SIBO Panic: the undiscussed anxiety common after diagnosis

Today, I want to talk about something that is often overlooked in the world of gut health: the impact of stress and emotional reactions on our digestive system. 

Have you ever noticed that when you feel stressed or overwhelmed your gut doesn’t function right? You may feel queasy – or run to the bathroom for a “nervous poop”. You may be appalled by the taste or scent of certain foods, or not want to eat all together. 

Now, imagine this as a newly diagnosed SIBO/IMO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth/Intestinal Methanogen Overgrowth) patient. You’re thrilled that you finally have a name for what’s causing the symptoms you’ve been experiencing…

…but you’ve also just been told you have a condition you’ve barely heard of, you don’t know how to treat it, and suddenly all food, medication, supplements, and even visits to the doctor seem daunting and overwhelming. 

So, you may shut down. You may excessively Google. You may deem all processed foods enemies and ransack your snack cabinet. You may purchase 20 supplements. You may pull an all night and watch all of the SIBO Recovery Roadmap® Course videos in one sitting.

Believe me, I get it. I did it when I was first diagnosed.

And now that I help countless SIBO/IMO patients with their treatment and recovery, I see it all the time. When I’m in a live Q&A or masterclass and I see a wide-eyed, frantic, newly-diagnosed SIBO/IMO patient, I know exactly what they are going through.

I call it “SIBO panic”. 

Let’s back it up. 

First, what is SIBO/IMO? SIBO, or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, and IMO, or Intestinal Methanogen Overgrowth, are conditions that occurs when there is an imbalance in the gut flora, leading to an increase in bacteria in the small intestine. This can cause a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms, such as bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. 

When patients are diagnosed with SIBO/IMO, it can be really scary – leading to anxiety, fear, and even panic.

But it’s important to note that SIBO panic only makes SIBO/IMO worse. Having the right resources to treat SIBO/IMO and combat SIBO panic can make a huge difference in how your treatment goes. 

Why’s this? 

Well, having a highly emotional reaction to a health condition can have a profound impact on the body, particularly on the digestive system. The gut-brain axis is a bidirectional communication network between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract – aka a pathway between your brain and your gut. 

Stress, anxiety, and other emotional reactions can disrupt this communication and lead to changes in gut motility (the mechanism that moves your food through your digestive tract), secretion (your bowel movements!), and permeability (what keeps the bad bacteria and toxins in your gut to be disposed instead of leaking into your other organs).

Even studies have shown that stress and emotional reactions can worsen the symptoms of SIBO and other gastrointestinal disorders. A study published in the journal Neurogastroenterology and Motility found that patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) who experienced high levels of stress had more severe symptoms and lower quality of life than those who did not.

Stress can also affect the composition of the gut microbiome, which plays a crucial role in the development and maintenance of a healthy gut. Chronic stress has been shown to reduce the diversity and richness of the gut microbiota, leading to dysbiosis (liver disease) and other health issues.

Gut health and your mental state have a huge and profound impact on one another!

But I get it. 

If you’ve been diagnosed with SIBO/IMO or even IBS, you’re probably thinking: Shivan, it’s a lot easier said than done to not panic…

Believe me, I understand how stressful a new diagnosis and SIBO panic can be.

However, I’ve worked hard with my dear colleague and SIBO specialist Dr. Allison Siebecker to create resources to help SIBO patients and avoid SIBO panic.

So, what can we do to manage “SIBO panic” and its impact on gut health?

  1. Education and support: learning about SIBO/IMO and its treatment options, how to find and work with a practitioner, and receiving a step by step action plan can take away your stress about healing! 

(Luckily, we’ve created a nine step proven method that covers everything you need to know about SIBO and provides an algorithm you can follow to get better. Learn more about SIBO Recovery Roadmap here.)

2. Jumping into treatment! Sometimes starting with an effective SIBO-busting treatment prevents you from getting so overwhelmed that you procrastinate taking action.

(If you’re looking to start the MOST EFFECTIVE SIBO/IMO treatment, the Elemental Diet, look into our course Elemental Diet Masterclass and Q&A with Dr. Ruscio. Dr. Ruscio is a Naturopathic Practitioner, Doctor of Chiropractic, clinical researcher and author. His work has been published in peer-reviewed medical journals and he is a committee member of the Naturopathic Board of Gastroenterology research division. He’s helped thousands of SIBO patients successfully complete the Elemental Diet.)

3. Diet and lifestyle changes. A healthy diet and lifestyle that supports gut health will help your digestion and symptoms and reduce your stress as you start your SIBO treatment. If you’re looking for SIBO friendly recipes, download our free SIBO cookbook here.

4. Getting support. We are huge supporters of using therapy and counseling alongside your SIBO treatment to build coping skills and resilience through your treatment. You deserve to feel better – addressing the mental struggles of living with and treating SIBO is just as important as the actions you take for your gut.

I’ve lived through it, so I understand how challenging SIBO panic can be – or the panic from any diagnosis. 

I just want you to know I’m here – with support, information, and an incredible community of patients and practitioners – as you kick SIBO’s butt. 

And, if you’re struggling with SIBO panic and aren’t sure what to do, please don’t hesitate to reach out. You deserve to be well. 

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