Micaela’s Story – Her Fight With IBS (IBS Part 6)

Mic2Micaela’s recovery from illness is one I want to share. She had a condition called “gut dysbiosis” which means that the normal microbes in the gut are having a hard time. Due to the unpleasant and varying effects of dysbiosis, the condition has been called “Irritable Bowel Syndrome”, “Food sensitivities”, “Spastic Colon”, “Chronic Constipation”  and more, but the fact is, that in 99% of cases, it is Gut Dysbiosis.

Micaela had most of these labels with a few more conditions thrown in, including depression. This is her story in her words and how we treated her and I am very grateful to her for allowing me to tell it.

Micaela – “Back in 1985 I had my appendix removed. The operation went OK and I was given antibiotics afterwards. I seemed to make a complete recovery, although when I look back it was around that time that I started to suffer from a lot of wind, bloating and constipation. I was a single mum trying to raise my boys alone and working in a fast food restaurant and didn’t have a very good diet. It was just one of those minor niggles you learn to live with.

“Over the next few years I took a considerable amount of anti-inflammatory drugs and pain killers.”

Ten years on I started to suffer a lot of back pain. I was born with a congenital deformity of the spine and age and hard work had taken their toll on my back.  Over the next few years I took a considerable dose of anti-inflammatory drugs and pain killers.  I started to suffer constipation and diarrhoea and a sort of empty rumbling in my gut.  I often used to crave toast and butter and it seemed to settle things for a while.
At this stage it had developed from a minor niggle to something that was becoming a bit irritating.

Early 1999 I had some gynae problems. I was prescribed hormonal treatment for about six months which did settle things down.  By the middle of 1999 I had my first ever migraine. That marked a major downturn in my life. I started to have migraines about every two weeks to begin with; they steadily got worse until at their worst point, I only had about 3 days in any one month where I didn’t have a terrible headache. I’d spend days in bed often battling the most terrible pain.  Doctors thought it was hormonal and want to do a hysterectomy, but I felt this was wrong I was sure it was something I was eating. I tried cutting different foods out for a while but never made much headway.

“I ..cut out fruit and sugars and thought I had beaten it”

In 2002 I had a food intolerance test, which came back positive for milk, eggs and yeast. I cut these foods out of my diet and although I felt a little better, I never made any real progress back to full health. The possibility of Candida was mentioned at this time, so I also cut out fruit and sugars and thought I had beaten it.  Some time after changing my diet I started to suffer from constant diarrhoea – 8-10 times a day.  It was so bad I didn’t want to go out anywhere.  I was trying to eat soda bread & homemade Cornish pasties, so as to avoid the yeast.
In 2005 I saw a gastroenterologist who put me on a gluten free diet and for a little while I seemed a little better.  It was short lived and things started to deteriorate rapidly.
I was put on an exclusion diet which started with lamb, carrots, rice and pears.  I never really made it much past 12 foods and once I brought in any kind of fats I had the most terrible headache.  At last I felt I had worked out a connection between food and the headaches.

Since this time I have lived mainly on rice, not fats at all and occasionally small pieces of rice(1)chicken and pineapple.  I gradually grew  sicker and sicker suffering from constant fatigue, brain fog, memory loss, got up tired and went to bed exhausted, stomach pain, cramping in my gut, constipation, diarrhoea, bladder problems, aching joints, depression, numbness in my fingers, earache, pain behind the eyes, nausea – need I go on? I could see life slipping away, everything I tried to eat apart from rice caused me problems of some kind. I’d seen numerous doctors and had many tests but no one could get to the bottom of the problems with my health.”

A desperate appeal for help went out in the Metro newspaper.


Treatment of illness this severe, often means that the sufferer has to suffer a bit more before healing can begin. Gut problems are almost exclusively due to gut-dysbiosis and this is regardless of the diagnosis. Because of this, treatment has to be similar in all cases.

With the emphasis being on “the absorption of the correct nutrients as quickly as treatment allows”, as priority, easily absorbed foods must be used. These foods have to be the ones that good bacteria and microbes thrive on – and it is no coincidence that these very foods are the very ones that nourish us too. They don’t nourish the microbes that have moved in, set up home and become pathogenic – the ones causing the illness.

All life forms eat, drink and excrete. Not in quite the same way perhaps but the microbes that are supposed to be in our gut, help us with their excretions or “metabolytes”. They produce vitamins and enzymes and help digest the food we eat. Those that have overtaken do far more damage than than just hinder this process! They have to be brought under control and largely be killed off.It is this that causes the worsening symptoms at the beginning of treatment. When pathogenic microbes die, their toxins can overwhelm the body and they have to be removed – whichever way.. Think – diarrhoea, foul breath, body odour and rashes accompanied with headaches and gut pain from intestinal spasm.

Once the bad boys under control then it is imperative to replace with the microbes that naturally live in our guts. Once they are established, more foods can be added gradually. Gut healing is a very long process of trial and error, but determination does pay.

When  Micaela reported back to the papers after only three weeks of treatment when she was eating around forty different foods, I was delighted that she felt well enough to do this. However, I was concerned that she felt she was almost “cured”. It had taken many years for her insides to make her as sick and malnourished as she was – and true recovery would take much, much longer. The first six months were extremely difficult, but it was a year before she felt she had the confidence to go it alone. She would have been fine without support after six months, but long-term illness saps confidence and so we still kept in touch frequently for this time.

I am very happy to report that right now (August 2014), Micaela has several part-time jobs, both at home and outside. When I met her she weighed 48 kilos and she is now 60 kilos. She is happy, healthy and living her life.

Here is a report of Micaela’s progress barely three weeks later.
..and 6 months later, looking forward to Christmas dinner

Here is a short audio on Micaela’s recovery:

 

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B12 – The Finicky Vitamin

Along with the other B vitamins, B12 is responsible for releasing energy from food, healthy nerves, the formation of blood and other cells, mental health and much more. Deficiency at its worst causes pernicious anaemia, (possibly) contributing to Alzheimer’s disease, psychoses and heart disease. The symptoms that often present initially are mood swings, insomnia, lacking energy and tingling in the hands and feet.

1426234_63077721It is very easy to become vitamin B12 deficient today. Life is so very different to how it was one hundred or even fifty years ago when home cooking was all that was available and nothing as wasted. We are a “fast” society now and everything has to be pronto – many don’t cook anymore – preferring microwave meals. We eat on the hoof just to fill our stomachs quickly with scant regard for the food’s nutritional value or whether we will digest it properly. It is incredible to me that people complain about the cost of food whilst buying ready meals and takeaways and it will contribute to becoming B12 deficient in our modern times.

Even if you care about your health, it is possible to become deficient in this vitamin. Those who are vegetarian through choice could be at risk. Likewise those who are vegetarian or vegan for religious or other reasons often miss out on this essential nutrient.

Some illnesses prevent B12 being utilised. The reason I call this the “finicky” vitamin is due to its metabolism. Simply, a protein called “intrinsic factor” found in the stomach juices binds itself to B12 to allow absorption. Most foods are digested and absorbed during the long journey through the small intestine. Not B12 though! There is a small area between the small and large intestines reserved for just this purpose. Because of this rather complicated process, illnesses affecting the gut can disrupt it at all stages.

  • Fast foods; even if any B12 is present, they are consumed quickly with minimal mastication and washed down with a drink of some sort. If foods are not chewed thoroughly, they cannot be digested effectively in the stomach. When food is accompanied by large quantities of fluid, the stomach acid is diluted and therefore, the intrinsic factor will be also. This can lead to the use of…
  • Antacids, reflux and ulcer medicines; these lower the acidity in the stomach making the digestion of B12-containing proteins difficult to digest thereby preventing its release from the food.
  • Ageing; stomach acid naturally reduces as we age leading to a similar situation as above.
  • Gut disorders; people who suffer the diseases that cause ulceration of the gut lining and diarrhoea are at risk. This includes sufferers of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), celiac disease, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease (IBD).
  • Other drugs; diabetes medications, statins, birth control pills and antibiotics. There is a more comprehensive list and lots more information here.

So what can we do to maximise our chances of maintaining optimum levels of B12? It 736236_94991508would be far too easy for me to say that those people suffering from illnesses should seek to become well again (and some of the diseases I have named here are reversible) but nonetheless, action has to be taken one way or another! The best way to supplement B12 is by injection thus bypassing the complicated metabolic process. Or by sub-lingual drops. This is necessary for vegans too, as useful B12 is only present and available in animal foods. For vegetarians – kefir, organic cheeses and eggs are essential. The best sources for the rest of us are organic offal meats, shellfish as well as the above. To improve the uptake of B12 chew food thoroughly, don’t drink too much with meals so as not to dilute stomach acid and eat slowly. To stimulate stomach acid, eat fresh sauerkraut as a part of your meals, or a spoonful just a few minutes before a meal. Apple cider vinegar can be used too.

Above all, if you don’t or can’t cook please do something about it. The health of families starts in kitchens!

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Micaela Stafford – The Lady Whose Body Rejected Everything

One day back in May 2011, I was shown an article in a newspaper about a lady who was very unwell.  She had been searching for years to find a solution to her illness and even though some things she tried helped a little, the relief was short-lived. The only food her body would tolerate at this time was rice. Everything else made her feel ill – migraines, stomach cramps, diarrhoea, nausea and more. She weighed 7 1/2 stones. Food sensitivities were ruling her life.

Mic2

Her efforts to find a cure led her to many general doctors, gut specialists, nutritionists and dieticians – to no avail. Such was her determination to regain her health she then approached newspapers and radio stations to widen her search.

I felt that treating her was worth trying as it was possible that the core problem had been missed. The term “gut dysbiosis” is a relatively new one and not one to have entered mainstream medicine yet. It is very often the case that until a condition is accurately named – in other words, one which truly describes what is happening – that treatment can be wrongly advised.

Take irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. This is the diagnosis which is often returned when all else has been excluded. (These tests of course have to be performed as IBS has similar symptoms to other gut disorders.) The problem is that IBS merely encompasses a set of symptoms – it does not address the root cause, but “gut dysbiosis”, does. It succinctly describes the condition of microbial life in the gut being out of balance. So when I was faced with Micaela’s illness, I knew that before she could benefit from the nutrients in food, her gut microbes needed normalising.

When we met, I was shocked at how thin and drawn Micaela looked. The specialists that she had consulted, once they had determined that (from their point of view) there was nothing to be done, advised her that is was “all in her head”. It most certainly was not, all in her head – it was very real. However, over many, many years, her mind had been affected by being chronically ill and she was in a bad place by the time she came to me. With hindsight, it would have been most helpful to have had specialist input to help her manage this. Also, I suspect that her recovery would have been quicker if her mind was being treated at the same time. Stress is counterproductive due to the constant release of stress hormones – which long-term, damage the body physically.

Micaela had to take a huge leap of faith as here was someone, (me!) telling her something completely different to all the other professionals from whom she had sought help. To be frank, I had never treated a gut condition this severe and whilst I had confidence in the theory, I could not be confident of the outcome as treatment would be incredibly difficult for Micaela. In fact I could never have predicted how tough it would end up being.

Most of Micaela’s life had been blighted with ill health and she had to undergo many forms of treatment for her ailments. The history she recounted to me showed clearly that there were many opportunities for undesirable microbes to colonise in her gut. At the point where we met, I suspected that the only reason that she was able to tolerate rice, was that these microbes were using it as fuel. (To test this, add cooked rice to warm water and yeast. The yeast will digest the rice by turning it to sugar – its preferred energy source. The mixture will bubble until the rice has almost all been used up.) The main offender was Candida. I cannot know this as a certainty as it was never proved and I don’t perform tests as they can be unreliable. However, treatment which just involved nutritious food would only benefit her no matter which organisms were to blame.

Where to start though!  As Micaela could only tolerate rice – what would I give her? The important thing to start with was to rid her of the pathogenic organisms. To this end, she had to undergo a two day broth fast. This was just the liquid from boiled chicken bones, vegetables and herbs. This is not only very easily absorbed but definitely not a favourite of Candida or its friends! The problem for Micaela was the “die off” reaction – all the symptoms of IBS but even worse. It was a very, very hard time for her and this was just the start of treatment.

The only way to tackle gut dysbiosis is -
1) Clear the gut of pathogenic microbes.
2) Heal the gut (which has been damaged by these microbes).
3) Replace the beneficial microbes (with probiotics).
3) Introduce absorbable nutrition as quickly as is practical.

This is the treatment that Micaela needed to heal her insides and ultimately – herself. She had endured years of poor nourishment as her gut would not absorb it – even when she occasionally tried something other than rice. In other words, she was suffering from malnutrition – and then everything is wrong.

At three weeks of treatment, with the inclusion of about forty foods that she could eat and enjoy, she thought she was well again and there was another news item in her local paper. We were both very excited that she was eating so well, but I feared that it was very early days to be celebrating – and my hunch was right – she was far from completely recovered. There were still hard times to be overcome. For six months foods were added or added and removed until finally that year, Micaela enjoyed a Christmas dinner.

The last few years have been a steep learning curve for both of us and we’re still climbing! Eating out is not a problem for Micaela now – there is always something she can have and enjoy without any adverse symptoms.  From my point of view, I have achieved my aim, which is the same for all.
“To ensure that all the body’s nutritional requirements are met as quickly as possible, in the most acceptable way to the person being treated.”

Fortunately, although Micaela’s condition is not completely unique, most IBS sufferers can recover more easily than she did. Fortunate indeed as there are not too many people with Micaela’s amazing determination to succeed.

The picture at the top, is of Micaela now, at 9 1/2 stones and happy.

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Candida Albicans – The Main Cause of IBS? (IBS Part 5)

We live with yeasts. There are yeasts in the air we breathe, on the food we eat and living happily in our intestines. It is impossible to avoid them but fortunately, the healthy body has systems in place to keep yeast infections under control. Candida Albicans is the opportunist microbe and overgrows prolifically given the chance.

As I discussed before, medications and illnesses will deplete the beneficial gut bacteria and this allows the undesirables to proliferate and this can happen very quickly, especially if the diet is high in sugars and other carbohydrates. This is called dysbiosis – literally meaning , difficult life.

All yeasts have similar needs. If you have ever made bread or beer you know that mixing water, yeast and sugar in a warm place creates lots of bubbles. (Actually, if you used a spoonful of flour the effect would be the same.) This reaction is the result of yeasts feeding on sugar and multiplying. For Candida, the gut provides an ideal environment to set up home and have a big family. Friends will also be invited, but friends of Candida, not of us!

beerWhen bread or beer is made, the gases easily escape into the atmosphere but what happens if this fermentation goes on inside us? There is no immediate escape so gases build up causing much noise and often severe cramping pains. Eventually gas escapes as very smelly wind accompanied by acute embarrassment. Sometimes the gas does not escape easily and becomes trapped causing more pain and bloating. A story I hear often is that a bloated abdomen becomes apparent over the day and goes down overnight no doubt escaping during sleep.

So why the diarrhoea that often typifies IBS? When the yeast Candida colonises in the gut is becomes less of a yeast and more of a fungus. The organisms join forces and start to line the gut wall, anchoring with minute rootlets into the intestines. When this happens, there is little room for the good guys to colonise which means the delicate lining becomes eroded as there is no protection. Food cannot be digested and absorbed properly which means it leaves the body rapidly and barely altered from when it was eaten. Another likely scenario is that instead of being absorbed as nutrients, other unwanted microbes cause the food to putrefy adding to the toxic load. Whilst these effects are going to cause much discomfort and distress, another very troublesome situation is occurring – malnutrition.

This is the disaster that will almost certainly perpetuate or worsen the illness. We take for granted that our food will be digested once eaten but it is an extremely complex process – one which is dependent upon all areas of the gut doing their bit before the food is moved on to the next stage. With IBS these stages can be inadequate or missed out altogether. The end result is that nutrients are not absorbed and the body’s digesting fluids and enzymes cannot be created. Many other processes cannot be instigated. The vicious circle continues and we get sicker.

Next time, I will tell you the story of Micaela Stafford. This was a lady I met a few years ago who had the most severe form of gut dysbiosis I have ever witnessed. She has allowed me to tell her story.

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IBS – The Unkempt Garden (IBS Part 3)

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is, for whatever reason, a condition in which the gut microbes have become unbalanced.

We have trillions of good, bad and on-the-fence microbes on and in us. In a healthy person these live in harmony, with the good guys calling the shots. In a less than healthy person they live in conflict. In someone with IBS there has been an all out war where the good guys have been beaten into submission. This causes all the miserable symptoms now called irritable bowel syndrome.

Often you can’t tolerate the very foods needed to keep you healthy. Everything will now be out of sync. Your gastric juices, enzyme and bile production vitamin manufacture, liver function, immunity and lots more cannot work until your gut microbes are normalized.

I will use an analogy to illustrate the steps that are required to normalize your insides because when nature finds a good way of doing something it is repeated often where a variety of life forms dwell together. I will use a garden for my example, but I could just have easily used a pond, a forest or even a compost heap!

overgrownImagine you have to make an overgrown garden into a tidy one with attractive flowers and productive plants and of course you will want to attract birds and insects which will ensure a good harvest.

Will you straight away go and buy the plants and stick them in where you can? Tidy Garden_nNo of course you won’t – you have hard work to do first! The overgrowth has to be removed or severely cut back and the weeds must be uprooted. Nutrients must be replaced and then you can you start replanting. Eventually, you have a garden which will become almost self sufficient, needing only minor attention from you. Everything will be balanced.

If you have IBS, the only way to tackle it is from the “ground” up. You can only benefit from good microbes and nutrients when the bad guys have been evicted to make room on the gut wall for colonization and absorption. When this has been achieved, with a little TLC your gut will look after your health forever. This also takes TIME!

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“How Did I Get Irritable Bowel Syndrome?” (IBS Part 1)

IBS is at the top of medical reasons for absence from work, sharing the slot with the common cold. The impact on the workplace is not insignificant, but it can have a truly devastating effect on the individual.

Toilet road signIrritable bowel syndrome is a miserable condition as any sufferer knows. It can vary in how it presents itself, how uncomfortable it is, how long it lasts and how it affects individuals. Perhaps the most disruptive aspect – is that a flare-up can happen without warning. Plans for the day go out of the window as  a day in bed, near to the bathroom is all that is practical.

When I started nursing in the 70s, there was no such thing as irritable bowel syndrome. Even ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease were rarities. I do remember that there were a few cases of “spastic colon”, which I guess was the forerunner to IBS but again it was rare. What has happened since then to make gut problems commonplace now?

I have interviewed hundreds of patients during my career as a nurse and I have often been asked “how did I get irritable bowel syndrome?” Over this time I have been able to put two and two together and after considerable researching, reflecting and witnessing, have at last made four! For so long, the sums just made no sense. Why do some drugs cause diarrhoea? Why is it many people do not recover completely after a nasty bout of holiday tummy? Why is an upset stomach common after chemotherapy? Or more to the point, the question I eventually asked was – why is it some people are OK after these things?

Most of us have had antibiotics at some time, but for women in particular, a course of antibiotics means another problem – thrush – why? Or for anyone, antibiotics can cause diarrhoea – again, why?

There is a common denominator in all the above situations and it is candida. The ubiquitous yeast, candida.

The symptoms of candida infection (overgrowth), exactly match those of IBS. Bloating, stomach cramps, headaches, gas, constipation and diarrhoea and more. Can this be coincidence? I don’t think so and over the next few weeks, I want to answer some of the questions I have posed here.

 

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The Price of Health – part 1

Success is always measured by money isn’t it? We all need money to live and I’m not knocking it, but cheap food is not a good investment in our health. Apart from anything else, if you haven’t got your health, you will have nothing – maybe not even the ability to work.

file0001911591111Many diseases are on the increase. Auto-immune diseases such as Crohn’s disease,  multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis; gut disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and food sensitivities; allergies such as asthma and to peanuts; even rickets (due to vitamin D deficiency) has returned and the list goes on and on.

What has happened? Why, when we “know” so much, are we seeing more chronic illness? The answers are simple but they are interpreted wrongly (accidentally or intentionally).  In so many instances, the information released to the public becomes very complicated.  It is usually given in sound-bites (eg. in newspaper articles) and the research on which information is given is often flawed. This of course means that the advice will change in a few years, by which time much damage is already done. (Remember how we were told to eat polyunsaturated fats instead of butter? Not now!)

Before I explore why good health has become complex and elusive and why you have to spend more money on food, I will itemise the reasons why I believe chronic illness is now a way of life:

1)    Our food has been tampered with

2)    Medications

3)    We have been told to stay out of the sun

4)    We have been advised to eat a diet which is largely unsuitable for human beings

5)    We over-exercise or not at all

6)    Famous people are putting their names to big brands

7)    Greed for money and power, has overtaken our population

8)    Smoking

9)    Overuse of germ killing household and personal products

There are many other factors involved but as I want to keep this reasonably brief, I will not be expanding on them. They include vaccinations which have been written about extensively – some articles are here.

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It may be interesting for you to see the pattern in the illnesses frequently suffered:

Wrong diet as children +
Lack of the sun +
Persuasion to eat wrong foods (No.4 as above) +
Too little exercise
Equals -
Insulin sensitivity – obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, poor circulation
and could equal
Loss of vision, infections, loss of sensation in feet, gangrene, strokes, heart disease etc.

Whilst treatment for chronic symptoms may prolong life, they will not cure. They will almost certainly produce side effects which range from unpleasant to downright dangerous.

Is this what we want? Or how about this one? – another frequently seen scenario:

Bottle-fed as a baby +
Carbohydrate (nutrient-poor) based diet +
Antibiotics for repeated ear/throat/other infections +
Lack of sunshine +
(possibly the contraceptive pill later in life)
Could equal
Asthma, food sensitivities, more infections/antibiotics, intermittent diarrhoea/constipation, thrush
Could equal
IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), further sensitivities and allergies
c
ould equal
Autoimmune diseases – Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease
could equal
Dependence on steroid drugs and/or invasive surgery to remove part of the bowel and create a colostomy.

Part two next time, in which I will expand on those factors that have lead to chronic illness and why it is folly to buy cheap food.

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Candida Albicans

How a Common Fungus Knows When to Attack

Have you ever noticed how easily and rapidly mushrooms and toadstools grow? Or how quickly warm water sugar and yeast start to bubble? Yeasts and fungi have the most amazing ability to capitalize on optimum conditions. In nature these conditions are often fleeting and in order for the organism to survive, it has to procreate at a rate of knots. Spores are also able to remain viable for great lengths of time.

Our insides are teeming with bacteria, viruses, parasites and yeasts. In a healthy body they are kept in balance and our health is at its best but in an unhealthy body everything gets out of hand and we suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), food sensitivities and other gut problems.

Carbohydrate foods – pasta, rice, cereals, potatoes, bread and sugar, as far as your body is concerned, are all sugar. We break these foods down during digestion to the simplest molecule to absorb into the blood stream – glucose. If your diet consists of lots of these foods, you maybe nourishing yeasts, usually Candida (sometimes called thrush) more than you are nourishing yourself.

Read Micaela’s Story

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