Kari’s Story

Another story for the #IBelieveinyourStory campaign.  Kari’s story:

“A few years ago I got sick. Really sick. I didn’t know it at the time. It kind of snuck up on me. I was in the thick of it before I realized something was really wrong. I had given up gluten, dairy and chicken on my doctor’s recommendation… but I was still sick. Almost daily. I knew there was something that I was eating that was bothering me. I knew food had somehow gone from nourishment for my body to a weapon that made me sick every time I ate. I couldn’t figure out why I was always in the bathroom. I wished I could stop eating…and I could simply nourish my body with a pill. I was tired of eating. I was tired of bloating. I was tired of the weird aches and pains…. but most of all I was tired of my bathroom. Really, really tired of my bathroom.   

I found out I had SIBO.  I took meds, worked out and followed the low fodmap diet religiously and I started to feel better.  I lost almost 30 pounds, got my energy back and my life back. Or so I thought.     

On my youngest daughter’s 12th birthday I got up from the table in the restaurant only to have explosive diarrhea in the bathroom. I thought I was getting better. I had eaten at this restaurant before and had the same exact meal and hadn’t gotten sick. I came home and while we sang happy birthday to her I started to cry. I knew I couldn’t eat her cake and celebrate with her without experiencing more repercussions. I was tired of missing out. I was also angry and sad and completely deflated. I texted my good friend Kate Scarlata, who is also a world renowned expert in the low fodmap diet, through tears (from the toilet). I joked with her that we could have a whole series of “texts from the toilet”, but I really wasn’t joking. I was just so tired of spending some of the most important days and nights of my life in the bathroom.  

On a trip to New York City with my family I spent an entire day in line for public restrooms (when I could find them). I was afraid to eat anything for fear of not being able to find a bathroom in time. I realized finding a place to safely eat was my problem, something I worried about.  

I feel like this illness took my 40’s away from me.  Took a lot of my energy away from mothering my kids, took away my desire to participate in social events (when most social events involve food it gets tiring to stay involved when it is food that is making you sick).  But this condition also took away my ability to work and a lot of my self esteem. I have my master’s degree in early childhood education. I couldn’t teach with this condition. Five year olds don’t wait while you go to the bathroom for the 5th time in one hour. Three year olds don’t understand when you have to run out of the room mid-story. There is not always someone at the ready to cover for you in the classroom when you have an emergency.  I was done with all the taking. I was ready to feel in control again.  

After re-treating the SIBO, yeast overgrowth and following the low FODMAP diet, I’m a lot better now. I still have my sick days. But they may not be related to the food I ate. They may just be nerves or hormones or life. At least I am not sick every day. And truthfully on those sick days a little of that fear creeps back in again. I can’t do it again.  I just don’t have the energy to be that sick again. But it also makes me grateful. Grateful for the good days. Grateful for Kate. Grateful for the low fodmap diet. Grateful for eating healthy meals with my family that we all love. Grateful for food that doesn’t make me feel sick the next day. Grateful for friends and family members who check in with me before events to make sure I will have something to eat on their special day. Grateful for life’s events like skiing, and hiking and window shopping that don’t always involve food. Grateful for laughter with good friends who don’t care when I bring my own lunch to their house, to my kids who know that not every event has to involve food, and to my husband who is content to spend our dates hiking, skiing, or just snuggling on the couch watching tv. When you are chronically ill over a number of years you realize who your people are. They are the ones that are still there when you feel well again.   

Since I’ve starting to feel better I’ve also started adventuring out more. I want to travel and show my children the world. Now that I’m in a better place and my symptoms are more in control we have started traveling more. I don’t want my illness to control me anymore. I’m done having my life interrupted.  

In the past few years we’ve been to Puerto Rico and Hawaii to celebrate my husband and my 20th anniversary with our 3 girls. Recently, my oldest daughter and I went to Haiti with the Be Like Brit Foundation to build a house for a Haitian family still homeless after the 2010 earthquake and to work with the children in the Be Like Brit Orphanage. I know even a year ago, I would have been too nervous to make this trip. To travel alone without my husband to cover for me if I was sick. Deciding to go and jumping on this opportunity made me realize I’d turned a corner in my illness. I was more excited about this opportunity than I was nervous about being sick.”  

Image: Kari’s Haiti trip. A sign of her healing and moving forward. FODY foods donated bars to Kari for her trip. 🙂 And…Kari shared them with the homeless children of Haiti.

(Isn’t life so good when we share with one another?)

Sweet little girls chowing on some FODY bars. 🙂  Thanks FODY foods for the donation!

“Traveling with digestive issues isn’t always easy.  It requires planning and forethought and packing snacks and food that will sustain you when you can’t find a meal where everyone else is eating.  For this trip to Haiti I needed to have energy. I needed to be able to carry supplies for the house we were building up mountainsides, to keep up with my group when we went on trips around the island, and to play with the children in the orphanage when they are done with school at the end of the day. I always pack low fodmap snacks in my suitcase and purse for times I can’t find food. I eat every 3-4 hours so snacks are less of an issue but getting enough calories in one sitting to count as a meal and keep from being hungry is. I always try to stay in a place with a kitchen so that I can make my own rice, oatmeal or quick standbys for when meals out aren’t an option for me.  Thankfully, the orphanage had a kitchen where volunteers can cook some of their own food.  

Some people complain that the low fodmap diet is complicated and hard to learn. It’s not. It was a life saver for me. It helped me go from sitting on the toilet to planning a trip to Haiti.  It helped me get on with living and for that I am forever grateful.”

Thank you so much Kari for sharing your journey–the raw truth, the triumphs and the challenges.

This post includes affiliate links to FODY foods a client of mine.


9 replies on “Kari’s Story

  • Vivian Lewis

    Thanks for this story. I especially appreciate the travel inspiration. Would love to hear more about how people travel with IBS and SIBO issues.

  • Sandy

    I can so relate! I have been struggling with SIBO for tweleve years now. I have been treated several times by my gastroenterologist. It helped the very first treatment but never again. I have found the low fodmap diet to be a life saver as well. Almost every meal I cook is a recipe of Kate’s. She’s also been a HUGE life saver as well. I too travel all over the world with this condition. This past year I visited Ireland, Thailand, Cambodia and Hong Kong. I always bring Atrantil with me just in case I start feeling symptomatic. That’s supplement has given me the courage to travel. I pack a lot of low fodmap snacks to take with me too. Living life despite this condition. Life is good:)

  • Carol Bryant

    I haven’t worked up the nerve to do extensive traveling yet, but this story is so inspiring! One snack that travelers might consider is Kalahari Biltong, original flavor (available from Amazon). I can’t tolerate the slightest amount of fructose, and this product has absolutely no sugar. Unfortunately, Rachel Pauls low fodmap beef jerky has a small amount, and eating it sent me right to the bathroom.

  • Selam

    Wow, I can relate to her story. I’m 22 years old and had to drop out of my second semester of classes due to SIBO. The gas/bloating/cramping and constant bathroom visits were overwhelming. Her story gives me hope, I’ve allowed this illness to steal my joy for too long and thankfully I’ve found an RD and seeing some results. God bless please continue to share stories like these no one talks about IBS so I often feel alone in my journey.

  • Chris M.

    Thank you for this… So many things resonated with me in this piece. I too am very grateful for the diet, and for all that you do Kate!

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