#slayingSIBO // general update

SO.

Here I am, 3 days after finishing my two-week round of Xifaxan, and I feel… the same.

In fact, I might feel worse? Because along with not finding relief, that ROUGH round of antibiotics left me with some fun side effects: breakouts, weird rashes, swelling in my limbs, worsened joint pain… super fun times, my friends!

Thankfully, I have another appointment with Dr. Nicole on Monday. The plan is to chat about anything she found in my bloodwork, and discuss about next steps (remember that super fun test I talked about previously? Yeah, that’s probably gonna go down LOL).

In the meantime, I have also secured an MRI for my chronic lower back pain and emailed a doctor about my toe pain (I was set to actually have a toe surgery in January, but getting a new job threw a wrench in that!). Not only is my original, right toe still hurting, but now my left one has started bothering me. OOF.

Today in Chicago, it is snowing. Yes, in April. And honestly, while I’m not THRILLED about it, it’s given me the perfect excuse to take this Saturday and truly do nothing. As I’m typing this, I’m laying in bed in the middle of the afternoon with no plans for the rest of the evening, and it’s glorious. I did start my day off nicely though – woke up for a workout where I met a new friend, grabbed a coffee, went to my first therapy session, and wandered Whole Foods just because (does anyone else do this?! Didn’t even buy anything – I just love it!)

Tomorrow, I’ll be attending a restorative yoga session – yoga, something that doctors have told me time and time again to partake in for stress management, and something I usually blow off. However, in the spirit of working on my mental health, I’m going to try. Again.

So anyway, this post was really not substantial because truly, there has not been much change. More to come, and I’ll keep you all posted, but until then, I hope your life is beautiful and your days are wonderful.

xx

happily Haleigh

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#slayingSIBO Update

..there are a few things I just HAVE to update you on. Some good things, and some “you’re never going to believe this” things.

Since my doctor appointment upset last week, I’ve been pretty quiet. Partly because I was feeling very lost again, very frustrated and overwhelmed, and partly because life has been HEEECTIC this past week!

But there are a few things I just HAVE to update you on. Some good things, and some “you’re never going to believe this” things.

Let’s start with the Good Things:

A New Doc:

Of course, after being severely disappointed in the gastro and her bandaid approach, I sought out a new functional doctor (you’ll remember, I had seen one before in 2017, but he’s out in the suburbs and it’s super inconvenient to drive out there).

My criteria is that a functional doctor needs to take insurance though, which adds a layer of complexity because that option is few and far between.

BUT, I found one that seemed promising, and I somehow snuck in an appointment with her on Tuesday this past week.

I was honestly stressed to go to the appointment. In my mind, she was just ANOTHER DOCTOR who I needed to spill my guts to, praying that she’d be my last stop on the road – that process is honestly emotionally exhausting.

But I am happy to report that while I’ve only had my first consultation with her, I feel SO optimistic about her! She sat with me for over an hour, just listening to me, asking me probing questions about my medical and life history, and I honestly just felt so cared for. I am so hopeful that she will be my ride-or-die through all this, and that maybe she’ll be the one to help me find relief and true health again.

She asked to see all previous test results and blood work, so I’ve spent the past week compiling and sending all of that to her.

Next step is getting more bloodwork on Monday (anything she wants to see updated or tests she thinks are missing), and then she reeaaallly feels like what I need to do is a….drumroll for TMI approaching…. stool test. Yep. A poop test. Apparently you can test for all sorts of bacteria, pathogens, parasites, etc that way. The only kicker is that the one she orders isn’t typically covered by insurance… and it’s quite pricey. I’m in the process of checking with my insurance myself to see if they’d possibly cover it, so fingers crossed!

For any Chicago friends, her name is Dr. Nicole Maholy out of Aligned Modern Health – Streeterville.

Mindset:

This week, I took a little break from scouring the internet for SIBO information. I could feel myself getting a little wrapped up in it all, so I’m just chilling. I’m on the antibiotics, so I’m just letting them do their thing (more on that later), and I’m trusting that Dr. Nicole will be reviewing my previous labs to decipher a killer plan of action for when I see her next (April 29th).

Saying that, taking a step back allowed me to use my brain power for other things – a few podcasts that I enjoy that I had putting on the back burner, for instance. Podcasts are amazing – you have access to knowledge and new ideas for FREE. #blessed.

Anyway, because I was able to recommit some mind space this week, I’ve felt a little better mentally. I was going to include more on that in this post, but I actually began to ramble and think it deserves its own thought space, so you can read more about a mental mind-shift I’ve had this week HERE 🙂

Now for the “You’re Not Gonna Believe This”:

Really. You won’t. My gastro gave me the wrong dosage on my prescription. And I was the one to notice and point it out!

While I was gathering all my results to send to Dr. Nicole on Wednesday, I was reviewing my SIBO results and outcome. I took a look at the prescription information, and was like “Well…. that’s awkward because that’s NOT what I picked up from CVS on Saturday…”

So, of course, I had been taking the WRONG dosage of Xifaxan for 5 days… GOODNESS GRACIOUS. I immediately contacted the doctor to fill them in and was hit with a “Oh, thank you for bringing this to our attention. Please stop your current prescription and start the new one we ordered for you. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

INCONVENIENCE? How about malpractice?! I literally could not believe it. I also got into a slight argument with them because I was worried I’d have to pay for the new prescription, and I was getting a “shrugged shoulders” response from them. Luckily for me [and the doctor], the pharmacy didn’t charge me.

It was just the icing on the cake with this doctor. Never. Again. Will. I. See. Her.

Anywhooo, now that I’ve been on the CORRECT dosage of Xifaxan for 3 days, let me tell ya, this medication is NO JOKE. The first two days were a little rough – abdominal pain and bloating, nausea, headaches, dizziness, swelling in my legs and arms… fun stuff.

Yesterday I woke up SLIIIIGHTLY less bloated, and for me that was promising. By end of the day though, it was same old same old. UGH. I’m still trying to stay positive. I’ll be on this medication for 2 weeks total, so it’s a bit of a long ride. I’m hoping to see improvement at least by week one…

General Updates:

Anywho, that’s about it on the SIBO front for right now. I’m riding out this medicine, and waiting to really get started with my new doctor. I picked up a few supplements yesterday to help with digestion and just general detoxification. I’ve been holding out on bringing too many supplements back in because I truly don’t know what I’m dealing with. It’s so easy to get supplement crazy by just reading things on the internet, but honestly, throwing a million things in your body probably isn’t all that helpful, even if everything is “healthy”. Not to mention it DRAINS your bank account!! (Been there!)

But yesterday I picked up the following:

  • Liver Detox tincture – In some of my recent tests, I actually noticed my liver levels were high. None of the doctors seemed concerned, but it makes sense that since my body is stressed, my liver can’t keep up. So, trying to give it a little extra love and support.
  • Natural Vitality Calm – Okay honestly, I finally caved and bought this. I have no idea if it’s actually worth the hype, but a lot of people swear by it, and I’m supposed be managing my stress, so here we are!
  • Aloe Vera Juice Inner Fillet (Preservative Free) – I had tried Aloe Vera Juice before for digestive benefits, and honestly couldn’t remember if it had helped or not, so here we are again lol. I’ll keep you all posted!
  • Not a supplement but… CELERY. Yup. As of this morning, I’m back on the celery juice game. Honestly, I started this WAYYY before the craze happened, and saw some benefits, but had a hard time keeping up with it. But, in my current state, I may just need to suck it up and be more diligent about it! Today is day 1, so maybe I’ll check in a few weeks down the road and report any benefits!

There are still some supplements I’m curious about in terms of how they could help me and my SIBO case. I’ll have to continue to do more research and ask Dr. Nicole her thoughts… but here’s what I’m looking into:

  • CBD (let me know if you have any great brand suggestions!)
  • Antimicrobials
  • Adaptogens – I’m curious how someone with adrenal fatigue can leverage these
  • Pro-kinetics

More on supplements later…

Well, I just scrolled to the top of this post and realized how long it is so I’m just going to cut it off here because truly, if you’re still reading, I’m amazed. Go get yourself a cookie. Speaking of cookies, I’ll be baking these today for the first time as part of an attempt to cook or bake one new thing a week. I’ll do a little review later this week!

Happy Sunday, folks!

xx

happily Haleigh

On to the next… #slayingSIBO

As hopeful as I was, I should have known the appointment would be frustrating, leading me to the search of yet another doctor.

Well, it’s Friday, and thus, I had my follow-up appointment with my GI doctor about my SIBO results.

As hopeful as I was, I should have known the appointment would be frustrating, leading me to the search of yet another doctor.

So here’s The Skinny:

I walk into my appointment, expecting to see my doctor. Instead some tall, slightly dopey looking man walks in and introduces himself as a resident, and then proceeds to ask me about how I’ve been feeling. I’ve never interacted with this man, so I have to go through my entire medical history… AGAIN.

Talk about frustrating. While speaking with him, I shared that at one point since my last appointment, I had stopped taking Miralax for one day, and due to that, was dealing with constipation again. In fact I was dealing with it when I took the breath test. Looking back, I should have just left this tidbit out.

Anyway, I asked all my questions I came prepared with:

  • Antibiotics:
    • Q: Is it best to dose Xifaxin with Neomycin since I read it was most effective for Methane dominance?
    • A: I haven’t heard of that, but I’ll ask the doctor.
  • Diet:
    • Q: Should I start a lowfodmap diet while taking antibiotics or after?
    • A: No definitive answer.
  • Prokinetics:
    • Q: I read that these may be useful in cases of constipation – should we consider this?
    • A: Mmm, probably not, we can talk about that later.

He asked me a series of questions regarding my stress levels, diet, etc. then went to talk to the doctor.

My doctor comes in and tells me that they no longer know if I have SIBO. WHAT.

She says that since I was dealing with constipation during my breath test, it could have been a false positive. She then said she’d like to just continue treating my constipation with Miralax, saying it’s fine because they give it to pregnant women all the time.

I straight up looked at her and asked “So, you’re not prescribing me the antibiotic?” She looked a little flustered and asked “Well, the thing to note is if you feel bloated even when you’re not constipated…” and to that I said….

YES. Look, I have been dealing with this for 2 years. I’m uncomfortable when I wake up, and worse when I go to bed. No matter what I eat, what I do.

She answers “Okay, then we’ll give it to you!” *insert eyeroll*

I then asked: “What does follow up look like? Do we need to retest to ensure it’s gone”

Response: “No, no protocol – we just treat the symptoms.”

I had so many problems with this appointment:

  1. The fact that they sent a resident in first really bothered me.
  2. The fact that the doctor was so changeable really bothered me.
  3. The fact that they were fine with saying I should just take Miralax the rest of my life really bothered me. This means my body isn’t working right!!
  4. She told me I was not a person at risk for SIBO, when honestly she never took into account all of my other health issues that most DEFINITELY have put me at risk for this.

This was such a typical Western Medicine approach. I was hoping for so much more because the doctor seemed so proactive in getting me the test in the first place, but the follow-through is lacking.

I was very emotional this morning, but I’m trying to take the positive out of it and no that this experience served its purpose, and now it’s just time to move on. I got the antibiotic out of it, and I’ll start there, but now it’s time to find a functional doctor in Chicago (who accepts insurance) who can help me with the rest of the process.

Another bump in the road, but what’s new!

Stay positive people!

xo

happily Haleigh

The Waiting Game… #slayingSIBO

Have you ever been told you’re a ruminator?

Well, I have been one all. my. life. I was born a type-A, worry wart of a child — truly, I tell you it’s a miracle I’ve made it to age 26 without becoming a total basket case. The self-induced stress I have put my body through has probably primed me for SIBO!

Have you ever been told you’re a ruminator?

(I’ll give you time to google “ruminate”)

Well, I have been one all. my. life. I was born a type-A, worry wart of a child — truly, I tell you it’s a miracle I’ve made it to age 26 without becoming a total basket case. The self-induced stress I have put my body through has probably primed me for SIBO!

At 26, almost 27, I will say that I have made VAST improvements in my almost obsessive ruminating behaviors. I mean, I no longer spend hours on hours on WebMD… just short half hour periods here and there (hey, old habits die hard, ya know?)

But I swear I’m not a hypochondriac – I am just innately in tune with my body, and I know when something’s not right. And finally, my persistence and “worry” has brought me some bonafide truth and answers.

Unfortunately, the time between when I received my test results and my follow-up with my doctor on Friday is a week. ONE WHOLE WEEK. Do you know how much time that is for me to think about this, worry about this, and GOOGLE THIS?

A lot. But the waiting game is to my favor, really, because I have been deep-diving into the world of SIBO and how I am about to kick this thing’s butt. Receiving this diagnosis can be overwhelming. The scarcity yet vastness of information on SIBO can be truly mind-boggling.

Because of this, I wanted to share a comprehensive short list of resources I’ve found in my research that I have found extremely helpful thus far incase anyone else feels lost in the midst of a SIBO diagnosis! I am by no means an expert (yet), but I’ve already learned a lot. I still want to do more research on more areas, and as I learn, I’ll post on the blog.

You can find that list HERE 🙂

While I wait for Friday to come (two more days!!), I have already started to make some changes in my life to start truly healing and get my life back. It’s amazing how news like this can really spur you to assess your life.

  1. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting this week – – thinking about what and who causes me stress, and better yet, what and who brings me joy.
  2. I’ve been extremely self-aware. I’ve taken care to notice every feeling and thought that I’ve experienced this week to help me notice things like stressors and dark places in my mind (so I can work on fixing them!)
  3. I made an appointment with a therapist – not for anything specific, but from what I’ve been reading, stress management will be VITAL in helping cure SIBO, and honestly, I’ve never really been that great at stress management… I like to think I’m a rockstar at suppressing it though 🙂
  4. DANCE PARTIES: Yes, I’ve started having a dance party to music I used to love in my teenage years (think Hannah Montana and Jonas Brothers) every morning before I leave for work, and honestly it just MAKES. YOU. HAPPY. Try it.
  5. Gratitude. Through all of this, I’m trying to be grateful. I’m trying to be grateful for the fact that it could always be something worse, and I’m trying to be grateful for the fact that maybe this will lead me to a better quality of life in the long-run.

I know we all love a weekend, but especially this week, Friday can’t come soon enough!

I’ll be sure to update the blog after my appointment.

Until then,

xo

happily Haleigh

Slaying SIBO:

Answers. I finally have some answers. I finally have evidence that some of the extreme, debilitating, social-life stealing, soul-sucking symptoms I’ve been experiencing for the past two years are not in my head, but can indeed be backed up by scientific proof and number-defining results.

It’s freeing, in a sense, but the diagnosis itself is anything but, because the diagnosis of SIBO means I have a long road of healing ahead of me.

On finally being diagnosed, living with SIBO, the road ahead, and how it all makes sense.

Answers. I finally have some answers. I finally have evidence that some of the extreme, debilitating, social-life stealing, soul-sucking symptoms I’ve been experiencing for the past two years are not in my head, but can indeed be backed up by scientific proof and number-defining results.

It’s freeing, in a sense, but the diagnosis itself is anything but, because the diagnosis of SIBO means I have a long road of healing ahead of me.

SIBO – Small Intestine Bacteria Overgrowth (sexy, I know, right?)

In a nutshell, SIBO is when there is too much bacteria in the small intestine. There are a myriad of reasons why this can happen (will get to this in another post later this week), but basically, those little buggers are NOT supposed to be there!

Where are they supposed to be? Well, the bacteria is supposed to live happily in your large intestine, but they’ve found their way to the wrong home!

Why is SIBO a big problem?

Well, SIBO is an issue because it causes a lot of symptoms and creates a cycle of poor digestion, leading to issues throughout your entire body (remember, the gut-brain connection is a real thing).

With the bacteria in your small intestine, they start eating the food you eat too early in the digestion process, and the food ferments in your small intestine, creating gas that affects your digestion – primarily affecting the motility of your digestive system. This can result in anything from the runs, being backed up, or a mixture of both (yep, we’re getting real here, people!). This becomes a perpetual cycle that is very hard to break.

I should have known it was SIBO a while ago (and honestly, I did):

If you’re close to me, you’ll know I’ve been dealing with a lot of health issues for a while (2+ years).

Some of the symptoms I’ve been dealing with:

  • Daily bloating (even upon waking)
  • Abdominal pains and cramps (sometimes debilitating to the point I have to just lay in bed)
  • Chronic constipation
  • General digestive issues (regardless of what foods I eat – y’all know I’m a healthy gal!)
  • Missing period since March 2017 (around the same time my extreme digestive issues started)
  • Joint pain
  • Frequent injuries
  • General inflammation
  • Water retention/swelling
  • Adrenal fatigue
  • Hormonal imbalances (reproductive hormones as well as neurotransmitters)
  • Bad skin – skin rashes, peeling skin on face along with acne
  • Hair loss
  • General lack of zest for life
  • Resulting anxiety, loss of confidence, sadness, etc

ALL of these symptoms make sense – if your digestion is chronically damaged, your whole body is sick! It’s stressed! It’s trying so hard to function how it should, but it just can’t keep up.

While I’ve been experiencing these, I have been to SO many doctors (and have spent so much money!) Normal doctors, naturopaths, endocrinologists, OBGYNs, etc. They could all tell me that “yes, you have hormonal imbalances”, “yes, you have no period but you don’t have PCOS”, “yes, your cortisol levels are extremely low”, “yes, you have food intolerances (that you’ve never had before)” — but until this point we haven’t known why.

I tried gaining weight to get my period back, I did elimination diets to cut out food intolerances (I’ve been GF/DF apart from the one off occasion these past 2 years), I took supplements – nothing has helped.

IN FACT… I’ve probably been making it worse this WHOLE. TIME.

Why do I say that? Well, let’s think about our current health-crazed, wellness-seeking world we live in. We live in a world with instant access to information, which don’t get me wrong, can be GREAT. However, this instant access allows for the ability for people to share information at lightning speed, whether they are qualified to share or not, and fads quickly take hold.

Think probiotics, prebiotics, fermented food – all things that have been extremely hyped up in the last few years. “WE NEED MORE GUT BACTERIA! Gut issues? PROBIOTICS! KEFFIR! KIMCHI! KOMBUCHA!”

But the thing is… someone with SIBO should NOT be feeding his/her body with MORE bacteria!! THAT IS NOT HEALTHY FOR THAT INDIVIDUAL!

But of course, without answers until now, I fell prey to trying all the probiotics, prebiotics and fermented things on the market, praying they would be the solution to my issues — I was really just fueling the fire. GOSH DARN IT!

So how did I finally find out I have SIBO?

This year I started a new job, and it has been such a blessing. My insurance through my new company is stellar, and I know I am so, so lucky. Because of this, I finally was able to see a gastroenterologist.

In my first visit with her, she felt my abdomen and noted that I did indeed have a lot of gas (like yeah, lady, I KNOW THAT’S WHY I’M HERE LOL!). She did initial blood work and an abdominal x-ray. Blood work came back normal – i.e. no gluten allergy or anything major like that. The x-ray showed that I was extremely backed up (again, knew this).

She prescribed me the cleanse that you take prior to a colonoscopy to help clear me out, and if I still didn’t feel well after this, I was to try the elimination diet again to see if it was any of the food I was eating, and then I would have a follow-up with her in April.

I completed the cleanse on a Sunday – HOLY MOLY, DON’T DO THIS UNLESS YOU HAVE TO. This was like, 3-4 days of misery for me. The cramping and discomfort eventually passed, but I was to continue taking Miralax daily. That week I felt much better, until I just didn’t again. Basically, I noticed if I skip one day of Miralax, it puts me into a tailspin again. Because of this, I reached out to her and explained the cleanse hadn’t helped and I was still miserable, and she just decided to order the SIBO test for me right away. (WAY TO BE PROACTIVE, SIS, LOVE IT.)

The Test:

The test itself was simple. The prep was a little annoying, but honestly not horrible.

The purpose of the test is to test your hydrogen and methane levels in your small intestine. To get to the point, high levels of either of these gases indicates SIBO.

The day before, you are only allowed to eat plain protein, white rice, white bread, and plain coffee – SO FUN. Then, you fast for 12 hours prior to the start of your test.

The test is 3 hours long, consisting of blowing into balloons every 15 minutes after drinking a solution of lactulose.

I’ll chat more about the specifics of the test in a later post.

My Results:

I had done some reading on SIBO prior to my testing (remember, I said I had suspected this a while ago), and from what I had read, I expected my methane levels to be elevated.

Sure enough, my results were posted the day after the test, and I am in fact methane dominant. My resting state measured at 58ppm and maxed out at 98ppm (for reference, anything over 10ppm is considered to be evidence of SIBO).

SO NO WONDER I HAVE BEEN IN MISERY!! IT’S NOT IN MY HEAD! – That’s the relieving part. The daunting part is taking this on…

Treatment:

I’ll chat more in detail about this in a later post, but generally, treatment is not simple. There is not a magic pill to fix this. This is largely because SIBO is not a primary condition, but is secondary, meaning it is caused my something else — something you have to figure out (aka MORE tests). In general, you’re looking at multiple rounds of antibiotics, supplements and diet/lifestyle changes, and praying for no relapses.

So, I mentioned I should have known it was SIBO – why do I think I have developed this? I have a few theories for me personally:

  • I had either an extreme case of the flu, or more likely, food poisoning (#1 cause of SIBO), in February 2017 – right before all of my extreme symptoms started
  • I’ve taken NSAIDs all my life for chronic headaches – NSAIDs are notoriously damaging to the gut lining
  • I had mono in college
  • I was plagued with strep throat every 3 months in college until I got my tonsils out in 2014 – so a lot of antibiotics in my life time
  • I already have an autoimmune condition – Sjogren’s.
  • BASICALLY I AM A BREEDING GROUND FOR THIS NONSENSE.

So, what’s next?

Well, I have my follow-up appointment with my doctor on April 5th. Until then, I’ll be doing my own research to come prepared for self-advocacy.

I have already started curating resources and completing my own research, and I’ll be updating this blog with my findings so that I can help others experiencing this! You can follow my journey on here, as well as my social media platforms, and I’ll be utilizing the hashtag: #slayingsibo

I want to hit this head on, and I’m willing to do just about anything to #slaysibo.

xo

happily Haleigh