It has been a long time since I’ve written on Naturally Gutsy, yet I get a lot of visitors daily asking the same questions I’ve asked over the years while trying to manage my gastrointestinal (GI) disorders. So I know you’re out there. The two main search queries I get are from folks curious about whether SCD (the Specific Carbohydrate Diet) really works and is worth the effort and those who want to know more about biofeedback to treat pelvic floor dysfunction and constipation. I can only offer you my personal experience; don’t take it as medical advice.
Specific Carbohydrate Diet
I’m still STRICTLY adhering to SCD. Depending on my gut’s stability, I’m able to eat between 30 and (at best) 40 SCD-legal foods. There are lots of people in other countries who survive on 10 or less foods because they don’t have the luxury we do of getting food from all over the world. I’m ALWAYS grateful that I can now eat solid foods and I’m happy with my 30 foods because I’ve learned to make all kinds of things with some culinary creativity! My food is flavorful and others often enjoy it too. Using herbs and spices has kept me from cheating because I can taste wonderful varieties. Our tastebuds become more joyfully sensitive after we’ve followed SCD for a while. I can now taste preservatives and all those things that don’t belong in my food – and they taste icky! Don’t know how I ate that stuff before.
I’ve been on the diet since November 20, 2011 – almost three years. I never thought I’d be able to say that! I’m not often tempted to cheat because when I have cheated (about once every 6 months), I pay for it severely and all my previous gut symptoms return, even with one cheat meal or snack. It an take weeks to recover. I know by the third year many on SCD seem to have few symptoms and some can even slowly resume a more “typical” diet. I’m not one of those people. I can now accept that this may be a lifelong lifestyle for me and I’m not usually sad or frustrated by that.
http://www.SCDLifestyle.com has been instrumental in my progress. Without Steve and Jordan I just don’t think I could have done this diet! If you need support or ideas, check them out! You won’t regret it. Their plan helped me walk, step-by-step, through starting and growing on SCD. They added to what Elaine Gottschall began and made it practical to daily, contemporary life.
I’ve learned in the last year that I have Dysautonomia, or Autonomic Dysfunction of my autonomic nervous system which controls all those things you usually don’t think about – breathing, temperature regulation, sweating, blood pressure and even the movements of our GI tracts. Mine’s seriously screwed up. I believe this has lead, in large part, to my constant SIBO (Small Infection / Bowel Bacterial Overgrowth) infection because slowed motility will do that. I can’t change that my brain mixes signals, even with the strictest diet. I believe that as my motility has slowed as my other conditions have worsened, and this makes knocking out methane-predominant SIBO nearly impossible.
I do still take laxatives. I’ve tried every one on the market including prescription laxatives. While I’ve felt magnesium citrate has been the most effective and gentlest on my particular GI tract, I’ve learned that it also irritates my bladder, so I’ve recently stopped taking it and I’m searching again for a laxative solution. I’m on a high salt diet to treat my Dysautonomia, and lots of salt can pull water into the intestines so I’m experimenting with salt capsules I compound myself (to make them SCD legal) to see if I can not only increase my BP with salt and water loading, but also get a laxative effect. So far it has helped, but I still need more assistance, so I’m considering going back to Miralax and/or trying Linzess. When I keep my laxative regimen in check daily, the bloating is much more manageable and I can fit my size 6 pants again (instead of wearing maternity pants because my poor belly was so distended).
How does my gut feel? Pretty good when I’m strict on SCD AND I’m taking a laxative that works for me. It’s not perfect, but it’s lightyears better than it was several years ago and I’m satisfied with my progress, especially considering the challenges presented by Dysautonomia. I don’t use antibiotics. I still prefer to do a colonoscopy prep in order to clean out the bacteria in my gut if the SIBO flares badly, though those flares are much less common now unless I let the constipation get a hold of me because of decreasing my laxative use. Some days I get nausea still and I don’t know what triggers that. Most days my Bristol scores are between 3 and 5. My gut is no longer the center of my world and I’ve moved on with that part of my life because the diet has been as effective as it can be for me (hence my silence on this blog).
Of late (the last three weeks) I’ve had trouble because I tried a stimulant laxative due to the necessary discontinuation of the magnesium citrate (which had been working wonderfully). All stimulants, from Dulcolax to senna tea and castor oil give me level 9+ pain intestine cramps. So all stimulants are OUT for me. I’m going to try Linzess soon, and I’ll let you know how that goes. I’m also increasing my fat and water intake.
Biofeedback for Constipation / Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
I still don’t have the sensation that I need to have a bowel movement like most people do because I have rectal dyssynergia. Instead, I get pain and then I know I need to use the bathroom. It’s not as bad as it used to be, however, and I don’t feel anxious about going to the bathroom. I also don’t throw up when I have a bowel movement. Biofeedback doesn’t promise that our sensation will change. It teaches us how to go more effectively and retrain our muscles.
If you want the nitty-gritty details on my experience with biofeedback and what you can anticipate if you are going to do it, check out this post.
My ability to have a successful and less painful BM is better now than it ever has been despite the fact that I haven’t had more than a few checkups since sometime early- or mid 2012. I do have pelvic floor problems if I let my Bristol scores get out of hand by not drinking enough water, not taking laxatives, not moving around, eating lots of fiber and not enough fats, etc. These problems are resolved once the triggers are addressed.
I’m not afraid to use public restrooms and I do so successfully without enemas. Every once in a blue moon I have trouble fully evacuating. I carry a baggie with two nitrile gloves, some lube and wipes in case of emergencies. Manual evacuation is NO FUN! But it’s a whole lot better than suffering for hours. Stress can trigger pelvic floor issues; doctor appointments in particular. I have learned not to leave home without my little survival kit. It’s even more unpleasant to try to manually evacuate without gloves, lube and wipes. Better safe than sorry!
To Sum It Up…
My gut isn’t perfect and I’m still symptomatic. But I’m happy and satisfied with my progress because I never thought it could even be managed this well when I was in the thick of it a few years ago. Following SCD is a lifestyle for me now. I’m content. I still continue to work out the kinks when they come, and they will come, and I often remember where I was which makes me grateful for where I now am. I still flare and need anti-nausea drugs or Levsin to control spasms, but that’s typically because I’ve had to change a part of my routine due to other health complications. I am still tweaking my diet.
Considering SCD? I say GO FOR IT! Has biofeedback been recommended? Try it! Really, if you’re already suffering, what do you have to lose?