Health Update: Latest Protocol and New Test Results
The information in this post is a summary of my personal experience with the help of medical professionals for my specific needs. This information is not intended to treat or diagnose any medical condition you may have. If you are experiencing symptoms, please seek out a medical professional.
It's been quite a while since I have posted a health update. This is not entirely unintentional -- in a lot of ways I was avoiding it because things had changed, but nothing had yet changed if that makes sense. Also, when you're sick, it's also difficult to scrounge up the mental energy to put your thoughts into one place coherently. Or at least it is for me!
In the beginning of June, I started seeing a new doctor. He was not new to medicine or even to the functional medicine practice that I have been going to since last year -- just new to me. When I saw him for the first time, we went through all of my labs that I had done up to that point (going back to summer of last year), talked about my current symptoms, and recent protocols (dietary protocol and supplements).
To back up a few steps, I had been on some protocols (general gut-healing protocols and low-FODMAP diet) for a while, but was still feeling the same. No progress, and was feeling more and more down and hopeless about whether or not I would ever feel better.
As I mentioned, now that I'm working with this new doctor, we're beginning to address some concrete issues based on test results I've had previously that were not being directly addressed. The first was a low butyrate level. Butyrate is a fatty acid that helps reduce inflammation in the gut, and assists in the maintenance of the cells in the gut lining (helping to ensure a good balance of old dying cells and new cells forming), and therefore helps to reduce intestinal permeability (also called leaky gut). Additionally, butyrate is helpful for a healthy immune system, and the regulation of regulatory T-cells, which help your body discern between itself and invading toxins (you can see how keeping this system working properly would be so critical!).
Since we are fairly certain I have a leaky gut (based on my symptoms and a low level of Secratory IgA (a marker for chronic inflammation and associated low mucosal production), normalizing my butyrate level should be very helpful.
How do we do that? Well, dietarily, you can eat foods that increase butyrate production. The main food that does this is butter and other full-fat dairy, including ghee (which I have been incorporating more and more of). Starchy vegetables and tubers (i.e. potatoes), also help promote the production of butyrate. The gut flora can use fiber to stimulate butyrate production, so I have been incorporating more of those sorts of veggies as well. Because they need to work hand-in-hand, I am focusing on probiotics as well, since we know my beneficial gut flora was low to start with, and I didn't begin supplementing with probiotics or probiotic-rich/fermented foods until recently.
Another way to increase butyrate production is to use a supplement, so I am currently doing that as well.
The other red flag on some of my lab results that we are now addressing was the low level of Secretory IgA (SIgA), which, when at a normal level, helps defend the intestinal lining from toxins and pathogens. As I mentioned before, having low levels can be directly linked to leaky gut, so we are focusing on healing the leaky gut with the help of a substance called colostrum.
Colostrum is found in the milk of all mammals, produced right before the baby is born because it is intended to help heal and seal the newborn's gut lining (all babies are born with leaky guts!). It also contains IgA antibodies and anti-microbials, which is important for baby's immune system. For leaky gut in other, bigger humans, colostrum can help to heal and seal the tight junctions in the lining of the intestinal tract. I've been incorporating a supplement for colostrum to help with this.
Based on the fact that I have a history of gallbladder sludge and symptoms that indicate detox issues, we've also been focusing on supporting my liver and gallbladder. With the approval of my functional medicine doctor, my acupuncturist has started me on a Chinese herbal supplement to help support the liver and gallbladder, but this particular supplement has benefits in other trouble areas for me. I feel like these herbs really are making a big difference for me!
As I mentioned earlier, I'm also really focusing on improving my gut flora with the help of probiotics and fermented foods, as well.
Another aspect of addressing leaky gut is the remove the source of the problem. Leaky gut can be caused by a number of different factors, including stress, unaddressed food intolerances, poor diet (lots of processed foods), bacterial imbalance/pathogens, among others. I believe my leaky gut was caused by chronic stress over the course of about two years. So, in order to fully address the leaky gut, I will also be focusing my energy on addressing stress and anxiety, things that I haven't touched on a lot here, but I plan to as I learn more about it and have some personal experience to point to.
I also had some additional testing done, and a parasite test revealed that I have two new parasites (giardiasis and cryptosporidium). Because of this, I am now doing a two-week antibiotic course, which will be followed by another 12 weeks of very targeted herbal parasite treatment.
Additionally, I've been keeping up with my weekly acupuncture appointments, in which we've been focusing heavily on stimulating my vagus nerve, and supporting my immune system, liver/gallbladder, and spirit.
I'll go into this more in a separate blog post, but I also started therapy a few months ago, and I can honestly say that this might have been the most important thing I have done so far in my healing journey.
Before I even found out about these parasites, I had a week and-a-half-long stretch of days where I was feeling so much better. The fact that I can even say that is an indication to me that I'm progressing in the right direction. I think it's a combination of the supplements I've been on are starting to take effect in the actual healing of my gut, the acupuncture continuing to have its healing impacts, and the therapy is allowing me to put my mind at ease, which is opening me up to healing more effectively.
I have been feeling some side effects of the antibiotics, but in general my outlook is positive about my progress and the way I am trending.
I have several follow-up posts in the pipeline for you guys, that delve deeper into some of my experiences in this healing journey. These posts will be less of a recap, and more of a "what I learned" format, and I think you guys will like that.
As always, healing and hope to each one of you!