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.
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.