When I was diagnosed with SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) in April 2015, I knew very little about it. At that time, all I knew was that my digestion was seriously compromised and I had no idea how to get better. I felt very sick 24/7 and while trying to sleep each night, my symptoms only increased. Any food I ate was like poison to my digestive tract—I reacted to everything. I remember asking my doctor’s office after the SIBO breath test (that is the way they diagnose this illness) came back positive, if there was a certain diet that worked well for my symptoms. I was told “No, not really, just eat an organic diet.” My “gut” feeling told me this was not the answer as I was already doing that and only feeling more and more sick. I can only say if it wasn’t for my friend Maria and the internet, I don’t know where I would have found any reliable information to calm my symptoms.
I quickly stumbled onto the low Fodmaps diet, SCD (specific carbohydrate diet) and SIBO specific diet. The diet that worked best for me (not perfectly though) was low Fodmaps. One of the reasons adherence to these various diets did not soothe my chronic abdominal pain was that I also had H pylori and a parasite, Yersinia enterocolitis. But, I didn’t know that until almost 20 months later. Adding to the complications of the SIBO diagnosis, I had a Lyme Disease diagnosis about two months later. That threw me headlong into many Lyme Disease treatments and almost six months of antibiotics. My situation was deemed to be a case of gastrointestinal Lyme Disease. Symptom-wise, I began losing weight rapidly, along with my joy for life.
For a little blog on herbal teas, this is perhaps more than you wanted to know. My goal in sharing this brief background information, is to reach out to anyone who is in a gut health crisis and tell you that I know how it feels. Most of life revolves around food! I love food but this time of chronic illness has changed my life and my relationship with food. I became afraid to eat and afraid to sleep because that is when I’d feel the worst. I was like a walking dead person—a zombie for sure. I did not trust food or drink anymore because of the pain I would experience afterwards. It simply was not worth it.
I was also in the midst of planning a big 50th birthday party for my husband but I had little hope I would be able to eat anything at the party. I felt awful the evening of his party. I was weak, exhausted and my cute black dress hung on me, about two sizes too large. I remember nibbling on a few bites of chicken but that was about it. After dinner when everyone was eating dessert, I took one bite of flourless chocolate cake and wanted to feel good about it, but I could not trust that either. What I could trust though was my cup of after-dinner tea—lemon ginger from Organic India. This tea has been my go-to beverage. It is soothing, calming and comforting for my digestion.
Before I got sick, I really didn’t care for ginger. It wasn’t a flavor I was into at all. Now, it is a mainstay in my diet. Currently, I take ginger capsules just before bed which helps with slow gut motility.
Another tried and true beverage for me is herbal, loose leaf peppermint tea. Peppermint has long been known for soothing a poor digestion. Prior to SIBO/Lyme Disease, I drank peppermint tea every night after dinner. Drinking peppermint tea aids the digestion and for me, prior to my illness, it kept me from looking around for dessert.
Whatever you are experiencing in your health right now, I know it can feel daunting and at times a little hopeless. As much as possible, keep learning, reading and moving forward. Educate yourself and advocate for yourself. If you have a doctor or practitioner you feel is not listening to you, move on and find someone else.
Finally, don’t let this illness/event define you. It will take time to heal. I am still not sure I will fully heal but I do not want to be sidelined from life. Tell yourself, “If I wait until I feel better to __________, (you can fill in the blank), I will likely never do it.”
My goal in writing about my illness among other things and offering some thoughts on herbal, loose leaf teas is my way of getting outside of and beyond my poor health. Currently, I feel better, though not fully healed. I hope you will join me in this endeavor. I am cheering for you!