During April of 2017, my husband and I were gearing up for a trip to Disney World. I was so excited that I wasn’t paying too much attention to the intense bloat that would accompany most of my meals… even if it was just soup.
Pro tip: Soup definitely shouldn’t make you feel bloated.
We went to Disney despite my tummy problems (because hello it is Disney), but the week ended in tears and I spent the trip back gripping onto a Publix bag and silently praying for relief. I thought something was seriously wrong with me. As soon as I got home, I got on a call with my ND and he wanted to test me for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO).
Spoiler alert: It came back positive.
It was such a relief to have a name for all of my mystery symptoms, but now I had to decide how to move forward with treatment. I had a couple of options, but ultimately I ended up choosing to take a course of herbal antibiotics to treat my SIBO.
I chose to treat SIBO with herbal antibiotics because I had taken a ton of pharmaceutical (or regular) antibiotics growing up and I knew that contributed to the state of my gut health. Herbals are also just as effective as pharmaceuticals to treat SIBO, so I figured… why not opt for a more natural approach? At the time, I didn’t know too much about SIBO or functional medicine… so I followed my ND’s recommendations and we dove straight in.
Allicillin – 1 capsule with breakfast, lunch, + dinner
Berberine – 1 capsule with breakfast, lunch, + dinner
Oil of Oregano – 2x a day (was less strict on taking this)
Interfase Plus – 1 capsule between meals (2x a day)
MotilPro – 1 capsule between meals (2x a day)
Betaine HCL – 2 capsules with each meal
Houston’s Digestive Enzymes – 2 capsules with each meal
Garden of Life HSO Probiotic – 1 scoop upon waking
*Disclaimer: I am NOT recommending you go out and buy and use these supplements on your own. Please always seek medical advice from a professional. This is strictly my personal experience with herbal antibiotics that I’m sharing for informational purposes.
A lot of pills, huh?
This protocol was SO overwhelming and the first time I had done anything like this. Plus, most doctors (even “natural” ones) will tell you what supplements to take and how much, but not when, if they should be taken with or without food, etc. It took me a solid couple of hours to look at each supplement and figure out the schedule you see above.
There was no “ease in with these supplements” or guidance of any kind past the supplement recommendations. I was pretty much left to fend for myself.
While I was overwhelmed, I was also determined to kick this thing for good. I would’ve drank my own pee if it meant I didn’t have to be ill anymore. I didn’t take every pill from day 1, but with this mindset, I pretty much took as many as I thought would help me kick SIBO to the curb. Such poor life choices. But it’s what happened. 0/10 would not recommend.
You may be checking this post out because you want to prepare yourself for what lies ahead. Will you react okay to herbals? Or feel better on them? I wish I could tell you exactly what your experience will be like to fully prepare you, but each of us is so uniquely designed that your experience could be completely different than mine. I’ve known people who have felt wonderful on herbal antibiotics and others who have had far worse experiences than mine. If you make it to the end of the post, I have a FREE resource that will help set you up to have the best experience possible on your herbal antibiotic protocol for your SIBO.
Without further ado, I’m taking any dignity I have left and handing it to you as these “herbal antibiotic diaries” share intimate details of my experience on this protocol. I share not to make anyone uncomfortable, but to give you a real-life look into what this looked like for me. Here we go.
Herbal Antibiotic Diaries
Day 1: Just got back from traveling yesterday and I am pretty beat. Feeling dehydrated. Drinking lots of water today and started the day with some celery juice (come on HCL production). Did oregano and berberine for breakfast. Biofilm at 10:30. Throat feels a little inflamed and I’m pretty bloated/constipated. Taking all these pills feels like a second meal. I’m not even hungry at all by the time I take all the pills. Also, feel kind of sweaty/gross and like I smell like garlic. Ugh. Am I hotter than usual?! The brain fog is real.
Day 2: Woke up nice and early (around 5:30am). Went to bed with chills last night and feel hot and achy this morning. Holy moly my bowel movements are rancid. I guess this really means bacteria is dying?
Oh boy. We have cramping people. We have cramping. We have period. For real!? The pain. Oh my goodness, the pain. Can I take Tylenol? Feel like I’m going to die taking this many pills. Do you poop more on your period? No complaints there. Lots of complaints in the pain department. I fell asleep because the pain was so bad. Caved and popped some Tylenol. Skipped my lunchtime herbals because I can’t handle the SIBO die off and period. Still hot and sweaty. I smell like a fart. I’m bloated and emotional. Can’t stop crying. My head hurts and my body aches. How can you feel constipated when you’ve gone to the bathroom?! This was a bad time for lady time to appear.
Day 3: Woke up feeling like my tummy was in a little boxing match yesterday and is now soaking in an ice bath. Wore my retainer because I noticed I’ve been grinding my teeth (which is giving me headaches upon waking). Headache did get worse throughout the day, though. Still feeling hot and sweaty. Took a nap today. My body hurts and it’s so hard to get out of bed. The FATIGUE is the devil. Still bloated and not hungry whatsoever. Making myself eat and take pills. I’ve never felt so exhausted. Tried an Epsom salt bath. Gave me a headache and felt dehydrated afterward. Feeling super depressed and like a huge burden to everyone. Is it too late to do elemental? I don’t want to do this anymore.
Day 4: Finally slept well and woke up without head tension (thank you lavender essential oil). Finally feeling a little bit calmer today. Less depression/anxiety. Don’t really have a mood. I just kind of feel like I’m existing, you know? Making no negative or positive contributions to society. Feel like I can still smell the antimicrobials through my pores. Sam (my boyfriend) says he doesn’t smell me, but I don’t know if I believe him. Maybe I’m going crazy. C turned to D today. That’s new. Still not all there mentally, but brain fog has lifted a bit to where I can focus better at work today. The belching and bloating are rough today. Skipped dinner pills. It’s just so difficult to take the full dosage. Tummy was throbbing.
Day 5: Woke up super early. I drove 8 hours home to be with family for the rest of treatment. Anxious to be on the road. Feeling pretty constipated today. Had some abdominal pain (not a common symptom for me) and diarrhea after lunch. Pain. Bloating. It feels like someone set fire to my stomach. Tummy feels like a block and it’s pulsating. Like a heartbeat. Skipped lunch and dinner pills. Didn’t handle anything well the rest of the night. Didn’t eat much.
Day 6: Woke up nice and early again. My throat hurts. Celery juice and some breakfast helped. Still feeling pretty fatigued and bloated today. Sticking to the allicin and berberine today. My throat burns and tummy feels like it has spasms. Fatigue hit pretty bad and some stomach pains before lunch… which turned into painful d. THE PAIN. WHY THE TUMMY PAIN. I don’t want to eat anymore, yuck-a yuck.
Day 7: Woke up feeling a little more rested today. Tummy is gurgly and I’m low energy. Haven’t gone to the bathroom today. Feeling constipated and bloated after lunch. WHY DOES EVERYTHING TASTE LIKE GARLIC. It’s foul.
I’m scared to eat and my throat is still bothering me. Still have some tummy pain here and there. Very irritable. Keep fighting with/ignoring everyone who is trying to help. What if I never get better? What if I’m like this forever? What if nothing works for me? I don’t want to get married feeling like this. I don’t want to lose my job. I feel like I’m kidding myself by being hopeful. I am getting worse and worse.
*insert crippling depression*
Took an Epsom salt bath. Feel worse and nauseous.
Day 8: Woke up this morning with chest pain + a headache. Decided not to take herbal antibiotics today. My body just feels like it’s at war with itself. Feeling less bloating and brain fog after breakfast already. Feeling super depressed + down today. This is definitely the lowest mental day. Lots of crying today. Sam got the brunt of it. I just feel so hopeless and like life isn’t worth living if this is what I’m going to feel like forever. How do you live like this? What if I never get better? What if nothing works? Everything feels heavy. I don’t want to do this anymore.
Day 9: Whew. Woke up in a much better head space today. This will not get the better of me. This is just a season and I am going to learn through it and not lose hope. I WILL BEAT THIS STUPID AF ILLNESS.
Day 10: Feeling pretty tired this morning. Taking some Femdophilus this morning because I can feel a UTI coming on. I LOVE this stuff. Increased dosage to 3 allicin a day. I haven’t been hungry throughout this course of herbals, but I was SUPER hungry this morning. Like… I could eat 2 portions of chicken + waffles hungry. (But my stomach would literally come out of my body + hit me over the head with a newspaper if I did that.) Don’t feel 100% bloated after breakfast. Good signs? Poo is again looking p nasty. I’ll leave it at that.
Day 11: Feeling nice + gurgly today. Like when the lactulose hits ya (we’ve all been there am I right?) I also feel anxious, but like hyper-alert anxious. Rapid heartbeat. Feeling constipated (even though I’ve gone today). Don’t ask me how it’s possible, it just is. Feeling a little more depressed as the day has gone on. Completely + utterly wrecked after dinner. Reflux, awful bloating, pain, you name it – I got it. Thinking it is MotilPro because I increased to 4 pills today. Will go without tomorrow.
Day 12: I feel like I got run over by a train My bottom half feels like it’s on fire. (Graphic, I know). Feeling bloated and inflamed (in my throat) after lunch. What else is new? Mood has been pretty good today. No pain after staying off prokinetics. Think I’ll try it again once I’m off the herbals or I’ll switch to Iberogast.
Day 13: Feeling pretty bloated after breakfast. My “lower half” feels like it did yesterday. Nice + constipated. Woohoo. Tried to get some movement in. Did some stretches + walked a good bit today. Helps a little. Feeling pretty fatigued today. Sam came to Miami and I think it really helps to have someone else to be here during all this.
Day 14: 2 FRIGGIN WEEKS. Man. Can I be done with this yet? My throat feels super inflamed after breakfast. I had a couple nuts/seeds so I did that one to myself (Trader Joe’s grainless granola). Also noticing a bit of a rapid heartbeat. Didn’t go to the bathroom right after breakfast like I usually do. Adding berberine back in today!! (Just with breakfast). Had a tiny headache throughout the day. Wheezing + LPR is acting up a good bit. Nice + bloated after dinner. A decent walk helped.
Day 15: Woke up with a gnarly little headache. Need to start wearing my retainer again. Going off probiotics today so I can take my stool test right after herbals. Went poo after breakfast. Still headache and a little foggy feeling. Lied down for a bit and took Tylenol for the headache.
Day 16: Woke up feeling pretty well rested!! What?! (Ty lavender EO). Went twice after breakfast. Got some d now, this is fun. Feeling a little tired around midday. Throat is pretty inflamed after lunch (tomatoes + ketchup = too much for LPR) Bad fatigue. Took a nap. LPR + wheezing acting up. Really bloated/nauseous after dinner. Maybe steer clear of cheese? Or maybe the meat wasn’t cooked enough? ugh I just don’t want to eat anything. A little bit of tummy pain + nausea. Noticing that bananas are bothering me. May have had too many almonds too. Body really aches.
Day 17: Don’t really want to face the day. I’m tired + not hungry. I am scared to eat. Tired of this illness. Feeling really fatigued today. I’ve pooped like 3 times so I guess that’s good?
Day 18: Slept through the night WOO. A little headachey from cooking. Feeling better after breakfast. Went right away. Throat does feel a little inflamed after breakfast? Maybe it’s the bacon. Hard to focus + so tired at Barnes and nobles. Came home and napped + feel super foggy upon waking. Bloated + nauseous after dinner. Tummy feels inflamed + throat. Cried a lot before bed.
Day 19: Toss + turned a lot in my sleep. My throat feels pretty inflamed. P nauseous after breakfast + up until lunch. Really fatigued too. Eating help with the fatigue but I feel a little tummy pain felt super nauseous pretty much all day. Inflamed and bloated after dinner. Having a hard time falling asleep.
Day 20: The inflammation is unreal. Seriously the worst it has ever been. My throat is killing me. I can’t do this anymore UGH.
What I Learned
If you read through all of those entries… you’re a champion.
I didn’t journal any of that with the intention of sharing it. I did it purely to have a record of how I responded to herbal antibiotics. Even though this is super uncomfortable to read back on now, I learned SO much about my body and how to listen to it by starting this practice of tracking my symptoms daily. I’d highly encourage you to begin the practice now, whether you’re on a protocol or not. If you aren’t big on journaling, I used the Cara app for months, which was very helpful and convenient to track my food intake and symptoms.
As far as actually being on the herbal antibiotics went, it was a pretty bad experience for me.
- I was going through a grieving process. Our culture is fixated on instant gratification. This applies to health as well. Do you have a headache? Just pop a pill. A fever? Just take a Z-Pack. No one really prepares you for what happens when those things don’t work. Losing your health is a big deal. It’s learning to accept your new life and the mourn for the loss of your old one. For months, this was all I could talk and think about. All I wanted to do was find a way to “fix it” and move on with my life. What I would come to realize later is that the way I was living my life was not working. This was my body’s way of letting me know.
- My mindset was not in the best place. All I could think about was killing SIBO and getting my life back. I had to learn the hard way that SIBO is not something to be killed. It means your gut is not balanced and my mindset needed to shift to accepting that I had brought myself to this place and figuring out how to get back in balance. This mindset can bring the best of us to obsession and depression when things aren’t working in our favor.
- I didn’t have the support I needed. When you start working with a naturopathic doctor or living your life in a healthier, more natural way, it’s a huge change. I remember crying after my first appointment with my ND because I was so overwhelmed at all the changes he wanted me to make. When I started herbal antibiotics, there was little guidance on how to move forward, when to start taking the next supplement, how to increase the dosage, etc. So, I white-knuckled my way through the protocol and I felt SO miserable. Surely, I shouldn’t have to feel this miserable to get my health back, I remember thinking.
Yes, die off (a.k.a. the Herxheimer reaction) is a real thing that happens both with diet changes and often when going through an antibiotic or antimicrobial protocol.
But that does not mean you have to white-knuckle your way back to health.
It genuinely makes me angry that all of the information I found during that time claimed otherwise. That die-off was just part of it, it meant the bacteria was dying, and you just had to endure it. A little bit of die off is normal, but it should never feel unbearable.You don't have to white-knuckle your way back to health. Click To Tweet
I hope you have a wonderful health team in your corner who walks through these things with you and gives you the support you need. I know firsthand how hard that is to find. Maybe you’re still searching. In that case, I’d love to introduce a practice that has changed the game for my health and protocols. It’s called titration. It’s the practice of finding the right dosage for you, rather than jumping in, taking the full dosage of supplements at once, and curling up into a ball until treatment is over.
I created this FREE guide called Titrate the Right Way exclusively for you. Because I know, personally, what it’s like to not have the support you need. This short guide will walk you through how to make it through your protocols while still being a fully-functioning human being.
I wish I would’ve had a resource like this when I first began trying functional medicine treatments. In the event that you’d like more one-on-one support (let’s be real–we all just want someone to e-mail and ask them if a weird symptom we’re experiencing is normal or if it means we’re terminal), I offer a health mentorship. No commitments or contracts. Just a buddy who has been where you’re at and can help you sort through all of the information out there. You can learn more about that here.
There is hope.
You will get better. Be patient. Healing takes time.
Let me know where you’re at in your health journey right now. Do you have advice for anyone that is thinking about taking herbal antibiotics for their SIBO? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Let’s learn from each other.