As a practicing naturopath of almost 12 years, I have become increasingly disillusioned with the way orthodox medicine manages a broad range of conditions utilizing a growing number of aggressive drugs. Although initially my interest was in how traditional treatments would provide patients with alternative choices, the situation has developed to one where natural treatments are producing more effective results than those of orthodox medicine. Several years ago I set up an international internet consultancy aiming to advise and treat clients from around the world which has proved to be enormously successful. However because it is now becoming increasingly clear that many illnesses may be preventable before clinical symptoms manifest I find that informing patients though websites such as this allows me to access the ‘ear’ of people who may well have problems developing without their realizing. I hope those who read this article will benefit from it by increasing their awareness of certain conditions which are affecting so many and are increasingly difficult to avoid.
In the last two decades we have seen a distinct rise in a variety of ailments which have two things in common:
A) They are of unknown cause
B) They are long-term conditions which are otherwise referred to as ‘chronic’ in nature
The situation regarding chronic disease now detrimentally impacts the population of most nations and is fast becoming a hefty drain on health-care resources and finances. Yet for these particular problems it would seem that there is no solution on the horizon as this quote from the World Health Organisation indicates:
The burden of chronic diseases is rapidly increasing worldwide. It has been calculated that, in 2001, chronic diseases contributed approximately 60% of the 56.5 million total reported deaths in the world and approximately 46% of the global burden of disease 1.
Yet the inability of health-care systems to not only stem the increase in chronic illnesses but also in consistently failing to effectively treat those afflicted has resulted in large numbers of people turning to self-management of their health. In part this incorporates looking at our lifestyles and making adjustments which we believe will prolong good health and more people than ever are investigating different avenues of action in an attempt to evade the negative effects involved. Many of those people access websites such as this in the hope that the information it contains will help them to achieve their objectives.
Yet there can be no doubt that no matter who you are or where you live, there are certain aspects of modern society which cannot be avoided totally and many influences, at best, can only be mitigated.
I have spoken to patients who, from the perspective of many people reading this website, were living a lifestyle which could be considered close to perfect. One I recall in particular lived on a remote island with only a few other inhabitants. They grew their own vegetables using only organic methods. The animals they milked were free of antibiotics and the milk was used to make butter and cheese. All the poultry were fed organic feed and free ranged. No commercial aircraft flew overhead. Chemical fertilizers were scarce in the entire region because, if nothing else, they were expensive to ship in. The most modern farming equipment the family used were wheelbarrows and scythes, so I think I am correct in assuming lack of exercise was not an issue. Yet still the mother of the family became ill with a condition which is common all over the world whether patients reside in remote rural locations or a dense urban sprawl. This condition, if the media and popular medicine are to be believed, manifests in those having a lifestyle which could be considered nothing less than sedentary and a diet consisting mainly of processed foods. And that condition, like many others which are currently considered to be of ‘unknown cause’ was one linked to gut dysbiosis.
Despite the fact that many clinicians and health professionals often indicate a primary underlying cause of the multitude of chronic conditions affecting those in modern society are due to poor eating habits and lack of exercise increasingly, as the case above shows, this often proves not to be the reality. I see a growing number of patients afflicted with chronic ailments who are those which, although not as extreme as in the above case, we would still consider to be practicing a healthier lifestyle, whether they jog, lift weights, swim, play tennis, eat organic foods, or use natural products. This situation is supported when we look at the popularity of websites such as this one, which indicate very strongly that many people are now trying, as best they can considering personal circumstances, to improve exercise regimes, eating habits and to limit the chemical toxins which permeate all aspects of our everyday lives. This is not, of course, to say that living a more healthy lifestyle has no benefits, because clearly it has many and not only to the human form but also to the environment itself which deserves the best treatment we can provide it with. But it does show that there is no ‘perfect’ way of living to protect not only our own health but also that of our loved ones. The disappointing truth is that because of many factors which are currently known to us, and quite a few that we probably are not yet aware of, we cannot guarantee future good health even when we strive to afford our bodies the maximum protection by way of optimizing healthy living and minimizing environmental impact.
What I have come to understand is that the era in which we live is unique not only to our species but also to the planet itself. Although the earth and its inhabitants have come through an industrial revolution and times when visible pollution was inherent in most western countries, today the pollution exists not only in many different forms but is, more often than not, invisible. In many instances, simply because toxins and pollution are invisible, much of the information we are provided with necessitates that we blindly accept the truth, and, as we now realize in respect of vehicle motor emissions relative to at least some makes of car, the ‘truth’ can be very distant from reality. In the past we could see that the air, and often the water, were polluted with toxins. Today we know that air traffic and land vehicle emissions cause similar problems even if they are not as obvious as in the past. Drinking water may appear clean and be sold to us as ‘safe’ but, as a recent UK study pointed out, incidences of hypothyroid in specific regions can actually be accurately estimated depending on how much fluoride has been added to the water by different authorities.
The study, which looked at the direct correlation between fluoridation and location, had this to say in their conclusion:
We found that higher levels of fluoride in drinking water provide a useful contribution for predicting prevalence of hypothyroidism. We found that practices located in the West Midlands (a wholly fluoridated area) are nearly twice as likely to report high hypothyroidism prevalence in comparison to Greater Manchester (non-fluoridated area).2
And, as most readers of this website will be aware, we are being bombarded with toxins in personal hygiene products, medications, oral contraceptives, foodstuffs, cleansing products and myriad other goods which constantly assault our bodies with chemicals and which appear to have had the overall effect of tipping the balance of our internal homeostatic state. In short, as a result of such toxins one problem the body faces is the increasing incidence of gut dysbiosis.
For those who are not aware, conditions said to arise from gut dysbiosis have been on the increase and it is now thought to underpin a multitude of illnesses ranging from IBS to fibromyalgia and through to autism. Gut dysbiosis however is nothing new, it has been known about for over 100 years and in fact was well documented and researched both in the US and Russia back in the early 1900s. Although the interest in gut dysbiosis died out in the 1930s more recently it has seen a resurgence and many scientific studies have taken place examining the problems relating to it.
Some people will be well informed about gut dysbiosis while to others the condition is something new, so I will clarify the situation by giving a broad overview of the issue: What we now understand is that the bacterial communities which live in our digestive tract work together in harmony to degrade the food we eat and enable extraction of the nutrients we need to maintain optimal health. Under normal circumstances these bacteria and yeasts are in a healthy balance and are purely beneficial to the human form. In fact, the community exist in such numbers that they normally overwhelm any pathogenic or harmful bacteria and prevent them from causing injury. However the human body, as we have already discussed, is encountering more toxins than ever before and not only is this having a detrimental effect on our detoxing organs, the liver and kidneys, but it is also adversely affecting the bacterial colonies. What then happens is that these colonies enter a state of dysbiosis or disharmony with usually one or more strains becoming dominant. Then, instead of being beneficial to our health, the healthy bacteria become pathogenic or damaging. When certain bacteria multiply not only does digestive disharmony result but they also release even more toxins into the body – just to add to the problems of the already overwhelmed detoxification organs and immune system.
The end result is that where we once had a symbiotic relationship working together to maximize human health, it steadily becomes a chaotic system which not only fails to degrade food effectively and provide our cells with essential nutrients, but which also fails to deal with external toxins in addition to producing internal toxins of its own.
As a direct consequence of dysbiosis we now realize that the intestinal wall becomes damaged. This can result in intestinal impermeability which is more commonly referred to as leaky gut syndrome, and then the immune system, which has already been put under pressure, goes into overdrive.
Despite the fact that many people are striving to achieve a more healthy lifestyle, what we also know is that once dysbiosis takes place it is surprisingly difficult to restore the balance. And, even though we would consider many potential causations as being effectively minor, the body, apparently, does not. For example, it only takes a small amount of antibiotics to trigger dysbiosis, and, depending on which antibiotic is used, specific strains within the bacterial microflora can be negatively affected by a substantial degree.
Clearly many, if not most people, at some point in their lives will have been prescribed antibiotics. Who is to say then that the scene had not already been set many years previously to the development of an illness which would eventually manifest even when they had embraced a life which involved healthy living? The one cheering thought however could possibly be that, without participating on their current course, their situation may have been much worse!
My research into dysbiosis specifically began with the Candida fungi. Although Candida is, under normal circumstances, a beneficial and indeed essential member in the microflora community, we know that when dysbiosis occurs and Candida becomes dominant it can result in a multitude of problems for patients. If you are concerned about the possibility of dysbiosis in general or yeast infections in particular, then you will find a simple online question test here http://www.yeastinfection.org/yeast-infection-evaluation-test/ which may resolve some of your issues.
There is however some good news from both natural and orthodox medicine. Since I began my research and started looking at effective treatments, luckily the scientific community have also made great strides investigating problems specific to Candida. In particular they have looked at orthodox treatments and responsiveness relative to what are known as biofilms which are communities in which bacteria and fungi live. Although, until quite recently they were thought to exist as free-floating organisms, in reality what often happens is that they live together as a variety of strains which are protected by a polysaccaride matrix or a ‘film.’ This film, which is also referred to as ‘slime’ in scientific circles, prevents not only your immune system accessing and destroying the community members, but also antibiotics. Because individuals within the community are also known to communicate, (by a method known as ‘quorum sensing’) when they have been attacked by antibiotics they actually strengthen not only the number of community members but also the protective coating. This has the resultant effects of not only making the infection worse but also making the film more difficult to penetrate. One orthodox treatment which is specific for Candida was actually found to trigger a response from the biofilm community and, within a 72 hour period they had already strengthened their reserves against it! 3. Another problem which can arise with Candida is due to the ability of the different strains (there are over 20) for one strain to actually transform into another. If you combine the problems associated with biofilms together with the transformational ability of this fungi, then you can clearly see why this particular overgrowth can be so resistant to orthodox treatments.
Now, if we look again at the situation through fresh eyes, we can see how someone who lives a healthy lifestyle may still be afflicted with an illness arising from dysbiosis. Maybe they took oral contraceptives for a number of years, or received antibiotics for an infection. If so, then the likelihood that the stage for dysbiosis was already set sometime in the past is more than probable. When we then look at the resilience of overgrowth within the intestine in respect of biofilms, quorum sensing, and the known ability of at least some fungi to transform, then we can see not only how the problem arises but also how difficult it is to remedy even when we turn to a more natural and holistic way of living.
Certainly it would seem that healthy living may prevent a problem arising in the future, but for a condition which has, if you will, been manifesting over a long period of time and generally pre-dates the healthier lifestyle, then some form of effective intervention is likely to be essential no matter how or where you live your life.
And this, if you like, is where I originally came in. I realized many years ago that Candida was resistant to orthodox treatments and the only way to resolve the situation was by using natural remedies. By combining a number of phytochemicals, I discovered that it was possible to simultaneously strengthen the immune system, reduce the Candida overgrowth and increase the volume of healthy bacteria to ensure the overgrowth continued to be suppressed. More recently I also realized that some of these natural products can break down the barrier of the biofilm allowing access to the community within without triggering the responsive reaction which results in the strengthening of the protective coating.
It would seem that, although much of my theorizing relative to observation and natural treatments were not only correct, but that I had also, inadvertently, initiated a way to break down biofilms at a time when their existence was unheard of.
No doubt that healthy living can and does provide protection against many health issues in the coming years, however I would also include the caveat that, unfortunately, it cannot protect against illnesses such as dysbiosis which are highly likely to have at least one foot in the past.