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:

 

Email me

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.

Email me

 

The Return to Health – A Double-Edged Sword?

For many people who have suffered chronic health issues, a return to health brings its own problems and it is this that I want to discuss here.

The effects of chronic illness don’t just happen overnight. Health slowly spirals downward over years, almost unnoticed, until it has an impact on daily life. Some cannot even continue their normal occupation. At this point, it can have a devastating affect. Those activities that you deem vital to your existence are either severely hampered or become impossible.

Let us consider Micaela. Her illness, when she looks back at her life, started during her teens but it was an irritation, not a disability at this time. Around twelve years prior to consulting me, life had become very difficult and she had multiple food sensitivities. Three years before our meeting, her circumstances had become so severe, that all her body would accept was rice. And this is what Micaela lived on. No job, just existing.

Try to imagine this. You know that you can’t live on just rice but you have to, or suffer the consequences. Micaela’s thoughts were about her health every single day and the only thing that she could depend upon if she was not to suffer migraines and stomach cramps, was rice.

As with many others suffering similar illnesses, Micaela’s became her life. It was never allowed to be in the background – doctors, tests, drugs and feeling ill ensured that it remained current and the only force in life that was constant. The frequent round of consultations with medical people, invasive and unpleasant examinations and being told that it “was all in her head”, all served to make her feel utterly let down and isolated.

Her life had been stolen from her, but she made the best job she could of what was left of it. When I told her that the food she relied upon was perpetuating the problem and that the rice had to go, it scared her. She was as dependent upon rice as a drug addict is upon their fix. Although after just 3 weeks of treatment Micaela had progressed from just rice to eating 40 nutritious and healthy foods, it was a further 3 months before she was able to gather all the packs of rice together and finally dispose of them.

Mic2

I have seen this many times. Sufferers join self-help groups and adopt strategies and behaviours to accommodate their problem. Chronic illness will mess with the necessary nutrients for all body functions, so again there is a spiralling problem. One of the most debilitating effects of long term poor health is depression. This is due to the lack of nutrients to the brain as well as the tedium, frustration, the life altering distressing symptoms or more likely, all of these things put together.

A different consequence of an individual’s recovery involves the rest of the family. It is more often a spouse or partner that bears the brunt of these effects. Some years ago I treated a young man for obesity. He had been big for as long as he could remember and therefore he felt (as others do also) that it defined who he was as a person. His confidence and self-esteem were low, he dressed tidily but would never wear the trendy clothes that others of his age did. All this changed when he lost weight – for he had been redefined. I bumped into his wife a year or so later and sadly, they had split up. There is no blame to apportion here – this is human nature. This of course, is not an inevitable outcome but when you have been ill the whole of your formative life, it is common.

This last story has a warning – obesity (or rather the metabolic disease that it is) is just as much an illness as IBS and diabetes. When these problems are removed, there are adjustments to make and this can be extremely problematic.

When wellness becomes the norm instead of illness, the weight loss clubs, self-help groups, voluntary work – just everything that has previously filled the days, can become redundant. These may be replaced with a new job, meeting people, having a holiday and although this all sounds wonderful, they still have to be coped with.

To sum up, when someone has recovered from chronic ill health, it is often replacing one problem with another. It can of course be managed, but forewarned is forearmed.

July 2014 update on Micaela.
She is fit and well, eating lots of different foods but not grains for the most part. She has three jobs – two from home and one away. Life is good – her words! 

 I would like to thank Micaela Stafford for her permission to include some of her case history in this blog.

Email me

 

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.

DSC02821-C

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.

Email me

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

Email me