There were two key remarks that Alex made when she had completed her Functional Medicine support program for UTIs and bladder health challenges. So let’s briefly skip past the specific symptoms and health-goal aspects of Alex’s recovery (we’ll come back to these).
Beyond her symptom alleviation she “learnt how to look after myself to a higher standard and maintain life with full vitality”……and…..“As a Pilates Instructor setting up a new business this not only improved my personal life, but my work life as well”.
As much as we can be consumed by the current symptom or health challenge at the time, these comments emphasise that it’s not about (or solely about) that. It’s always about something more meaningful.
After all, not having symptoms ultimately isn’t enough. What really matters is the impact this has on your life, work, relationships etc. This is unique and different for everyone and for Alex we knew that the greater, bigger, yet linked goal beyond health was creating and developing a successful business.
Ask yourself, what is your driving force beyond just having less symptoms? How would it impact the quality of life other than having less pain, fatigue, UTI’s, abdominal pain, constipation, kidney pain etc?
Establishing this right from the beginning of the support steps and healing process always has a dramatic effect on what we do and how we do it.
Let’s get back to Alex’s Symptoms of 4 Years
For 4 years Alex had been struggling to deal with recurring UTIs and bladder health issues along with the below list. As a Pilates instructor she already had a fantastic understanding of the body and had studied anatomy and physiology. She had a great interest in learning more and was prepared to put a sensible and step-wise approach in place. With an appreciation that there would be no ‘magic cure’!
- Recurring Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
- Pain during Sex
- Occasional Diarrhea and Constipation
- Sensitive Skin
- Lumps under Armpits
- Frequent Cold/Flu Symptoms
- Sweet Cravings
- Sensitivity to Alcohol and Coffee
So aware was Alex, she already understood that just as all the systems of the body are linked so too were all her varied symptoms. That’s why over 4 months, she was actually quite surprised at her rate of recovery.
A welcome surprise of course!
Where do you Start?
Currently in her Mid-Twenties, we discussed the health challenges and significant episodes/events in her life so far. Not just during the last 4 years of her current UTIs. This ‘timeline’ exercise always provides a great deal of clarity for practitioner and client for two main reasons:
- Understanding why they feel the way they feel (causes).
- What interventions they can put in place (solutions).
Such an essential step given that most people end up contacting me when most other steps they have tried have not yielded the results they desire. Hence they are confused as to what is causing the health challenges, frustrated with poor results and stuck as to what interventions or solutions to put in place.
There is always a more solid foundation of focus on which to build on once we run the Initial Consultation. For Alex, it was interesting to consider the impact and influence of her recurring ear infections and colds as a young child, tonsillectomy and development of asthma in her early-mid teens, experiences of more and more intense migraines, relationship challenges and emotional stresses, episodes of noise and light sensitivity and various medications over her lifetime.
In many ways these were manageable and not necessarily unusual or unduly impacting the quality of life. But we consider them in the context as to what often comes next and in simple terms we can appreciate that they are just various ‘straws on the camel’s back’.
In a timeline there is often a point at which something ‘break’s the camel’s back’!
The ‘Straw that Break’s the Camel’s Back’
Cue one of the main reasons why everybody’s situation is individual. Do a survey of 10 people who have been diagnosed with ‘UTIs’ and you’ll get 10 different scenarios and causes. Survey 10 people diagnosed with another condition such as ‘IBS’, ‘Chronic Fatigue’, ‘Low Back Pain’, ‘Diabetes’, etc and we’ll uncover 10 different scenarios.
To understand the mechanisms at play it’s essential that we get some degree of awareness over the context of what was happening prior to the real onset of the symptoms (in my opinion).
The specific event (4 years ago) that Alex experienced prior to her chronic bladder discomfort, burning and frequent urination and recurring UTIs, was what appeared to be some food poisoning when travelling through Malaysia. She ate a meal and then immediately felt nauseous and tummy discomfort.
This went on for about 2 weeks and then the first UTI occurred.
At the time, over the course of a few months Alex consulted her Doctor and took multiple courses of Antibiotics for what seemed to be temporary relief and was even experiencing blood in her urine.
Now let’s fast forward a few years when Alex contacted myself (Jack Walton) and my colleague Dave Hompes to see if we could help. Having recently suffering yet another UTI, identifying a Staphylococcus bacterial infection and treating it with Antibiotics, she was looking for some real progress and to stop this cycle of symptoms>treatment>brief relief.
Why did I Not Bounce Back!?
Most people want to know why the kidney, bladder and urinary tract health wasn’t easier to fix and didn’t quickly return back to normal. Well it’s usually to do with the fact that the infection is simply not the only ‘straw on the camel’s back’. Yes, it may have been the one that caused such an onset or cascade of intense symptoms, but to heal effectively, it usually requires the removal of several more ‘straws back off the camel’s back’!
I think Alex was already fully aware of this concept and this was one of the main reasons she sought us out and wanted to learn from our functional health approach.
Functional Urine and Stool Assessments
There was a lot of potential choices for Functional Lab testing in this situation. We could look at blood biochemistry, inflammation levels, hormonal balance, metabolic processes, toxins, nutrient status, etc. However, it is always important to prioritise and based on her health history Alex and I decided to use a Lab in Arizona to assess a Urine Sample for Pathogens and a Stool Sample for Digestive Health and Infections.
The Urine Sample came back negative, which was important to all but rule out. The relatively recent Antibiotic UTI treatment via her Doctor had been of value in eradicating the Staphylococcus.
The Digestive Health Screen Stool Test was a different story.
The key findings of the stool test was that we identified an Helicobacter pylori infection and Proteus spp opportunistic bacterial infection. We had an interesting discussion on how neither of these digestive ‘infections’ may be the direct cause of her urinary tract infections (UTIs) or symptoms such as pain during sex, but they could still represent some of the greatest physiological load (stress) on the body. Hence, indirectly, through various different mechanisms and connections, this ‘stress’ could lead to imbalances and dysfunction of tissues, organs, glands of the Urinary, Elimination and Reproductive systems.
Functional Medicine Approach to UTIs
This is how Functional Health works. She’d already tried treating the symptoms for 4 years.
We assess ‘function’. Given that the body has the blueprint for optimal function, when we identify any dysfunction or imbalance, we know that we want to optimise this.
The outcome of this is greater, optimal function? Less symptoms and discomfort due to an improved performance of these systems, tissues, organs and glands.
Alex had more clarity about what to focus on and change specifically for her digestive health having identified these important factors. This begins the empowering process of being in the driving seat of your healing process.
At this stage, by no means have we necessarily identified every single factor at play here. But the approach and behavioural context is completely different from being on the merry-go-round of too much guesswork, confusion and treating the symptoms with short term success only.
Basic Steps Follow on from the Assessment
Alex was living and building her business in London, whilst I am based in Newcastle, North East UK. So we put a support process in place for some regular distance coaching. This enabled us to put a step-by-step program in place to guide Alex through. No matter how many tests or what the findings are, there is always a place for optimising some fundamentals and foundational steps:
- and more
“We worked together and Jack became almost a life coach in that he guided the tweaks to nutrition, how to improve energy levels, sleeping habits and just support in making the right decisions for my health”
Sometimes, these ‘basics’ are more powerful than you may expect and it’s pretty much all that needs attention. It’s not about putting a one-size-fits-all program in place that is unrealistic, impractical and ultimately uninspiring! Instead, individualise priority changes that you are compelled/inspired to do. Be creative, open and critical in the process.
We constantly problem-solve and troubleshoot! In addition to focussing on health goals other aspects of Alex’s life weren’t going to be put on hold. As with anyone’s situation during this whole process. During the period of 4 months of healing plenty of additional factors were in play. From getting tendonitis from overtraining, studying for Pilates exams, starting a new business, travel, relationship stress and more.
Working closely together we dealt with and problem-solved each and every hurdle along the way. The response and perspective was that these hurdles were not in the way, they were on the way.
“The knowledge and skills I picked up in the 4 months I was working with Jack are now in my ‘tool box’ for life!”
Beyond the Basics
Let’s take a look at Alex’s progress on her original symptoms by the end of our functional health coaching:
- Completely Alleviated Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) (to the best of our knowledge)
- Greatly improved Pain during Sex
- Completely Alleviated Nausea
- Completely Alleviated Gas
- No Diarrhea and Constipation
- Improving Sensitive Skin
- Completely Alleviated Lumps under Armpits
- Improving Frequent Cold/Flu Symptoms
- Improving Sweet Cravings
- Asthma, unsure of any changes here.
- Improving Sensitivity to Alcohol and Coffee
So how did we achieve such progress in a relatively short period of time? I’d have to emphasise the above basics too of course. But, there were some additional steps that were added in to the program.
Alex felt that she had already focussed a great deal on the Antibiotics. Now she wanted to apply some natural Anti-Microbial botanicals to eradicate ‘bad’ bugs. We discussed the importance and value of the medical approach in regards to urinary tract health and infections. She did not rule out any required medical support. She carefully implemented some quite simple anti-microbial protocols. At the right time we also supported the balance of beneficial bacterial flora of the gut. There was also some focus on extra support for repairing the gastro-intestinal lining, but really not that much.
Doing this safely, effectively and consistently over a few months was all it took to get the gut health going in the right direction.
Interestingly we also measured blood sugars from beginning to end. They improved from a slightly below optimal 4.8 to a consistently optimal 5.4. This can have a powerful impact on physiological stress levels, energy production and the ability to heal efficiently. In a future Case Study we’ll expand the discussion on the fascinating topic of blood sugars.
Am I Healed Yet?
Truth be told, continuing to work with Alex for another 3 months or so would have been ideal. As a curious practitioner I’m interested in achieving optimal levels of health. We would assess more function and tweak a few more steps. But, we’d achieved a lot. More than expected in fact. This allowed Alex to be in full control, which is the whole point of the coaching process 🙂
It’s definitely a dynamic process. We all have different health challenges and also different goals as to what level of wellbeing we want to experience. There’s no one right way to do it. But there can be an inspiring way that impacts the rest of your life as you continue to learn and master your body and mind.
And of course if you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch.