Series article by Andrea Bremner
Here follows a series of articles on gut health. To set the scene I am going to give you my history and how I ended up studying and researching into the gut microbiome.
My parents divorced when I was three years old and my autocratic step-father moved into my life from the age of five, I spent the next 13 years trying to avoid him. From the age of 11-15 years, I was a national squad gymnast training 24 hours a week. I was also a high achiever at school, working day and night for all my exams, never handing a piece of homework in late even though I was training 24 hours a week. My childhood was fueled by anxiety experiencing stress in my sport, stress at school and stress at home. At university I completed my BSc (Hons) and went on to do my MSc in Physiology and Psychology from Loughborough University, graduating in 1990. Since then I have worked in the field of mental and physical health using tools of Neuro Linguistic Programming and Nutrition Coaching.
I am convinced that extreme stress in my early life caused me mental and physical harm as I got older. I was diagnosed with Reynauds Syndrome at the age of 14, anaemia at the age of 18 and IBS at the age of 19, had my first panic attack at the age of 27 and by my early 30s had developed chronic back ache. After the birth of my two children, when I was 35 and 36, my back ache got worse and worse and soon developed into chronic fatigue, anxiety and depression. I went on a mission for 15 years, seeing ‘every-ologist’ to try and solve my aching body, but nobody could help me. Eventually, an insightful physio referred me to a Rheumatologist and subsequently my prayers were answered with a diagnosis of an autoimmune disorder, Sjorgrens.
Bingo! I was soon to realise that my chronic pain and fatigue was as a result of a faulty immune system and inflammation. I was put onto high levels of drugs to try and reduce my symptoms: Hydroxychloroquine (immune suppressant), Naproxen (anti-inflammatory), Co-codemol (painkiller). All these drugs did was mask the pain and in no way solved the problem. If anything, long term, they were making the problem worse. I asked my Rheumatologist if there was any diet that I should be following to reduce my symptoms and he replied, “There is no known diet that will help autoimmune disorders.” I thought, “that has to be a load of rubbish,” and so I went on a quest to find out how I could help heal my faulty immune system with food. I knocked on many doors of people with autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and Sjorgrens and by doing so I discovered the microbiome. I subsequently realised that if I could heal my extremely damaged microbes and gut wall, I could go a long way to reducing the inflammation coursing through my body causing me mental and physical distress.
Having spent now 18 months along this journey, what I am going to share with you in this series of articles, is how our microbiome and gut wall is intricately linked with our vascular system, our endocrine system, our nervous system and our immune system. And how this entwined relationship affects what ends up in our blood, how our hormones and neurotransmitters are produced and how our immune system constantly battles valiantly to achieve homeostasis within our body.
The reason why I tell you my story at the start is because, though I am a scientist and come at this from a scientific perspective, I also explain the microbiome from a personal perspective. I shall tell you what I discovered and what I have done to heal myself and many of my clients who all suffer from a variety of different conditions which all link to a damaged microbiome. Conditions such as; autoimmune, obesity, anxiety, diabetes, digestive issues, allergies, skin conditions, Parkinson’s, sleep issues, hot flashes, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, to name a few. Of particular interest to me during my journey was the effect that resetting the microbiome and healing the gut has on mental health. Having worked in the field of psychotherapy for 20 years, healing the gut is, for me, the final piece in the jigsaw when it comes to mental health.
So, if you are interested, read along each month as I talk you through mine and my client’s journeys from anxious, tired, achy, overweight and bloated individuals, to motivated individuals with energy, freedom, zest and happiness functioning at our optimum, and more importantly medicine-free.
This is relatively new science and revolutionary stuff with lots of information, so I hope you are awake! Prepare yourself for a fast ride, buckle your seatbelts, arm rests down, lap trays up! This could just change yours or your client’s life. It did mine.
The bacteria, fungi, viruses and archaea which live in your gut and on your skin is called your microbiome. You may hear it called the microbiota and there is a subtle difference between the two, but you don’t need to know that for the purpose of these series of articles. I shall just call them your microbes, which is a natural ecosystem totally cultivated by you. There are around 90 trillion of them (not sure who did the counting!) but that is 1,500 times more humans than on the planet all squashed into your abdomen, with more on one of your fingertips than there are people in Britain! Obviously, they are microscopic, be a bit scary if they weren’t! Of those 90 trillion, there are 5,000 different species. What is interesting is that we only have 10 trillion human cells in our bodies, which means that by cell count, we are only 10% human. Even more fascinating is the statistics when we look at our DNA. Humans have just shy of 21,000 genes, which sounds quite a lot, but when you discover that a fruit fly has 31,000 genes and a rice plant 42,000 genes, it begs the question, how do we run this complex human body with such a small number of genes? Well, our microbes collectively between them house 4.4 million genes, and it is these genes that run our bodies. So, we see, at the very start the power of our microbiome. If it is healthy then so will we be, but if we damage it, then the results can be catastrophic, as we will find out in the next article. Until then…
If you want to find out more about the microbiome, gut health and how you can heal yourself and your clients from the inside out, please contact Andrea at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website www.andreabremner.co.uk