As you may know if you follow my blog or Instagram (@sibowithhope), one month ago (May 2018) I traveled to the Bahamas for a procedure called Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT). You can read all about what it is and why I went in Part I of this series.
I am sure many of you want to the know the million dollar-question: did it work?! Well, it is too soon to make that assessment, as the clinic recommends waiting three months. What I can tell you is that there have been ups and downs. ‘Tis the nature of chronic illness.
But what I do want to share with you now (while it’s fresh in my mind!) are some accommodation options and logistical tips for success.
- Air travel– chances are that unless you live in Nassau, you will be traveling by airplane to get there. The clinic starts on a Monday and requires a three-day prep diet prior to the procedure. Sunday is the most restrictive of the days. I chose to mostly fast (other than coconut water and broth) beginning Saturday night around 9 PM until after beginning my procedure on Monday morning. You may want to consider bringing this low FODMAP chicken soup base for an emergency something to eat while traveling. Ask for hot water at the airport after going through security. I recommend trying to time your arrival for Sunday in the late morning or early afternoon. You’ll want enough time to find a grocery store to get some coconut water or Gatorade (ew, I know, but restoring electrolytes is essential for bowel prep). Being in your own home for the first two prep days (Friday and Saturday) will make it a lot easier to stick to the prep diet.
- Taxis are very expensive in Nassau, Bahamas. For example, it cost $27 for a 10-minute ride from the airport to our vacation rental. If you are staying within walking/busing distance of the medical center and don’t plan to take too many outings, you may be able to get away with just a few taxi rides. We are extra frugal and ended the trip with only two taxi rides. Walking and busing were our primary modes of transportation.
- Renting a car is a good option if you are comfortable driving on the left side of the road. Coming from the U.S., this was hard to get used to when walking, so we didn’t even bother trying to drive. To make it even more confusing, some cars have the steering wheel on the left and some on the right (depending on the vehicle’s country of origin). Renting a car will definitely make getting around easier, but it may be a little stressful and pricey. The vacation rental in which we stayed had a car available to rent for $40/day.
- City buses are inexpensive and safe but may take some trial and error. We primarily used buses to get around. The cost was $1.25 between Cable Beach and downtown Nassau, but the rate goes up when traveling toward the airport and Old Forte Bay. Flag the bus down by waving your hand. Yell “bus stop” when you are nearing your stop and pay the driver as you get off the bus. We never found a bus map, so we went on some “adventures” trying to find our way around. It was kind of fun getting lost because it was like hiring an inexpensive tour bus. By the end of the first week, we had it mostly figured out. The buses we took most often (#10 & #12b) run along the ocean for most of the trip, so it was easy to keep track of where we were. An important note: buses do not run after 7 PM, so plan for taxis or a rented car for evening activities.
- Walking is also an option. We did lots of walking during our trip. If you stay close to the Bahamas Medical Center (such as at Ocean West Boutique Hotel) and have morning appointments, it can be really nice to start your day with a walk to your appointment. There aren’t many sidewalks, so we had to weave our way from side to side to safely walk where there was more space adjacent to the street. It was a nice 45-minute walk from where we stayed to the medical center. By the second week though, we opted for the bus because it was a bit tiring.
Hotel or All-Inclusive Resort Options
The simplest option would be to stay at a hotel or all-inclusive resort. Somewhere near Cable Beach is nice because it is right between the Bahamas Medical Center and downtown. Note: you will need to take a bus or car to get to either.
- Less to think about
- More time to relax
- More expensive
- Less ability to avoid foods that bother you
- Available foods are probably not as nutritious
If going with a hotel, you might consider looking into Marley Resort & Spa. We ventured there for dinner and I ordered a delicious (and surprisingly affordable!) lobster salad made with a very simple lemon juice salad dressing.
For an all-inclusive, consider Meliá Nassau Beach.
Orange Hill Beach Inn is the property closest to the medical center (a 5-10 minute walk), but please look at their food menu before you book. The lack of vegetables on the Inn’s menu is what dissuaded me.
Vacation Rental With a Kitchen
We opted for an inexpensive vrbo rental with a kitchen. It was pretty basic, but a good option if you aren’t picky and want to save money. The goal was to reduce the cost of food and make it easier to avoid my food sensitivities. I also really wanted to focus on giving myself the most nutrients possible.
If you are looking for a rental that’s a little more upscale, close to fine dining options, and near a stunning beach, this rental near Love Beach looks phenomenal. If selecting this option, it would be convenient to have a car for going to the grocery store and getting to the clinic, but it isn’t impossible to do by bus and taxi.
As for grocery stores, our favorite was Solomon’s (there is one one at Old Fort Bay Plaza and another east of downtown). Solomon’s has pretty much everything you would find at Whole Foods Market and is full of organic options. A heads up, though: it’s expensive.
It can be a bit challenging to cook nutritious food without a well-stocked kitchen, but we got creative and made some delicious dishes. Here are some examples (all gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and sugar-free):
- Red Lentil Chili & Fried Plantains
- Fresh Rainbow Collard Wraps
- Monkey Oats
- 1-Pot Balsamic Shrimp & Vegetable Pasta
- Red Cabbage & Roasted Cauliflower Tropical Salad
- Roasted Vegetable Lentil Yellow Curry
- Healthy No-Cheese Vegetable “Nachos”
- Meatloaf with Roasted Vegetables & Green Salad
You will definitely encounter this dish in the Bahamas! Everyone will want to sell you their conch salad and claim it’s the best! Conch salad is similar to ceviche. Conch is a type of seafood, diced and served raw with lime juice and with either veggies (such as onion and bell pepper) or with tropical fruit. I went with the veggie version and found it to be a refreshing dish.
Goldie’s Conch House
We were very pleased with the dish we ordered at Goldie’s Conch House in Arawak Cay (fish fry district located west of downtown Nassau). Pictured below is grilled snapper with potato salad and fried plantains. The grilled snapper was really nicely seasoned and served in tin foil with broccoli, cauliflower, onions, carrots, and bell pepper. The potato salad was nice and mustard-y. And you can’t really go wrong with plantains!
This store was closed the day we went (Sunday), but I peered in the door. It looks like a cute juice and smoothie bar with plenty of nutrient-rich options conducive to those who are gluten-free and dairy-free. It is located in the same shopping center as one of the Soloman’s grocery stores (Old Fort Bay Plaza) so it could be a great way to get some nutrients before you begin shopping for your groceries.
Lil’ Mustard Seed Healthy Cafe (Vegan/Vegetarian)
The doctor responsible for overseeing my FMT procedure owns this cafe with his wife. It is located south of downtown and can be a little tricky to access by bus due to the lack of a bus map or street signs. Most customers are locals, so it is a great way to see the Bahamian lunch hour culture. My only regret was that I didn’t ask questions about ingredients and had some symptoms from consuming wheat.
Seahorse Sailing Adventures Sunset Dinner Cruise
We really enjoyed this evening dinner cruise that circumnavigates Paradise Island. It takes you past some phenomenal houses owned by celebrities. You will also pass a couple of small, private islands. Dinner served aboard the cruise was ribs, chicken, salad, and rice and “peas” (pigeon peas, which are more like beans). I recommend bringing a sweater in case it is windy!
Atlantis Paradise Island
Get ready to see some absolutely phenomenal architecture and design. I can’t even imagine how long it took to build this resort.
After 5:30 PM, you can visit Atlantis at no cost and wander through the incredible aquarium. We chose to do this after the sunset dinner cruise mentioned above. This worked out very nicely because Atlantis is walking distance from the Paradise Island Marina. Then, we hopped in a taxi to return to our vacation rental.
Downtown Nassau is full of tourist shops and jewelry stores. I’ve never seen so many jewelry stores in such a small space. While most of the shops were filled with items that did not even interest me enough to step inside, I was drawn to a store called Cariloha that sells bamboo clothing, towels, sheets, and more. SO SOFT! They have stores in the United States as well, but I had never heard of the company. I highly recommend stopping in to feel the towels and sheets and maybe grab yourself some cozy items.
In an effort to keep costs low, we didn’t do much island hopping. Nassau is not, however, the highlight of the Bahamas. You will experience the beauty of this island chain out on the crystal-clear waters and on island beaches. Consider a beach day at Blue Lagoon Island (ideally on a weekend, to work around your FMT procedure) or book one of the many other island tours available.
Across from the Marley Resort & Spa is a really cute yoga studio called Studio Ohana. Taking a yoga class can be a nice way to get a little exercise without overdoing it.
Treat yourself to the ultimate in relaxation with a spa day. There are many places offering massage and other spa services. My recommendation is Natural Mystic Spa at the Marley Resort & Spa because they seem to value using all-natural products such as their massage oils and lotions.
Thank you for sharing Riley! I hope you will be seeing improvements soon and I’m looking forward to further posts on this topic. Cheers!
Andy Wheaton says
Any updates? Looks like it’s been about a year. Thanks!
Hi Andy, I’ll add it to my ideas list to do a one year update. In the meantime, please refer here for how I felt initially, here for how I have felt for about the past 8 months. Additionally, I did an at-home FMT top up at the end of December (after needing a course of antibiotics) and had a month of feeling amazing- needing only a probiotic on occasion to have twice daily bowel movements and minimal other symptoms. Unfortunately, as soon as I ate just a couple foods that bother me, my symptoms came surging back and I have not been able to afford a trip to the Bahamas for additional top ups yet to see whether I can experience the same improvement again.
Thank you this was super helpful! It answers my question of whether or not it can cure the issue once and for all. Being that it’s a good $15,000+ to get it done, i can’t imagine doing it and not having it stick. That must be so incredibly disappointing. I had high hopes it would be the cure. Ugh!
Thanks again for the update!
Hi Andy, glad it was helpful! I knew there was risk of it not providing sustainable relief, so although it was disappointing, I felt I managed my expectations pretty well. Also, I am relieved that at least I tried something that potentially could help long term- as it does help some people! I’m grateful that it helped significantly for a whole month and do think it is worth trying the top ups again when I am in a better place financially (the top ups are less of a financial investment). In the future, I would go more slowly with food reintroductions and stay away from things that I already know are not healthy (potato chips, GF bread, GF cookies). In my opinion, it is worth trying if it isn’t a huge financial strain for someone. Personally, I feel that if someone could save up enough money in 6 months, then it is likely worth the risk. But at this point in my life, it would take much longer than that for me! I’m grateful that I had help from family to pursue the treatment.
Julie S Herman says
Riley, I am just beginning to read about the FMT for ulcerative colitis and it appears that some donors seem to “work” and others do not. They are showing better success when the transplants are done with a “pool” of donors. I would not give up on this as a cure and as they gain more knowledge they will have better outcomes.
Thanks for the encouragement and sharing this info, Julie! The FMT I did was a pool of donors. Sending healing vibes your way!