Of the 120 plus posts on this site so far, none has triggered the response that the previous post, “Your ‘Other’ Brain” did. Although nobody commented directly to the post, I received many emails of people telling their story about how digestion problems have affected them. Thank you all for sharing your information with me.
One response in particular caught my attention. Reader Catherine Frossard shared with me her odyssey through the medical world that not only didn’t resolve her original health issues, but added a few new ones along the way. I thought this would be outstanding information for readers of Balance Point, and Catherine graciously agreed to let me reprint her email to me here. Here is Catherine’s story:
Dear Dr. Eichelberger,
Thank you for publishing your article on the digestive system and the similarity to our brain. You echoed what I think I have learned over the last year or so, and want to share my experience with you if it can be helpful in any way, and with anyone else who may have suffered anything similar to me, so they know they are not alone.
I have been suffering from digestive problems for many years. I went to a GI doctor, and was given the purple pill. While it relieved my symptoms, it did not fix the cause of my discomfort. Then after taking it for a year, the doctor gave me a new prescription for another year’s supply.
I suffered greatly from a syndrome that came over me several times, including dizziness, heart palpitations, bradycardia, faintness, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, among others. I went to the ER twice, to be told I had anxiety. My GP put me on an antidepressant, blood pressure meds, Xanax, and ordered my an oxygen machine. I wasn’t sure what caused what, the anxiety causing the physical symptoms or the other way around. Eventually, by process of education and elimination, I learned about my body, and what I believe I suffer from is possibly a hiatal hernia, and food sensitivities. I eventually weaned off of all medications, and adopted a diet full of fruits, veggies, chicken, fish, little red meat, whole grains and gluten-free products, depending on how I feel. I exercise when I can, I do not smoke or drink alcohol, and I take a multivitamin/mineral, Omega 3-6-9, coQ10, and acidopholus/probiotic supplement. I still use the oxygen machine, as I seem to have shallow breathing while sleeping, but not full-fledged apnea. (Not sure if it’s an altitude thing or something else, as I am no longer overweight and am fairly active.)
The upshot is, between my GP, two ER doctors, and my GI doctor, none of them took the time to deal with the root of my problem, just the major symptoms, and all of them threw pharmaceuticals at me, all of which had side-effects worse than the benefits. I was also subjected to a cardiac stress test, which turned out fine, although I have what they call a common irregularity in my heartbeat that they say occurs in athletic women. This experience has made me mistrustful of many doctors, and overly concerned about the state of my health.
I honestly believe that most of the syndrome I experienced was one very irritated vagus nerve, caused by my digestive ailments. My brain responded to the stumuli it received from my digestive system, causing me to react in a fight/flight mode, and then the parasympathetic nervous system tried to slow everything down. I think I experience things in a circular way. If I am anxious, my stomach reacts, and if my stomach is irritated, I experience some awful symptoms of jitters, dizziness, and lightheadedness.
I also recently began reading about yeast, and the conflicting ideas about whether systemic yeast overgrowth is really a common problem or one which only people with severely compromised immune systems experience. I tried the “spit test”, and if that’s any indication, I have yeast overgrowth. I very much would like to know more about my body and what is really going on, so that I can have the best quality of life and be completely present and available to my family, and not constantly worried about whether I am going to be alright. I would like to have a day where I wake up feeling wonderful and don’t think even once about my body!
In the process, I have developed a horrendous case of “white coat” syndrome, and I am petrified of getting my blood pressure taken. It’s awful! It take it at home, and it’s normally pretty good.
I so appreciate your blog, and share it with my friends and family. Your approach to whole health makes so much sense to me, and I wish there were more people like you who treat the whole person, not just the major symptom they experience. I will continue to read and share in an effort to learn about myself and help others.