With SIBO, the focus of treatment is to remove the bacteria and fix the breakdowns in your gut function to prevent relapse. The healing process requires addressing these physical breakdowns, but a positive mindset is also an overlooked and crucial piece to this process. The ups and downs of the healing process can often do a number on your mental well being.
My healing journey was quite bumpy and I often took one step forward only to take two steps backward. When you are at a low point, your doc might have some new plan to address the physical issue, but rarely do they want to delve into how you are mentally coping with setbacks.
Healing from SIBO is not easy and most people have set backs during treatment. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed and hopeless when you have invested so much time and energy into treatments and are not seeing the results that you want. I know I felt this way many times during my journey.
Through my own struggles, I have learned some strategies to help you cope with the mental challenges you may face with SIBO. Let’s dive right into the tips on how to mentally breakthrough the roadblocks in your SIBO journey:
Be open to experimentation. Don’t shy away from trying new things.
It can be very easy to get stuck in a SIBO rut. You have found a routine that allows you to get through your day, but you haven’t made any progress in awhile. You are surviving, but not thriving.
It can be so hard to experiment for fear of taking a step backwards. But progress, requires you to push yourself so that you can break through plateaus.
In my case, experimenting with diet was super difficult for me to mentally overcome because I developed such strong food fears. The fears that I would feed my SIBO kept me on a very restrictive diet that made my symptoms worse. It wasn’t until I learned to listen to my body and not my irrational food fears that I was able to progress my diet, which improved my health.
You can take comfort in the fact that you haven’t tried everything! Many of my clients claim that they have tried everything, but I love being the one to show them they haven’t! There is always something new to try. To progress, you have to experiment.
Stop worrying about making your diet perfect
SIBO diets can be mentally exhausting! The SIBO specific diet zapped up all my mental energy leaving me unable to focus on anything else. It consumed my thoughts. I was constantly trying to plan what and when I was going to eat.
I also kept worrying that I was reacting to new foods. I assumed that any new symptoms meant my diet was wrong. I thought that the more restrictions I had, the better chance I had to heal. Boy was I wrong!
I am going to beat a dead horse, but restricting foods is not the solution for SIBO. Severe restrictions can consume all of your thoughts and mentally drain you. It can also physically drain you, but that’s a topic for another day.
In my case, restrictive dieting was unproductive and drove me insane! I see these diets having very similar effects with my clients. Don’t let the worry and stress of trying to eat a perfect diet disrupt your healing.
Don’t ditch your hobbies and passions
When your head space is consumed by restrictive diets and other aspects of SIBO treatment, you don’t have the time or energy to focus on anything else. You ditch your hobbies, passions and career aspirations. Nothing else seems to matter. The all consuming nature of many SIBO protocols can crowd out the activities that you love.
Going weeks, months and years without the pleasure and joy of your passions can be soul crushing. It can also make you feel especially bitter, angry and depressed.
Even if you may have to cut back a little bit on some of your passions due to some of your symptoms, you should still try your best to stick with your passions as much as possible. As your health improves, you can pick up the slack!
Don’t isolate yourself. Stay social!
Like your hobbies and passions, you can very easily neglect your relationships when you are battling SIBO. You may not feel like meeting your friends at restaurants if there is nothing for you to eat. Or you might not feel up to parties or celebrations. You may feel like you just don’t have time for friends and family anymore.
I spent months isolating myself from my friends and family during my SIBO journey. I didn’t do it on purpose, but I drifted out of my social circles.
While it can be easy to isolate yourself, try your best to stay connected to your loved ones. We are social beings. We need connection and we crave it.
Social connection can help buffer the stress that SIBO can bring. Having an ear to vent about your struggles with SIBO can also be super helpful.
Your loved ones want to help you, but you have to ask for help. Tell them how they can help you.
Take a break from treatment if you need one
Treating SIBO requires a sizable physical and emotional investment. If you have been stuck in a rut with treating your SIBO, you may need to take a break to regroup mentally before starting a new treatment.
I got into a real rut with my SIBO treatment and I took a good 6 months off. This time allowed me to focus on going back to school without constantly worrying about my gut issues.
When the time was right, I was excited to start treating the SIBO and experimenting with new treatments. Don’t be afraid to take a little break to regain some mental sanity!
Throw yourself a pity party if you need one!
You don’t have to be positive 100% of the time. SIBO sucks. It is ok to be mad, angry, bitter, sad and depressed about your battle with SIBO. Sometimes trying to be positive all the time and not moving through your emotions can even be toxic.
I reached a breaking point in my treatment when I was really sick, where I just couldn’t hold back my tears. I gave myself permission to cry and the flood gates were opened. After I let out my sadness and frustration, I felt so much better. I was able to move forward and try something new. It is ok to grieve when treatment isn’t going well.
You can read a little more about this in this past blog post.
Work with someone
Finding a practitioner who you can trust to guide you through the mental aspects of treatment. You need someone in your corner to help with your questions and concerns. Even just having a professional ear to vent to can be important.
Self-treating SIBO can sometimes lead to poor treatment decisions and outcomes. When you aren’t having success self-treating, it can be easy to become mentally exhausted trying to figure out what to try next. A skilled practitioner can help guide you through a treatment plan so you can be more confident in the direction of the treatment. You still may need to make adjustments, but you can do it in a more calculated way.
Breaking through mental roadblocks is a difficult yet critical part of healing from SIBO. If you find yourself in a negative head space, try out some of the tips above to move through plateaus in treatment.