For those of you who have seen me as a patient or have read my e-book Eat Yourself Healthy In 28 Days, you'll be familiar with my stance on gluten. Gluten is something we are hearing more and more about and the impact it is having on our health. If you missed my first post on gluten, you can read it here to bring you up to speed. But in this post, I wanted to share with you a truly inspirational story about one man's journey with his health and the life changing impact when he quit gluten. For the purpose of this post I'll refer to him as Fred.
Fred was a man in his mid 30's and when I met Fred he had been suffering severe panic attacks that at times left him convulsing and too scared to leave the house. He also experienced depression and anxiety that followed him everywhere, in fact Fred couldn't recall a moment where he didn't feel anxious to the point he could not even walk into a crowded restaurant or drive in heavy traffic at times. In his plight to find answers, Fred sought the advice of countless Dr's and the only treatment they could offer were prescription drugs..... at one point being prescribed up to 5 different pharmaceutical medications, including SSRI anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, anti-psychotics and a pycho-stimulant drug containing amphetamines, with side effects that included dizziness, nervousness - (remember this was a man that suffered severe anxiety and panic attacks) , weight loss caused by appetite suppression, as well as increased heart rate, low blood pressure and decreased libido. In fact when I discovered he was on this particular drug, my research revealed it had been banned in many countries because of its links to increased risk of cardiac arrest and that it was in fact contraindicated with antidepressant SSRI drugs - which he was taking. Basically Fred was on a daily chemical cocktail of uppers and downers that left him with no motivation, fatigue, insomnia, irritability, and of course anxiety. But as far as his doctors were concerned Fred's case was being successfully managed because the severe panic attacks had been brought under control. Meanwhile Fred was far from functional and struggled to go to work more than a few days a week and spent much of his time in the day sleeping and watching TV and awake much of the night.
When I see a patient, no matter what condition they present with, I conduct a thorough assessment of their eating, sleeping, digestive and lifestyle habits, along with comprehensive pathology testing. In the case of Fred, he was lucky to sleep more than 3 - 4 hrs a night and never before midnight, was constantly constipated - averaging 2 -3 bowel movements a week and ate no more than two meals a day - thanks to the appetite suppressant effects of the psycho-stimulant drug he was taking. But Fred enjoyed a healthy appetite for beer, averaging 15 cans a day! If you do the math, that's 105+ units on any given week - up to a packet of cigarettes a day and consumed a diet based mainly on processed foods and gluten, whether it was from wheat based products or hidden sources in the processed food he was eating. It became very clear Fred wasn't just a functioning alcoholic, but also a GLUTEN ADDICT and what I describe as an undiagnosed SILENT COELIAC and most likely had been, since he was child, judging by his medical case history. Fred was a high school dropout and had been written off by the conventional schooling system as a lazy, disruptive and unable to learn - classic ADHD behaviour.
Interestingly enough Fred had never developed a coffee addiction, usually typical with a case like his, because of the action caffeine has on the stimulant hormone dopamine, nor has he ever had a huge appetite for sweet foods, something I expected because of the effects sugar has on the neurotransmitters (brain hormones) serotonin and dopamine. BUT Fred was in fact replacing sweet foods with alcohol and what could have been expressed as a coffee addiction, was being satisfied by the effects of the pycho-stimulant. Fred was also addicted to salt which I diagnosed as a symptom of the severe stress his adrenal glands were under, thanks to the effects of the psycho- stimulant drug ( a stronger version of Ritalin).
Pathology revealed he was severely adrenally exhausted (you can read more about adrenal exhaustion here), deficient in essential nutrients such as vitamin D, B12, magnesium, selenium, and essential fatty acids, all critical to the proper functioning of the brain in the form of neurotransmitter and energy production.
In essence Fred's brain was a walking, talking cluster F*#@ of dysfunctional biochemical reactions, dictated by the effects of his diet, alcohol and nicotine addiction and lifestyle habits, capped off by the effects of the prescription medications. So it was my job as his practitioner to slowly unravel the maze of biochemical chaos that he had been enduring over the years and assist in the rewiring process, through a combination of overhauling his diet, replenishing major nutrient deficiencies and importantly - fixing his gut - another significant underlying issue contributing to his health predicament.
Now for all Fred's foibles one thing he did not struggle with was compliance, in fact he turned his addictive personality traits towards a determination to heal his body and be able to function as best he could. So there was little resistance from him when it came to implementing the exact dietary and nutritional medicine treatment protocols, I prescribed him. The thing that saddened me most about Fred's case when he first came to me, was the fact not one Dr, therapist or teacher - when he was at school - had ever considered Fred's diet, lifestyle, or digestive function - or lack of - as playing a part in his condition. Instead Fred was just medicated more and more heavily, until eventually his symptoms also became a product of his medication.
In my eyes, Fred was a clear cut, textbook case for silent Coeliac disease, amongst other things. Sure he was a pretty good candidate for ADHD, a social alcoholic, which were likely contributing factors to his anxiety, depression, and associated behaviour, but these conditions / symptoms were in fact resulting from the fact Fred had an 'inflamed brain', which was being triggered by an inflamed gut and these were resulting from severe silent Coeliac disease.
Now because this is a long story and being succinct is not always one of my strong points, I am going to break it into two parts, so you can read my part II to this post, where I explain about the tell-tale signs that lead me to diagnose Fred as a 'silent' coeliac and his inspirational journey to recovery here.
Fred is not alone with his story and the more people are prepared to speak up and share theirs, the more we can all help each other towards over coming situations like Fred's and change lives.
If you think your health might be affected by gluten or are struggling with anxiety or depression, why not try out my 6 week online program or grab a copy of my book, Love Your Gut and discover the same tools and knowledge I gave Fred to heal his life through healing his gut.