How many body signals does it take to screw in a light bulb?

28 May

“It’s been a long time, been a long time, been a long lonely lonely lonely lonely lonely time” blog readers!

Since my last post, I have (mostly) returned to my old ways.  I got bored with my paleo-esque cuisine.  Chocolate, sugar, and coffee are all back on the menu along with grains, legumes, and dairy whenever I feel like it.  The results are predictable: I’m a wreck.

My physical, emotional, and mental health have settled back into their tendency towards gutterdom (that’s a disposition I just made up – I figure it’s self-explanatory).

I’m at a very interesting point.  I think I finally have a good understanding of what I need to do to be well, but even after all I’ve gone through (or perhaps because of it), I am having a hell of a time committing to a healing protocol.  Part of my angst involves the season.  Summer is my favorite time to indulge in…well…everything!  Lots of gatherings = lots of free snacks.  Last year, I was all saintly and dedicated to the cause.  This year I want to be carefree and eat whatever sounds good.  My body has other ideas.

Since junior year of high school, I have ALWAYS had digestive problems in some shape or form.  The symptoms will migrate around the digestive tract, causing upper GI issues such as reflux and indigestion one day, lower GI issues such as bloating & stomach cramps the next.  In essence, from vegan to paleo, my tum tum has never been fully impressed.  In the conventional medical world, this is known as IBS or rather  “We don’t actually know what’s wrong with you, but hopefully this term will help bring some solace”.

Junior year of high school is when my depression started to really kick in as well.  A common conclusion regarding the high concurrence between IBS and depression is that a person is blue solely due to their uncomfortable symptoms.  Frankly, after the research I’ve done, I find this suggestion naive and insulting.  I understand that for some, IBS can be very life disrupting.   I am not denying that such cases may very well interfere with a person’s mood.  However, I suspect the links go deeper than this obvious surface suggestion.  I have strong beliefs about the connections between mind and body, and there’s plenty of science to back me up.

For example, associations have been noted between fructose malabsorption (very common amongst IBS sufferers) and trytophan depletion.  Trytophan is a precursor for serotonin.  Most anti-depressants that are prescribed nowadays are SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).  In essence, serotonin makes you feel good, and being serotonin starved can make you feel anxious or depressed.  In other words, it may not be the tummy ache in and of itself making you feel hopeless but rather some underlying biological mechanism.

Lately, my digestion has taken a turn for the worse.  I recently attended a Cinco de Mayo party, during which time I indulged in all of my favorite symptom-provoking foods (onions, apples, beans, whole wheat…).  Since that time, my stomach has enveloped a new breed of chaos.  After some research and interpretation, I stumbled upon an explanation that seems well-suited:  SIBO.  SIBO stands for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.  Some studies suggest a link between IBS and SIBO.  In a nutshell SIBO is a problem, because we want our intestinal bacteria to hang out in the large intestine (or colon) where it belongs, not further up.  Having bacteria in the small intestine can cause…well…basically all of the same symptoms as IBS, including GERD.  There was even a study result suggesting that some people with sugar intolerance diagnoses, such as my Fructmal ally, actually have SIBO.  SIBO may be the real culprit behind FODMAP carbohydrate intolerances.  If the bacteria is eradicated, these intolerances may lessen in severity or even disappear.  This is huge folks!

Having SIBO can also contribute to increased intestinal permeability, otherwise known by its other sexy name “leaky gut”.  Leaky gut is an area of debate amongst researchers, but there is more and more evidence that certain dietary components definitely play a role.  Unfortunately, this includes gluten.  Whether or not you have celiac’s disease, gluten seems to have the ability to damage the digestive tract the way that NSAIDS (such as ibuprofen) and alcohol can.  Therefore, no one should be eating gluten in a willy nilly manner.  Bummer dude.

Our gut is often referred to as our “second brain” due to the extensive neural network embedded within it.  In essence, your second brain needs to be attended to in order to preserve the integrity of your brain brain. 😉  Having a leaky gut can cause inflammatory molecules to spread throughout your body causing a wide range of “unexplained” symptoms: pain, allergies, DEPRESSION, etc.  Increased intestinal permeability is also believed to be related to the development of many, if not most, autoimmune disorders.

We live in very exciting times, medically.  Diagnoses that were once considered chronic or terminal are being challenged.  In some situations, through changes in lifestyle alone, people are able to  reverse heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension and even put autoimmune diseases and cancers into remission.  Isn’t that incredible?!  I guess what I want people to realize and acknowledge is that, through true dedication, a lot more healing is possible than the medical establishment will have you believe.  I am so sick of this “treat the symptoms” hogwash.  I honestly believe that every chronic ailment that exists suggests an imbalance of sorts and that the body holds more healing power than we give it credit for.

Okay, so what’s it all mean?

It means that I likely have SIBO and also “leaky gut” as a result.  It means science suggests my depression may very well be influenced by a number of biological mechanisms and not just by the fact that it sucks to have tummy aches all the time.  It also means that I need to take my IBS more seriously.  I need to treat it like a pre-diabetes diagnosis, a warning sign to turn things around before my health woes escalate further.  Doctors tend to treat IBS like it’s no big deal, just a nuisance to manage or ignore.  I think this is the wrong message.  It seems reasonable to assume that many people are setting themselves up for a lifetime of agony (& further chronic illness diagnoses) due to this nonchalant attitude towards this throw away diagnosis.  IBS tends to be related to fibromyalgia which tends to be related to thyroid issues which tend to be related to mood disturbances which tend to be related to pain hypersensitivities which tend to be related to IBS AND fibromyalgia.  Are you seeing a pattern here?  The body is trying to send a message!  “HELP ME!”

It isn’t acceptable to tell people that their ongoing list of accruing health complaints are due to “getting older”, “stress”, “genetics”, or “luck of the draw” when the truth is much more beautiful than that.  Our bodies know what they are doing.  They seek balance and simply need us to provide the building blocks in order for that balance to be reached.

LIGHT BULB!

I need to stop ignoring my symptoms and sacrificing my current (and future) health over my love of convenience and tasty (but toxic) carbohydrates.  I need to treat my suspected SIBO and “leaky gut” to give my brain and body the chance to heal.  I need to be more assertive in my own bodily wisdom and tell food pushers to fuck off.  I need to trust in science (and not the status quo) to help me bring my body back into balance.  And most of all, I need to remember that I DO know what the hell I am talking about, and I deserve to be well (damnit!)  That’s my non-eloquent, potty-mouthed manifesto.  Let’s do this!

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3099351/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15932370

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11336160

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18485912

http://www.ei-resource.org/research/leaky-gut-syndrome-research/the-gut-brain-barrier-in-major-depression/

http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/021313p38.shtml

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