Here’s an expanded Case Study on Robert’s remarkable 24-year journey enhancing his wellbeing and overcoming challenges such as Ulcerative Colitis along the way. UC is an Inflammatory Bowel Disease defined here. When we first spoke I was initially hit by the thought that ‘there are some clients that we don’t take on, who we say we’d like to help, but we need to refer them back to or out to another practitioner’. I initially thought that this was the scenario for Robert.
- Stomach Pain
- Colon/Abdominal Pain. Ulcerative Colitis diagnosis for previous 23 years.
- Right side Abdominal Tenderness
- Foul Smelling Stool
- Upper Back Pain/Right side continuous discomfort
- Aching Muscles
- Low Libido
- Poor Concentration
- Frequently catching colds
- Cravings for salty foods
- Dizziness on Standing up
“For the past 24 years I’ve been struggling with ulcerative colitis, consulting doctors and searching the Internet with the hope, of one day, being able to regain a normal life.”
During the Initial Consultation we throughly investigated his Health History and Timeline of events. Interestingly, the onset of his digestive complaints over two decades earlier were related to an acute toxic exposure.
Although not the ‘classic’ or often expected cause of digestive issues, this is something I see quite often when delving into the history.
Robert’s health challenges started intensely all these years earlier with excruciating abdominal pains. He went on to describe the many hospital tests, diagnoses (ulcerative colitis) and medications that he had over the next few years.
Although these measures were extremely valuable, the symptoms were somewhat managed, but not being resolved. It soon became apparent that there was certainly no lack of focus and motivation on Robert’s behalf and his determination to achieve success was impressive.
Even after a decade of struggling, his approach to wellbeing developed further as he began to look for more natural approaches. Several diets were implemented, which provided a little progress, but still without significant impact. Robert had even ran a few lab tests in the past and followed a few cleanses, but these tended to exacerbate the symptoms and flare up the ulcerative colitis.
“Given that conventional medicine couldn’t help me, I’ve always searched the solution on my own with the resources available on the Internet. Unfortunately, a lot is confusing, contradictory and misleading. So I was looking for someone that would take the time to educate me and use an holistic and natural approach.”
As I began to understand Robert’s mindset and steps that had been put in place (and those that hadn’t been), I felt more and more confident that this was actually a situation that could value from the Functional Health Approach. This would not be a ‘treatment’ for anything. That was his Medical Dr’s job. But we could begin to look at how we could enhance the function of his body!
Back to Robert’s health history timeline and another decade passes where there were not only Ulcerative Colitis relapses, but an increasing myriad of symptoms that begin to affect a range of systems, tissues, organs, glands, cells and functions throughout the body. As you can see from the above list, in addition to the gut, there were problems with energy, libido, cognition, mood and immune health.
Yet – There was a way forward for Robert and the first step was to achieve Clarity.
Clarity of Assessing Function
In essence, it’s simple. In reality, we humans can be complex. Yet the aim must always be to achieve the greatest results with the simplest steps. The caveat is to be prepared to do what it takes.
An early step for any person I work with is Assessment. (You can read more about the ‘REVEAL’ step here). This will inform the second step, which is to put a structured process in place. Let’s look at the Functional Lab Tests (selected snippets only) that we ran alongside the comprehensive initial intake to give us some essential insight.
Digestive Health Stool Test
Here’s the interesting thing! We might ‘expect’ to find all sorts of issues on the gut health test results, but actually, this test was pretty clear. It really only revealed some potential issues with Fungal overgrowth (above), an opportunistic bacteria and H pylori presence.
With a whole-body, bigger-picture perspective and interconnected view of human function, this is not really much of a surprise to myself and to Robert’s credit, he was also onboard with the fact that this meant that we hadn’t necessarily found all the significant causes to his health challenges!
But it gave us a starting point and we could begin with healing the gut and as you will find out later – this result would reinforce the importance of his nutritional changes.
Organic Acids Urine Test
The Organic Acids Urine Test really is one of the most fascinating functional lab tests. It is the essence and almost an analogy of the functional perspective. Each marker is a measurement of a biochemical pathway and a high or low will indicate a dysfunction or imbalance within a particular function.
Above you can see that this excerpt (there are many more markers) of the test shows a marker of major Oxidative Stress and a sign of high levels of inflammation in the body, which can be causing a lot of damage and symptoms. Robert was curious about how this could relate to his UC Medical Diagnosis (Ulcerative Colitis).
This is a defining principle for Robert’s situation and success. We have stopped treating and chasing the ulcerative colitis and symptoms around his body. We are now sticking to the fundamental principles of assessing his function and how his body’s systems are operating so that we can identify what is dysfunctional or imbalanced. Then we can enhance and balance it with an intervention to optimise the performance and the ‘side-effect’ of this is that the symptoms are alleviated (in basic terms anyway).
We now know that we needed to focus on nutrient deficiencies (for example antioxidants) and identify what was causing the inflammation too.
Thyroid and Adrenal Function Tests
Evaluating the Thyroid and Adrenal hormonal levels was a great advantage to Robert because we can continue to answer with more depth his two main questions:
- Why do I feel the way I feel?
- What can I do about it?
To be honest – these are the two most important questions any of my clients have!
Not that everybody has to run these tests to get well, or any one test for that matter. But these two tests gave us an insight into why he wasn’t previously healing as he might expect and why he was only making real progress now, after 23/4 years.
To summarise briefly – we can see that the level of Thyroid Hormone FT3 is a little low. This is the more active thyroid hormone that acts quite quickly to affect the metabolism of the cells in the body. Low levels are known to affect the body’s metabolism and it is this that can have a huge impact on the bigger picture of why the body isn’t healing or the person isn’t bouncing back from a challenge or stress, just like it has done in the past.
If T3 does not arrive at the front door of the cell and knock, then the cell won’t open the the door to let oxygen in! If this is happening significantly at all the trillions of cells in the body, we can see how important this is, especially for elevated oxidative stress and inflammation levels.
The second image of the graph are the Adrenal Saliva results displaying the ‘Cortisol Rhythm’ throughout the day. Cortisol is the ‘stress’ hormone that the adrenals produce to respond to the various demands (or stresses) placed on and perceived by the body/mind.
There are many interesting schools of thought regarding this type of test and equally as many interpretations. After all this is a snapshot of physiology and it doesn’t yet show whether this is heading towards a stronger position/pattern or weaker position/pattern. To ensure we can really benefit from this type of functional test it must be taken into context with the individual situation, as all too often these tests are just used to diagnose and label a condition or make an isolated conclusion about the adrenals, whilst ignoring the interaction with the rest of the body.
That would still be allopathic. Allopathic medicine has a very valuable place in health and wellbeing of course, but it is important to be clear that in many instances (not here at the Functional Health Clinic) the functional labs are being interpreted in a far from functional way.
We didn’t want that in Robert’s situation. We wanted to understand why his Cortisol Rhythm appeared out of balance. He wasn’t producing the expected levels of Cortisol throughout most of the day. It looked like his biochemistry and nutrient status were not sufficient to support his adrenal function. Perhaps his body had been under such an enormous demand over the last couple of decades, that his resources became somewhat depleted and therefore various tissues/organs/glands started to struggle to function?
Robert applied a two-sided-coin approach.
1) He set about reducing the stresses (physiological load) that his body/mind was under/perceiving.
2) He made changes that would deliver the right resources to his body so that he could respond appropriately to the stress and demands.
This is a great example of keeping it simple. The big rocks of change will often have the biggest impact throughout the whole of the body and its trillions of cells. Just because we have run a fairly technical lab test doesn’t mean the solution must be overly complex or go after the minutiae and chase the numbers.
In fact, assessing the cortisol levels can be crucial in clarifying why many of the supplements people are taking for ‘adrenal fatigue’ etc and their symptoms, are completely inappropriate and one of the main reasons why they are still ill!
Again it comes back to assessing instead of guessing! A lot of the value in the tests is what you can rule out, just as much as it is about what you also rule in.
Hair Mineral Analysis
Hair tests aren’t interpreted in the same way as other tests like blood tests. You can’t always make assertions on what is definitely going on in the body from the hair. But what you can do is observe what is going on in the hair tissue, understand the biochemical reasons why that may be and relate that to the function of the body to identify imbalances, dysfunctions and interventions.
There was a lot of information on Roberts Hair Mineral Analysis Test and one of the graphs from the report (shown above) highlighted some very interesting features.
One of the most important findings was the very low Potassium (K) level in the hair. Potassium is an electrolyte with many functions, but is a key player in the stress response and adrenal function. When it is so depleted in the hair it is likely to be depleted in the body, so it was important to check his blood levels too to rule such a deficiency out.
We understood that Robert’s lifestyle, nutrition and hydration needed fine-tuning quite specifically to support his depleted electrolyte levels and it was quite amazing how many of his ‘outside the gut’ symptoms would alleviate (e.g. salty cravings) after this.
Robert’s Solutions Over 12 Months
There probably wasn’t anything that Robert wouldn’t do (within reason) to
achieve his goal. However, nutrition was probably the most powerful strategy that we tweaked continuously throughout the year of coaching.
“I have now been working with Jack for a little over a year and he has helped me regain my life. The healing continues yet, I now feel for the first in 24 years, that I am finally on the road to recovery. The only thing I regret is not having made this decision earlier. It’s been an incredible learning journey. Thanks Jack for everything you have done for me.”
Whilst each of the above tests and markers often have a cookie-cutter supplement protocol to go with them, we were careful to avoid this, always take a step back, see how it related to the bigger picture and worked with the body as a whole.
Robert did utilise nutritional and botanical products, but he kept it to priority areas, ensured they were all valid to him as an individual and applied them safely.
From a Practitioner’s point of view, it was fantastic that Robert had realistic expectations of what could be achieved and the pace at which we could achieve it. Whilst we both had the goal of him experiencing optimal wellness as soon as possible, it was within the realms of what his body could create.
This meant we could put all our focus and energy into doing what we had to do and not allow any other factors to create unnecessary resistance.
His health went from strength to strength over a period of one year as he applied changes. Changes to his nutrition, behaviours, sleep routine, movement, relaxation, breathing practice and progressed through various specific functional protocols for gut healing, inflammation, detoxification, hormonal balancing and nutrient status.
Reading through all his notes, it amasses quite a body of work. It wasn’t without challenges that’s for sure and it definitely wasn’t easy. But our approach was to always solve the problem and move to the next challenge. To bring it on, learn about it, troubleshoot and apply the solution. Keep going with a flexible yet structured approach, with an openness to what you need to do, without judgement and you can’t fail to progress 🙂
Whilst his journey continues, in the 1 year we worked together versus his prior 24 year battle, he made some great progress and is well on his way. Most importantly, he now has full control, he’s taken the reins and has the skills to put the steps in place as his body continues to change and respond.
- Stomach Pain – Greatly Improved.
- Colon/Abdominal Pain diagnosed as Ulcerative Colitis – Almost Completely Alleviated Pain and retest for UC due every two years.
- Right side Abdominal Tenderness – Greatly Improved.
- Nausea – Greatly Improved.
- Belching – Greatly Improved.
- Bloating – Greatly Improved.
- Foul Smelling Stool – Greatly Improved.
- Constipation – Now managed.
- Headaches – Alleviated
- Upper Back Pain/Right side continuous – Alleviated and identified as dairy-related.
- Aching Muscles – Greatly Improved
- Low Libido – Improving.
- Fatigue – Greatly Improved. Sometimes too much energy!
- Poor Concentration – Improving
- Depressed – Completely Alleviated
- Anxiety – Greatly Improved
- Frequently catching colds – Improved
- Cravings for salty foods – Completely Alleviated
- Dizziness on Standing up – Improved.
- Allergies – Gradual improvement.
When we first met he told me that when he improved his health he would “play the sports I love without being so tired and in so much pain after doing it”. Well even more than that, Robert was inspired to enrol onto a Nutrition Course! The true meaning of these improvements was all about what impact this had on Robert’s quality of life and not the individual symptoms per se.
This may sound trivial to some, but near the end of the coaching he went away on Vacation with his family and was dreading it as it might be like all the previous two decades of vacations: Enduring the physical pain and discomfort. But this time it was different. Robert came back and I asked him how it went and he simply told me that this time, it actually felt like a Vacation and I could tell how much that meant to him and his family.
If you have health goals that would truly impact your quality of life and Robert’s story resonates with you then please get in touch.