You may recall Fred’s story from my last post about his journey to recovery from acute, debilitating anxiety, simply through changing his diet and fixing his gut and replenishing nutrient deficiencies. As you may recall Fred had suffered major anxiety as far back as his childhood, along with ADHD and later on, alcoholism and chronic fatigue. The Dr’s answer to Fred’s search for answers….. dose him up on a cocktail of chemical uppers and downers, as well as more misdiagnoses than underwear changes! There is no doubt that some of the pharmaceutical medications he was prescribed brought Fred back from the brink of near death and managed to ‘stabilise’ him from suffering panic attacks that left him convulsing and too scared to leave the house, but what the medications failed to address was the deep underlying cause behind his neurological imbalance’s, nor provided him with any real quality of life, thanks to their associated side effects.
You see, no one had questioned Fred about his diet or digestive function, nor his sleep patterns – the very things that were screaming out the real cause of his anxiety. When I first saw Fred I observed his teeth, as well as his tongue, finger nails and complexion. I also palpated his abdomen to assess for any discomfort or pain – the kind of examination sadly more typical for Dr’s in our grandparents era or amongst traditional medicine practitioners. Even in the absence of pathology we can glean a lot of information about what’s going on inside our body. It turns out Fred had no enamel on his teeth, had weak nails, with white flecks and his tongue had a white to yellow coating at the back, with red pin prick dots at the front and dental indentations or scalloping, along the sides. What did all this tell me about Fred’s health you ask? Well for one, Fred’s guts were damp and inflamed, thanks to undigested food that was busily rotting or fermenting inside them, he was deficient in B vitamins and zinc, he was unable to digest or absorb his food properly, thanks to low hydrochloric acid production and ‘leaky gut’ and his biggest giveaway as a candidate for silent celiac….no tooth enamel.
Silent celiac does not necessarily present symptomatically like typical or diagnosable celiac disease, in that sufferers do not experience the usual gastrointestinal symptoms of acute abdominal pain and cramping along with diarrhoea, upon the consumption of any foods containing gluten. Sufferers who undergo a biopsy of their intestine will only be diagnosed as a celiac in the presence of completely atrophied microvilli (small finger like projections that line the small intestine, designed to aid absorption of food) as opposed to any variation in the integrity of the gut wall. Many celiac’s also struggle to gain or maintain weight, due to the damage caused by gluten to the lining of their small intestine, however in the case of Fred, he had in fact gained 20 kilo’s in excess weight, despite his poor appetite, due to the impact the pharmaceutical medications and undiagnosed silent celiac disease, was having on his thyroid function and metabolic rate. What pathology and conventional medicine are failing to realise, is that you don’t have to be diagnosed with celiac disease to suffer gluten intolerance, a condition that is fast reaching epidemic proportions and far more common than celiac disease. Like celiac disease, gluten intolerance or sensitivity, carries physiological and psychological impacts that can be just as severe and damaging to our health, and just as systemic in the organs it effects. As I mentioned in part one of this post, Fred was suffering an ‘inflamed brain’ because of the inflammatory immune responses triggered by gluten. This chronic inflammation from gluten, can decrease blood flow to our frontal lobe or executive centre – the part of the brain that governs emotions such as empathy and compassion, focus and comprehension, sequencing and even short term memory. In the case of Fred, his gluten sensitivity or silent celiac symptoms were profoundly impacting on his neurological and emotional state, to the point it was devastating his life and relationships.
One of the main reasons why so many sufferers of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are going undiagnosed, is because food sensitivity testing, including testing for celiac disease, is extremely inaccurate. For this reason I rarely rely on pathology testing to diagnose food intolerances or celiac disease, instead I implement my eating program with patients, in order to switch off the inflammatory activity and balance the immune system. Fred had been previously tested for celiac disease, so it came as no surprise to me to hear the result returned a false negative, resulting in his Dr dismissing gluten as an issue in his diet.
Repairing the digestive system with a specific nutritional gut repair and detox program in combination with following a low allergy diet is the first place to begin in restoring balance to the brain’s neurological balance and function. In addition to removing all dietary sources of gluten, be sure to watch out for the hidden sources in many processed foods and personal care products. Many people who are gluten sensitive or celiac, are unknowingly exposing themselves to gluten through using common bathroom products such as chemical based shampoo and conditioners, body wash and moisturises in the form of hydrolysed vegetable protein.
After 7 mths following my eating program and eliminating all sources of gluten from his diet, alcohol and cigarettes, in combination with repairing his gut and replenishing his nutrient deficiencies, Fred experienced the following:
- Chronic constipation improved to 2 bowel movements per day from 2 per week
- Insomnia improved to the point he could sleep through most nights and wake around 7am ( previously he was lucky to average more than 4 – 5 hrs)
- He lost 20 kilo’s
- He no longer experienced chronic bloating and flatulence
- He felt motivated and focussed – I recall Fred once told me he had never thought beyond a day or had any desire to plan for a future, as he didn’t feel he had one.
- His enjoyment and passion for things in life returned
- His energy improved by around 80% enabling him to start exercising and return to full time work
- His complexion improved and the whites of his eyes became brighter
- He was able to wean off all four of the pharmaceutical medications he was taking for his anxiety and balance his neurology with a combination duet and specific nutrients in therapeutic dosages, with no debilitating side effects
- And of course his anxiety improved to the point where not only did his anxiety attacks stop but he could function at a level that he had not experienced in life before.
I received an overwhelming response to part 1 of this post, as many of you emailed me wanting to know more about nutritional medicine options for treating anxiety and depression – two of the most prevalent neurological disorders today, an epidemic that is projected by the institute of Functional Medicine to be the number one disability in the world by 2020 after heart disease. If modern medicine continues to ignore the underlying links between diet, digestive function and nutrient deficiencies to these and other neurological conditions, I believe we are failing to provide the full spectrum of necessary health care and treatment to sufferers of mental illness and enable them to truly heal and optimally manage their condition. As a result sufferers will endure a life like Fred did – unable to experience life to the fullest. As you have witnessed in reading Fred’s story…you don’t have to be a diagnosed with celiac disease, for gluten to wreak havoc on your physical and mental health and your life.
If you have a family member who suffers from a mental illness, stay tuned for my upcoming post on the physiological and psychological effects, this can have on your health.