My joints barely ache anymore. My headache is almost gone.

No matter how bad I feel right now or how I’m complaining, it’s nowhere near as bad as I felt a week ago. And a week ago I didn’t feel nearly as crappy as I did earlier this year before I started working with my naturopath.

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happiness

Sibo: ElementALL Biological Diet

I have the best naturopath. I had an appointment on Wednesday to go in and discuss the sibo flare up that I have been struggling with. It had been a good 10 days of pretty intense pain and feeling generally unwell, and while I had been able to go through the notes of past sessions and find a few herbs to help relieve symptoms somewhat I was still in dire need of help.

So when I got the call that my naturopath was sick and couldn’t see me that day I almost cried. I actually did start crying when they said the next available appointment was in 2 weeks. But instead of shutting down, which was my normal behaviour in the past, I told the receptionist exactly what was going on and asked if there was any way she could ask my Dr if he had any advice.

After the call I had a little pity party. Actually, it was like I split into two people – PityPartyMelissa and NewAndImprovedMelissa. PPM was all “see, this is why we never count on anyone for anything, everyone ends up abandoning us, you can never depend on anyone ever”. And NAIM was like “dude! The man is sick. You haven’t been abandoned, you know he will help you out. Something will come through and you will get direction about how to help make things better. Seriously, breathe and chill a bit”.

After about a half hour the phone rang and it was my naturopath, sick as heck, but who gave me thirty minutes of his time to listen and give me some advice about how to feel better. I am so grateful for the amazing people I have in my life who are helping me heal.

We decided that on top of the herbs I was taking he was going to put me back on the tincture of death, ADP (because it works better than the regular oregano oil pills I was taking), and….. start me on the ElementALL Biological Diet by Bioclinic. The idea with the elemental diet is that it’s pre-digested food and gives the digestive system a break as well as not containing anything that would feed the sibo bacteria.

It’s probably a good thing I was feeling so crappy because let me tell you, these shakes are not for the faint of heart. I got the chocolate flavour (and I use the term chocolate – and flavour – loosely) because my Dr said that the other flavour had a strong after taste of vomit. Yum. The smell of the shake just about dropped me to the ground. I have discovered it tastes much better if you can manage not to breathe while drinking. To me the after taste is kind of what horse sweat smells like but like if a horse had been swimming in a stagnant swamp before sweating. So it’s delicious!!

I am now a day and a half – or 5 meals – into my shakes. I cry a little every time it’s “meal” time, but I’ve been sticking to it and not having anything else. It’s easier because literally everything I was eating was making me so sick. Here’s what I’ve found: my headache is almost completely gone, my joint aches have significantly decreased, my stomach is still pretty angry but it has settled down a lot – and I’m apparently in die off mode now which means I’m staying close to the bathroom. But I’m feeling so much better. And best of all – after spending days and weeks not sleeping and feeling so anxious because of being tired and feeling unwell – for the last two nights since starting the shakes I have slept right through the night (which never happens) and my anxiety has dropped from a 7 to a 3. Which makes the fact that I am almost constantly fantasizing about eating piles of mashed potatoes easier to handle. I am feeling more connected to myself again, present in my body, and I am grateful for the fact that I have the resources available to me to be able to seek the help that I need.

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happiness

SIBO: Relapse? Never resolved? Frustrated

Things are not going well in SIBO land for me right now. It’s been at least a couple of weeks of pretty extreme discomfort (achy joints, headache, brain fog, anxiety, not sleeping etc) and I’ve finally decided that perhaps we never got rid of the sibo and with me introducing new foods it’s flared up again.

Now, by new foods I don’t mean things like chocolate cake (sob), or even things like potatoes or grains. It was things like Swiss chard, eggplant, asparagus, and olive oil – all things cleared with or suggested by my naturopath. I kind of blame the olive oil even though it’s supposed to be good for sibo but at this point I have nothing besides a hunch. I was doing well when I was using avocado oil, but when I ran out a month ago I switched to olive oil and it’s been a steady decline since. But there could be other reasons.

Of course it’s not just a weekend but a long weekend so I have to wait for my appointment with my naturopath until Wednesday. But yesterday I kind of snapped and decided to help myself because the pressure building inside me was becoming too much to take. By pressure I mean that it feels like I’m being wired with very uncomfortable electricity that just vibrates through my body giving me a headache and feeling of pressure that makes me feel like I’ll explode. And I’m sharing this in case there are other people out there suffering who have no idea what is going on or feel like they’re alone. Although I would never wish this on anyone, so I kind of hope I’m all alone with it.

I went to our local drug store – Two Pharmacy in Cochrane- and picked up some liver support, berberine, and oil of oregano, all of which I had been on before during the kill off phase. I bought a different oregano oil though and I think I’ll wait on that until I see my dr. So far there’s a lot less pressure but I still feel like crap. I’ve cut out everything besides hamburger meat, because I know meat doesn’t feed the sibo. And while i’m grateful for the cows that are healing me, damn I miss vegetables. But I have a lot of gratitude for those cows, they are healing my insides not to mention that my house and my life here was literally built because of cows, and I am eternally thankful for what they are doing for me. The fact that their lives were given to improve my health is not forgotten and I am constantly in a state of gratitude for that.

So I go Wednesday and find out whether or not becoming my own doctor over the weekend was a good idea. I don’t know what else to do- it’s not like you can go into urgent care and say that you feel like you’re dying because of sibo because it doesn’t show up on regular tests. But damn, it does kind of feel like you’re dying. And that’s not me being dramatic, it’s bloody awful. I can’t believe I ever used to just cram food in my mouth and not worry that it was going to debilitate me.

But this will eventually be resolved and I’ll feel like I’m back on track with my healing journey. Actually even though I feel like crap I still know I’m on my healing journey. I’ve come so far, and so much of this is just using intuition and stepping back and allowing God to be present (that and a lot of crying and trying to bargain with God for my health – but those aren’t probably as helpful as the first two).

Blessings

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happiness

SIBO sucks

I swore I would be completely honest about this SIBO journey, but damn it was a lot easier to be honest when things were going well. Things are not going well at the present time.

I haven’t really been sleeping well for the last couple of months, and if you know me then you know that sleep is probably the most important thing I do to look after myself. If I’m not rested I can’t function. And in the last couple of weeks my sleep has been getting sooooo much worse. The last few nights have been maybe an hour or two of shut eye – and not very good rests even during those puny amounts.

I’m a disaster.

I’ve talked with my naturopath and we agreed it was likely that some of my anxiety was seeking attention – because I also had started feeling more and more anxious – something that always happens when I’m not getting enough sleep. However, in the last few days I noticed some of the body aches were back, my head is throbbing, and I basically just felt really unwell.

It’s the SIBO. Something I’ve been eating has to be aggravating it. Which in turn aggravates me because my diet has been SO restricted. So, while I was lying in bed last night at 3am cursing up a storm about how I was never going to sleep again I decided to go back to the basics. For me that means my “hamburger soup” which is essentially ground beef, tomato paste, beef bone broth, and kale made in the instant pot. Yum. But when get discouraged I tell myself that there are literally millions (maybe billions) of people who would love to eat what I’m eating so I shut my mouth and remember to be grateful.

Another thing I am super grateful for is our local butcher shop in Cochrane “The Butchery Block” because that is the place where I have been sourcing all of my beef. I’ve found most grocery store meat makes me feel nauseous, but their stuff is fantastic – it’s like how I remember beef tasting when I was a kid. They know where they get it from (a ranch in southern Alberta) and their prices are pretty decent. I’m really grateful for that little shop.

Further, this time I’m grateful I didn’t just chalk all these symptoms down to mental health issues. SIBO makes me anxious, it bring up trauma like feelings, and leaves me exhausted. But it doesn’t mean that I’m failing at caring for my mental health, it means that there are some physical issues that need to be addressed. I mean, Im always working at my mental health – but sometimes there are physical issues that can be the source of mental health like symptoms, and I think it’s very important that we remember that.

Fingers crossed that things start to get better over the next couple of days while I enjoy my hamburger soup!

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happiness

SIBO and Anxiety

I have always been an anxious sort. I was a kid in the ‘70s and anxiety wasn’t really a thing back then – or if it was I certainly didn’t know about it. I just felt like I was always afraid of doing things – and then pushed myself as hard as I possibly could to prove to myself and the world that I wasn’t a total chicken.

But while I struggled, I didn’t really encounter debilitating anxiety until the beginning of 2007 when I discovered that my husband had been cheating (I found his online dating profile – actually I found the bill while going through our visa and then found the profile). I didn’t handle it well. If I could go back in time that’s the moment I would have walked out of the marriage. It would have saved me and the kids years of trauma and pain. But I didn’t – maybe I didn’t know how to. He dismissed it as nothing and blamed me for overreacting, and we were getting ready to move from Quebec to the States. So I put my feelings on the back burner and carried on.

SIBO can be caused by many things: antibiotics, low stomach acid, food poisoning – but also stress, anxiety and trauma. So being someone who has a history of pushing my feelings waaaay down deep really came back to kick me in the butt (or the small intestine in this case).

I went through the last years of my marriage often barely able to function because of the anxiety I was struggling with (which was also PTSD and trauma – it all kind of got mixed in together). Some days were better, some were terrible. I was not living an authentic life at all, in fact I had become completely disconnected from myself. I used to say that my superpower was my ability to disassociate completely from my body and my life as it was the only way I could handle my marriage. Unfortunately it’s a pretty shitty superpower to have and one that is taking me a long time to retrain myself from.

After I left my marriage, I still battled my anxiety (and trauma) demons on a constant basis. But I didn’t just dance away from an abusive relationship. I returned home to help care for both of my parents as they were dying, I almost lost both of my children to their own traumas, and I found myself in a very nasty divorce situation. So I continued to have reason to feel anxious to say the least.

Then I started studying psychology and slowly I felt my understand of myself beginning to change. I learned that there were ways to train my brain to think differently, and that I could change my perception of who I was. I began working diligently on my mental health and really saw some huge changes.

But that damn anxiety would just pop up out of nowhere. I would work and work, see massive improvements, and then BAM out of nowhere I would literally become debilitated by my anxiety. And for no reason. Nothing had to trigger me, I could be sitting at home happily watching a show on tv, out with friends laughing, or driving down the road singing along with some music. It left me feeling really frustrated. What was the point in working so hard on myself if this anxiety was just going to keep popping up and interfering in my ability to function?

Last summer (2021), I noticed that my joints became much more painful when I ate anything with gluten in it. At that time I had no idea that pretty much everything I liked had gluten in it. I cut out the obvious; bread, pasta, that kind of thing. Then I had sushi and got sick – so the discovery was made that of course gluten is in soy sauce. I slowly learned how to better avoid gluten and started feeling a bit better. I was still anxious, but the joint pain lessening made life a lot easier.

Then around Christmas time (2021) I discovered that certain foods I was eating gave me anxiety. Dairy was a big one (sob), but also weird things like mustard or anything with garlic in it. So I started cutting all of that out too. Essentially I was living on oatmeal, rice, chicken, ghee, and zucchini. Bleh. Still random bouts of anxiety, but not as bad.

So when I went to the naturopath and explained to him how I was feeling after eating certain foods he tested and diagnosed me with SIBO. Holy crap. What a revelation! So my constant battle with anxiety wasn’t just shitty mental health, it was a physical reaction to a physical issue (plus my regular anxiety).

It has been an up and down journey these last 5 months. But in general my anxiety is decreasing all the time. I’m still on a super restricted diet – but nothing like the one I was on before I started with my naturopath. Hardly any carbs, no grains, no dairy, no sugar. Lots of meat and certain vegetables, and egg yolks. Along with all my supplements. Not the most exciting diet, but I’m seeing so much improvement that it’s absolutely worth any sacrifice. Plus the hope is that it’s short term and eventually I’ll be able to enjoy a larger variety of foods.

I went to see my naturopath about a month ago in tears. After a few weeks of much lessened anxiety I was really struggling again. I was really mad at my SIBO, and then even madder at my naturopath when he suggested that we needed to address my trauma so that we could help my body heal. Who wants to hear that? I didn’t want to go there at all. But he was right (he’s been right about everything so far). I’d described to him how when these feelings of intense anxiety bubble up in me from nowhere it reminds me of how afraid I was those last few years in my marriage – where the kids and I lived in constant fear that he’d make good on his threats. And how that would just push me right out of myself. I was really mad at the SIBO for making me feel that way and that’s when the naturopath gently suggested we address some of the trauma. And he was so right.

I’m still on some SIBO stuff. I’m taking iberogast (which some days I swear is nastier than the Tincture of Death, but it’s effective, Allimax, bio-break nasal spray, ashwagandha, and turmeric. But I’m also taking mimulus and oak flower remedy, and gaba-t sap. I noticed a huge change with the gaba I can feel the stress seeping out of my brain after I take it.

It’s funny. I have spent so long really resenting this SIBO condition – even before I knew I had it and could put a name to it I resented it. But in some really weird way it’s a gift. It has forced me to stop and address some really big issues. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life walking around anxious, scared, traumatized and angry. And I now realize that unless I seriously follow this new way of being that I will not only be all of those things but also so freaking sick with SIBO: all the brain fog, upset stomach, bloating, depression, anxiety, joint pain, and whatever else it brings. So I am grateful that I have the opportunity to really dig deep and change some fundamental things about myself and how I see the world.

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happiness

SIBO – Tincture of Death

After getting a positive diagnosis for SIBO using the breath test provided by my naturopath it was time to begin treatment. This was a slow but interesting process.

Phase one was preparing my body for the eradication phase and included lots of liver support. I was prescribed several herbs to help my liver, was drinking lemon infused water (yum), taking Iberia’s, and digestive enzymes. I also began following a SIBO specific diet which was very limited. Mostly I was eating egg yolks and steak for breakfast, and for lunch and supper eating a soup made of ground beef, tomato paste, carrots, and kale. While not cured I certainly noticed I was feeling better. Less head fog, less anxiety – but still at uncomfortable levels for both and still lots of body aches.

I finally got to phase two and started the Tincture of Death. I was so excited because with a name like that it had to be powerful right? Turns out that while it’s a pretty amazing little tincture and does lot of good things, it got its name not because of how it would kill all my wayward bacteria (which it does help do), but because it tastes like death. Or perhaps makes you wish for death while you’re drinking it. I’m pretty used to it now – but damn it took me a minute.

This was combined with some other herbal combinations to help eliminate the bacteria in my small intestine.

I’m now kind of in phase three (the biofilm buster phase) and finishing phase two. It seems there are still some of those buggers persisting.

One thing I’ve discovered about SIBO is that it’s different for everyone. The symptoms can be different, and the recovery as well – some people heal quickly, some struggle for years. I’m hopeful I’ll recover on the quicker side – I’ve got a great naturopath who really understands this issue (and who has experienced and healed from it), and I’m following all the recommendations with precision. But life and stress certainly play a role in this disorder.

I’m discovering how much SIBO has affected my mental health and my ability to function. Next time I’ll delve more into that, but for now I’ll say that when the symptoms are quieted down I feel like I can take on the world. I feel connected to the Divine, and my anxiety is basically gone. I have more energy, sleep better, and feel joyful in ways that I haven’t felt in years. When the SIBO takes over almost immediately I get head fog, body aches, disconnect spiritually and emotionally, and struggle with my anxiety to the point that I can barely handle the day. It sounds so dramatic, but it is so fascinating to me how much my gut health affects my whole way of life.

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