my journey with SIBO + a recipe for roasted lemon chicken thighs

it’s funny. i used to wish i had more time to devote to cooking. i’d dream of a life where i could make home-baked breads and slowly-churned jams and long-simmering saucesbut working a full-time job and having a social life made it near impossible. my time in the kitchen was therefore always a treat, something i relished in amidst my busy schedule. over the past year though, cooking (and focusing on food) is really all i’ve been doing.

i put off writing this post for a while. because you know how when something turns into an obligation, it sort of stops being fun and enjoyable? that’s what happened to me with cooking. and food. and eating. which is tough, because that whole “eating” thing is a pretty integral part of daily life. so, where to start?

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for the past year, i’ve been on a healing journey.

i have always had a sensitive constitution. but in the past couple years, i began experiencing increasingly bad digestive issues (primarily in that my body seemed unable to truly “digest” anything). the more concerning part though, was the affect on my mental health and overall well-being. i felt perpetually off-balance, up in my head, like when things are happening to me, it’s as if i’m seeing them from this place higher up rather than experiencing them as me. i’d feel so bloated after every meal that i would need to unbutton my pants, and by the end of each day i’d feel as if i’d gained 10 pounds. my mental state was foggy, and my thoughts self-punishing. (“why did i eat that [insert any seemingly healthy item here]? i feel so terrible now.”). i grew accustomed to sleepless nights, brain fog, achy muscles, overall fatigue, and perpetual stomach pain.

i was in denial about it for a while; i recognized the signs, but in my typical fashion, i had “too much” going on to deal with it.  i couldn’t do the deeper digging. (i also struggled a lot with the traditional health care system and lacked any help there.) until i didn’t have a choice to deal with it. i found myself hole-ing up and declining social invites because i felt so terrible. it was hard enough to get through the work day, and i became super flaky and non-committal as a person because i could never predict how i’d be feeling.

finally, i went to a naturopath and got a diagnosis. i have SIBO, or small instestinal bacterial overgrowth. don’t know what SIBO is? believe me, you are not alone…i can’t tell you how many quizzical and/or grossed-out expressions i’ve received when i mention it. so here’s the rundown: while the large intestine is a host to millions of different bacterias in your body, only a small amount are supposed to live in the small intestine. SIBO occurs when those bacteria (the bad bacteria) begin breeding in your small intestine, producing an overgrowth and causing a slew of fun symptoms. SIBO can be brought on by several things, including surgery, antibiotics, food poisoning and food allergies.

roasted chicken thighs with tomato + summer squash | kitsch+camera

i was so excited to initially have a diagnosis, because i thought oh yay i can just treat that with the proper remedies and then i’m good to go! i’ll return to normal life.

little did i know, that diagnosis would launch a year of treatments, and diets, and learning, and…digging. so much digging. for the past year, i’ve been on a journey of healing that has forced me to dig into my health history, my spirituality, my habits and routines, and into what my body is telling me. this digging has strengthened me… but that has also totally broken me at points.

part of my treatment included antibiotics and herbal supplements, but a primary piece of it was around diet. and i have tried so many diets over the past year: the GAPS diet, the SIBO diet (a combination of the SCD diet and a FODMAP-friendly diet) and even a diet that didn’t actually include any “eating” for a month (called the elemental diet). these prescriptive diets can drive a girl crazy, let me tell ya.

for example: on the SCD diet, it’s OK to have eggplant, but not mushrooms, and cantaloupe but not watermelon. you can have coconut milk, but only if it is this one particular kind, and yogurt, but only if it’s been fermented for 24 hours. on one diet, you can’t have any garlic or onions. oh and on all of themNO SUGAR. through these diets, i have gone on and off of dairy and gluten and eggs and grains and beans, from an essentially paleo diet to one where i was making my own yogurt and coconut breads to one where i lived off bone broth soups.

with all of the constraints, it was pretty much essential to cook everything on your own. so most ironically, my favorite pastime became something i’m forced to do out of necessity. (for the first 3 months, i didn’t eat out once.) do you realize how much energy goes into grocery shopping, food prep and cooking when every single meal must be prepared by your hands?

in a way, it’s made me more resourceful, and more creative. i’ve learned how to make my own bone broth, how to perfectly cook chicken thighs (hence this recipe!), how to ferment my own yogurt, and how to make some delicious paleo breads. i’ve also made many sugar-free raw cacao treats and so. much. nut butter. lemon-oregano chicken thighs // kitsch+camera

i’ve also found it’s important to identify my “safe foods.” when my stomach is flaring up, what foods can i return to that will nourish me? that my body will digest easily and that energize me and taste good and appeal to me aesthetically?

well, there is really only one meal that fulfills that need. this recipe for roasted chicken thighs is my home base. i can’t count the number of times i’ve made this over the past year. it fits every diet i’ve been on (SCD, FODMAPS and GAPS), and it is so deliciously vibrant, indulgent, and grounding. simply seasoned with lemon, oregano and butter (does butter count as a seasoning? when you use this much of it, i’d like to think it does.), it accentuates the juicy tomatoes, luscious squash and tender chicken in a powerful way.

i can’t say enough about this recipe, which is funny because it’s also one of the simplest dishes i make. i hope that you find comfort in it as well. feel free to adapt and adjust as you like!

lemon-oregano chicken thighs // kitsch+camera lemon-oregano chicken thighs // kitsch+camera

anywho, in spite of all of this, i still don’t have answers. (i need to figure out the root cause of my SIBO.) but it’s a journey. and as crazy as it sounds, acknowledging the issuetruly acknowledging it and loving myself in spite of it and not blaming myself for the painwas huge for me. so, some days i feel better than others now, but i am confident i am making progress.

i share this all in the hopes that it resonates with even one person out there. one person who knows what it’s like to be a seemingly healthy young woman who inwardly feels so terrible, sometimes. i also feel that it’s an important part of my story, and if i’m going to blog at all, it’s foundational in understanding where i am coming from.

if there is one thing i can leave you with for now (aside from this recipe!), it’s this: listen to your body. it’s talking to you, regardless of whether or not you want to hear it. and listening to it may be the beginning of a necessary journey.

xo, caro

 

lemon-oregano chicken thighs // kitsch+camera

RECIPE: ROASTED CHICKEN THIGHS WITH TOMATO & SUMMER SQUASH {serves 2}

//ingredients:

  • 4 bone-in chicken thighs (with skin, it’s the best part!!)
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 tbsp butter or ghee
  • fresh oregano
  • 1 summer squash
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes

//directions:

  1. pre-heat oven to 400.
  2. slice lemon and summer squash. coarsely chop oregano.
  3. season chicken thighs with salt and pepper.
  4. in a medium cast iron skillet or dutch oven, heat butter or ghee to high. when hot, add chicken skin side down. cook for 10 minutes, until you see a nice brown sear on the skin side.
  5. flip the chicken thighs and arrange the lemon slices on top, then transfer to the oven. bake until chicken is cooked through, around 15 minutes.
  6. transfer chicken pieces to a plate, and return the pan to the burner. add more butter or ghee if necessary, then add the cherry tomatoes, summer squash and oregano. cook 4-5 minutes, or until summer squash is translucent and tomatoes have “popped” and released their juices. season with salt and pepper to taste, then divide among 2 plates.
  7. top each plate with chicken thighs, pour with remaining pan juices, and garnish with a sprig of oregano.

4 thoughts on “my journey with SIBO + a recipe for roasted lemon chicken thighs

  1. Caro! You are an amazing and inspiring woman. Last year I came to the same enlightening conclusion that I also have SIBO and when I can dedicate my diet to low-FODMAP strict SIBO, I feel absolutely, irrevocably amazing.
    With travel for work, it has been challenging to maintain but knowledge is powerful and it’s so nice to find others on this journey. Follow my friend and soon-to-be health coach Maggie Carrie on Instagram, she’s in our boat. @carriem7

    • Courtney!! Thank you for the kind words, lady!! So glad to hear I’m not the only one on this journey…and crazy to think that we are both going through it but haven’t talked about it yet. I will have to check out Maggie’s feed! xoxo

  2. My SIBO journey is now going onto month 3 and boy was it hard for me through the holidays. Since I am only able to eat 3 foods (watercress, grass-fed beef, wild-caught salmon) without experiencing abdominal pain, bloating and skin hives, I am really hoping to add your recipe to my meals. Fingers-crossed.

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