For as long as I could remember, I’ve always had a weak stomach. No matter how clean I ate, my stomach would always bother me afterwards.
And it didn’t stop there. I would frequently get the common problems associated with a bad digestive system: Gas, bloating, diarrhea, skin issues, sleep disturbances and at times, fluctuations in my weight. It also affected my mood and overall well-being. When the symptoms flared up, it would really bother me despite doing my very best to keep a smile on my face.
After years of doing everything I could to manage my digestive issues on my own (by mainly eating strict Paleo and avoiding anything and everything that bothered my stomach), I decided it was time to contact a GI doctor and figure out what exactly what was going on inside my body.
After waiting for what seemed like a year to get an appointment with a local GI doctor, I finally got in. When I got there, it didn’t take long for the doctor to check me out and figure out what was going on. After asking me a million questions and pressing on my stomach for an hour, he wrote me a note to get a SIBO test at the local university hospital.
SIBO is short for “Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth” and defined as the presence of excessive bacteria in the small intestine. After researching more about it before my appointment, I was convinced I had it and immediately began to delve into ways to fix it on my own. Everything I found recommended eating a LOW FODMAP (fermentable oligio-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols) diet and avoiding a group of fermentable carbs that are known to aggravate gut symptoms in gut-sensitive people like myself.
I started to cut out some of my favorite foods in my already very restrictive diet: onions, garlic, apples, figs, sweet potatoes, all liquor (booo!) and the toughest one of them to eliminate – dark chocolate! (Oh how I love dark chocolate!) After tightening the dietary clamps even further, I did notice that some of my gut issues improved within a few short weeks. Finally I was making some progress on my own … and then my SIBO test came back negative!
At this point I started to lose faith in my GI doctor who was providing no answers. Maybe I would just have to accept that my only solution was to avoid certain foods for the rest of my life. Ice cream, pizza, beer, snacks, some of my favorite fruits, anything with cheese, grains, wheat (the list goes on and on) would be completely off-limits.
These foods weren’t all that important to me but I wasn’t very accepting of this “food life sentence.” After all, if I wanted to enjoy an ice-cold beer after a long day of work, I shouldn’t have to deal with a stomachache for the rest of the night!
Still not satisfied, I went online and researched as much information as I could for natural ways to repair your gut. As I do with most topics that I’m interested in, (especially if it involves improving my health and general wellness), I completely delved into it and turned over every rock on the subject matter that I could find.
One day I listened to a podcast by Robb Wolf (author of the best-sellers The Paleo Solution and Wired to Eat) where he was interviewing Dr. Michael Ruscio, a functional medicine practitioner and clinical researcher who happens to be very knowledgeable on gut health. Impressed with everything Dr. Ruscio discussed on the podcast, I decided to order his book Healthy Gut Healthy You.
In his book, Dr. Ruscio recommends an eight-step action plan that includes removing unwanted gut bacteria with antimicrobial herbs before reintroducing foods and feeding the good bacteria. The three herbs that he recommended were: Oregano, Artemisia and Berberine. I went ahead and purchased these on Amazon and they were fairly cheap. I took them for about two months at the recommended dosage.
The advice was simple: Eat a ton of fruits, vegetables and starches and eat a wide variety of them. So that is exactly what I did. Each meal I would include some fruit and lots of veggies with my protein. I also started to incorporate fermented foods into my diet such as Krauts, Kimchi and a daily shot of Gut Power.
For lunch, I usually have a HUGE salad bowl of chopped up greens, a hard boiled egg, a packet of wild salmon, olives, peppers, organic fresh blueberries, bacon pieces and of course I top it off with one of our dressings (my favorites are Ginger Cilantro and Maple Mustard!) (To save on money here, we buy enough to last us for the entire week and I assemble it all on our own each day which is much less expensive than eating out and ordering salads that cost $15-$20).
For dinner, my wife usually makes a protein for the family and most of the time will serve it with sweet potatoes and veggies (broccoli, asparagus, peas, etc). We also get bags of pre-chopped salads and add our own dried cranberries and PaleoChef dressing to it to help fill us up even more on the greens.
After following that exact protocol for a few months, I can happily report that it worked! I can now enjoy an ice-cold beer when I’m in the mood for one, a bowl of ice cream or a slice or two of pizza on the weekend with my family – all without feeling like someone is trying to stick a butter knife in my stomach!
So, if you’re struggling with gut issues and you think you just have to live with it, the good news is that maybe you don’t. Get informed and get on the road to trying new tactics. This is what worked for me. I hope you find what works for you!
Cheers to a Happy Gut and a Happy Life!