Laura is a 35-year-old mother of two who had been experiencing fatigue, headaches, bouts of constipation and diarrhea, and obnoxious bloating. At times she looked and felt six months pregnant due to the bloating.
When Laura first came to see us, she was certain she must have a food allergy or intolerance. She knew she reacted to food, so she assumed food caused the problem, although she couldn’t put her finger on which food or foods were the trigger.
In fact, she told us it didn’t matter what she ate—everything she ate caused problems and she never really felt good. She further noted that fatty foods, sugary foods and raw foods seemed especially problematic, and with those she would feel even worse.
Laura was very frustrated. She wasn’t able to do the things that she wanted.
Her job was being affected because she couldn’t attend meetings as needed. And her social life was just as compromised, because everywhere she went she had to know where the bathroom was located.
Laura said that we were her last hope. She had seen lots doctors, had many tests done, and even had two different colonoscopies, but nothing had helped.
She was told that she would just have to live with her symptoms. Laura found this unacceptable. She knew that there had to be a cause for her symptoms and she was determined to find out what it was.
When we met with Laura, we agreed that there had to be a cause. First we had to narrow down the possibilities.
After testing, we discovered that she did not actually have any food reactions, even though she suffered symptoms from consuming most foods. So there had to be a different cause behind the reactions to the foods she ate.
This may sound confusing, but when a patient says they react to a food, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the food is the original cause of the problem. There are many reasons you can react to foods. Some of them are due to an actual immune reaction, and some are because of other problems that result in feeling reactive to foods. (A glaring example is food poisoning. If you have food poisoning, it’s not the food that is the problem.)
The next step for Laura was to determine why she still felt reactive to foods. After mapping out the ecosystem of her digestive tract, we discovered she had a yeast overgrowth.
There are few issues in medicine as controversial and as misunderstood as yeast. Yeast, commonly referred to as Candida, is usually associated with vaginal yeast infections; occasionally a patient may also contract oral thrush, or Candida of the tongue and mouth.
However, yeast can also over-colonize the digestive tract, such as in Laura’s case, with disastrous results.
Yeast is a common part of the digestive ecosystem, but only in very small amounts. The more territory yeast acquires, the more problematic it becomes. Yeast doesn’t ferment foods in the same way that healthy bacteria does, and this can result in a variety of digestive problems and bloating. Yeast overgrowth can also cause fatigue, headaches and many other ailments.
Once we began to treat Laura for her yeast she immediately noticed a difference. However, yeast is not easy to treat, and it took Laura four months to recover. Each month was better than the last, and now that she has gotten control of her yeast problem she is ecstatic.
Laura no longer has bloating, constipation, or diarrhea. Her headaches went away after the first month, and her energy is unbelievable. With her treatment Laura was able to get her life back, and we couldn’t be happier for her!
Dr. Stephen Wangen is the award winning author of two books on solving digestive disorders, and a nationally recognized speaker on IBS. He has been on ABC, NBC, and Fox as well as public radio. He was recently named one of Seattle’s Top Doctors by Seattle Magazine.