I received many comments on the posts I wrote about the importance of gut health, so I decided to write another. Before experiencing symptoms of abdominal pain and diarrhea this subject never crossed my mind. I was flabbergasted to learn how many people with MS experience similar symptoms to my own. The time has come to learn all I can about improving my gut health. From now on I’ll be using food as medicine to help me accomplish my goal.
Here’s what I learned so far
SIBO: What I have is called SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) a condition where bacteria that’s normally found in the colon proliferates in the small intestine (part of the digestive system) where it doesn’t belong.
Think of the gastrointestinal tract as a long muscular tube where you digest food that’s on its way to the colon. The coordinated action in the tube propels food from the stomach to the small intestine and into the colon, sweeping bad bacteria out of the small intestine and into the colon. With SIBO this normal activity is interrupted and the bad bacteria stays in the small intestine and multiplies. This can allow bacteria to spread backward from the colon back into the small intestine. Some symptoms of SIBO are excessive flatulence, abdominal bloating and distension, diarrhea, constipation and abdominal pain.
The underlying cause is still unknown and the most common treatments are antibiotics and probiotics.
Probiotics are live bacteria, often called “good” bacteria, and are used to replenish the loss of bad bacteria to keep the gut healthy. Probiotics are found naturally in the body, in some foods and in supplements that are sold over-the-counter.
Symptoms of SIBO can recur after a treatment of antibiotics. More studies are needed about comparing the effectiveness of antibiotics, probiotics and the combination of the two.
My gastroenterologist put me on two rounds of an antibiotic called Xifaxan, a newer antibiotic that’s different from other antibiotics. It passes the stomach and goes directly into the intestines without being absorbed into the bloodstream. I continued experiencing diarrhea and abdominal cramping after the two rounds but less than before.
I know it takes time for the gut to heal and decided to arm myself with information about what to do next. I needed to know how to use food as medicine.
What I’m doing to heal my gut
As luck would have it (or perhaps bad luck) a close friend was also diagnosed with SIBO. She was a wealth of knowledge and shared her wisdom with me. I also turned to a friend who is an incredible health and wellness coach and knowledgeable about the relationship between food and chronic illness. She has firsthand experience after her own diagnoses of fibromyalgia, CFS, and migraines.
Now I’m taking some important steps to heal my gut. I know SIBO can be chronic so making my gut healthy will be a lifetime struggle, something all of us living with MS know a lot about. Bacteria feeds on gluten, sugar, and dairy so to starve bacteria I’ll be avoiding these.
I’ve read about following a low FODMAP diet (FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols), something that seems to be effective in treating SIBO.
(You can find more information about the FODMAP diet online such as from Monash University in Australia.)
I am taking a probiotic called Renew Life Adult 50+ Probiotic, Ultimate Flora, 30 billion. According to Amazon.com, it has “6 scientifically studied strains for adults over the age of 50.” I plan on gradually building up to 100 billion once a day. (Probiotics are not evaluated by the FDA. Please consult your medical practitioner before taking any new supplements.)
What I’m reading
I purchased two books from Amazon.com. One was recommended by my close friend that’s now her bible. It’s called “Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet” by Elaine Gottschall, B.A., M.Sc. The other was recommended by my health and wellness coach-friend called “Gut Balance Revolution” by Gerard E. Mullin, M.D.
Before I go, if you haven’t read my prior two posts you might be wondering why I’m writing about gut health on a site that’s about Multiple Sclerosis. Take a look at an article from Science Daily (June 2016) titled “Link Between Gut Bacteria, MS Discovered: MS Patients Show Lower Levels of Good Bacteria”
Let’s hope further studies will find a way to prevent and cure all gut-related ailments.