The Mental Side of SIBO

The Mental Side of SIBO

Adrianne sits on a chair, sipping coffee while wearing a workout outfit

It's been nearly a year since I've written anything about SIBO. I feel compelled to share what's been going on the last few months because, frankly, it's been a struggle but not for the reasons you'd think. My perfectionist personality is turning SIBO treatment into a mental mindfuck.

For those who don't know, SIBO stands for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. It's a treatable digestive issue that occurs when too much bad gut flora lives in the small intestine. It's treated by a) powerful hits of very expensive antibiotics or b) a longer, more holistic process with diet changes, antimicrobials and probiotics. I've been on the second path since January 2018, when I was formally diagnosed.

The diagnosis was a huge relief. I'd been bloated for years, super gassy and had low energy levels. When I learned that what was ailing me had a name, I threw myself fully into treating it. It started with the Candida Diet coupled with herbal antimicrobials or probiotics. The Candida Diet basically is: no sugar, no alcohol (unless its clear like gin or vodka), no gluten, no starchy veggies, and no dairy except Greek yogurt (since it's low in lactose). I stuck to this diet religiously, rarely cheating. That is, until August 2018.

The artist sits on a couch sipping coffee

By August, I was down to 125 lbs from a starting weight of 139 lbs. I felt great, wasn't bloated too often but still had occasional bouts. I could tell that the SIBO was still hanging on, but it was dramatically better. At the end of the month, I took a family trip to Europe. My doctor encouraged me to eat things that I'd been restricting myself from, mostly because I was on vacation and Europeans don't use as much shitty shit in their food. So, I did. I had wine and beer (not much though) and ate various things that I hadn't eaten in 8 months. Nothing made me sick or anything, and it was nice to take a break.

I've had a hard time coming back to restricted eating ever since. To be fair, doing a strict diet for 8 months is a long ass time so it makes sense that I'd be fucking sick of it.

Being restricted means that when I cheat, I cheat big. I'd just moved into a new place, was prepping for my first art show, and had several more vacations lined up so I basically just kept cheating – some days I went really nuts and other days I didn't but in general, I wasn't following any diet anymore.

Eventually, I weighed myself and I was back into the 130s. I was so disappointed in myself for allowing my eating to get "out of control"...(that's in quotes for a reason). I really felt this way but let's be honest, a few pounds is not a big deal but to my perfectionist brain, it was an epic fail.

In December, I went back to the doctor and she put me on a low FODMAP diet + some new antimicrobials to kill off any SIBO that had likely returned. I started my new regime and dropped some weight in the first two weeks and was generally feeling better. CUE ~ the holidays! I ate whatever I wanted at Christmas and have been on and off again ever since.

The artist holds her cat in the kitchen

So, what's the plan?

The plan is to either cheat or don't and be OK with the decision. Easier said than done, I'm sure. To me, cheating goes back to the early days of my Catholic education and The Ten Commandments ~ thou shall not cheat ~ a place where, as kids, we were scared shitless into perfectionism. I don't know about you, but learning about sins, (including adultery, like we're supposed to know what that is) at age 7 isn't a healthy way to foster self esteem. If anything, it just makes you scared to live in reality, always checking yourself against your elders, or Jesus, or whatever. I digress.

When I do eat something I probably shouldn't, I'm going to OWN THE FUCKING DECISION instead of subtly cheating every day for weeks until I hate myself. I'm also going to cheat less. Time to buckle down and pull in the reins. Cheat days are okay but I'm aiming for 1-2 days a week instead of small cheats every day. And I'm going to be nicer to myself because this is a long journey. SIBO doesn't go away overnight, in fact, it ebbs and flows over years and years. I'm using food and dieting as a way to get upset at myself and feel terrible – and that just has to stop. I'm going to cheat sometimes and that's okay – it doesn't mean I failed at treatment.

I know it won't be easy. Stay tuned for another edition of SIBO Updates in the next couple of months. As always, thanks for following along ;)

Photo credit: Seth

Outfit: Girlfriend Collective high rise leggings and Paloma bra in Apricot

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