13 Boo-Boos to Avoid Once You Begin Your Gut Recovery
Treatment for any gut condition is a ‘complex kid’. We hope in the beginning for a quick and easy resolution. We say, “Let’s get this thing handled,” and with any luck, we are among the portion of those who get a lasting resolution in a relatively short amount of time. We carved out time for choosing a doctor, we learned all we could and began diligently doing the recommended protocols. Barring the hoped for recovery, we stay focused for a while, maybe longer, but life has a way of beckoning us back into our familiar routines. We may become tempted to stop the healing activities for the greater ease of a ‘normal life’. The complexities have eluded us, at least for now.
Surely I cycled though this part of the journey more than once, but its important to know now that I still recovered – eventually. And not short-term recovery, the kind between relapses. I had seven of those. In June of 2016, after the eighth round of treatment and after nearly 9 months being SIBO-free – triple the time of any between-relapse-recovery- it appears I can speak of a true resolution. I say to myself that I truly covered all the bases, eliminated multiple co-infections, rehabilitated functional contributors and found the underlying root cause.
The experience has profoundly changed my life forever for the better. It brought me to my knees and helped me see and permanently release patterns that no longer served me. It is my hope that my experience can in some way help you stay on the sunny side of your journey, by either learning how to avoid the rabbit holes where time and money seem to disappear, or by shortening the time before your final and true resolution. It really can happen, but be careful to stay Zen on that, ok?
Between the lines of the 13 Boo-Boos to Avoid Once You Begin Your Gut Recovery, I share more details about my story.
1. Setting expectations about how fast your condition will resolve.
Hearing a success story about how someone healed early in treatment may erroneously lead another person to believe the same might be true for him or her. The honest truth is that there are no two cases alike. With SIBO for example, it is well known that 2/3 of diagnosed cases of SIBO do not resolve quickly. My own resolution took over 5 years and 8 rounds of treatment. Many other gut conditions can also require healing multiple layers of issues before a final root cause emerges. Insisting on everything to be clear in the beginning, or at any point, is expecting a perfection that does not exist.
2. Letting the uncertainty of how long it might take to bring you down.
Combined with #1 this mistake makes a very Zen approach to life essential. Focusing beyond the here and now is another way not to live in the present moment in appreciation for what the condition can tell you about your life. Sure, it’s going to feel icky, and its ok to be there because it just is. The key is to find some gratitude, looking for the opening where you can see the greater possibility of your life to pull you through. The other way verges on victimhood, drawing vital energy you need for health.
3. Opting for a DIY healing program.
Contrary to what some online sources will say, the complexities of treating gut conditions make one-size-fits-all schemes a costly mistake. Adopting an unsupervised treatment plan can backfire and do more harm than good. Why spend time and money on what isn’t going to work given the need for customized care? You will need those resources handy for what IS going to work.
4. Not choosing a qualified expert with demonstrated success with a wide variety of patients.
Hire a clinician who has a track record with your particular illness. Don’t settle for a hometown doc if they don’t have serious chops for modern GI complaints. You can go online and find a specialist who is licensed to practice tele-medicine. Unfortunately, most mainstream MDs are apt to be extremely conventional whereas functional medicine doctors and naturopathic practitioners are going to offer the most effective route ending your woes for good.
5. Declaring war on your illness instead of befriending it.
Your condition is actually your body messaging you that changes are need to reestablish equilibrium. Use this time to self-examine for separation of mind and body. Even after years of therapy and expert coaching, I still had to ask myself the following questions: Where is life not agreeing with me? What is the secret I am trying hardest to keep from myself and the world? Where have I not been willing to go during coaching sessions with my mentors?
6. Overlooking the importance of finding your big WHY for restoring your health.
Setting goals for what you want to accomplish on your holistic health journey will give you milestones to celebrate so you know you are on the right track. It could simply be physical healing, but what other healing would you like? For me, childhood trauma had left me with a lifelong battle with being seen as an empowered woman. The fear of being seen for my own genius kept holding me back over and over again, keeping me playing it safe. When I finally went deep enough to realize it was not at all a classic fear of failure, but a fear of having my success go unappreciated, I knew what steps to take and saw my health improve as a result.
7. Avoiding exercise.
Mild stretching, walking or qi gong, done consistently, actually speeds recovery to bring greater gut function. For those overachievers, it should be noted that exercising too vigorously will work against healing. ion, which postulated that I was over SIBO and the yet-to-be-determined root cause might be the new culprit. The doc ordered tests and at the last minute, just out of meditation, I got the idea to add an Epstein-Barr Virus test to the labs. Turned out I actually had an ‘off-the-charts’ case of reactivated Epstein-Barr Virus which was one of my multiple root causes. Now I could celebrate success on one of my treatment goals, which was trusting the information I received from my own body, my intuition.
8. Not following your gut-instincts.
Listening to other’s opinions is practical and essential, but no one is perfect. Check in with what you know to be true after a visit with any practitioner. My story on that is that 3 months after my eighth round of treatment, my primary doc suspected a relapse, but I felt something else, something different in a very subtle, yet perceptible way. I sought a second opinion, which postulated that I was over SIBO and the yet-to-be-determined root cause might be the new culprit.
The doc ordered tests and at the last minute, just out of meditation, I got the idea to add an Epstein-Barr Virus test to the labs. Turned out I actually had an ‘off-the-charts’ case of reactivated Epstein-Barr Virus which was one of my multiple root causes. Now I could celebrate success on one of my treatment goals, which was trusting the information I received from my own body, my intuition.
9. Not getting evaluated for adhesions or scarring in the pelvic bowl.
Fibers of scar tissue can form blockages to normal function of the visceral organs and GI tract. Although adhesions are commonly suspected exclusively in cases of surgical procedures like C-section, appendectomy, hysterectomy, vasectomy, ruling out the possibility that you might have them too is not that easy.
My story is illustrative of that point. As a lifelong yogini, I had felt congestion and impingements around my right hipbones and lower ribs when performing certain asanas. I began to link the congestion to the area around the ileo-cecal valve and sought deep tissue work to relieve the sticking points. It turned out that my omentum, the sac-like lining that surround the abdominal organs, was stuck at several points instead of gliding normally, affecting the function of my liver, my esophagus and my pancreas.
I had never had surgery anywhere but my knee, but I ‘d had three serious car accidents, one with whiplash, and could count three major falls down staircases. These run-ins with gravity were behind my adhesions and once they were released, my SIBO showed remarkable improvement. If you suspect adhesions, I highly recommend getting evaluated not just by your primary care, but by a skilled pelvic bowl specialist in visceral anatomy who can do something about it.
10. Leaving out the role of vagal tone.
The enteric nervous system, aka the Second Brain, is a rich network that surrounds the visceral organs and receives its critical input through the vagus nerve. The vagus wanders all the way down from the brain stem and influences digestion, metabolism and relaxation. The vagus can certainly be damaged by injuries from extreme impacts, but also by hiatal hernias, and things like PTSD, diabetes, and alcoholism. In my case, once I found my way to a functional neurologist to have an evaluation after several attempts to rid myself of SIBO, it made total sense that I had damaged vagal tone. Having had a PTSD diagnosis resulting from severe emotional trauma, damaged vagal tone would now be considered among my root causes.
11. Taking just one kind of probiotic over and over and over.
Many in gut recovery are at first intolerant of probiotics, which may seem quite odd given that metabolic chaos is now thought to be caused by a lack of probiotic diversity. Nevertheless, tolerance may be difficult at first. Remember that there are literally oodles of different species to repopulate, so if you can’t tolerate one, it doesn’t mean you’ll have trouble with them all. Educate yourself on probiotics and try to find something that works. Fermented foods are a must alongside encapsulated forms, and making your own at home is a great solution that is much simpler than you might think.
12. Focusing on one aspect, such as sealing the gut lining when the whole digestive process needs to be rethunk.
For example, the cephalic phase of digestion begins in the mind when we see food and the body responds chemically to produce enzymes that break down food into small enough particles to be turned into nutrients. Learning techniques to improve the psychology and physiology of eating and digestion will speed recovery.
13. Getting lured into the wrong rabbit holes.
Big picture solutions focus on finding the proper diet, effective supplementation as directed by a clinician, lifestyle changes that calm the nervous system (even though you never thought you needed to), and increasing emotional intelligence with the help of competent external support such as a knowledgeable gut wellbeing coach. Don’t leave it all up to your doctor.
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This report is well-complemented by a blog post entitled Gut Bombs: 10 Mistakes to Avoid When Your Gut Is OFF. Access that content by visiting my blog post at: http://www.myfirebelly.com/blog/gut-bomb-mistakes