At Home With Nature

How SIBO Has Changed Me

Almost a year and a half after my SIBO diagnosis, I realize that dealing with this gut ailment has changed me in many ways. Some of theses changes are ones I’m happy to embrace, others are ones I’m hoping are temporary.

Here’s a few ways that Small Intestine Bacteria Overgrowth has changed me:

No More Tight or Uncomfy Pants

Let’s get to the practical things first. SIBO causes bloating for those of us afflicted with this illness, since there’s too much gas in the small intestine, where it’s not supposed to be.

Bloating plus tight pants equals misery, or at least for me it does. Even yoga pants are no longer comfortable for me.

And even when my symptoms are more or less under control, I’ve just realized that I do not need the extra pressure on my belly.

So I’ve taken a page out of my late grandmother Evelyn’s notebook, and I have embraced baggy pants with elastic waist bands for the most part.

Having less pressure on my waist puts me in a better mood. Honestly, I can’t imagine why I put up with uncomfortable clothing for so long!

I’ve Made Peace with My Belly

So, this is a bit of a confession, but I’ve been self-conscious of my belly for most my life. Even though I’m fairly slim, I’ve never had a flat stomach and always felt like this was a personal failing in some way. Yeah, too much exposure to movies, women’s magazines, and advertisements are definitely responsible for this cultural bias in my head.

Even though I don’t judge other women by the flatness of their abdomens, for some reason I have judged myself.

Until coming to terms with my SIBO diagnosis that is. This diagnosis has helped me to understand that I’ve got some stuff going on in my gut that has nothing to do with crunches or sit ups.

Rather than feeling resentful about my belly, my thoughts about it have shifted to one of care. What can I do for it to help it feel better? How can I heal my microbiome? How can I soothe my leaky gut?

Everyone is happier being cared for rather than judged, even a belly.

I’ve Had to Relax My Food Standards

Eating healthy has been important for me for a long time. Eating locally and sustainably has too. Growing as much of my own food as possible was a goal, as was foraging edible weeds.

But unfortunately part of my SIBO journey has entailed me having to learn to manage several food chemical intolerances. This means I no longer have the luxury of deciding what to eat based on those standards I used to hold up. Now I just have to look at the very short list of foods I can tolerate and find the best source for them.

I now buy a lot of my food online, which means a lot of shipping (carbon footprint), and a lot of packaging to deal with, which in my area without recycling options, means more trash.  I just sigh and do it, because I have to eat something. I’ve had to just let go of doing the best possible thing here and settle for good enough – for now.

I Have a Hard Time Getting Things Done

For me (as for many SIBO-sufferers) SIBO isn’t just SIBO. It’s a package deal that comes with gut dysbiosis, food chemical intolerance, nutritional deficiencies, and all the related symptoms of these “bonuses.”

Some days I feel great, and other days I feel pretty lousy. Most days, I don’t have nearly as much energy as I’d like to have. So I have had a really tough time accomplishing things over the past couple of years.

And since there are so many loose ends in my life, when I do have a good day with higher energy, I really don’t even know where to start, end up feeling overwhelmed and usually just ask myself, “Ok, what is the bare minimum that NEEDS to be done?” I do the basics, and the other stuff goes back on the “to do eventually” list.

This has been hard on me because I tend to have lots and lots of ideas. For instance, there’s a great divide between the number of blog posts I start writing in my head for this space, and those that actually make it to the page.

Oh, and did I mention the inch-thick layer or dust on everything in my house and the months-old dust bunnies in need of attention?

I try to give myself a break and not get upset when I can’t get everything done, but if I’m honest with myself, it’s really frustrating to have my health problems taking up so much of my mental and physical energy.

My Self Image Is More Fluid

Before the SIBO and accompanying food intolerances, playing with flavors in the kitchen was extremely important to me. So was growing new, unique foods and foraging my local, edible plants. These things seemed to form part of my identity.

Little by little I had to start letting go of those things that I thought defined me. Giving up those activities that I loved made me feel like I was losing myself.

But if I think deeply about my relationship to the activities I love, I know it is not the lavender flavored cookies I made that are part of my personality, but my willingness to take chances and explore. It’s not the lambsquarters or blue mustard I can no longer eat that made me me, it’s my curiosity and unquenchable desire to learn.

This may be an important realization, and I’m grateful I can see it, but yeah, I’m not going to lie, I’d rather have the lavender flavored cookies.

A currant bush in bloom on our farm in early spring.

What hasn’t changed is that I’m pretty darn stubborn. I’m not going to let SIBO change me in ways I’m not happy with without putting up a fight.

So I’ll keep the comfy pants, and the kinder regard of my poor, damaged belly, but I’m going to try my hardest to get back to a place where I can have the luxury to make healthy (and creative!) food choices from a wealth of options – and to a place where I’ll feel better about what I’m able to accomplish with my life.

If you’re also struggling with an altered life because of gut dysbiosis, SIBO, or food chemical intolerance, I’m sure it’s changed you too. My wishes for you: hold on to whatever you can to anchor you, and keep trying to get better. I wish you the best of luck.

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