Gut health isn’t always IBS

This post is a little personal*

Whenever I tell people I can’t have gluten they automatically ask me if I am allergic or just don’t like it, this question really bothers me. I love bread, I love pasta, I wish more than anything I could eat it and be OK. It is especially difficult for my friends and family because I grew up eating gluten and never had a problem until a few years ago.

I know we have all heard of Bali Belly and the warning signs are there when it comes to drinking water or ordering drinks with ice in foreign countries but even when you think you’re safe… you’re not.

You might be that person with a stomach of steel or it might be your friend that jokes she can never get sick. Once upon a time I was that person and then came my last-minute trip to Morocco and it all changed.

Picture this: its 2am and you’re drunk eating a kebab in the hotel lobby with your new tour friends and all seems great in the world.

Fast forward to nine hours later and you’ve already squatted over a hole in the ground, drunk some awful cement looking and tasting medicine and you’re asking the bus driver to pull over again so you can literally go to the toilet on the side of the road in the Sahara dessert. Every. Thirty. Minutes. You are sure if you don’t die of food poisoning you will die of embarrassment.

What sounds like a horror travel story and is probably pretty funny to anyone who didn’t have to live it, was my reality. The embarrassment of it died long ago when I was diagnosed with PTSD and to date have seen five different doctors and specialists to work out what happened to my insides to change the make-up of them.

After the bus ride I was severely dehydrated, alone and afraid. I hallucinated and thought I was going to die – my doctors have told me I probably would have if I hadn’t flown home to London the next day and seen a doctor immediately. I still don’t know how I managed to board the plane when I couldn’t even stand up in the queue at the airport. 

After this my anxiety changed, it no longer became triggered by known things, it turned on me. I went to Scotland months later and had to take Valium the entire trip because I kept having post traumatic episodes fearing anything I ate would set me off. 

I will never forget the fear I have felt at losing control of my own body and I still struggle to this day with eating foods if I am under stress as my body and mind start to see it as an attack and consequently an allergic reaction though I am not allergic to anything.

I took antibiotics over the next year and did countless tests and specimens and blood tests, I had an endoscopy and colonoscopy with no answers for my symptoms given. I saw a naturopath and was diagnosed with SIBO (Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) which can occur after a severe case of food poisoning. Healthline.com states “SIBO is a serious condition affecting the small intestine. It occurs when bacteria that normally grow in other parts of the gut start growing in the small intestine. That causes pain and diarrhea. It can also lead to malnutrition as the bacteria start to use up the body’s nutrients.”

Despite taking a multitude of tablets and changing my diet I still had symptoms, I have tried Low Fodmap three times and it just doesn’t work for me. Three years on I still don’t know what is wrong with my insides, I am still on the search for answers and sometimes I have to pretend it isn’t happening so I don’t lose control of my mind and cry over something that I feel I have no control over.

Gut health is a real disease and it isn’t one answer for everything, I highly recommend anyone travelling to take appropriate medicines and to never ever eat a kebab on the side of the road.

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