Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity. (Hippocrates)
There is just no delicate way to write this post. And, to be honest, I considered not writing it. But, I’ve been on this health caper for some time now. I’m pretty committed. I’m studying integrative nutrition. And, I’m reading all about health in my spare time, too. You could say that I’m my own wee health experiment. So, it’s no surprise that the direction of This Sydney Life is changing with me.
I should also mention that I have this rather crippling aversion to over sharing on the interweb. I am so not selfie-girl. It’s why you don’t see any pics of me posted on my blog. But as I get further along in my studies, I realise that if I’m really serious about this course of action that I’m taking, I’ll have to put myself out there a little more. Something along the lines of more risk, more reward. Maybe.
So, while I’m not quite ready to be posting candid shots of myself all over the place, today’s post is all about gut bacteria and my disastrous results from the Bioscreen Faecal Microbial Analysis I recently undertook. As you can imagine, it may have been easier to have just posted a picture of myself in my undies…
Let’s start with a bit of back story… I started the autoimmune protocol back in February of this year. At the time, I had been suffering from a pretty revolting skin disorder for over twenty years. Skin problems run in my family. I had discovered my skin problems became significantly improved when I removed all gluten from my diet and determined that they were autoimmune in nature. I had been putting on weight, which was proving very resistant to lose, despite having adopted a Primal/Weston A. Price style of diet for over a year. I had just been given the all clear from a particularly nasty parasite infection. And, my very good functional medical doctor, coupled with my equally great Naturopath, had been working with me to identify the root cause(s) of my problems. It turns out I also have Pyrrole Disorder and am positive for MTHFR. Oh yes – and this year I threw in some periodontal surgery for good measure.
So, since February, I have been on a cocktail of supplements for my Pyrrole and MTHFR, stuff for my teeth and gums, not to mention a few other goodies to improve my general well-being. With the exception of the one slip up (which I wrote about here), I have been dedicated to the autoimmune protocol. That means a pretty restrictive elimination diet, working on managing stress, getting enough sleep, and ensuring I get outside in the sunshine as often as possible for Vitamin D (Bella loves that!).
And, on the whole, it has been a really positive experience. I feel better. My skin has never looked so good (people comment on it). I just look healthier.
But, its a chubby healthy. I’m not losing weight. And, given my lifestyle, there should be less of me.
My blood test results don’t send of major alarm bells – just a couple of minor blips – so my GP suggested the fairly pricey Bioscreen Faecal Microbial Analysis.
The purpose of this exercise was to understand the state of my gut health. The Bioscreen test is a specialist assessment that cultures and counts the bacteria that should normally be in a healthy gut.
What if it’s not just our genetic history or our lifestyle, that makes us skinny or fat. Or, healthy or unwell? What if it’s also the makeup of the bacterial ecosystem that inhabits our gut?
It makes sense. Did you know that the human gut contains 10 times more bacteria than all the human cells in the entire body, with over 400 known diverse bacterial species. It has even been said that we’re more bacterial than we are human.
According to the very knowledgable Chris Kresser, “We’ve only recently begun to understand the extent of the gut flora’s role in human health and disease. Among other things, the gut flora promotes normal gastrointestinal function, provides protection from infection, regulates metabolism and comprises more than 75% of our immune system. Dysregulated gut flora has been linked to diseases ranging from autism and depression to autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s and inflammatory bowel disease.”
And, apparently the evidence just keeps mounting that the microbes in our digestive systems are a factor in the global obesity epidemic.
Chris goes on to say that “There is growing evidence that increased intestinal permeability plays a pathogenic role in various autoimmune diseases including celiac disease and type 1 diabetes. Therefore, we hypothesise that besides genetic and environmental factors, loss of intestinal barrier function is necessary to develop autoimmunity”. This is important. Autoimmune diseases are now listed at number 3 in the leading causes of death in the western world. The reason we don’t all read about it more (yet) in mainstream media is that autoimmunity can affect so many different parts of the body. It’s not isolated to one part of the body – like the heart or the brain.
All disease begins in the gut (Hippocrates)
So, understanding all this, I went off and followed the slightly icky instructions from Bioscreen before submitting my sample for analysis. And, given my autoimmune-driven skin issues, I expected to learn that I had some form of gut dysbiosis. I just didn’t expect it to be quite so extreme. It turns out that I have an over abundance of the bad types of bacteria and not nearly enough of the good ones. When I asked my GP to rate how serious my gut issues were on a scale of 1 to 10, she felt my gut problems sit at about an 8 or 9. Pretty bad, really. In her opinion, if I hadn’t been religiously following the autoimmune protocol over the past few months, it is quite likely that I would be a very sick girl.
But why is my gut so unhealthy?
Well, it turns out that antibiotics are particularly harmful to the gut flora. Recent studies have shown that antibiotic use can cause a massive and very rapid loss of diversity and a shift in the composition of your gut flora. This diversity is not recovered after antibiotic use without some form of intervention. And, if you were given courses of antibiotics in your early childhood and teenage years, as you were developing, your gut is likely to be more compromised. It just so happens that I had a particularly serious case of scarlet fever when I was quite young, and then I was prescribed the fateful Roaccutane for my very bad teenage cystic acne.
So that means it’s back to the drawing board for me. Super strict autoimmune protocol. For three months. And better than that – no sugar. And, in case you don’t know – that means no fruit, dates, maple syrup, or honey, too. None. Zip. The fun police are camping out at my place.
And, in addition to that, I’ve got a special four week protocol to follow. It involves consuming large quantities of bone broth and taking all sorts of goodies to kill off the bad bacteria, before I can start rebuilding my gut with good bacteria. Oh goody!
If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health. (Hippocrates)
I’ve been doing my research. Apparently, if you have gut dysbiosis, things you should be doing are:
- Removing all food toxins from your diet. Check – that’s the autoimmune protocol.
- Eating plenty of fermentable fibers (starches like sweet potato, yam, yucca, etc.) I can do that.
- Eating fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, kim chi, etc., and/or take a high-quality, multi-species probiotic. I already make my own fermented vegetables and I have a high-quality, multi-species probiotic prescribed as part of the protocol.
- Treating any intestinal pathogens (such as parasites) that may be present. Done!
- Taking steps to manage your stress. This is an ongoing part of the autoimmune protocol. A big part. I need to refocus on this one.
What all of this means is that my reintroduction phase of the autoimmune protocol has come to an abrupt stop. Hopefully, it’s temporary. I’m going to be back to AIP recipes – only with less of the treats. And, I’ll share what I’m learning about the gut micro biome while I’m at it. I’ve got a sneaky wee feeling I’m not the only one experiencing those problems… Stick with me?