We all have very different SIBO stories and sharing them can help to empower us on our journey. This week we’re joined by guest blogger Josh Sabourin from SIBO Survivor. Josh joins us this week to address SIBO from the male perspective, with focus on how he, as young college student, dealt with his diagnosis, treatment and recovery. If you’d like to share your journey with us please do get in touch.
Living With SIBO as a Young Guy
Digestive illnesses, such as SIBO, are challenging and often chronic. They can change the course of someone’s life. With them come the uncertainties of the day to day symptoms, and many individuals experience a deep silent suffering. It’s hard for people who don’t experience a digestive illness, such as SIBO, to realise what someone is going through. Often friends think that people with SIBO are just sensitive and try to use peer pressure to encourage them into binge drinking, or eating greasy food. It doesn’t show from the outside so they think everything is fine. In reality, the person with SIBO knows that the symptoms that come from activities such as binge drinking, all-nighters, and slurping down ice cream, just aren’t worth it. This is when someone who experiences a digestive illness knows they need to make changes.
My name is Josh and I live with SIBO, a digestive illness that a lot of people experience to different degrees. I have dealt with many digestive issues on my SIBO journey. I never imagined my life changing so drastically, but neither does anyone else when an illness smacks them in the face. I’m going to take you through my journey as a young guy who came down with the digestive illness in college, to how I manage my symptoms, how SIBO can affect your social life, and what to do about it.
From Starting Outfielder to Struggling With SIBO
My story started in college. My first year in college, I was an all-conference junior college baseball player. I clinched our conference title with a walk-off home run. I was strong, healthy, and in great shape physically and mentally. I was looking forward to a successful baseball career.
My second year was a different story. I started to struggle. My stomach started to cause me real trouble. I was also severely fatigued and burnt out. I began having nasty symptoms like constant gas and bloating, diarrhoea, and altered bowel habits. I was dragging myself to practices, and found myself trying to figure out what to do to feel better. This is when my life took a turn down a different path.
I started to see physicians. Most of them labelled me as having IBS, and prescribed medications that didn’t do much. I still felt like there was something wrong, something that they were missing. Long story short I ended up grinding through the baseball season. It was a tough season, and I struggled. I was weaker than before and less energised. I felt this odd sickness to my gut that I hadn’t experienced before. It was like an infection that wouldn’t go away. Food just wasn’t moving through my system like it used to, and instead was fermenting and causing nasty symptoms.
Living With SIBO in College
I wasn't officially diagnosed with SIBO until about a year after coming down with the severe digestive symptoms. I saw a doctor at Cedars Sinai who officially diagnosed me with SIBO-IBS after reviewing my history and testing with the lactulose SIBO breath test. It has been frustrating even to this day because I have always been a tricky case and my breath test results came back abnormal with a flat line result. My doctor told me that the flatline result is thought to be an overgrowth of Hydrogen Sulfide producing bugs which is more of an uncharted territory for SIBO research. I look forward to further research on hydrogen sulfide bugs so that people who have this overgrowth have better treatment options. For me, what has worked is to treat and manage SIBO by treating the overgrowth with antibiotics or the Elemental Diet, sticking to a SIBO diet, and living a healthy lifestyle.
During this time I ended up moving across the country to finish school at The University of Alabama and graduating with honors. Looking back, sometimes I don’t know how I was able to make it through since there were times when living with SIBO made life very challenging. I had to maintain a SIBO friendly diet, re-treat the infection occasionally when it flared up, and manage my stress. I also had to learn to manage social situations effectively and surround myself with friends who were understanding. It was tough at times because I ended up cutting out all alcohol and other unhealthy college activities which a lot of kids in college do.
Social issues of living with SIBO
With everything I’ve been through I can honestly say that the psychological aspects of living with SIBO as a guy can be a challenge. Especially when you are a younger college-aged guy. Below are a few of the psychological issues those with SIBO have to overcome:
- Dealing with people who don’t understand your condition, who label you as sensitive or lame since you have to watch what you eat or don’t partake in drinking activities.
- The stigma around pooping. Bowel movements are often a tricky issue to talk about since people can get weird when discussing their bowels. When you live with a digestive illness your life can feel like it revolves around this.
- The fear of having your stomach act up when you are out and not around a bathroom or sitting in a class.
- Being the person who decides to skip an event because of the food being served or the need for some relaxation.
- Discussing the issue with a teacher, or friend so that they understand when you are struggling.
After going through college and living with SIBO I have found a few strategies particularly helpful for dealing with the psychological aspects that come with the condition:
- Surround yourself with caring friends, not those who pressure you into situations where you feel uncomfortable. It may take time to find some awesome people, but this really helps.
- Develop a sense of humor about the issue. For me, it has helped to laugh about some of the issues I deal with, to lighten the mood when talking about bloating, gas, bowel movements, and other symptoms.
- Be upright and honest about your condition. I find if I tell people what I deal with, and that I have no control over it sometimes, then they are more understanding.
- Connect with other people who also have a digestive illness. This helps to get all your thoughts out of your head. Be sure to keep it positive though when chatting with a fellow gut warrior. I have found some people can be very negative. Steer clear from those people.
- Get comfortable saying no and try to get over what people think about you. Each person is unique and has their own issues. Those who matter won’t mind when you decide to sit out of an event.
- Offer up suggestions when hanging out with friends. Suggest cooking a certain dish or deciding on an activity that is healthy. Being decisive can really help.
What I’ve Learned
I have learned a lot living with SIBO. It’s definitely not easy being a young college-aged guy with a digestive condition such as SIBO. You learn to adapt to your situation, you find out who your real friends are, and you experiment with your body to learn what’s best for it. You also learn what you truly value in life when you deal with a chronic health issue. I think these learning events are a blessing in disguise because they force you to live a healthier lifestyle.
It also seems like there are not as many males out there who are open to sharing their story. This is what compelled me to share my story. I think it takes a lot of guts to talk about your intestinal issues with friends, especially guys. The more we share our struggles, and work towards better solutions the better off we all are. This was my main motivation for getting involved and creating SIBO Survivor. Lastly, I hope anyone reading this article continues to work towards living a healthier life and seeking out wonderful resources like The Healthy Gut. It takes time to heal but through time and commitment, you will get better!
Josh is a Digital Marketing Specialist by day and a gut health hacker by night. He is a former college baseball player and a graduate of the University of Alabama where he studied in the business school. He currently resides in sunny southern California where he enjoys surfing, reading, and sipping on a hot cup of tea in his free time. Josh has struggled with the digestive condition SIBO which sparked his interest in the latest research and solutions for the disease. This has ignited a passion for working to provide better information and products to those who live with SIBO, IBS, and other gut diseases. His ultimate goal is to help people living with the condition live an extraordinary life.