Approaching the Root Cause of Ill-Health

Last week, my integrative doctor’s office called to inform me that my appointment would be extended from 30 to 60 minutes. I instantly knew that gut and micro-nutrient analyses must have revealed something interesting, and suspected it would bring us just a little closer to the root cause of my body’s disease.

When I went through yoga teacher training in 2014, we often discussed finding a balance between effort and ease. Extend your body by an extra centimeter, but don’t force it. When a novice yogi brings the base of their foot directly to their inner thigh in tree pose, rather than slowly working up from the ground, they will inevitable lose their balance. Physical ailments represent dis-ease in the body–a lack of balance, too much stress or too few of the building blocks of life. Life is a balance, and disease represents imbalance.

I felt both horror and relief as the doctor methodically went through the results across the span of two hours. My microbiota is a mess, my liver is dysfunctional and my adrenals are burned out! While my entrails are in complete chaos, all the disparate puzzle pieces are beginning to come together.

Having worked in quality assurance for the last five years, I can’t help but initiate CAPAs on my life. What went wrong? What is the root cause of the problem? How can I immediately resolve or remedy the issue? How can I prevent the same thing from recurring in the future? Let me tell you, business processes are a lot more straightforward than bodily processes. Health and disease don’t always have a singular and obvious root cause. Sometimes, disease is a perfect storm of various imbalances.

My microbiota looks like a war zone and my immune system is launching vicious attacks on this target to protect the rest of my body from disarray, thereby stealing energy from secondary concerns, such as brain oxygenation and basic muscle function. After years of feeling like my body is struggling and blaming  everything on stress, it’s now evident that I have a serious, physical problem.

My body is currently deficient in several key nutrients (B2, B12, C, D3…you get the idea), lacking in prebiotics (food for the good bacteria) and overloaded with opportunistic bad bacteria. I have high intestinal permeability (allowing harmful “gut stuff” to leak into the bloodstream), a fat malabsorption issue (inhibiting utilization of good cholesterol), moderate gut inflammation and high levels of an enzyme that causes toxins to recirculate through the bloodstream indefinitely (potentially why I’m functional, while labs suggest I have a life-threatening infection).

Basically, all the good stuff I put into my body either terrorizes my immune system or passes right through me, while infections and harmful substances are never eliminated. It’s no wonder I don’t feel well!

Next week, we will run food allergy testing to identify what may be causing my “leaky gut” and subsequently remove the worst offenders from my diet. Additionally, we’ll be conducting a four-point hormone test since the above issues paired with abnormal endocrine labs are hinting at adrenal insufficiency and autoimmune disease.

When was the last time you had a doctor spend over two hours in dialogue about your subjective symptoms, diagnostic results and health goals? After three years of doctors secretly scribbling down “hypochondriac” as I listed out my various symptoms, followed by 15 long months of perplexed panic as doctors tried to make sense of the exaggerated autoimmune response, tumors and other seemingly-random anomalies, I finally–finally–feel heard. It’s truly a magical experience.

While integrative medicine has been an expensive journey, it is hands-down one the best decision I’ve made for my health. I feel confident that we’re creeping ever-closer to the elusive root cause by looking inward, and then working our way out.

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