mind the gut image

Mind The Gut

I am going to start this blog with some interesting and potentially surprising facts and then a personal story about how digestive health can affect symptoms that would seemingly appear unrelated.

  • 2 million people were diagnosed with a digestive disorder in 2009.
  • 1/3 of the UK’s population regularly suffers from digestive illness such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, diarrhoea, stomach aches and nausea.
  • In 2005/2006 over 3.7 million operations were carried out on parts of the digestive system.
  • 42% of people suffering from digestive problems turn to sources other than their GP for help.
  • 15% of Death in the UK is linked to digestive health.
  • Cancers of the digestive tract account for 23% of cancer deaths.

Hippocrates once stated that “bad digestion is the root of all evil”, and many naturopathic Doctors state that “life and death begins in the gut”. I have first hand experienced what an unknown digestive dysfunction can cause.

Following an unpleasant digestive infection in Egypt in 2008 I returned home not thinking too much about it as my digestive system seemingly returned to normal. Over the next 18 months I found my health gradually deteriorated, picking up more regular colds, poor tolerance to exercise, loss in strength and muscle mass, poor alcohol tolerance, regular mouth ulcers, blood in stools and frequent and abnormal reactions to certain foods, i.e. bloating and cramps. Obviously the blood in stools is the most alarming and after a couple of trips to the doctors and a few unpleasant examinations the conclusion was, no nothing wrong with you it should go away soon. Yet another helpful diagnosis, obviously there is nothing wrong with me that is why there is blood coming out of my arse!! This type of experience is common when it comes to digestive dysfunctions and would explain why almost half of those with digestive issues seek other alternatives to treat their symptoms.

Anyway as time went on I became increasingly tired and had a lot of trouble getting up in the morning, low energy in the day and general loss of motivation. Okay so enough was enough, as I was studying Nutrition and Functional Medicine at the time I was gradually getting to the bottom of my symptoms (excuse the pun). I have always been taught to treat the cause over the symptom, so I began to track back on my symptoms, from when they first began and whether there was a trigger for my broad spectrum of symptoms. This lead me back to my incident in Egypt.

I decided to take it upon myself to assess my stools using a company based in the US called metametrix and a salivary hormone assessment to assess my adrenal hormones to see if they were under stress as recommended by Digestive Health Expert David Hompes.

My results showed very low levels of cortisol throughout the day, especially in the morning, which would explain my low energy levels, increased susceptibility to infection and illness, increased inflammation in the gut and increased intolerance to certain foods. The stool analysis showed two digestive infections H.Pylori and C.Difficile. Both opportunistic bacteria. With the help of Dave Hompes and using knowledge I was learning off my functional medicine courses, I used an approach called the 4R approach to digestive dysfunctions.

  • Remove – bacterial overgrowth
  • Replace – hydrochloric acid levels, digestive enzymes.
  • Reinoculate – good bacteria replacement, probiotics etc.
  • Repair – Reduce intestinal permeability, leaky gut, inflammation to reduce food reactions etc.

Using this method, a clean diet based around Paleo foods (meats, fish veg, nuts, seeds, some fruit), adjusted exercise regime to prevent burnout, within 3 months I felt like a completely different person, amazing energy levels, digestive symptoms gone, blood in stools gone, healthier looking skin, reduced irritability, tolerant to exercise again and last year I spent the whole year free from illness, first time in a long time.

I guess the whole point of this blog is simplified into the diagram below:

digestive-influence-diagram

(Thanks to Dave Hompes for the Diagram)

In the diagram you can see how the different systems all interact with each other and how just one being under stress can cause potential side effects in the other systems. This is why treating the cause has to be the number one consideration in any treatment of any symptom, otherwise you could spend a lot of time, effort and money and never getting to the bottom of your health concerns.

So when looking at your health concerns, next time consider whether your digestive system could be playing a role in your symptoms.

I write this blog almost 12 months on to the day from when I sent a package of my own fecal matter and some vials of spit over to the States for analysis. Yes the tests were expensive at the time but the knowledge gained from the tests enabled me to make life changing decisions that have only had a positive impact on my health. Remember it is you that is in charge of your own health, do not rely upon someone else to come up with a magic drug that is going to take away the symptoms you are experiencing. More often that not it is a multifactoral approach, combined with your own dedication and drive to become a healthier person that ultimately will lead you towards good health.

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