5 Important Lessons and 8+ Best Treatments For SIBO & IBS Patients
As anyone who deals with a digestive illness like SIBO or IBS understands, the healing journey can be filled with ups and downs.
It takes time to find the medicines, supplements, and lifestyle routines your body needs.
In order to get your health on track, it also takes testing and tweaking.
In this article, I want to take a step back from research and vague recommendations thrown around and really dive into what has ACTUALLY helped me in my healing journey.
The supplements, medicines, lifestyle routines, doctors, mental support, and everything that has helped me feel better.
At the end of the day, we all want results and sometimes it’s best to take a step back, listen to your gut, and find out what has ACTUALLY worked for other people.
First, The Important Lessons I’ve Learned
As someone who has dealt with a severe case of SIBO and IBS, I’ve been through a lot. A lot of us have.
I’ve seen numerous different doctors, tried 100’s of supplements, been told to try things by lots of people, studied all the research, and seen some of the top gastroenterologists on the planet.
It took time to find things that actually helped. Below is what I’ve learned on my journey.
1. Nobody Has a “Cure”
I’ve learned from seeing some of the best doctors around that even they don’t have it all figured out.
Sometimes a treatment that has been researched thoroughly doesn’t help or doesn’t last. Sometimes an exact diet won’t be good for you and you will need to customize it to your body.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t get better, you will, it just means that anyone who claims they have a cure or knows exactly how to fix you is probably wrong.
We are complicated beings. Each person is unique and requires a different combination of medicine and routines to get better.
Doctors, scientists, and medicines are all just helping hands on our path to health. This is why it’s so important that your doctor is willing to stick with you and that you trust your own gut through the process.
2. Healing Doesn’t Happen Overnight
When I was really struggling I wanted to get better fast. Most people do. It’s understandable.
I’ve learned that if you have a severe condition it takes time to feel better. It took me a few years to finally find some solutions that helped. It also took me a few years to find a doctor I could trust and work with for the longer term. Not a doctor who just wanted to give me a prescription and send me away.
For me, it has been a very gradual process of improvement and I’m still working on getting back to optimal health. I still have my low days, but I’ve come a long way. You can too.
For most people with a severe gut illness, it’s going to take time, testing, a caring doctor/ people, and a lot of learning and growth until you get back on track.
3. Help is Necessary
Whether it’s a caring doctor who is willing to stand beside you and continue to try new things when you’re most ill, a family member who cooks and gives encouragement, or a friend who is there for you when you’re down, everyone who is dealing with an illness needs help.
Don’t get me wrong, I totally believe in self-reliance and learning to manage your health on your own. That’s part of the reason I created this site. But, I’ve also learned that if you’re struggling, it’s so important to get help.
I know I couldn’t have gotten better without support.
4. Illness is Both Physical & Emotional
This is something that has taken me a while to learn. With modern science, we are programmed to believe that everything is purely scientific and that our emotions and life circumstances are irrelevant.
Don’t get me wrong, I love science and it is responsible for some of the most helpful medicines and research that allows us to heal.
But our emotions, love, and lifestyle circumstances do play a role in the healing journey. It’s important to address both sides of the equation.
In the case of SIBO and IBS, this would mean addressing the bacterial and motility issues as well as your lifestyle, mind-body connection, emotions, and anxieties/ fears built up through time.
5. You Can and Will Get Better
It can be hard to believe that you’ll get better when you’re at your lowest point. But, I’ve been there, and I can tell you that you can get better and you will.
It may take some time and search to find answers, but you will get better. You may have an occasional relapse or flare-up of symptoms, but you will improve.
I’ve personally come a long way since I was at my lowest point with horrible symptoms and believe that everyone can get better. If I got better you definitely can too. There’s no doubt.
That’s the #1 reason I started this site. To provide helpful information, encouragement, products, and tools so that you can heal as naturally as possible.
If you’re interested in learning more about the exact specifics of how to heal with SIBO I’d definitely recommend the SIBO Elimination Toolkit.
What’s Helped Me The Most?
I want to list the things that have been most helpful on my healing journey.
Maybe something on this list is something that might help you or open you up to a new idea to talk to your doctor about.
Everything on this list has ACTUALLY been helpful to me.
Please also note that a few items on this list I may receive a small commission for if you decide to purchase at no extra cost. This helps me continue to run my site and create new resources. As always, I only recommend things that have actually been helpful.
1. Finding a Great Doctor
I’ve seen a few different doctors and gastroenterologists. Below are the qualities I’ve found in my doctors that have helped the most.
- Knowledge of both conventional medicine and research as well as natural medicine and alternative therapies
- Willing to problem solve, stick with you, really get to know you on a personal level
- Open and willing to implement ideas you have researched on your own
2. Elemental Diet
The elemental diet and semi-elemental diet have been helpful for me. I’ve used them for treatment and also for maintenance and as a supplement.
- Vivonex Plus (although I’d recommend physicians elemental now)
- Homemade elemental formula as a supplement
- Absorb plus as an occasional supplement
I’ve used both natural and pharmaceutical antimicrobials for treatment and maintenance. It’s best to work with your doctor using any antimicrobials because you want to avoid overuse if possible. Below are the specifics kinds that have helped me the most.
4. Herbal Teas & Tinctures
Herbal teas and tinctures have both been super helpful for me. I’ve used custom tinctures from my doctor which contain herbs for adrenal and digestive support. This is a much gentler way to get the medicinal benefits instead of using antibiotics all the time. I’ve also found high-strength herbal teas really helpful.
- Herbal tincture blends for digestive and adrenal support. Some of the herbs used in the blends I’ve found helpful are passionflower, motherwort, gypsywort, Malva, olive mother, rosemary, ribes, oak, clove, and a few other herbs. These blends are a little more complicated and you would have to work with someone who knows about herbal medicine. I’m working on developing a custom blend that can help so if anyone knows an herbalist who is interested in chatting let me know.
- The herbs used in the teas I make that help me are licorice root, burdock root, ginger root, passionflower, chamomile, lemon balm, raspberry leaf, and a few others. You can see how I make those here.
I’ve found a few supplements especially helpful. They are listed below.
- Natural Calm Magnesium, is a magnesium supplement I have taken at night before bed to help with constipation and for relaxation.
- Digestive enzymes, the brands I’ve done the best with are Rainbow Light and SIBB Zymes by Klaire Labs. I’ve taken these with meals and they help with overall digestion of foods.
- Inflammacore, this is a protein and inflammation product. It contains glutamine and other ingredients that help inflammation and the immune system a lot. Since I’ve dealt with SIBO I’ve taken it in small quantities since it does contain some prebiotics that can feed the bacterial overgrowth. But, I’ve found it helpful for the other ingredients it contains to help with inflammation.
- Semi-elemental diet, I’ve used both absorb plus and created my own formula to mix which is vegan. I’ve found if my symptoms are flaring up and I need to give my bowels some rest and a semi-elemental diet can be helpful.
I’ve tried a few different diets including vegan, paleo, SCD, and SIBO diets. What I’ve found is that I really have to customize the diet to my own body but keep in mind the principles from the FODMAP and Low Fermentation diets which have been helpful. I am normally FODMAP conscious but do allow myself to branch out.
- Stick to Low FODMAP and Low Fermentation basics for the most part which has been most helpful
- Still have to be careful with lots of garlic, onions, cauliflower, raw vegetables, leafy greens, Brussel sprouts, beans
- Eat cooked, pureed, or steamed foods
- Get a small amount of soluble fiber in the diet for stool bulk and colon health. I’ve found my body does need small amounts of starch. When I go insanely low carb my gut can become spastic and irritated. This is tricky dealing with SIBO since these fibers also feed SI bacteria.
7. Food Products & Quick Food
Sometimes you just need something quick and easy that you can also tolerate. These are the food products I’ve done the best with.
- Instant rice (also great for traveling)
- Cream of rice and brown rice farina
- Almonds, cashews, almond butter
- Green juice (no fruit)
- Roasted chicken from the store
- Sandwich on sourdough bread with mayo and tomato
- Ready-made sushi
- Tosi bars (almond and cashew)
- Unsweetened almond or rice milk
- Brown rice or pea protein powder
- Guayaki yerba mate and lower caffeine teas
8. Mental & Emotional Health
There have been a few lifestyle routines and other products that have helped me with the mental, emotional, and stress part of dealing with gut illness.
- IBS Audio Program, I just started using his audio program to help calm the gut and help with the emotional part of dealing with an illness like IBS and it’s awesome. It feels similar to deep meditation and is really helpful to manage symptoms and reprogram the mind-body connection.
- Personal affirmation and goals, the process I developed for myself after reading different self-help books have been super helpful for my mindset. I simply read aloud my affirmation card every morning and night. It has been huge for staying positive and getting rid of negative thoughts when things get tough. You can see the process here.
- Self-Help Books and audiobooks. A couple of my favorites that help with keeping a positive attitude are Lead The Field by Earl Nightingale and Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill. I read a lot of books, but these two in particular help with a positive attitude and programming of the subconscious mind.
- Surfing and nature, I have found it important for my health to get in the water and also relax in nature. It helps me to clear my mind and allow my body a break from everyday work.
- Epsom Salt Baths, awesome way to de-stress and get magnesium and sulfate into your body.
- Netflix and Chill, no joke, I don’t watch a lot of TV but a little bit before going to bed is a nice way to relax and get your mind off of things.
- Loving family and friends, it’s easy to get isolated when you deal with gut issues but interacting with loving people have been so huge for me. Everyone needs good people to talk to.
- Faith, I’ve wrestled with my beliefs as a young kid but faith in God and a higher power has kept me going when I’ve struggled or been searching for answers.
Other Things That Have Helped
Here are a few additional things that have been helpful for me in my healing journey that don’t necessarily fit into one of the above categories.
- Prokinetics, I’ve used Resolor and erythromycin after antimicrobial treatment and they have been helpful. I haven’t taken them long term but they helped.
- Bodywork, deep tissue massage, stretching, and visceral manipulation has helped me. Like a lot of the research shows, people with IBS and SIBO usually have nerve and muscle function issues so getting some massage or bodywork done has helped me.
- VSL3 and Align, although I have to be really careful with probiotics and don’t take them as much anymore these are the 2 types I’ve gotten results with.
So that’s basically everything that I’ve found helpful through my healing journey. I’ll add anything to this list in the future if I find something really helps my health. Hopefully, this helps you out in some way or opens your mind to a product or medicine that can make a difference.