Can You Relieve Your Anxiety, Brain Fog And Blood Pressure Symptoms By Healing Your Gut?
I distinctly remember when I met a patient of ours last year “M”: a young woman that was struggling to make it through doctoral school due to her anxiety, her exhaustion, her brain fog and her body’s unpredictable habit of fainting on the spot. All of these issues were crippling her ability to function in day-to-day life. Neither of us could have predicted at the time that she would eventually become one of our star patients, who turned around her health in such a positive dramatic way that even speaking to her on the phone she is now unrecognizable with high energy and focus.
At the time she became our patient, she felt like she needed more than the anxiety medications that were being prescribed, that something more was going on with her health that wasn’t being addressed. She knew that at Living Proof we look at health in a different, unique way and that we take factors into account that other health practitioners may not realize play a large role in our healing process. Her high anxiety levels were the tip of the iceberg of her health issues. A few years ago, there was a head injury where she hit the left side of their face on concrete and after that she started experiencing fatigue, anxiety, trouble sleeping, and brain fog. She would have trouble doing any exercise that would cause her to exert herself even moderately, like riding a bike. Fast forward a few years later and these symptoms worsened until she was basically bed-ridden at age 24 years old.
Typically, when a person has been dealing with a chronic disease, there has already been a lot going on making the body adapt or bend, trying to cope with the situation. When the body finally can’t bend anymore, it breaks, like it did for our patient M. When I initially met her, I knew a big part of knowing how we could to help her heal was to understand what contributed to her health breaking. The way we figure these elements out, like health detectives, is by doing several different tests. Some of them are functional medicine tests like stool and urine analyses and some are through functional neurological evaluations of me watching through a video call how M could respond to different things and move in specific ways, showing me how her brain was working and what areas needed some support and healing. At our first meeting we were able to see her brain was capable of growing new connections through proper stimulation after a proper exam was performed. This was a good sign that we could integrate her nervous system (have her nervous system communicate better with itself, key to healing any concussion symptoms) while waiting for the other test results. There are lots of good things we can do to help our healing right away, as we fully believe at Living Proof.
Even before we got the urine and test results back, we noticed that M showed a pattern with her symptoms connected with a medical label called “POTS” or Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. To understand how POTS can affect a person, it is important to have an understanding of how our body’s nervous system works. There is a part of the nervous system called the autonomics, which is made up of the sympathetic (fight, flight, or freeze) nervous system and the parasympathetic (rest or digest) nervous system. Autonomics are responsible for all the things we don’t consciously control, like pupil dilation, blood flow, digestion, and other organ functions. When there is an issue with this autonomic part of the nervous system it is called “dysautonomia” and one of the specific labels a person might be given is called POTS. This is where a person can’t regulate their blood pressure and heart rate with things like standing up, turning too fast, becoming stressed, the immune system being provoked, pain, etc. The list can go on. A person’s quality of life can be severely comprised with POTS, and since they are prone to passing out, they are at a higher risk for head injuries. The situation can become so severe that some people will just choose to use a wheelchair instead of walk so they don’t hit their head any more than they already may have. M was already bed-ridden for a lot of her time.
The stool test results were consistent with making M’s POTS symptoms more extreme. “M” had a lot of GI symptoms, like nausea, sugar cravings or not knowing if she was really legitimately hungry or not. You can see in the table below with a snapshot of the stool test results, that M’s body was having difficulty in several areas with all those red numbers in high. There was trouble with coordinating the digestion and absorption of food, but also that there was a lot of inflammation and trouble detoxifying. For example, the “steatocrit” marker tells us that too much fat was leaking out in her stool instead of getting absorbed or her “b-glucuronidase” marker (say that 3x fast!) shows us that her body wasn’t getting rid of extra toxins and hormones but instead recycling them back into the body. The “anti-gliadin” marker tells us her body reacts with inflammation to exposure to gluten and the “calprotectin” marker tells us her body was having trouble absorbing nutrients because her intestines were so inflamed. This sort of constant inflammation and the presence of stealth infections (as evidenced by the blood found in her stool) were definitely contributing to her POTS symptoms.
The next test result was one of the urine tests that tells us what is going on with hormones, an area that M had been struggling with as well. The brain is responsible for proper hormone levels and having a cycle. If you take a look at the “dials”, you can see the testosterone one has the red arrow all the way to the right, letting us know that M had a lot of testosterone; a diagnosis of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) was confirmed by bloodwork.
One of the problems with something like PCOS is high levels of testosterone can cause insulin resistance (meaning our cells aren’t using sugars properly), and high levels of insulin can cause more testosterone to be made, so it can become a vicious cycle. M was eating small, frequent meals, trying to help with this issue. However, she was also experiencing a lot of food anxiety, partially due to a lot of dietary restriction. This is something that is common when a person tries to manage their own diet since there a lot of variables that must be considered other than calories and nutrients. As a mandatory part of our program at Living Proof, our patients also have sessions with our nutrition and lifestyle coach for support in areas that they need. M learned how to have a positive relationship with food and with her body through that type of coaching.
In the other urine test, we can see the marker that the red arrows are pointing at showing what M’s body was doing with ketones. If you are trying to avoid carbs, that is the level of the marker you want, however, M was eating 5-6 small meals per day and not avoiding carbohydrates. That means that her body was in a state of stress, in “ketosis”, where she had no extra stores of carbs when she wasn’t eating them.
These are all important pieces of the POTS puzzle since hormones play an integral part of brain health and function and excess amounts of hormones meant to stabilize blood sugar will negatively impact several areas of brain function, none of them good. Connecting these “health” dots can give us a full picture of how to help a person help themselves heal.
After successfully “fixing the gut” and addressing the metabolic aspect of her care through functional medicine by using the proper dietary, lifestyle, and supplement interventions and stimulating the brain properly based on a thorough evaluation and improving connections through functional neurology, we can see this young girl is now able to live her life the way she wants to. Exercise like she wants, eats like she wants, and succeed at school. When she was starting to feel better even near the beginning of her healing process, she was able to eliminate her prescription medications for anxiety with the coordination of the prescribing physician.
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Author: Dr. Jared Seigler
For the last four years, he has served the Living Proof Institute as Clinical Director. After training hundreds of clinicians in functional medicine and functional neurology, a large part of his focus is to bring awareness to the healing potential of the human body metabolically through functional medicine and promoting neuroplasticity through functional neurology to help with the rising occurrences of chronic disease and providing solutions for complex health problems.
What are common health conditions that Dr. Seigler addresses using Functional Medicine?
Dr. Seigler has success in addressing neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases, autoimmune conditions, digestive complaints, as well as the adrenal, thyroid, and hormonal imbalances that are common in chronic diseases. By combining Functional Medicine and Functional Neurology, a personalized, long-term strategy can be developed to help maximize the healing process.
- Children’s Health
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About the Author: Dr. Jared Seigler
Dr. Jared Seigler is a Doctor of Chiropractic and has been a Certified Functional Medicine Provider for the past seven years. After watching the health of his loved ones erode without any real answers being provided, he became passionate about utilizing the body’s own healing potential.
By focusing on the root cause of why a person doesn’t feel good, now they are able to put their body in a state of healing, growth, and repair. Dr. Seigler helps a person figure out ‘why’ they don’t feel good instead of figuring out ‘what’ they have. He is also trained in hundreds of hours of Functional Neurology to help promote growth, development, and healing of various regions in the central nervous system.
Our Mission at The Living Proof Institute is to address the root cause of your health issues and restore your health and vitality. Through partnering and education, you will receive the tools and direction to live an extraordinary life.
When I describe you Dr. Seigler, you know inside the body better than any doctor I’ve ever met, honestly, like internal, you know it so well. We’ve been working on acid reflux for Jon and coming off some of his different meds; it’s changed his bowel movements like crazy.Jon & Laura Grant