Here we go...
In this post I'll take you through the various procedures and tests I've had, results and symptom resolution.
Let me begin by saying I absolutely ignored the signs over the years. I've often suffered with dodgy digestion characterised by alternating periods of constipation and diahorrea with substantial periods where all was well.
The periods of respite led me to put any disturbances down to 'something I ate', 'something I drank' etc.
This changed when I lost my sense of humour because I felt rubbish and decided to get on top of that.
As background the order I dealt with things in
1. oestrogen dominance (massive change in day-to-day wellbeing)
2. gut - CDSA test and diet changes (further intervention underway here)
3. thyroid intervention - changed thyroxine dose + overall endocrine management (below)
4. adrenal system support - at the SAME time as thyroid support (there's debate on this, see below)
5. immune system support - again at the SAME time as thyroid support
6. gut support - at the SAME time as the above.
A word on the thinking re. overall endocrine management.
My view (based on reading, research, symptoms, how I feel day-to-day and talking to doctors and practitioners) is there's little point in supporting only one endocrine system. They all work together. Each needs to function well to balance metabolism properly i.e. provide energy, regenerate cells etc.
By support I mean (for me) glandular and supplement support. Glandular support means ground up NZ cow adrenal and thyroid gland plus a cocktail of digestive enzymes including HCl to aid digestion (activate digestive enzymes, breakdown food).
I'm dealing with gut so let's focus.
Over the years I've had several interventions - colonoscopy and endoscopy. They've always been clear except for a slight suggestion of 'early nodules' in terminal ileum in 2006. This was checked again in 2011 and I was clear. I've also done a bunch of fecal occult blood (FOB) tests over the years - all negative. To be frank, based on what I've observed and read, this test's pretty useless UNLESS you're passing blood daily or have a rampant pathological infestation. For chronic low level distress it often reveals nothing.
So to summarise - I had ongoing symptoms but no answers.
I've had many appointments with GPs and gastroenterologists over the years. IBD has been mentioned but I've never had a specific diagnosis or any treatment applied. I was given Zantac for stomach ulcers but no-one confirmed I had any.
At this stage - as far as I know from 2011 - my gut looks fine. It just doesn't work well.
I do have atrophic gastritis B (caused by autoantibodies vs gastric parietal cells). This affects B12 absorption which I deal with via intramuscular replacement every 3 months. It's worth keeping on top of this via scopes because over time your stomach function can be adversely affected due to loss of parietal cells.
4 months ago based on a recurrent combination of bloating, flatulence and pain I worked with a Functional Practitioner to get to the bottom of things. She did a CDSA test.
The CDSA test is carried out over 3 days. You need to be off all supplements (excluding medication like thyroxine) for 2 weeks prior to doing the test. The results split into 4 useful sections
1. Digestion - reveals how well your body digests food
2. Metabolic markers - gut health - is there inflammation, bleeding, pH, indicators of fluid balance, fat and fibre metabolism
3. Absorption - how well your gut takes what it needs from your diet
4. Microbiology - how healthy are your gut flora, do you have yeast or unfriendly bacterial overgrowths?
Things that stood out for me.
Good News - Digestion and Microbiology looked great. Flora balance great. No overgrowths. Couple of pathogens but all part of the normal picture - nothing to worry about. Metabolic markers mostly fine, absorption mostly OK. No apparent inflammation.
Off Kilter Results
1. pH slightly low = 5.9 (ref range. 6.1-7.9)
2. Fecal occult blood positive
3. Cholesterol in stool slightly elevated = 3.9 (ref range. 0.2-3.5 mg/g)
A low pH is not great. Acidic bodies are more prone to cancers and infection. It can be caused by a range of things. One is malabsorption of sugars in the gut. Of all the possible causes this one resonated with me. Sweet foods really screw my gut up.
You can 'alkalise' your body to a safer level canceractive.com/cancer-act.... There's a good 'how to list' here. I take a dose of Amazing Grass Green Superfood every day and will update pH progress. I also already did the other things on the list.
Obviously I hot-footed it to my GP only to be patted on the head. He attempted to re-do the FOB test (so aptly named...) The hospital didn't test the sample for blood because if you're positive you're meant to be referred to a gastroenterologist. They won't do a request from a GP. I have to do it again. I suspect the blood may have come from a bout of painful constipation that occurred on Day 3 of the CDSA test. I will redo it. I've got a gastro referral now so he'll follow that one up.
Elevated cholesterol can reflect fat malabsorption. Causes include not enough bile salts/inflammation in the small intestine/pancreatic insufficiency/not enough dietary fibre/ increased epithelial cell turnover.
I know the following
1. Bile salt metabolism is largely managed in the liver. I had liver function tests results from elsewhere and they indicated all liver enzymes involved were nicely in range. My long chain fatty acid results indicate fat malabsorption OK.
2. I could have inflammation in absence of lactoferrin. Another inflammation marker CRP (C-reactive protein) from another test was very mildly elevated but I'm not convinced. I have no abdominal pain.
3. My blood sugars (from other tests) indicate pancreas function/insulin levels are fine. I avoid sugary foods - not keen on them because they can 'upset' my stomach.
4. I take plenty of dietary fibre (soluble and insoluble)
5. Interestingly a urine sample from another test was positive for epithelial cells. This can indicate kidney problems (all kidney tests fine) or be a result of normal 'sloughing' particularly in women.
So where did that leave me?
I know disrupted adrenal function + taking thyroxine disrupts hormone balances. thyroxine is also linked to constipation and diahorrea. I know cholesterol's crucial to healthy hormone metabolism. I know my liver's functioning well and my gut is largely too.
Overall the dietary actions I mentioned in my last post have totally resolved my unhappy gut symptoms. I'll redo the CDSA test in a couple of months to check that the evasive dietary actions have resolved the mildly dodgy results from this test.
I firmly believe that helping my other systems back to health will rebalance things. In the meantime I've removed all obvious gut irritants from my diet and ramped up things that are known to help - anti-inflammatory oils, non-goitrogenic veg, soluble fibre, green veg, glutamine (great for healing damaged gut tissue) 5g/day.
All I know is that the gut's something to be cherished and looked after. Punch it with dietary nasties and it will hurt - maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but soon and for the rest of your life. It's like smoking - frequent abuse leads to long term damage - you don't see it but you will feel it and from that disease will flow.
In summary - I suspect that back in the mists of the past a nasty gut disease I picked up in Turkey in 1981 caused major gut damage. I was ill for a month, lost a pile of weight and had to take 3 different drugs to knock it out. This was in the 1980s - no-one tested to find out what it was. I fought it out with a random collection of prescriptions. After that my gut never operated brilliantly but I didn't pay attention. I believe the damage led to leaky gut. I think from then on my adrenals and thyroid were 'marked organs'. Live a stressful corporate life, have two pregnancies when you're in your late 30s and your systems just don't weather it out. Read this and it explains what happens. On the plus side I've never suffered yeast infections. I feel immensely lucky on this one. They're a bear to sort out. All the other symptoms and related issues fit drkaslow.com/html/leaky_gut...
The Good News is - as always - knowledge is power. Your gut can be 'rebuilt'. You can rebalance your endocrine system but, like your chronic disease, recovery will be chronic and takes some severe discipline.
More on related issues - gut and immunity in the next post...until then - eat well and prosper!