Recovery is a long road. Especially when your immune system is weak, you have a chronic illness that takes energy and effort and when your gut is involved. Even far after a round of antibiotics, a stomach flu or rough bout with IBS has past some of the complications and new symptoms persist.
I don’t think any of us really like having to think about literally being full of billions of bacteria, but it’s a fact. We are full of a variety of ‘flora’ (who came up with that? does it make it any prettier?) and those little buggers can have a huge effect on our health. Not just digestive health either, their effects can effect all the systems and areas in our bodies in one way or another.
Fortunately for most people with a healthy immune system and working organs not much thought needs to go into the little buggers. Eat relatively healthy, drink lots of water and treat your body well. The basic longevity rules for almost every way to stay healthy work for gut health. It’s easy. For a few of us though, it’s a lot more complicated.
A few years ago when my IBS was diagnosed I was tested for a whole host of different imbalances and it was found that my flora were quite off. I didn’t have enough of the ‘good stuff’ and far too much of the ‘bad stuff’. Now to clarify, in normal range amounts this bad bacteria isn’t really bad, its just there, doing it’s thing harmlessly but when they get a little too feisty and over populate it can wreak havoc.
At this point I had a choice. My doctor at the time ( a real tool, I might add) wanted to put me on a strong antibiotic, an anti fungal and possibly keep repeating until the problem went away. He also mentioned that most people deal with re-occurrences and need to keep going on with it in the future. As in it’s not a real fix, just a temporary relief.
Not only are the effects of the antibiotics usually temporary, they honestly do more harm than good not only by killing off all the good bacteria along with the bad but a host of other symptoms and immune system complications that can make IBS and other chronic illnesses worse.
Needless to say, I wanted another option. I went to a local naturopath and asked about alternative options that wouldn’t be so harsh on my system. She was honest with me that while there was an option, it wouldn’t be easy and it would involve a lot of lifestyle changes, at least for someone who likes food so much.
At this point in time Princess was about 6 months old, I was struggling to lose any baby weight and I was definitely using food as a comfort during stressful times. Like a lot of people with IBS my digestive system has an easier time day to day with simple carbs and for me that meant I turned to sweets, chips and breads because they were comforting as well as didn’t give my bowels something to complain about.
That was all to change. The naturopath explained a very strict diet that started off as more of a ‘cleanse’. It involved being very careful with what I eat for a few weeks, no sugar or simple carbs (grains, starchy vegetables, fruits) and no yeast (alcohol, vinegar, moldy foods). After a certain set of time, I was to start re-introducing certain foods slowly to see if any would trigger symptoms again. Now a days its kin to something like the candida diet, though for everyone the exact trigger foods and methods are a little different.
While it sounded hard, it was better than going back on antibiotics for yet another thing. I already felt like we over use them and that they cause a host of health issues (and now looking back they could have played a part in triggering the lupus UGH). I shopped, I read about recipes and options and I set a date.
Mr. Mango was going away for work for 4 weeks which meant I was in charge of my grown up food only, Princess was still breastfeeding and starting a few easy solids and Buddy ate like a typical pre-schooler. It worked out well to be a good time to get it over with.
It actually wasn’t that tough. I was a hermit for 4 weeks so no influence from smells and sights and I was motivated to feel better (and lose the baby weight). A ton of broths, steamed veggies, salads and lean meats (frozen salmon fillets was my saving grace here). Slowly I added back in some lower sugar fruits, beans and lentils. By the end of the 4 weeks a lot of my symptoms had really improved. Not only that but I was digesting difficult vegetables (broccoli, snap peas, sweet peppers) well and I lost over 15 lbs.
Honestly it probably was harder than I remember, but the benefits were so great that looking back on it, it seems completely simple, like the only good option.
I wish I could say it cured my IBS or that it was able to prevent me from developing an auto-immune disease but I can’t. I also wish I could say I think this kind of diet can be permanent, but realistically I’m aware that just like me, most people end up having to lax up a bit and live a little with their food and that’s perfectly ok. Cudos to anyone that can keep up the willpower to be that strict with diet forever, but I could never do it.
For the longest time after reintroducing simple carbs, sugar and yeast back into my diet in acceptable amounts I had no overgrowth issues. It didn’t cure everything like a miracle but it worked for its purpose.
Fast forward to now. While my diet is much healthier than before all that and my understanding of my body is much better, I have had to go on two courses of mandatory antibiotics (one for when my water spontaneously broke 7 weeks early with Little dude and another for a tooth abscess) and I do still enjoy sweets and of course a glass of red wine in the evening for comfort, stress relief and of course enjoyment.
The overgrowth seems to be back and it’s time to take care of it again. Not only for my gut health but honestly from what I’ve read it can help with many of the other symptoms, so even more of a reason to get it done.
I won’t be focusing on it too much here, there are others more well informed and enthusiastic about it but I will update through the initial phases. Not only to help others that may need company going through it but to keep myself motivated. This time will be more difficult with new symptoms, 3 kids instead of 2 and Mr. Mango is home (and so lovingly volunteered to do the first part of the cleanse right along with me!).
Keep your fingers crossed for me people! This is day 3 and the ‘die-off’ symptoms are pretty extreme and a pack of fruit juice gummy bears at the back of the cupboard is calling my name (dammit sugar cravings!). I can do it, I know so because I’ve done it before!