Andy’s Story Part 2: A Common Cause To Many Health Problems
If you read Part One of Andy’s story, you will know that he came to see me as a last resort after experiencing a rapid deterioration in his health. He had 3 questions for me:
- Did his GP miss an opportunity to prevent these diseases happening?
- Is there any hint to relate these conditions to a common cause?
- Is there any hope for a treatment that could reverse these conditions and reinstate his health.
In part 2 of Andy’s story I explore how we identified the common cause. If you missed the first part of his story, read it here.
In this second part of the detective story, we look at how Andy’s body fell into a trap and we work out how to rescue him
Part 2: How We Found The Core Problem
Andy came to see me with a strong desire to reclaim his health. He was very passionate about changing his life style if that can enable him to live disease free.
He was fully motivated to do whatever it takes to achieve this goal.
I expressed to Andy that the journey to health and wellbeing starts by changing his mind-set away from that of a passive consumer of healthcare services or a ‘patient’ to that of a creator and co-creator of his own health.
He has been a passive care recipient under the GP and the local hospital. Now he has to stand up and be the primary creator of his health. Like an athlete and a coach, Andy has to undertake most of the day-to-day work of getting better.
The detective process started by asking Andy to complete our medical questionnaire. This collects a detailed history from just before birth to date. The information organised in our high technology system in a way that greatly helps the decision-making process.
It also helped me to relay the information in a way that makes sense to Andy and motivates him to take action.
The first clinic visit was a great opportunity for Andy and I to build a strong therapeutic partnership. First I verified the information collected from the questionnaire and then it was time to ‘tell the detective story’ to Andy: explaining the sequence of events that led to the disease.
Andy had many questions and it was important to answer them all, to boost his understanding and empower him to take charge of his own health.
As the history is important as well as interesting I have Andy’s agreement to share the salient points with you.
For anyone to suffer a chronic disease they must have factors that make them susceptible to that disease (predisposing factors). The disease stays dormant until one or more triggers cause it to errupt on the surface, with clear symptoms .
Andy had a family history of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, all quite common. However there were also other factors that have contributed to his disease getting such a grip on him. I think you will find these interesting.
He was born by Caesarean section and was bottle-fed as an infant. At an early age he received multiple courses of antibiotics and had his tonsils removed. Why are these factors important?
He was delivered by Caesarean section either because he was in the wrong position to come normally through the birth canal or because his mother’s pelvic opening was too narrow for delivery. But why this is important 45 years later?
It is because a baby delivered normally through the birth canal will have his first mega dose of probiotics (friendly bacteria) on the way through. This goes into the baby’s mouth and provides the baby with the first population of friendly bacteria in the gut. These bacteria also cover the skin to protect the body. So Andy did not get this first boost to his immune system
For some reason Andy was not breast-fed; but why is it important?
This is because mothers pass their acquired immunity to their babies. The biggest dose delivered early after birth in colostrum: thick creamy milk. This provides adequate immune factors to defend the baby against diseases until the baby develops his own immune systems. More than interesting, I think this is quite wonderful.
The combined effect of Andy being born by Caesarean section and not benefitting from breast-feeding was a literal ‘double whammy’.
But it seems that Andy had worse to come. Andy had two more whammies!
As a very young boy Andy had repeated attacks of tonsillitis for which he received many courses of antibiotics. His condition got worse and the ENT specialist eventually decided to remove the young boy’s tonsils.
Why were repeated antibiotic courses damaging?
The repeated antibiotics that Andy received as a child must have wiped out some and possibly most of the friendly bacteria in his gut. Again tonsils are part of the immune system and losing his tonsils could equate to a nation losing a whole regiment of its defending force.
Therefore Andy started his life with only a partial immune system. But why does lack of friendly bacteria in the gut influence the potency of the immune system?
Here is a non-technical explanation. 80% of the immune system is centred in or close to the gut. Through the gut wall the friendly bacteria ‘teach’ the immune system skills to identify self (not to attack) from foreign (to kill and get rid of immediately). To have a strong and discriminating immune system you need a large population and a wide variety of friendly bacteria in your gut.
Andy lost his friendly bacteria with repeated courses of antibiotics, at an early age. This resulted in a weak, undirected and immature immune system. You will soon see how this has contributed to his disease later on in life.
So Andy’s tendency for chronic diseases came from the fact that he has genetic family tendency towards diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. He also had a weakened immune system from being born by Caesarean section, bottle-fed as an infant, received multiple courses of antibiotics and his tonsils removed at an early age.
However the triggers for Andy’s disease to go from dormant to fully active and pathological were: 1) stress related to work, 2) entry to the middle age and 3) repeated visits to his dentist!
Andy worked in the financial sector in the city of London for many years. He was recently being promoted as the head of the office. Since then his workload increased and stress levels soared. He has to stay in office till late and got into the habit of visiting fast food restaurants for a quick bite. He did not have enough time to connect with his family at home and wasn’t sleeping well at night.
The dietary changes (simple sugar and refined carbohydrates) over time gave Andy tooth decay. His visits to his dentist resulted in 8 amalgam fillings and 2 root canal treatments. Amalgam fillings contain mercury that leaked into Andy’s body and disrupted his systems. This alone can take a dormant disease and trigger it to erupt.
These developments took place as Andy was entering middle age. We are familiar with women going through the life changes (menopause) but men also have similar changes (andropause). At mid 40s, men tend to lose muscles and strength and put on fat in mid body section. They also become lethargic, irritable, have hot flashes and low sex drive.
The potbelly together with the work related stress must have given Andy a low-grade chronic inflammation that eventually resulted in insulin resistance, the hallmark of metabolic syndrome! (see insulin resistance blog)
The low-grade inflammation would also explain Andy’s neurological symptoms. He had balance problems and was slow to think and make judgements. He also had speaking difficulties and had become forgetful. I reassured Andy there were no signs to suggest brain disease or early dementia and his symptoms were likely to resolve when the inflammation settled down.
Andy had also been troubled by muscle pain, spasms and frequently disturbed by muscles twitches. These made him to feel as if he was on the verge of becoming epileptic. I explained to Andy that there is no need to rush for a brain scan at this stage. These symptoms could be related to electrolyte imbalance, the commonest is magnesium deficiency.
A quick glance at Andy would spot his potbelly giving him the “apple shape” appearance. He had yellow plaques around the eyes (xanthelasma) a sign of high body fat and dark patches of skin in his armpit (acanthosis nigrican), caused by high insulin levels – diagnostic of metabolic syndrome.
Despite carrying a lot of fat, my physical examination revealed that Andy had the classic signs of serious nutritional deficiencies. He had an inflamed red tongue together with inflammation at the corners of the mouth. The combination is known medically as angulo-stomatitis: a textbook description of vitamin B and iron deficiency. He also had a raw bleeding gum, a sign of vitamin C deficiency (scurvy). I started to wonder if Andy hasn’t been eating enough fruits and vegetables for some time. But there could be another reason and here it is.
We have all heard the phrase: “you are what you eat”.
Although it is well intentioned, I think it is not always true; here is why:
I have met many people who eat high quality food and yet they have clear signs of lack of essential nutrients. The best example was a multimillionaire who came to see me for another reason. He had signs of multiple nutritional deficiencies while he had been eating a first class and very expensive diet.
That made me change my perspective to: “you are what you absorb”!
Examining Andy’s abdomen revealed that his liver was slightly enlarged and feels lumpy, a sign of fatty liver. His bowels felt distended with faecal matter due to chronic constipation. Whilst he was certainly absorbing calories, he was not absorbing vital nutrients.
I reasoned that Andy needed digestive enzymes; here is why. He had been under severe stress at work for some time. This put Andy’s body in emergency mode, all the time. In this survival mode Andy’s body diverts blood to the heart, brain and muscles to fight or flee the imagined danger.
That means his digestion won’t be a priority and hence would suffer lack of blood supply. This will make Andy lag behind in his ability to produce digestive enzymes and absorb food and eventually have nutritional deficiencies.
Andy had athlete’s foot fungal infections. That was explainable by the rundown immune system and possible zinc deficiency. Andy had clear evidence of low zinc revealed on the longitudinal lines on his finger and toenails.
Understanding The Causes, Provides A Solution
Andy felt a great relief as I relayed the medical detective story to him. He could see the link between the genes he inherited from his family and the subsequent environmental factors that contributed to his diseases. The sequence of events that eventually damaged his metabolism and left him a victim for low-grade inflammation and the detrimental effect of high level of insulin.
He realised the need to undertake a profound work. Initially to put out the inflammation; this is likely to make his cells sensitive again to insulin. This in turn should allow glucose to enter cells to provide fuel for the metabolic process to produce energy and vitality. In this way his blood glucose and the notorious insulin should settle back to normal level.
This should bring his body systems into balance to resolve the emerging problem of hypertension, diabetes and abnormal blood fat (the cause behind stomach acid), for good – see the first part of Andy’s story for more information about his health conditions.
He realised for the first time that prescription drugs won’t resolve his core problem, their task is to supress the symptoms a while.
Andy then realised that if he does not take preventative action, he will have to take these pills and probably more pills for the rest of his life.
I left Andy to reflect on what he had learned about this profound scientific medical detective approach to his problem. He saw that one system aims to set him free to enjoy life fully without pills while the other dictates that he should take pills for life.
In part 3 find out how we started to solve the problem. High-tech tests and low-tech actions.
If you are worried about any of the information in this blog post, perhaps you have experienced similar symptoms as Andy, and would like further advice. Please do not hesitate to contact me.