To continue my story from yesterday, after agonizing for many, many months in discomfort, I finally made an appointment in September 2011 to see a naturopath who specialized in gastrointestinal disorders. Keep in mind, part of the reason I waited so long is because I didn’t always have health insurance.
Anyway, we had a two hour assessment, during which she shared her strong suspicion that I had Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), in addition to leaky gut. She ordered me a breath test to find out if the SIBO was certain and meanwhile, advised me to reduce my grain intake to no more than once per day. She also ordered some blood work for me.
I did the breath test at home one morning, which took three hours in total. It consisted of first drinking lactulose diluted in water, followed by blowing into a test tube every 20 minutes. I had to fill 10 different tubes with breath samples. It was strange because you can’t see your breath in the tube and I remember hoping it made its way in there okay. Also, the day prior to the test, I had to follow a specific diet regimen and then fast for at least 12 hours before taking the test.
It was no surprise, but the test came back positive and showed that I had hydrogen present in my small intestine. This is not naturally produced by the human body and as you can guess, should not be in there! I had to take some antibiotics (that luckily, stay only in the digestive tract) to wipe out the bacteria, and then adhere to the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD) for at least one year. For those who don’t know, the SCD is a version of the paleo diet. In short, no grains, starches, sugar (except honey), soy, preservatives, etc. Homemade 24-hour yogurt is a focus in the diet. Other dairy is allowed as well (if tolerated), such as butter/ghee, dry curd cottage cheese, and low-lactose cheeses. I did okay with dry curd cottage cheese for a while, but can’t really handle it anymore and other cheese is off limits for my system (as you may recall, my body doesn’t like most dairy, except for butter and yogurt). Additionally, there are other foods that are allowed on the SCD, but don’t agree with me, so I avoid those as well. Just because it’s listed as okay doesn’t mean it’s right for me. For a full list of the SCD legal/illegal foods, click here.
*Note: before even getting my test results back, and on the same day I took the breath test, I began the intro diet of the SCD, but still as a vegetarian (ate some fish though). I also started a food journal to track my food, symptoms, bowel movements, etc., which I would continue to use for months ahead.
There is a completely natural treatment option as well — instead of the antibiotics — which requires taking various herbs and supplements. My ND gave me both options, but after much discussion, I chose the antibiotics for a few different reasons. First, it’s much more effective and more of a guarantee that it’ll take care of the bad bacteria. Second, it stays localized in the digestive tract and does not get into the bloodstream. Third, I was so sick and tired (literally too) of feeling yucky all the time and wanted to be on top of this beast, and not have to repeat treatment.
Check back tomorrow for part III, which will hopefully be the last! I’ve gotten wordier than I expected and I don’t want to lose anyone, so decided that a third section is a good idea.
Meanwhile, check out this great explanation of the SCD from Pecanbread.com. It’s aimed toward children, but I love it, and the images are great! There is a parent/adult version as well on the same page.