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When is Enough, Enough?

28 Aug

One of my best friends lives out of state and struggles with very similar medical issues. Unlike me, she’s lived with some degree of chronic illness since she was a child. We chat on the phone frequently (sometimes multiple times per day!) and keep each other updated regarding the different things we’re trying in order to improve functionality and restore wellness.

Lately, we’ve BOTH been incredibly frustrated at the lack of improvement despite serious overhauls in diet and supplements. I have severely limited my carbohydrate intake in order to squelch the GI issues that my functional MD and nutritionist suspect are related to small bowel bacterial overgrowth. If the little buggers are in there, they aren’t dying fast enough!!

I have achieved marked improvement with my diet overhauls and supplement regimens. Improving my digestion with enzymes, supplements, and HCl has been instrumental in working with my body to restore a state of wellness. Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut” (of course he said it in a much fancier way that certainly made the concept appear novel and sexy), so it boggles my mind that physicians are telling patients “changing your diet won’t help”. How can all of the processed chemicals and foreign substances be GOOD for optimal health?

My friend has reached a point of decision in her healing journey. Food has always made her feel unwell so she has decided to just say “screw it”. To her, there is little point in dealing with the aggravation and frustration of being so limited in her diet when her health continues to decline. I completely understand where she’s coming from. When is enough, enough? When is it time to say, “This is how my body is, let’s accept the reality of the situation and move on“.  For a recovering perfectionist, this is not an easy thing to do. Move on? Give up? Quit?

During the years I struggled with an eating disorder, one of the major hurdles I wrestled with was the fact that the combination of foods my doctors and dietician were telling me to eat made me feel worse – bloated, fatigued, heavy, and every anorexic’s worst nightmare – fat. Recently, my mitochondrial disease specialist said, “I doubt you ever truly had an eating disorder. I think there was more to it.” In hindsight, I suspect he is right on the money. I remember having insatiable cravings for carbs and sweets as young as 12 years old. Not understanding why and feeling powerless to stop my body from this seemingly out-of-control cycle, I started dieting. Food intolerances and gut dysbiosis can cause a wide range of seemingly unrelated and unexplainable symptoms. When you ignore these symptoms – all hell breaks loose. You start to feel out of control and your health deteriorates. A sick GI tract leads to malabsorption and nutrient deficiency which in turn lead to psychological symptoms such as depression, anxiety, worthlessness, and general malaise. Before you know it, you’re sitting in a doctor’s office being labeled as “depressed” or “bipolar” or “just-a-little-stressed-out”. The vicious cycle begins as you start popping the latest and greatest “wonder drug” (or combination of wonder drugs).

Will I ever truly be able to restore my body to wellness? Today is one of those days where I’m not exactly sure. They say that disease rushes in on horseback, but walks out on foot. Maybe I just need to give it more time. Perhaps the lesson to take away from this aspect of healing is that patience is a virtue and putting life “on hold” until wellness is achieved would be quite a waste of an opportunity to enjoy all that is out there.



18 Jul

There is a bag of scallops on my head. I wish I could say that this was the next installment of “Notebook Posts” and I had discovered some crazy way to obliterate brain fog, but alas, I smacked my head on the thermostat in the refrigerator earlier and didn’t have an ice pack. I originally grabbed a bag of frozen beans and collapsed onto the kitchen floor in tears. (It’s just been THAT kind of day.) Then I decided that if I was going to feel sorry for myself and wince in pain, I might as well defrost dinner in the process…hence the scallops.

I have no idea WHAT my body is doing right now but I’m not enjoying it. A huge part of me thinks that it might be stress-related. I admittedly have not done any yoga for the past 3 days (*gulp*) and really need to get back to doing that because it keeps me quasi-sane. Food is a mess again and I have no idea why, but I am suspecting that perhaps the gut flora is waaaay out of whack at the moment. In my quest for some sort of answer, I stumbled upon Aglaee Jacob’s blog “A Dietician Gone Paleo” and decided to drop her an email. She was absolutely wonderful at answering my questions and offering some feedback as to what I could be trying to take my healing to the next level. I am so grateful that she took the time to chat with me and I’d actually like to keep her on my team since I have had terrible luck with nutritionists locally. One thing that Aglaee recommended is that I get my fat intake waaaay up. This has proven to be more of a mental issue than anything because it’s drilled into our heads from an early age that “FAT = BAD”, but I need to get my calories up because my weight is still dropping and Aunt Flow is on hiatus. These are NOT good things!

I have been strictly adhering to the rotation diet for the most part, but after speaking with Aglaee, I have decided to adopt her SIBO/FODMAP protocol for awhile (while rotating) to see if that helps. The point of this diet is to limit the amount of complex starches and carbs that go in so the body has an easier time breaking things down. I am strongly considered trying an HCl supplement since I feel that my stomach acid levels are non-existent at the moment.

As of now, my fatigue, pain, inflammation, neuro issues, and overall mood are way crappy. I’m trying to keep things as simple as possible right now. Cooking my fruit, cooking veggies, 2-4 TBSP of fat with EVERY meal (this is a challenge for me!), and increasing my protein. I am still on my mito cocktail, zinc, magnesium malate (although I have been cutting that in half), l-glutamine, and 2 TBSP ground flax seed daily along with a probiotic (60 billion). I am suspecting that the probiotic has worn its welcome and is no longer helping and I also think that the flax seed might be doing more harm than good since it definitely doesn’t seem to be benefiting me at all. Oh yeah, and I forgot about the castor oil packs. My PCP tried to cough over a laugh when I told him I was going to do those. I worked up to an hour a day and I don’t know that it’s helping anything, but it’s definitely not hurting me so I’ll keep at it for awhile longer.
A few of my friends (and my therapist *sigh*) have pointed out that I may be making way too many changes in too short of a time. When I stop and I think, I really have juggled a lot of things around recently and perhaps I need to settle into things for awhile before over-zealously jumping on to the next thing. I think I might take out the flax since I do feel that is bothering me, but keep all else the same for now with the possible addition of the HCl supplements. (Did anyone else pick up on the fact that I just committed to no more changes and then talked about more changes I’d be making?? I swear there has to be a support group for people like me somewhere…) I see Dr. Guru for a follow up next week and I wish it were sooner. I am feeling so overwhelmed and discouraged with this set back. It makes me feel like I will simply never get to the bottom of this. There are just too many paths to explore and too much research to digest, and not to mention the extraordinary cost of supplements that holistic practitioners tell you you *need* in order to heal. I need to work on my digestion and gut because if I don’t, anything I take will just be flushed down the toilet (haha, I made a joke and didn’t realize it!).

For now, I have been listening to this song on repeat because it’s fun, I enjoy it, and it is totally where I’m at right now:

Listen HERE.

Written by: Charlotte Kendrick
I wrote no more judgment, no guilt, no fear
And then folded them up in a note
Threw it on the fire on the eve of New Years
And said goodbye to the rising smoke

I wrote that note with the simple hope
That by putting it all out there
I could let go of the voice that says ‘no’
There’s no way you will ever compare

Take a minute, take an easy step back
There’s no secret password, no code to crack
It’s not a race or a contest, but if you’re still keeping score
You will always have less, they will always have more

We all can get caught up in our half empty cups
In all the little things that seem to go wrong
Your dog pees on the oriental, you can’t rent your rental
And it’s been three months since you wrote a song

Soon it’s all about you, all the errands to do
All your flaws you wish that you could improve
Like the way you wear makeup, the mood you’re in when you wake up
How when you’re nervous, you never keep your cool

Take a minute, take an easy step back
Look at all that you have and the time that you lack
It’s not a race or a contest, but if you’re still keeping score
You will always have less, they will always have more

Your eyes are all red, you’ve got the blues in your head
You look around but can’t find your halo
So you stay up too late watching TV you hate
And fall asleep on the couch wrapped in yellow

Take a minute, take an easy step back
There’s no secret password, no code to crack
It’s not a race or a contest, but if you’re still keeping score
You will always have less, they will always have more

NOTEBOOK: Digestive Enzymes

15 Jul

This is the first installment of what I’m going to coin “Notebook Posts”. Remember keeping lab notebooks in science classes of your experiments and detailing your method and results? This will be just like that except no one is grading me (phew!). I think this will be a helpful way to keep track of all the different things I’ve been trying to restore my health and wellness. I notice that when I read blogs from other patients they will chronicle their progress, but things tend to skip around without a thorough explanation of what’s going on. I hope this will help others as much as it will help me. I am having such a difficult time acknowledging and appreciating my own progress, so here is the first entry!

Title: Digestive Enzymes – Enzymedica Brand CarbGest/Digest Gold

After weeks of research, I settled on Enzymedica’s brand of digestive enzymes and I have been quite pleased with the results.

Introduction: Digestive enzymes are recommended for those with multiple food allergies and sensitives who likely have a diagnosis of leaky gut syndrome. The purpose is to help take the load off an already burdened system and give your gut less to do so it can focus on assimilating the nutrients instead of breaking them down. Enzymes that leak into the bloodstream via the leaky gut further help with “clean up”.

Method: I have been taking 1-2 CarbGest enzymes with fruit in the morning or with vegetables at lunch and dinner. I take 1-2 Digest Gold enzymes each time I have protein or fat at lunch, dinner, or snacks. The enzymes are taken prior to the meal and if I feel I need extra, I take an additional shortly after the meal.

Initiated: May 20, 2012

Duration: Ongoing

Conclusion: The enzymes are definitely helpful and I find I have difficulty tolerating food without them, however, I am suspecting that low HCl is part of the problem as well since I am still experiencing some symptoms of GERD on occasion. I like the Enzymedica brand because they were the only ones I could find that verified that the maltase was NOT derived from barley (gluten) and they have been readily available on the phone for questions and support. The capsules are vegetarian and don’t contain any “junk” in them. They are costly, but I have been able to snag bottles of 240 Digest Golds from Amazon at a good price regularly. For those with mold sensitivities be aware that the enzymes are cultured on aspergillus. This shouldn’t be a problem because the finished product contains no mold, but it is something to be mindful of.

The CarbGest is specifically targeted to people with phenol or salicylate sensitivities as it contains high amounts of xylanase. The Digest Spectrum is a good broad spectrum product that would be ideal for someone just starting out, but I have found my issues are just too severe and I need the heavy doses provided by Digest Gold and CarbGest.

Supplementing Healing

11 Jul

Healing from chronic illness can be expensive when you’re trying to do it properly. It may be cheaper to rely on allopathic medicine and Big Pharma, but the ultimate cost will be your life. These jars hold a key component to natural healing and the contents can be whipped up for next to nothing.


I have been having an increasingly difficult time maintaining my good progress lately. Foods are starting to bother me again and I’m feeling run-down and exhausted. I tried to back track in my food journal to see what the possible culprit could be and I definitely noticed the change happened after I eliminated the folic acid from my cocktail and added in the Mg Malate. Adding the folic acid back in is not an option since I have the MTHFR mutation, but I could try eliminating the Mg Malate for awhile and see if I improve.

Getting my intestinal permeability under control is top priority and I feel like I should be making way more progress than I am. I have been on 1 tsp of L-Glutamine for nearly 4 months now and attempts to up the dose were unsuccessful. I have a list of supplements that Dr. Guru and Dr. Lynch have recommended I incorporate into my routine and I had to finally stop and ask myself, “Why can’t I get these nutrients from whole foods?” My gut is damaged and digestion is compromised, but is it realistic to assume my body is able to metabolize synthetic supplements? To me, it makes more sense to focus ONLY on the gut right now, and add in the other stuff later. I recalled reading about the healing properties of bone broths and I set out to do some heavy research on making stocks. This led to the discovery of the GAPS diet and further reading on traditional cooking, whole foods, and specialized diets. So much to learn!

I decided that the GAPS diet probably wasn’t going to work for me due to the low carb requirement. My weight has dropped dramatically in the past 6 months and has yet to stabilize, so cutting out fruit and the handful of starchy vegetables I do eat didn’t sound like the best plan. Not to mention, I read this account of a young woman who ended up frighteningly ill and that was enough to scare me away from GAPS!

Many of the Paleo and GAPS-related blogs I have been frequenting talk about the healing power of making stock from the bones of different protein sources. The possibilities are endless: lamb, goat, turkey, chicken, beef, fish; and the benefits are astounding. Bone broths are rich in gelatin, minerals and amino acids that the body needs to heal from the inside out. I tried my hand at my first batch of lamb stock last week and it turned out great! I was nervous that it wouldn’t gel (this is the evidence a perfectionist cook needs to verify that the stock was prepared properly and is chock-full of the gut-healing nutrients), but the next day, I picked up a jar and it was wiggle-city! YAY!

Making bone broth is an easy and cheap way to supplement your healing from chronic illness. Sure, the cost of pastured or grass-fed meat is higher, but you can get more bang for your buck by using every last bit of the leftovers! Not to mention, it’s a LOT cheaper than multiple bottles of supplements with questionable contents! Here is my step-by-step guide to awesome broth:

1)  Reserve bones from pastured or grass-fed animals. Store them in the freezer after you’re done eating. You can also reserve the heads and bones from whole, wild-caught fish.

2)  When you’re ready to make the broth, put the bones in your slow cooker (I use a Hamilton Beach brand because there is no lead in the ceramic. Many slow cookers have lead in them!) and add enough FILTERED water to cover.

3)  Add 3-4TBS of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar (DO NOT OMIT THIS!) and let the bones sit for an hour.

4)  Turn the slow cooker on high and cover it. When it starts to simmer you’ll notice foam and “scummy” bits floating to the surface. Skim this off. This step generally takes me about 5 hours total in my 6 Qt cooker. I check on it every hour or so.

5)  Turn the slow cooker to low and leave it to gently bubble. Chicken stock takes 12-36 hours. Lamb, goat, or beef 36-72 hours. Fish takes 6-12 hours. The longer the slow simmer, the more nutrients you extract from the bones.

6)  Strain the stock through a coffee filter, mesh strainer, or cheesecloth and store in glass mason jars. It should gel in about 24 hours with a layer of fat on the top. You can render this for cooking or eat it with the stock.

7)  Consume 2-3 cups daily for optimal healing and use the rest for cooking in place of water or make homemade soups!

8)  For larger bones, you can repeat steps 2-7 for a second (and sometimes third, fourth, or fifth!) batch. The first batch is going to be the most nutrient-laden, but the subsequent batches will still be great for cooking and soups.


– At step 3 you may also add a TBSP of sea salt (NOT table salt), peppercorns, and fresh veggies (carrots, celery, onion, garlic, etc) to increase the mineral content. Don’t add parsley until the last 10 minutes of cooking time.

– With stock, the old saying, “Garbage in = garbage out” holds true. Use the highest quality meats and veggies you can. Locally grown or organic are best. If you use commercially raised and processed meats, you will need to skim a LOT of scum during step 4 and you’ll probably never want to eat commercially raised meat or poultry ever again.

– You can just as easily make the stock on the stove. You can even start the process on the stove, skim, and then transfer the stock to the slow cooker to finish.

– The stock can be boiled down and frozen (use ice cube trays) and then reconstituted for use in order to save space.

– Be sure to boil the stock you store in the fridge every 5 days or so. If you aren’t going to use it in a week, freeze it.

– Keep the layer of fat on the stock! This helps protect it!

–  If you’re following a rotation diet, cook up a few different stocks to fit into your rotation. Snapper heads work great for fish stock. Omit the veggies and herbs so as not to develop an intolerance.

–  You’ll know when the bones are no longer good when they start to break down and are soft. Some people reserve the marrow and some like to eat the softened bones for an excellent source of calcium.

–  For extra gelling-power and even MORE nutrition when making chicken stock, add a few chicken feet or a head to the pot. If you live in Western New York, Freeman Homestead sells a bag of feet and heads for $3 each.

– Be aware that adjusting to consumption of bone broth may take time. It is very nutrient-dense and some people have trouble with large quantities at first. Try skimming the fat if you have trouble digesting it, dilute the broth with a bit of filtered water, or start with small amounts and work your way up. I overdid it the first day I made my lamb broth and my body went into a mini state of broth-shock!



Tackling Chronic Illness and Autoimmune Disease with Nutrition in 4 Complicated and Heavily Involved Steps

30 Apr

…(I told you it wasn’t easy!)

Ok, now that we’ve covered the who, what, where, when, and why, it’s time to cover the “H” word … HOW! How do you go about working towards health and giving your body what it needs to heal? How do you work on repairing damage to the GI tract that may have accumulated over years and years? And more importantly, how much is this going to cost?! Let me preface the following list of steps by saying that I will explore each one more thoroughly as time goes on, but tackling this problem is a huge commitment and requires patience and dedication. You’re worth it. Your health is worth it. You can do it!

1)      Reduce the inflammation in the body by identifying and eliminating the foods or substances causing it

This means going on what has been coined an “Elimination Diet” for a period of time, and I hate to break it to you, but pretty much everything you’re eating right now…yeah. The 8 most common allergens need to be avoided, along with artificial colors, flavorings, additives, coffee (yes, kiss your cuppa goodbye – at least for now) and anything else you suspect might be giving you problems. The issue with delayed reactions, or IgG reactions, is that symptoms may not develop for up to 72 hours making it nearly impossible for you to figure out if the sandwich you just ate for lunch or the pork ribs you had last night for dinner are causing the problem. My suggestion is start with one of the largest offenders – gluten. Gluten is in everything. Literally. It will take some time for your body to detox and you might feel a bit crappy for a bit, but if gluten is contributing to your symptoms, you should notice them starting to subside in a couple of weeks. Some other foods to eliminate at first include, but are not limited to:

  • corn
  • soy
  • dairy
  • nuts
  • peanut
  • egg
  • shellfish
  • pork
  • ground meats
  • yeast

But…what will I EAT?! If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me, “But, what do you EAT?” I would be so rich right now…Vegetables! Fruits! Fish! Turkey! Chicken! Lamb! See, there are choices. Your best bet is to stick with whole, fresh foods. This link will help you find a local Farmers’ Market or CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) to help you stock up affordably. And because everyone is curious about whether or not it’s possible to avoid a lengthy list of foods, here is the list of foods that I must currently avoid:

  • beef
  • corn
  • dairy
  • egg
  • eggplant
  • gluten
  • grains (all)
  • ground meats (any)
  • nuts
  • peach
  • pear
  • peppers
  • pork
  • rice
  • soy
  • sugar (all forms of sweetener including: honey, agave, cane, and molasses)
  • sweet potato
  • tomato

2)      Rotate the foods that are left in the diet

Boy do I wish someone had shared this gem of wisdom with me when I went gluten free! The Rotary Diversified Diet, or Rotation Diet, was first described by a physician in 1946. The concept has been around for quite some time, but surprisingly, it’s not well known. When people eliminate one thing (*cough* gluten *cough*) from their diet, they tend to replace that gluten with corn, rice, and various other starches.

This is an example of the Rotation Diet I designed for myself in the earlier stages of my plan. As you can see, everything from oils, to seeds, to sweeteners is rotated. Within each day, the foods that are highlighted in the same color belong to the same family, meaning they are botanically related. Often, an intolerance to one food in the family will lead to an intolerance to others in the family due to the similarity of the proteins. Feel free to contact me if you would like help making your own Rotation Diet.

Remember, the reason for the intolerance had to do with over-exposure, so now we’ve just switched foods, but not limited exposure. See where I’m headed with this? On a Rotation Diet, you group the remaining foods into their botanical families. For example, lettuce, artichoke, and endive are all closely related, and then you eat from certain food families every day on a 4-day rotation. This prevents antibody complexes from re-accumulating in the body and wards off new intolerances. It will also help you to definitively pinpoint additional intolerances.

3)      Heal the gastrointestinal tract

Remember the little Pop Tart looking guy from last time? He needs some TLC! Healing the GI tract is a multi-faceted approach. You need to address all possible culprits: candida, parasites, bad bacteria, sensitivities, allergies, medications, and stress (to name a few). You need to start setting aside time for relaxation (yoga is my activity of choice, and there are some great FREE videos on YouTube), and do everything in your power to avoid exposing your GI tract to the things that tend to cause the most irritation: aspirin, NSAIDs, steroids, prescription medications, and antibiotics. The GI tract has an impressive cellular repair rate, but if you continue to expose it to stress and the things that wear it down, all of the energy is going to be spent trying to maintain instead of repair.

What are some things that help the GI tract heal?

  • Digestive enzymes. If the GI tract is already compromised, why give it more to do? Take the load off with a high quality broad spectrum enzyme. I prefer Similase GFCF, but this website is chock full of invaluable information about how enzymes work and how to choose one.
  • L-Glutamine. L-Glutamine is an amino acid that helps the cells in the GI tract to function properly and to repair themselves. It is a ‘must-have’ on your list of supplements for GI health.
  • Zinc. Many people with multiple dietary sensitivities and GI distress are actually deficient in zinc. In fact, new research has suggested that those with a history of disordered eating (anorexia, bulimia, etc) have low amounts of zinc in their red blood cells. A zinc supplement is recommended.
  • Magnesium. Magnesium is prescribed for all sorts of things these days, and its ability to help turn over and repair the GI tract is just the tip of the iceberg. Some doctors have pointed out that patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia have low levels of magnesium in their red blood cells and would benefit from magnesium supplementation. High doses can cause some GI upset, so be sure to start small.

4)      Repopulate beneficial bacteria

A high quality probiotic (preferably one that requires refrigeration) is essential. There are LOTS of things living in your gastrointestinal tract: bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms. Most of the time everything is kept in check and homeostasis is never far off, but we live in a world surrounding by artificial additives, toxins, prescription medications, and antibiotics. ONE round of antibiotics is enough to send your system into disharmony, and if your nutritional intake is poor (read: Standard American Diet), your body won’t fully bounce back. There are several different probiotics on the market that you can try. Be sure you call the companies and do your research to avoid inadvertently ingesting something that you should be avoiding. If you have never taken a probiotic before, you’ll want to start small and work your way up. A powder is helpful to allow for dose titration. Sometimes people experience side effects from the probiotic in the form of rashes or GI upset (occasionally other side effects too). Usually these are temporary and not a cause for alarm, but you should make sure that you double check the additives on the label. Once in a while, the flora balance in the GI tract is so off that adding in the good guys causes a “die-off” reaction of the bad guys. I recently started a 60 billion organism probiotic only to develop a rash about a week later. Too many little critters at once! Dropping the dose way down and working up slowly will help ward off discomfort.

Overwhelmed yet? I was too at first, so don’t worry. I’ll spend some time covering more of the things I am doing as I go along and share some of the brands of supplements and appliances I’ve found to make everything a bit easier.

Immunology 101

29 Apr

What if you could have more energy, less pain, fewer headaches, or even reverse the effects of your chronic illness just by changing the way you ate? Would you do it? Most people find the idea a bit far-fetched and wonder how something like diet could possibly impact such a variety of symptoms and so dramatically, but when you think about how our ancestors ate and how we currently eat, well, it starts to become a bit less hazy.

Our bodies are equipped with various antibodies that may mount defenses based on our exposure to things that we ingest or are exposed to in our environment. When you think about all of the things you’re exposed to on a daily basis, you have to really give your immune system a lot of credit. Pesticides, molds, toxins, artificial flavorings, preservatives, and the list goes on and on. A true allergy to a food or substance is indicated by an elevated level of the IgE antibody for the protein in that substance, but there is another antibody that has been receiving more attention as of late. The IgG antibody is believed to be directly related to what we’ve come to label as “delayed reactions” or “sensitivities”. IgG levels fluctuate based on exposure, and over-exposure combined with a semi-permeable and sick gastrointestinal lining can lead to a state of inflammation in the body as a result of partially digested or whole proteins leaking into the boodstream. Suddenly, you’re run down all the time, experiencing headaches, mood swings, joint pain, stomachaches, depression, and anxiety. Yes, the food you are eating can cause all of these symptoms and more.

A research study conducted by Dr. Drisko et al in 2005 evaluated 20 patients who had been diagnosed with IBS and had been unsuccessfully able to control their symptoms. Every single patient had abnormalities in their IgG levels, particularly to: brewer’s yeast, corn, pork, wheat, and soy. While there is some controversy over what the elevated levels actually mean, many doctors are at least willing to admit that an abnormally high IgG level to a substance is a good indicator that the body needs help fighting something.

Shortly after I started waking up feeling as if I’d been starring in the movie Run Lola Run all night long (good movie, by the way), my GI symptoms got completely out of hand. I was experiencing everything from excruciating pain to cramping, nausea, diarrhea, and because I doubt you want to read about all the details, I’ll stop there. Anyway, my GI doctor suggested a workup for Celiac disease because as crazy as I thought it sounded at the time, I told her that I felt like everything I was eating was making me ill. The clincher came when I began having cyclic panic attacks, so for those of you struggling with anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, or other chronic mental illnesses, I am living proof that changing your diet can play an integral role in alleviating your symptoms. I felt like I was on an adrenaline rollercoaster 24/7 and it became so excruciatingly unbearable that I checked myself into the hospital for a 72 hour hold where they doped me up on Klonopin. The Klonopin caused its own issues over the three short months I was on it, but I was desperate to “beat the panic trick” and worked through Dr. David Carbonell’s book. It was immensely helpful at taking the edge off after the Klonopin was finally out of my system (which was a nightmarish experience that I absolutely never, ever want to relive), but the constant feeling of being “on edge” still lingered.

When my Celiac workup came back negative, my GI doctor suggested a gluten free diet anyway. I spent hours over the next two weeks researching everything I could get my hands on, and I started noticing that a lot of the neurological symptoms of Celiac seemed to fit the ones I had been experiencing. I eliminated gluten from my diet and followed a very, very strict gluten free regimen. For two weeks I felt like I had been hit by not 1 – but 2 – semis. I thought I was dying. I stuck it out, and after about 3 weeks sans gluten, I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. My anxiety dissipated, I was less tired, in less pain, and my GI symptoms? Vanished. My GI doctor was so thrilled that she paraded no fewer than 3 residents into my exam room at my follow up appointment because she couldn’t believe the transformation. In hindsight, I should have paid more attention to how drastically my body responded to diet therapy, especially when many of my symptoms began creeping back up about 6 months later…

The incidence of gluten intolerance, and even Celiac disease, is growing in the United States and it really comes as no surprise since our commercially

Your standard loaf of bread contains more than 20 ingredients and is highly processed. Many patients with autoimmune diseases, chronic illness, and mental illness consume diets heavily ladened with sugar, preservatives, and mainstay ingredients that may be damaging the GI tract and resulting in food and environmental sensitivities.

manufactured food is satiated with wheat and other gluten-based fillers. By the time the wheat has been harvested and turned into a blue box of mac n cheese or a loaf of Wonder Bread, it’s not even wheat, it’s more like a stripped down synthetic form of the grain with little nutritional value. Unless of course it’s enriched. Because you know, it makes a hell of a lot of sense to strip a whole food of its nutrients and then spray synthetic versions of them back on later (insert eye roll here). Our country’s commercial food system is causing a lot of problems for a lot of people and most of them don’t even realize it. Our bodies were not made to eat the way most of us currently eat and we have not evolved enough to handle most of the processed crap that has become our mainstay

What can you take away from this very much abbreviated immunology lesson? If you have been diagnosed with any sort of “catch-all” syndrome, mental illness, neurological impairment, or you just plain feel like crap all the time, there is a strong possibility that part of your problem is one or many dietary sensitivities. Sometimes the answer is not to throw a pill at a symptom and hope for the best. Sometimes the patient has to do a little (or in my case, a lot) of leg work to get to the bottom of obtaining a better quality of life and wellness. It makes sense to start with the fuel you’re putting into your body. Step back and analyze what sort of “gas” you’re pumping in. This week, I challenge you to take an extra minute to read the packaging on the foods that you’re purchasing and consuming and think about where the ingredients came from. A loaf of bread isn’t what it used to be anymore.

The hypothesis behind MS, FMS, CRPS, CFS, IBS, IBD and all the other syndromes we abbreviate

24 Apr

I noticed recently that many of the autoimmune disorders are identified not by their names, but by their corresponding abbreviations. Maybe we’re just lazy, or maybe we don’t think half these “syndromes” are worthy of much else. Don’t misunderstand, I’ve been labeled with a few of these myself over the years. In fact, if I were given the opportunity to sign my full name, most would assume I am quite highly esteemed with a wall full of certificates. Dare to dream…

I have been inundated by emails and private messages on Facebook lately asking “What are you doing??” The reason? I essentially went from functioning at a level 2 on a scale of 1-10 to a level 7. My energy has improved and many of my chronic symptoms have decreased – in less than 2 months. Before I get to what I’m doing, I want to cover a few basics on anatomy and the gastrointestinal tract. This might take a post. Or two. Or three. So hang on because you’ll be super well-educated about your GUT soon!

The gastrointestinal tract is the largest lymphoid organ in the body. What does this mean? Over 60% of your immune system is contained there. Think about it. Your gut is the gateway to all things nutritional, helpful, and harmful internally. When you ingest food, enzymes are already hard at work breaking your food down into proteins. The protein-making-process continues as the grub travels into your stomach before ultimately ending up in the small intestine. The goal of digestion is to convert the food first into proteins and finally into amino acids, which are the usable forms of energy that the body needs to do what it’s gotta do. The lining of the gastrointestinal tract is responsible for absorbing nutrients. It’s precisely for this reason why the mucosal lining in the gut needs to be protected. Worshiped, even. Think of it as an awesome border patrol guy who lets the good guys through and keeps out the derelicts (unless of course we’re talking about the US/Canadian border where it’s really rather hit or miss, but I digress…)

This lining is tough, has an outstanding surface area, and fully regenerates itself every 3-5 days. Now THAT is impressive! But what happens if something internally, or something you’re inadvertently putting into your body, causes the lining to become inflamed? If the lining of the GI tract is compromised, over time, small gaps begin to form in it. The lining weakens and the border patrol starts to slack off (hmmmmm….) permitting partially digested proteins, by-products and toxins from bacteria, fungi, and other normal inhabitants of the GI tract to leak into the bloodstream. Recognizing these proteins as foreigners, your immune system launches the attack, continuing to mount more and more defenses against the invader until it finally can’t take it anymore because the crisis has led to a state of constant inflammation. “Must. Let. The. Human. Know,” it whispers weakly as it crawls away for cover…

Allergies, dietary and chemical intolerances, dysbiosis (bacterial and fungal imbalances), stress, antibiotics, aspirin, and other medications can weaken the lining of the gastrointestinal tract.

So how DOES your gut let you know it needs help?

  • headaches
  • migraines
  • acne
  • rashes
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • bloating
  • heartburn
  • fatigue
  • mitochondrial dysfunction
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • joint pain
  • fevers
  • allergies
  • asthma
  • mood swings
  • muscle aches/pain
  • memory problems

Pretty much EVERYTHING, right? Well, aren’t those many of the things that the “catch-all” diagnoses of exclusion include too? Except allopathic medicine tends to label them according to which symptoms may be manifesting. For example, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas, and heartburn may earn you the honorary “IBS”, while depression, anxiety, chronic pain, fatigue, and mental fogginess earn you “CFS” or “FMS”.

The American population collectively has the poorest dietary habits in the world. It is impossible to eat the Standard American Diet without health-related consequences. Is it any wonder that the incidence of autoimmune disease continues to skyrocket? Researchers are pouring money and resources into finding “cures” for complex autoimmune diseases instead of looking for and understanding the causes (remember the GI PA from last time?) Evolutionarily speaking our bodies have not yet evolved enough to handle all the chemicals, processed foods, and environmental toxins that we are exposed to day in and day out. So why does it come as any shock that our poor GI tracts can’t take anymore?! Look at that little guy in the picture above. See how sad he is? Restoring the GI tract completely may not be possible, but with a little understanding of how the system works and a LOT of patience, you can get some relief from some of your symptoms. Over and out, little guy! More to come…

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