Saturday, December 8, 2018

My Health Struggles: Part 2: Diagnosis

Last post I gave the back story of how I ended up with my digestive problems. 

Today, I'll detail my diagnosis and how I deduced those conclusions.

I'll start by saying that the conventional medical system did nothing for me.

The first time I went to see a doctor, I told him about my bloating and stomach aches.

His suggestion was:
"Take some Tums. Stop worrying so much."

The second time, I asked for a blood test. Only two markers were out of order: my TSH level was above the healthy range and my white blood cells were abnormally low. However, my T4 was within the normal range.
"See, you're completely normal"

Sure, the numbers didn't have anything out of the ordinary, but what I was feeling everyday reflected an opposite truth. My productivity was 30% of what it could be, and I was perpetually in pain. 

My disillusionment with the conventional medical system was further compounded by the experiences of friends and family who had placed their chronic health issues in the hands of this system. If the prescription wasn't ordering more tests (my mom has had 12 tubes of blood drawn in one sitting) and invasive colonoscopies/endoscopies, it was prescribing antibiotics and corticosteroids. The treatments don't address the root cause. They just numb the pain and mask our bodies' desperate pleas for real change.

I decided to take matters into my own hands. Thankfully, my undergraduate degree was in Animal Health. I had a solid background in physiology, biochemistry, and nutrition, which I found very useful for dissecting health articles and understanding the science behind different etymologies and nutritional protocols. 

After a year of dedicated research including reading academic papers, nutrition books, anecdotes from other ex-vegetarians, and countless forum discussions, I came up with a diagnosis.

First, I'll detail my symptoms:
  • Severe bloating: I discovered the cause of my stomach aches was typically a build up of pressure in my intestines. After burping (sometimes over 200 times in one night), the pressure would lessen, and the pain would recede.  
  • Constipation: It was like pooping rocks.
  • Hypothyroidism: Despite my normal T4 levels, I had all the symptoms, including the elevated TSH. I remember always feeling cold and sluggish. My coldness came from the inside and my hands would be icy regardless of how many layers I wore.
  • Tooth decay: Despite my strict oral hygiene regimen, the lack of nutrients led to degradation of my teeth. 
  • Hyperhidrosis: My hands and feet poured sweat out constantly. I became very self-conscious about handshakes and it made meeting new people very uncomfortable.
  • Low immune function: I would get constant "stomach flus" with nausea and stomach cramps. I would also catch colds 4-5 times a year.
  • Stunted growth: I decided to become a vegetarian at 13. Since then, I barely grew. Today, I am only 5 feet nothing.

Next I'll go through how I thought the disease progressed:

  • I did not eat enough protein. I probably ate 20% of the recommended levels per day. Keep that up for five years, and it's no wonder why I stunted my growth and compromised my immune and thyroid function.
  • I was deficient in many key micronutrients. For example, bioavailable vitamin A (not beta-carotene), vitamin D, and vitamin K2. These are nutrients common in animal products but not plant foods. They are also essential to oral health. After five years, I depleted my body's stores of these nutrients, and my teeth suffered.
  • I would say maybe 70% of my calories came from simple sugars (white rice, white bread, sugar). By the end of the five years, my gut flora had been taken over by pathogenic forms. My guess is that I had SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth) and Candida yeast overgrowth. These led to the production of toxins which led to leaky gut syndrome. As a result, I developed issues with gluten and dairy. The bacterial overgrowth also produced an excruciating amount of gas and bloating.

The overall diagnosis I would give myself is that there are three key factors responsible for the bulk of my symptoms:
  • nutrient deficiency
  • hypothyroidism
  • SIBO
After I established a diagnosis, I could work on recovery. I sought out different treatments and protocols that targeted those three disease patterns. Next week I'll discuss the treatments I tried in detail.

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Earlier I mentioned I consulted books for my research. I highly recommend these resources for people who are looking to learn more about health:

The Vegetarian Myth (Lierre Keith)

How the vegetarian diet (especially high levels of carbohydrates and soy protein) can be detrimental to health

Nourishing Traditions (Sally Fallon)
Cure Tooth Decay (Ramiel Nagel)

These both discuss essential nutrients and where to find them (hint: they can be found in animal products).

Stop the Thyroid Madness (Janie Bowthorpe)
How the current medical system under-diagnoses and mistreats thyroid disorders 


 

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