Tips for Dealing with Gut Dysbiosis (AKA Looking & Feeling Pregnant w/ Bloat!)
Hi guys! Happy Thursday!
I shared a photo on my Instagram stories last night of me looking & feeling a full-blown 6 months pregnant with bloat. This is something I am very used to and have been dealing with for a long time, but it doesn’t make it any less painful, uncomfortable or frustrating whenever it happens. (Which is mainly every day to give you an idea of the ride frequency…!)
It was incredible to see how many of you could relate, and it inspired me to share this post on the blog today. Not incredible in the sense that I am glad any of you have to feel that discomfort or go through the struggle of intense bloat, but incredible to know that seeing that photo of me helped a lot of you feel less alone. It really showed me how we can all band together and inspire each other with our stories. The more we normalize the conversation about the severe bloat life, the less shameful it will be and the less alone we will feel when it comes on.
It also inspired me to share the tips and tricks I have found along the way, plus to share more about WHY I get such bad bloat (or at least why I think I do… the body does mysterious things and we can’t always know every single answer for certain), what I do to combat it, and the tests you can do to find out what is going on in your gut. Ready?!
Why the Bloat?!
I recently found out that I have a sever case of dysbiosis, which is a microbial imbalance in the gut of the good and bad bacteria. Basically, this can be caused by a whole lost of things including stress, dietary changes, antibiotics, parasites, pesticides / chemical consumption, alcohol, sugar, a weakened immune system, the list goes on. As you can imagine it can be caused in a LOT of different ways. I fit the bill for so many of those things including parasites, stress, weak immune system, chemicals and mold in my system, and antibiotics to name a few.
The way I was tested for this was through a stool test with my incredible LLMD (Lyme literate Medical Doctor) where she found the extreme disruption in my gut and we were able to see a full profile of the bacteria ratios, the parasite itself, how food was digesting and absorbing, and more. It was so many pages truthfully I couldn’t even retain it all, but the amount of info we were given was amazing.
Symptoms of dysbiosis can include bloating, nausea, gas, constipation, diarrhea, rash, fatigue, anxiety, depression, trouble thinking, trouble sleeping… the list goes on.
It is closely linked to SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) which is when abnormally large numbers of bacteria are present in the small intestine. To get tested for that one you go on a broth/chicken/rice diet for 24 hours and then do a SIBO breath test, which you can do with most any functional medicine doctors or LLMD’s.
Basically the parasite is a huge reason for my particular dysbiosis. I can eat ANYTHING or nothing at all, and it will happen. I can never predict when it will happen but I know my body well enough to know certain triggers that bring it on terribly, including lots of different foods from sugar to meat to certain cruciferous veggies. And lately, even rice! Which is so sad because I have been loving rice and all SOS-free g-free carbs lately.
And from a diff angle, looking completely normal. All about perception. You never know how someone on the inside feels.
Some Awful Bloat Stories…
When I was in Bali, both in December and in April, I was asked if I was pregnant ALL the time. Their social graces are not the same as ours here in the U.S., where we are taught from a young age not to ASSUME someone is pregnant unless you absolutely know they are or they are basically about to pop and it’s completely obvious. In Bali I would be walking down the street feeling great about myself, with just a little bit of bloat, and someone would ask me if I was pregnant. It probably also had to do with the loose and flowy clothing I embraced there but still — I was flabbergasted! This truly happened more than 10 times on my last trip.
I know they only meant well by it but it definitely stirred up a bit of a rage in me… many times the people who were asking me looked much more bloated themselves than I did, so I had to bite my tongue about asking them if THEY were pregnant after I told them I wasn’t. But I knew that would get me nowhere and that they weren’t trying to be insulting so I just let it go.
When I shared that photo of me last night SO MANY of you said that you get asked all the time if you’re pregnant when you are just severely bloated. I think that’s just not okay. Unless a woman flat out tells you she is pregnant, or if she is clearly WITH CHILD and you can tell in some other way that she is pregnant, it’s just not a topic that should be brought up. If someone is pregnant and wants you to know they are pregnant, they will tell you. Point blank.
When J & I were in Bali in December I was feeling my sickest of all time. Rashes everywhere, severe bloat, daily migraines, couldn’t get out of bed exhaustion, no motivation or energy… and getting asked if I was pregnant at that time was really the cherry on top. It was NOT cool. These days I am feeling more myself in my body (especially after my water fast reducing tons of inflammation) so those comments don’t affect me as deeply, but I will never forget how it felt at that time to hear that. And for all of you who are in that position and have to go through that, I am so sorry. It’s not okay and we just have to educate people that it’s never something that should be assumed or said.
How to Deal!
Here are some things I have found that have helped me deal with the bloat from dysbiosis, SIBO (in the past), parasites, antibiotic side effects, food intolerances, and overall sensitive stomach probs…
A) ROCK WHAT YOU’VE GOT WITH CONFIDENCE. The girl I was in December when J & I were in Bali was at an all-time confidence low. I felt like absolute shit all of the time and it was hard to even get out of bed in the morning feeling so low and so sick. These days, although I am facing a lot of health issues, I have a renewed confidence. I feel restored and radiant from the inside out. This is partially the result of extreme self-care (next on the list) and post-water-fast bliss, but it’s 90% MENTAL. Once my mentality shifted and I started to view my body as a vessel for energy, love, light, and healing, it was far easier to show myself the kindness I deserved — which then radiates right back outward.
B) SELF-CARE COMES FIRST. I know that some of the things I do for self-care aren’t available to everyone reading. Lately I have been into infrared sauna, colonics, enemas, Ayurveda (doing another Panchakarma soon and I can’t wait!), ionic foot baths, acupuncture & cupping, yoga when I have the energy, facials, massages, solo times, walks, you name it… I’m into it. I have to do a lot to detox right now from the extreme about of bugs and parasites that are dying inside of my body, but even before that I was majorly on the self-care train. If money is tight or time is not available to you, even the simplest of things will help. 15 minutes of journaling in the morning, lighting your favorite candles at night alongside a quick meditation, a weekly bubble bath. These things go a long way in connecting yourself to YOU and your heart… and also calm down the central nervous system which in turn reduces inflammation.
C) SEE A DOCTOR! You know I am the first one to go the holistic route when possible. I didn’t want to see a western doctor for MONTHS after a bad experience I had with a dermatologist right when my rash broke out terribly. But finally seeing an MD is what got me diagnosed with dysbiosis, parasites, Lyme, mold illness, and more, and now I am FINALLY on the right medication and supplements and protocol to get through this. I am hesitant to share my exact medications and supplements because what works for me is very tailored to my specific diagnoses. I encourage you to find a great MD in your area (functional is great, or LLMD specifically because if you have a lot of these symptoms you could very well have Lyme and it’s great to get tested). KNOWLEDGE IS POWER, and if we don’t know what’s wrong… we can’t fix it!
D) Anti-inflammatory foods & anti-inflammatory diet. I am big into both of these things right now. I am all about the turmeric, beets, ginger, broth, berries, tonics, garlic (I hate it but it works), and all sorts of holistic supplements and herbs that reduce inflammation and bloat. I am also doing an anti-inflammatory SOS-free vegan diet (read this post to learn more about that) which helps a lot. Vegetables are some of the most anti-inflammatory foods on the planet. I vowed to myself when I started feeling this way that I would not consciously eat foods that would make it worse, because to me personally it’s not worth it to feel so miserable and inflamed and swollen. So veggies have been my savior all the way, and lots of fruits too.
E) KNOW YOUR TRIGGERS. This was incredibly hard and sad for me but I’ve CUT OUT COFFEE which is huge because it’s a major triggering agent for me… so it is important to get to know what your individual triggers are. Other triggers for me are certain veggies (Brussels sprouts, even though I love them), anything oily, sugar, and certain starches like white and brown rice. I still eat rice but I keep my major triggers to a minimum because to me it’s just not worth it.
F) Good sleep & Exercise. When we sleep is when the body heals, and especially the hours between 10pm – 2am. I have been trying very hard to shift my sleeping schedule to go to bed earlier, which means NO SCREENS in bed (sad… bye Netflix unless earlier in the evening) so that my body naturally gets used to the darkness outside and the idea of sleep. When I have the energy to exercise, it helps a lot with anxiety. Of course sweating reduces bloat, and releases toxins. I specifically love hot yoga, light running, and long hikes to get my heart rate pumping.
G) INFRARED SAUNA & CRYOTHERAPY. I know this was mentioned in the self-care category, but if you have the ability to treat yourself to either of these incredible therapies I would highly recommend it. It is NOT frivolous to treat yourself to self-care. It is a very important piece of the healing pie and if you are as sick and infected as I am… it’s important to do every so often if you can. Changing the body’s temperature so that we are not only existing at “room temp” 100% of the time is a huge part of the healing process — with both the cold and the heat, and I have found that both of these things help my bloat a LOT.
H) Chewing on ginger, fennel seeds, or caraway seeds before / after meals. This helps stimulate digestion and gets the body ready to process & digest food, which greatly reduces bloat.
I) COFFEE ENEMAS & COLONICS. Coffee enemas are something you can do at home and they are very budget-friendly. You can order enema bags on Amazon as well as the coffee you need to do do your own at-home enema. Colonics are also incredible as they move out stagnant waste, debris and disease from the colon and help your colon return to its natural and intended function.
J) PROBIOTICS!!! This one is a given. I can’t take them right now because my dysbiosis is so terrible my doctor doesn’t recommend it until I begin to heal, but I highly recommend probiotic support for digestion, which helps a lot with bloat.
K) And finally… LOOSE CLOTHING. I am never one to hide my body behind clothes, but I will say a good loose t-shirt with some yoga pants is a VERY comfy option when I am experiencing extreme bloat from dysbiosis. Wearing my form-fitting yoga tanks is just not comfy when I feel that way. You feel me? This is a tip for overall confidence and just feeling comfortable in your own skin so you can radiate those good vibes outward.
Okay… that’s what I’ve got for now! Thoughts? Stories? Tell me all about what you’re dealing with and we can go through this together!! Let me know if you try any of these tips, and also join our HIGH VIBE CHRONIC LYME + CHRONIC ILLNESS TRIBE on FB to continue this conversation & find support and relief amongst others who have been there. All of my love, gorgeous babes.