How to get over your gut issues

I have a problem. A chronic, long standing problem with my guts. It is something I haven’t really discussed with people, nor for the longest time wanted to admit even to myself. I haven’t fully understood the extent of the problem until recently, but I was shocked with what I have learned. It has been a rocky road for many years, with one failed attempt following another trying to sort myself out.

This series of blog posts is a description of my journey. I will try and keep it unemotional and I will spare you any more vivid descriptions of my wildest symptoms, but it will be a true account nevertheless. It is not meant in any way as a negative critique or a rant, but should be more of a empowering lesson. How to not give in. How to keep going and try to find answers. How to find the right questions to ask, and more importantly, the right people to address those questions to.

In a way I have had a bit of a dodgy tummy my whole life, but things have become progressively worse over the last 15 years or so. At first everything was shrugged off as “stress tummy” by everyone; myself, my parents, and the medical establishment alike. True enough, any exacerbation only occurred at times of emotional stress and turmoil, such as A-levels, tough stretches in the military, and university exam weeks. The symptoms at the time ranged from constipation to diarrhoea and urgency, as well as incapacitating stomach cramps. Needless to say I used to dread it. Any twinge bought on fear and anxiety. It started to affect my life to a significant degree.

During university I came across the idea of alternative medicine. I was interested and excited, but due to lack of money and with discouragement from the medical people I let it all slip and continued to suffer. I used to get occasional flare-ups even after the stress of university subsided as I started work but they were to a less severe degree and I told myself that it was slowly healing and that it would all go away on its own. It continued and then started getting worse again. Another turn for the worse occurred when we bought our own clinic and yet again after our first daughter was born.

I felt stressed out, I felt drained, and I was sick and tired of my unpredictable guts and the pain. I spent some time researching on the internet and tried various approaches, including Ayurveda, Kinesiology, Reiki, and various different diets. Nothing really helped. There were the momentary glimpses of hope, which were all too soon dashed as the reality set in. Even the fabled probiotics and detoxes had no lasting effect. My energy levels were not good either. I even went as far as trying colonic irrigation. Things got significantly worse a few years ago when I needed to have an operation on my bowels. That produced again only temporary relief. The most disheartening thing that occurred at about that time was the statement of the surgeon, which basically said that there is nothing wrong with me – I will just have to cope. The nutritionist I consulted concurred as she said that I was already eating very healthy and that my diet could not be improved, my diet was not the source of my problems, and discouraged me from trying anything alternative. My life prospects didn’t really seem all that appealing at the time.

When I am faced with the helpless (non-caring) shrug of the shoulders and a statement that nothing can be done, something happens inside of me. I usually go into an “I will prove you wrong and sort it out myself” – mentality. Slowly I started educating myself. I read a lot. Diet books. Scientific articles. Text books. Alternative and holistic websites and blogs. A pattern started to emerge. I came to realise that most of what I knew about diet and healthy eating was wrong. I had been subscribing to the popular approach of “eat anything and binge on anything you like” and realised that I needed an overhaul of my lifestyle. The western sugar heavy, starch laden, processed food infested diet was definitely not right for me. I decided to cut out the ‘crap’. I drew inspiration from vegetarian cooking and Paleo diet and went gluten free. I cut out as much sugar as I possibly could and dramatically reduced my dairy intake. I had the barest minimum of alcohol and drank lots of water. This all helped. To a degree. I didn’t really go down the supplement route, as I didn’t really think it was that necessary and my previous experiences had not produced much of a result. At one point, as I was becoming more committed to my Ironman training, I started taking Krill oil (Omega-3) and Co-Enzyme Q10 to help with the recovery. I started to explore the possibility of probiotics again, somewhat reluctantly I might add, but then amidst my trawling came across an article on the internet.

I read an article about ‘Leaky Gut’ and candida. The article was another ‘real life’ account of someone struggling with similar issues. It was a bit of a reality check. The duration and extent of symptoms was similar to me, but the amount of effort the poor guy had to put in to get a result was astonishing. And expensive, I’m sure. I didn’t jump to any conclusions but set out to learn more. In the end there was only one thing to do. I had to find out if that was me, so I got myself tested. I was able to refer myself for a urine test that involved ingesting a vial of sugar solution and then collecting the full urinary output over the course of 6 hours. Take a sample and send it bag – results to follow. And they did. I was virtually off the scale. Virtually all of the sugar had leaked out of my gut and directly into the blood stream, thus ending up in the urine. Finally I had something that shed a bit of light on my problem. No wonder I was not absorbing nutrients from my food, and no wonder I had bowel problems. Next step was to find out what was causing the leakiness in the gut. I got a poop test this time to assess the parasitology and bacteria in my gut. Turns out that my guts are a host for a few nasty putrefying bacteria and parasites, as well as candida fungus. Somewhere along the line all of the good bacteria had decided to pack their bags and head off to more hospitable climes. Another good bit of information. What this meant, though, was less than good. It means that I am in a spot of trouble – even if the medical establishment feels that I am completely fine.

And this brings us to present day. I am now awaiting my next private set of testing, which will be a host of blood tests to map out my current situation in terms of various deficiencies and to finalise the treatment plan I will embark on in a couple of weeks time as the results come in. So far I have paid a better part of £500 for the tests.

Considering everything it would be understandable if I was bitter and felt that the system has let me down. I don’t feel that way. Instead, I am taking the philosophical stance and choose to see this as a learning experience. The greatest lesson I have drawn from this so far has been the complete reversal of my view on health. It is down to us. It is our individual responsibility to look after ourselves and to take the necessary steps to ensure ongoing good health. The healthcare system, the NHS in the UK, is not equipped to deal with the ever increasing burden of the ailments that are the result of poor lifestyle choices. The leading killers, such as obesity, Diabetes, Heart disease and now neural degenerative diseases (Parkinsons, Alzheimer’s and Dementia) are for the most part preventable. Following the western way of eating and living, with ones head firmly buried in the sand, will lead down that road - to the detriment of the individual as well as the system that is trying to keep this unviable lifestyle going.

What I have found is that trying to do the right thing in terms of lifestyle choices and health care is not easy, nor cheap. When all is going well it is simply a matter of eating clean and exercising to stay healthy. Steering clear of the processed food can be tricky and finding time for preparing food is often problematic. Let’s face it, the supermarkets are full of ready meals and easy options. Trying to stick to quality food means ignoring 80% of the aisles in the supermarket, or going down the more time consuming (and often more costly) route of farm shop, greengrocer, and butcher and then adding the time and effort to prepare your meals. It’s worth it.

When things go wrong it becomes a major mission to get better. Finding the right person to help is akin to looking for that needle in the haystack. Their services cost money. They will not prescribe quick fixes. So in a way I cannot blame people for taking the easy option of going with the free pill dispensing service and then blame the system for their non-improvement. What they failed to understand is that their lifestyle needs to change in order for any real improvement to take place. Another important thing to understand is that learning the exact nature of the problem is crucial for a targeted treatment strategy. Self prescribed supplements will not help if your body is unable to utilise any of them. It’s just money down the drain and escalation of frustration. Popping medications like Smarties to mask symptoms and to continue living life exactly as before will not help in any way. In the end, the continued cocktail of various chemicals will end up worsening the situation – not making it better. The modern society is so hung up on instant gratification that the idea that healing may take a few months seems preposterous to most people. The same can be said about looking in the mirror for the causes of our problems.

Stay tuned for future updates.

Yours in Health,


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