Uncovering the Causes of Mystery Gastrointestinal Pain

Q. Cynthia, about 3 years ago my daughter began suffering from severe abdominal pain. At that time she saw a gastro dr. had a colonoscopy, was put on anti spasm medication with no real diagnosis. 6 months ago it became so severe we were in the ER several times. She also stopped having her monthly cycle and started gaining weight at an alarming rate. Still no diagnosis but we did all kinds of tests including food intolerance testing…gluten, eggs, soy, dairy were the offenders.

She has been off of these foods for about 4 months now and along with some Prozac, probiotics, fennel tea, peppermint capsules and stress counseling we have seen a dramatic change…her cycle is back and she has lost some weight and her stomach feels much better. The question I have is regarding the weight. Why does it seem to be taking her body so long to drop the excess lbs? She is a competitive swimmer and gets plenty of exercise (she did take time out of the pool to help with healing).Anything we might be missing? Are we expecting too much too soon considering the mess her body was in? Laura

A. Hi Laura,

The most important point to be aware of is that abdominal pain does not occur for no reason at all, and although emotional stress can and does perpetuate poor health, it is not typically the root of these kinds of issues. Although mainstream medicine doctors seem to think the cause of these issues is a mystery, there is a very simple explanation.

These kinds of persistent abdominal symptoms are most often caused by one of three things — parasites, yeast overgrowth, or bacteria overgrowth, and perhaps all three simultaneously. You need a test called the GI Effects Stool Test to assess the health of the GI tract and identify organisms. You can purchase the test through me, if you’re interested.

However, even the best lab tests don’t always pick up one of the critters. They are each notoriously known for their clever ability to evade detection. So even if tests don’t find one or more of these issues, the symptoms speak for themselves and one should address them accordingly. Anytime there is ongoing, unexplained pain or mystery symptoms in the GI tract, one needs to look in this direction. Each of these organisms emits toxins that cause inflammation, high levels of oxidative stress and additionally they degrade the integrity of the gut lining.

Depending on which organism you are dealing with there would be a different course of action. After the organism is eradicated, then there is a very specific nutritional regimen that needs to be followed to help heal the gut.

Equally offensive to the gut as unfriendly organisms is the food that you eat. All grains ( not just wheat), legumes, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, artificial sweeteners, chocolate, and food additives and preservatives cause inflammation to the gut and should be removed. Our bodies are not genetically equipped to process these foods. I recommend you take a look at the Paleolithic diet, as well as good carbs bad carbs and the whole grain lie. Poor diet alone can sometimes be the sole cause of gastrointestinal pain, but one should always rule out the possibility of organisms.

No good can come from taking an antidepressant. The fact that she responded positively to Prozac indicates she most likely has a serotonin deficiency, one of the most common underlying causes of depression. Prescription drugs only perpetuate the problem further by increasing the depletion in serotonin and insuring that one can never restore balance to their neurotransmitters. The brain essentially becomes dependent on the drug for its serotonin. Pharmaceuticals may provide some relief initially, but then tolerance builds up and a different drug is needed.

Instead, serotonin should be replenished with tryptophan or 5-HTP and pyridoxal-5-phosphate and a good multi-mineral. There may be a variety of other nutrients that are needed to help with neurotransmitter production, which should be assessed using a variety of functional medicine tests.

Serotonin can become depleted because of an invasion of parasites, bacteria or yeast and from a poor diet.

When one has parasites, bacteria or yeast, this is a form of intense stress on the body. It is called infectious stress. When we are under stress, our neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, GABA and endorphins/enkephalins are called upon to help us cope with the stressful event. If the stressful event is ongoing, then the neurotransmitter levels can become depleted as they are drained out continuously.

A diet that is high in refined foods like sugar, caffeine, chocolate etc., as well as any high starch food like potatoes and whole grains also depletes serotonin because they overstimulate the serotonin receptors.  When receptors are overstimulated then they respond by reducing the number of receptors.

Also, when we are under stress, all the functions of the body that are not absolutely essential for survival in an emergency are shut down like digestion and menstrual cycle. During times of stress it is not a good time to get pregnant, so the body shuts down the menses. This is the reason the menses stopped.

Additionally, during times of stress, high levels of norepinephrine, epinephrine and cortisol are released. The norepinephrine will keep the stress response system in high alert, cortisol can become depleted if it goes on for too long and epinephrine triggers the liver to release the sugar it has stored into the blood stream. When all this sugar is released into the blood stream then the pancreas responds by releasing high levels of insulin to bring the blood sugar back down, and then the sugar gets stored as fat. If there is ongoing stress of any kind, as there is with infectious stress, then fat would be stored continuously. This would likely be the reason that she had the increased weight gain and is not able to take it off.

However, the consumption of all starchy foods like grains of any kind, sugar of any kind and potatoes, which break down into sugar and get stored in the body as fat, are major contributors to weight gain as well. Thus, another reason the Paleolithic diet is of so much importance.

It’s important to note that food sensitivities are frequently a symptom of a bigger problem — parasites, yeast or bacteria, not a diagnosis in and of themselves. Food sensitivities develop because the gastrointestinal tract is damaged from poor diet and/ or some kind of organism. It’s certainly important to avoid the foods one is sensitive to, but equally important to get to the root of the issue, or more sensitivities will continue to develop.

I encourage you to address the true underlying cause of this problem, which is poor diet and/or parasites, bacteria or yeast. Otherwise, you are looking at lifelong problems with weight, GI disorders, depression and more symptoms that will develop as time goes on. I can assist you in this process through a phone consultation if you desire and you should find a doctor who practices functional medicine as well.

You’re seeing some improvements because with the steps you’ve taken, you’ve enhanced her body’s ability to deal with the stressful event, which is likely the overgrowth of some type of unfriendly organism, and reduced some of her inflammation by cleaning up her diet to some degree. However, if an organism is present and not removed, it will continue to cause more problems down the road.

Best regards,

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