When I first met Jan she was suffering from extreme fatigue, depression, sleep issues and terrible bloating with flatulence. She’d given up on help from her doctor who had run standard tests – all of which came back within range, meaning all looked fine. He’d told her she was probably just suffering because of her age (she was 39) and her busy life working and raising two young children.
We looked together at what had been going on for Jan in recent years. There was significant stress and the recurring theme of lack of sleep. She’d had a bloated tummy and flatulence for as long as she could remember, and described a feeling of her brain being ‘sludgy’ – like a constant fog around her. Her periods were very heavy and lasted a full 7 days. She reported feeling anxious a lot of the time, but more so just before her period.
Jan’s diet was generally good. She was eating regular meals and working hard to ensure she put home cooked food on the table for her children. She found she’d snack while cooking dinner and wasn’t always hungry when it came to sitting down to eat the meal she’d prepared. She craved chocolate and needed coffee to get her going in the morning.
On close inspection of her GP results it seemed to me that Jan’s ferritin was on the very lowest end of OK (and the reference range is very wide), and that her TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) was at the highest point within the reference range.
Jan just wanted to get her energy back and to be rid of her bloated, distended tummy. She knew something wasn’t right and it was frustrating to not have any answers.
With the help of her GP as well as private labs, we discovered the following:
- That she was deficient in vitamin D.
- That she had high levels of a problematic bacteria linked to IBS.
- That her cortisol (stress hormone) levels were elevated at the very point in the day when they should have been reducing.
- And crucially, that she had elevated autoimmune antibodies that were attacking her thyroid: She had Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune thyroid condition.
These findings enabled us to work out a strategy to support Jan’s health using nutrition and lifestyle medicine. Our aim was to bring down the elevated autoimmune antibodies and improve her gut microbiome in order to reign-in the problem bacteria. We also wanted to increase her levels of vitamin D and improve her ferritin status. And as a crucial step in helping Jan’s immune system to function better, we needed to address stress and sleep management.
Using dietary change coaching we worked out a plan for adapting Jan’s diet to one that would specifically help her immune system to become balanced, and thus work on her autoimmunity issues. This involved optimising her diet to include lots of delicious food providing a range of proteins, omega 3 fats, carbohydrates and antioxidant nutrients.
We also used food to target an improvement in the diversity of her gut microbiome, and I recommended some specific herbs to help deal with the problem bacteria.
Jan’s vitamin D and ferritin status was addressed with the help of nutritional supplements, with levels closely monitored with further testing. Jan also took a combination of nutritional supplements to support her thyroid health. This was done in collaboration with her GP.
Together we came up with some achievable strategies to help Jan manage her busy life. We found solutions to her sleep problems too.
Over a fairly short time, Jan’s energy started to return and she noticed she was more awake and much less foggy headed. Her periods became lighter. She also found her mood lifted significantly, realising that she wasn’t just a ‘depressed person’ or overly anxious, but that her thyroid condition and gut health had most likely been contributing to her emotional health for some time.
Jan’s digestion continues to improve – she is not totally bloat-free, but the trend is a positive one, and she feels far more in control of her gut symptoms now. We continue to make progress.
One of the most satisfying results from us working together is that Jan’s thyroid autoantibodies have reduced significantly over the months. We are sorting out Jan’s health by addressing the root causes. She has a plan and she has a goal, and is enjoying food more than ever before.
Jan’s story isn’t uncommon, and I could have picked so many cases to illustrate how I aim to address the underlying causes of illness rather than just fighting the symptoms. It’s likely that there is more than one thing undermining your health. Using functional medicine I explore antecedents (what came before to get you to where you are now?), triggers (what was the straw that broke the camel’s back?) and mediators (what things in your life are preventing you from getting your health back on track?). We consider all of the different systems of the body and how they talk to each other. And we look at how your diet, lifestyle and environment impact on things.
You can find out more about how I work here, and I’d be delighted to work with you think I can be of help.