As abdominal pains continued to take over my life and with some really strange things happening down below (white and floaty stools for over 3 months was one troubling problem) with the support of a GUT specialist at the local hospital, I had every test that the NHS could throw at my symptoms.
But with my abdomen regularly swelling to the size of a pregnant elephant; strange coloured poos exiting my body, stomach cramps, headaches, nausea, fatigue and achy joints being my daily companion, the only words of wisdom that my confused consultant could give me was…I think you have IBS. “What the hell is IBS?” I asked. “Irritable bowel syndrome” he replied. “So what the hell causes IBS?” I continued. “We don’t actually know” “No wonder they call it IRRITABLE because it sure as hell is having that effect on me” was my final retort as I shook his hand for the last time.
While I had regular links with my medical professional I held onto a degree of optimism in the hope that the next set of tests would expose the problem and a course of treatment agreed. But once the tests had been exhausted, that hope quickly evaporated and I was left in a darkened void with no obvious place to go…it was a serious low point.
“Well surely that is good news” said Mrs C, when I told her the news. Of course on one level, Caroline was absolutely right…all the tests on my vital organs showed them to be working perfectly so this should have been a massive positive but it wasn’t because as the side effects from my mystery ‘illness’ were causing some really unpleasant and tough reactions, and with no obvious solutions, my immediate concern was ‘is this thing permanent and if so how the hell am I going to be able to cope with it?’
That was over 4 years ago and the start of my journey to hell and back.
Out of sheer desperation I turned to my good friend ‘Google’.
Crazy as it may sound I knew nothing about the human digestive system. My simple take on the anatomy was food goes in one end, the body retains the good and exhausted the bad stuff…in different shades of the colour spectrum in my case…end of.
But of course it is far more complex than that, with many ‘systems’ working in harmony, breaking down and processing the good, bad and darn right ugly stuff, I was consuming. God how I loved Danish pastries… and OMG so did whatever was causing my symptoms to flair.
Initially, it never occurred to me that STRESS could have played a significant role in wrecking my immune system…and it would be some time before I but 2 and 2 together…it really is quite scary just how little I understood about the connection between the mind and body and this meant that, while seeking help in one area, I remained completely ignorant to the principal reasons behind the symptoms and therefore inadvertently carried on feeding the source of the problem.
From what I was to learn as I researched GUT problems, the human body has an amazing ability to protect and fix itself if it remains in the STRESS free state that nature intended (virtually impossible in our crazy 24/7 modern world), but when it has to redirect its focus and energy to address the effects of psychological fallouts, the GUT can be severely exposed to some really unpleasant conditions…IBS being one of many…and ironically, too late for my thyroid, this is one of many vital organs that can get really shot if STRESS related issues are not addressed at source.
Through a series of blood and stool tests I’ve had during the last 4 years, organised in the main by nutritionists, various beasties have been found in my digestive track…mainly colon and small intestine. As a result I tried many different diets in an attempt to starve the beasties of the foods that allow them to flourish…these diets included low carbs, low sugar, Fodmap…while rebuilding my immune system with all different kinds of supplements including courses of probiotics…but the truth is once your GUT goes out of kilter then it is one hell of a job getting it back on track…and even today while I write the principal symptoms that first appeared many months ago are still causing me significant and extremely unpleasant pain…
Even though I am now more in control of my STRESS levels, than at any other time in my life, it would appear that the damage was done many years ago when I ignored the signs and simply carried on regardless…my brain did everything it could to warn me of the pending fallout and yet, just like millions of others, who are struggling with similar symptoms to mine, I just carried on feeding the ‘monster’ …the consequences were inevitable.
Look people, I have had a really good life and therefore struggles with STRESS related health issues is something for others, not me. Oh how bloody naïve!! Every one of us has an amazing tolerance to deal with loads of shit that life throws at us but what we don’t appreciate is the underlying damage that is being caused to our bodies when we continue to place it under pressure. It’s a bit like the campaign currently being waged to reduce the amount of toxic waste being tipped into the oceans. Man has got away with his careless abuse of our planet’s resources for centuries but only now the effects of his arrogance are being exposed…and the signs are not good…our world is struggling in the same way our bodies are.
Although I don’t believe my GUT problem is down to arrogance, I do now accept that the problem was orchestrated by my inability to grasp the severity of all the warnings I’ve had over the years.
Acid stomach and reflex are not normal…and neither is white poo!!!
I have consulted with many specialists in all corners of the world…yes seriously. I have been prescribed all kinds of concoctions and made huge lifestyle changes…including taking early retirement 3 years ago. I have tried to remain positive and active, but there are days when this bastard problem really does screw up everything and fatigue gets the better of me. I am not a quitter but there have been some very tough times when I would have done virtually anything to end the pain.
In recent times I have worked with Kate Arnold, a south coast based nutritionist, who after a number of tests it was she who advised me that I had SIBO…”and by the way your immune system is srcewed”. I liked Kate’s honest approach.
SIBO I was to learn (yep Google again) is where beasties get into your small intestine and start to multiply. These are beasties that live perfectly happily in our colons but they are chancers and if the opportunity arises they will sneak into the lusher pastures of your small intestine, and cause havoc…with a capital ‘H’. The big question, in fact only question for SIBO sufferers, is “how the hell do you eradicate those beasties without killing off the good guys as well?”
“With great difficulty” appears to be the resounding message.
Anyway to cut a long story short, the only treatment that I could find was being championed by one of the world’s top SIBO specialists Dr. Mark Pimentel, Director of the GI Motility Program at UCLA’s Cedars Sinai Medical Centre (Los Angeles), but as I was to learn is not widely understood or endorsed by the British Medical Profession. Armed with Mark’s information and a letter from Kate I approached my family doctor, but for various reasons he not happy to prescribe this cause of treatment, which involved a course 14 day course of very strong antibiotics, for fear that it would result in further complications.
Back to the wilderness!
And that is when I read an article about the newly opened Functional Gut Clinic in London…I liked what I read enough to book an appointment with Dr. Robert Fearn a Consultant Physician & Gastroenterologist, who I was to learn, had connections with Mark Pimentel and was a supporter of his SIBO treatment protocol. BINGO! To date I have undergone 2 sets of ‘Pimentel’ treatments with a third scheduled if the symptoms persist. I will report back in due course.
During the last 4 years I have spent hours trawling the internet and many hundreds of pounds on products which “will sort the problem” I have been reliably informed. Physically my body has really taken a hammering and psychologically, even my up-beat optimism has been sorely tested at times. This has without any doubt been the hardest challenge I have had to contend with a challenge which started many years ago when I ignored ALL the early warning signs giving STRESS the green light to wreak havoc on my GUT…and boy has it done a bloody good job!!
A few weeks ago during a telephone conversation with a client I noticed that he were not his usual bubbly selves.
“What the hell is up with you?” I asked.
“Just pressure of work” came the response.
Nothing else was said.
Last week I met with this client and during the meeting he announced, somewhat proudly, that HE and his team were STRESS junkies. My heart dropped. Oh for the naivety of youth…like him, many years ago when I thought I was invincible I had similar misplaced beliefs but unlike him I now have the benefit of hindsight…and GUT damage to prove just how crazy it is to treat STRESS with so much respect.
Ignore the warnings at your peril…
If you have found solutions to similar GUT problems, please share them.
If you are suffering from abdominal pains, you have my total sympathy because as you know at times it can be seriously debilitating…because as I explained earlier it affects your whole body…and mind.
“It’s like having an internally sunburned GUT with a severe hangover” I would explain to anyone who was interested, “with no aftersun for the gut to solve it.”