Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Trip to the East Coast: Exploring Options for GP/SIBO

I have to admit, I've debated whether or not to share this post, afraid I would come across as weak or failing to manage my own gastroparesis.  When looking back to the beginning of this blog and the journey I have taken, I'm realizing how much I used to write about my own personal day to day life with GP and the emotions that came with it.  My recent studies and work as a health coach has ignited a passion in me to focus on helping others by providing research, ideas, recipes and a positive outlook.
I've received a number of emails from readers who share with me how much this site has helped them, and clients who are finally feeling some relief and eating more nourishing foods for the first time.  The last thing I want to do is write about my own struggles.  However, I'm here not only as a coach but as a patient as well.  Now I want to give you a little update about my recent setbacks and future plans.

Back in April, I started experiencing increased bloating and pain, especially when it came to foods high in carbs or sugars, hence the FODMAP plan I began following more strictly.  I did a home breath test for SIBO, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and it came back positive.  During this time, I came across a book by Dr. Gerard Mullin titled The Inside Tract.  Not only is he a gastroenterologist but also a nutritionist and director of the Integrative GI Nutrition Services at Johns Hopkins.  In his book he discusses the digestive tract in depth, the many disorders that over 60 million Americans suffer from, and a body, mind and spirit guide to digestive health.  Then I read the short case study on someone with not only GP but SIBO as well.  His approach is exactly in line with my own theories and beliefs, and his extensive research with SIBO got me thinking..."what would it take to actually see this guy!?"  

I dialed the number to the famous Johns Hopkins medical center, thousands of miles away, biting my nails thinking to myself how absolutely insane this was.  The receptionist was incredibly nice, taking the time to hear my story out and then explain that others have traveled to see Dr. Mullin and it absolutely was possible.  Before I knew it I was scheduling an appointment, the first available 4 months later, August 2nd.  I figured, if I'm still dealing with this challenge over the summer I could somehow make it happen.

My initial instinct was to try and take out the SIBO with a number of herbs I had read about in a paper written by Mullin and two other healthcare professionals.  However,  after talking with a nutritionist that works closely with Dr. Mullin,  I decided the number of pills needed might be too much for my stomach to handle.  Despite my hesitancy of antibiotics, I went for the 14 day Xifaxan treatment.  Unfortunately, I didn't feel much of a change, despite the low FODMAP diet.   Don't get me wrong, it makes a huge difference in the severity of the symptoms, but in my case not enough to get rid of this bacteria.

Last week I decided to take a chance, make the trip and get some expert opinions.  Am I nervous?  Of course.  All the usual thoughts pop into my mind...what if he has no answers, what if he just brushes me off, what if I spend all of this time, money and energy for nothing?  Well, I can't say I never tried.  And honestly, I truly believe it will be worth the extra advice, even if it's only to confirm what is going on and that my approach needs to be more aggressive.

I will be arriving in Baltimore on the morning of August 1st, after a coast-to-coast red eye flight.  In the afternoon, after a 12 hour fast, comes the 3 hour breath test for the levels of bacteria in the small intestine.  On Thursday the 2nd I will visit with the doctor, having the test results and hopefully a chance to provide a little extra insight into my own digestive tract and guidance on where to go from there.  After reading his brilliant books and research on the work he has done in integrative medicine, I feel incredibly privileged for the opportunity to meet him!

My husband, supportive and amazing as always, will be taking the adventure with me.  Because there is the possibility of additional tests the following week, we will be making a trip out of it and staying until Tuesday, 8/7.  I've already googled  "things to do in Baltimore," so if you have any suggestions let me know!  Going to try and make the best out of our time and take in some sights.

Wish me luck and I'll be sure to post updates as the journey continues.

Additional information on SIBO
Article in Today's Dietitian 
Systemic Signs of Underlying Digestive Dysfunction and Disease 


  1. Good luck and I hope you get some answers! I had SIBO to, so I know what you are going through.
    Take care,

  2. Yea Steph!! I think this is great! Please update us on the GPers while on your trip and let us know what you are learning! I am so excited for you and for all of us that will become educated because of your efforts :-)

  3. Trish,
    Thanks for the thoughts! Sounds like you understand the challenge it brings and hope you were able to overcome it yourself.

    Of course I will keep you updated! It's a journey many of us share. Keeping my expectations realistic but looking forward for the opportunity to learn more, even if it's reassuring me I'm doing the best I can with what I have.