An interview with Chicago’s gut health coach

Understanding and listening to your body is one of the best ways to know when something isn’t quite right. For many people who experience symptoms of IBS, they often have trouble getting a quick diagnosis because they either ignore their symptoms thinking it wasn’t a big deal or their doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with them.

Becca Sweetland, a social media influencer and Gut Health Coach in Chicago, went through an emotional and exhausting journey before she was finally diagnosed with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Her roller coaster experience inspired her to share her stories on Instagram where she made it her mission to help guide people with their own SIBO/IBS struggles and find a balance with their gut.

Sweetland’s journey to becoming a gut health champion began when she went abroad for the summer after her freshman year of college. While she was overseas, she contracted parasites.

Despite being treated for the infestation with antibiotics, it soon became difficult for her to eat normally. Sweetland would constantly feel pain and feel uncomfortable after every meal.

She threw herself into learning more about nutrition and working out regularly, hoping that getting healthier could help alleviate her symptoms. But the symptoms persisted. Months later she decided to see a specialist who her tested for every possible gut disease. The results all came back negative. Her dietitian indicated that she might actually be suffering from SIBO, a more obscure GI disease and can be more difficult to diagnose. A breath test confirmed the diagnosis.

Since then, Sweetland began dedicating her time to learning more about SIBO. She knew that there are more people like her who went through a similar experience and may not have the support or resources to battle this hidden disease. Luckily, IBS Life editors were able to sit down and talk with Chicago’s busy Gut Health Coach to hear her perspectives.

What exactly is a Gut Health Coach?

As a coach, “I look at your day-to-day life. Is there a lot of stress or anxiety? Are there changes in diet or nutrition that may be causing GI symptoms? I focus on helping clients make lifestyle changes to manage their symptoms. I give them a Mindset journal that has affirmations in it and helps them track their symptoms. It also contains little tips and tricks to alleviate or better symptoms.”

What are the most common questions followers ask you?

“The most common question they tend to ask is, bloating. ‘Why am I so bloated?’ It’s a tricky question because there are so many things that could cause of it. In my experience, it has a lot to do with their daily schedule and how their stress connects with their symptoms. If they have already been diagnosed with IBS or SIBO, we’ll work together to help them identify specific foods that may lead to bloating.”

What is the most common misconception about SIBO?

“In general, the public thinks IBS/SIBO is not a real diagnosis. Also, not a lot of physicians have experience diagnosing and treating it yet. I’ve had a physician tell me, ‘I don’t have a problem and to just have to suck it up.’ Today we know that SIBO and IBS actually exist, but they are not easily treated. However, there are things that can be done to reduce the symptoms we experience on a daily basis and it’s up to each of us to do it.”

What was your biggest challenge after being diagnosed with SIBO?

“The social aspect of living with SIBO was the biggest obstacle. After being diagnosed, I always felt bad telling people about my problems or having to tell waiters while I am out with friends that they need to modify a meal or that I only can eat certain things. It was a mental challenge getting over that stigma in my head. I had to come to terms with my diagnosis and realize that I do need different things from the ‘average’ person and that I should not feel embarrassed or ashamed.”

How important is it to follow a LOW FODMAP diet?

“The most challenging part of starting to feel better is to go on a low FODMAP diet for about six to eight weeks. I went on a low FODMAP diet twice. When I first started, I didn’t understand what it was for and what I should expect from it. I didn’t experience any relief from it, so I gave up. I did more research and found a nutritionist who had a more holistic and natural approach to meals. I went back on the low FODMAP plan and this time, my experience was completely different. The nutritionist guided me through the process, which helped a great deal. Now I know which foods are triggers for me and learned to move forward with that knowledge.”

What is the number one thing you would like to say to our readers?

“That it’s possible to experience relief if you are willing to make changes in your lifestyle and go through the low FODMAP diet. Work with someone in the beginning of your journey and seek support from families, friends, and the IBS community. Having a great support system is a huge part of recovery!”

How can our readers learn more about Gut Health Coach?

“Relief is possible. Some people, however, need additional help or guidance along their journey. This is what a Gut Health Coach can do. Like an athletic coach, they provide information, support, tips, and suggestions along their path to recovery and relief. I offer training programs that can help clients find the right style of exercise for their body and symptoms! Those interested in learning more can go to Instagram and find @becasweetland profile. There is a link on my main page there to inquire about a free consultation call.