Ask me what I wanted to do with my life when I was a kid, and I would have told you I was going to help those in need across the world. Ask me now, and I’ll tell you that I’m devoting my life to helping others, abroad and locally, by becoming a Naturopathic Doctor. Never in a million years would I have guessed that I would enter the health field, but life has a way of surprising you, doesn’t it?
This story began one day when I was 16 and getting ready for school. I noticed that my hair didn’t seem to be growing as healthy, fast, or strong as it used to. I didn’t understand why my hair seemed to be thinning and not growing. After a few more months, there was no improvement and I knew something wasn’t right.
I went to see my family doctor who conducted some assessments that included a T3 test, T4 test, iron level test, and TSH test. The results indicated nothing out of the ordinary and thus she concluded nothing was wrong with me. I went home disappointed, but decided to take it upon myself to research other health professionals who might help me. This is when I found naturopathic medicine and a local Naturopathic Doctor (ND).
I started meeting with the ND when I was 17, but it took about a year and a half to fully uncover my underlying problem. Through a live blood cell analysis, it became apparent that I had been suffering from leaky gut syndrome and malabsorption. In fact, my case was so severe that the technician conducting the live cell equipment asked if she could keep a copy of some screenshots of my blood!
Leaky gut syndrome occurs when the intestinal lining is so inflamed that tiny holes form; this causes food particles and nutrients to leak through into the abdomen and blood stream. Once this happens, the body perceives these molecules as foreign invaders and produces immunoglobulins to attack them, which leads to mal-absorption, digestive problems, and more. I could see this on the live blood cell analysis which showed pockets of colourful molecules everywhere throughout my red and white blood cells.
This had been going on internally for years, and eventually exterior effects became noticeable. Every-thing I ate, and the supplements I took, leaked into my bloodstream instead of being absorbed. What a waste!
The Role of Antibiotics
I was later told that one of the main causes for my leaky gut syndrome was the antibiotics I had been prescribed throughout my life for awful sinus problems. Antibiotics are harmful to the gut flora because they cause a substantial loss of diversity, thus changing the overall composition. Antibiotics work to deplete the beneficial bacteria located in the intestinal terrain, bacteria which are necessary as they help to break down excess bile salts which are dangerous to the large intestine and contribute to the causation of leaky gut syndrome. In addition, antibiotics help foster the growth of Candida, and other fungi and yeast, all of which are contributing factors in leaky gut syndrome.
The Naturopathic Approach
To begin healing my body and repairing the damage caused by leaky gut syndrome, my naturopath prescribed a series of supplements.
Supplements to improve my overall health:
Probiotics: at least 10 billion, twice a day in the beginning then down to once a day (the brand I took was Progressive Probiotics HCP30, which provide 15 billion cells per capsule)
Fish oil: twice a day (approximately 500 mg EPA and 300 mg DHA)
Supplements to help alleviate leaky gut syndrome:
Parasite Herbal Formula: Part of the reason I had leaky gut syndrome was because I had parasites. So I took a parasite formula that included multiple herbs, one of which was Artemisia Annua (Sweet Annie) which kills parasites in the blood. My boyfriend also had his blood checked and parasites were found, but no leaky gut signs. My ND speculated that I may have gotten the parasites from him since mine were younger than his, and that he had got them from hockey gloves or other equipment in a change room. She called them ‘environmental parasites.’ After taking two capsules of the parasite herbal formula, twice a day for about 6 weeks, we again had our blood examined, and there were no more parasites. We took Genestra brand’s Berberis Formula. Here is a link to the supplement and the breakdown of ingredients: http://tinyurl.com/p3ekegq
Magnesium: This was for my overall health, due to the strain that leaky gut syndrome was placing on it. It was either my thyroid or adrenals (I don’t remember which) that registered as over-active through a urine test. I took magnesium at night, for about five months, to calm my system down. It helped, and the next time I took the test, my adrenal score was in the healthy range. I took a dose of roughly 135 mg per capsule.
B12 Complex: Live blood cell analysis revealed that I was not getting enough vitamin B12. I began to take a liquid B12 complex under the tongue because I was advised that it is better absorbed in liquid form. The dose was 1 mL a day, which contained: vitamin B2 (1.7 mg), niacinamide (20 mg), B6 (2 mg), B12 (1.2 mg), pantothenic acid (30 mg). After taking one dropperfull a day for four months, my cells were no longer deficient.
Aloe Vera Juice: To repair the holes in my intestine, I drank aloe vera juice. I was told that drinking it would heal my intestine just as it can heal burns on skin, so I added it to my morning smoothies. The amount I took was approximately 1/4 a cup a day. However, it got to a point where I would just open the fridge and sip my Lily of the Desert juice straight from the bottle daily. I did this for about 2 months, and afterwards my blood cell analysis no longer showed pockets of those brightly coloured molecules (in live blood cell analysis the fairly colourless red and white blood cells aren’t visible; the nutrients that should not be there show up as colour). I still drink this juice today.
Digestive Enzymes: I began to take these to help my stomach break down and absorb my food. I took one pill before my biggest meal of the day, usually dinner. The ingredients in the digestive formula were: amylase (140 mg), lipase (80 mg), protease (70 mg), maltase (60 mg), lactase (30 mg), sucrase (30 mg), cellulase (20 mg) and bromelain (40 mg). I could feel that I was digesting more easily because I felt less ‘heavy’ or full after meals.
Supplements for restoring hair growth:
Silicon: I took Flora’s Florisil twice a day for about 8 months; it contains silicon, a building block for collagen. Each capsule has 4.7 mg of silicon. This made a massive difference; my hair grew thicker and healthier.
Fish Oil: Because I know that GLA can benefit hair, and it’s hard to get enough through food only, I chose a fish oil supplement made by Quest that contains flax and borage oil as well. Each capsule contains 400 mg of fish oil (120 mg EPA and 80 mg DHA), 400 mg of flax seed oil (212 mg alpha-linolenic acid, 208 mg linoleic acid and 181 mg oleic acid) and 400 mg of borage seed oil (76 mg GLA). I took two capsules twice a day. However, right now I am test driving a different fish oil made by Progressive: http://tinyurl.com/kerbs2g
Biotin: In December (2014) I started taking Biotin and have noticed this has also made a difference in my hair. I take 1000 mcg once or twice daily. A lot of people recommend taking 5000 mcg daily, however when I tried this a couple years ago, I noticed my skin broke out. I am not one to break out or get acne, so I decided to try it again but in a lower dosage. Thus far, it has not affected my skin. I use the Now brand, found in many health stores: https://www.seroyal.ca/berberis-formula.html.
Foods: Added and Avoided
Around the time that I started healing from leaky gut syndrome, I was finishing my first year of university. That year I ate lots of unhealthy fast foods from the cafeteria, but at the end of my first year, in an attempt to get healthier and aid my recovery, I cut out all refined carbohydrates. So I stopped eating bread, pasta, cereal, rice, corn, or potatoes. I also cut out soda, sweets, chocolate, energy drinks, fruit juice, and some dairy products.
I had basically gone Paleo without knowing it. This meant I was now eating veggies, fruit, seeds, nuts, meat, and eggs. I also began buying more organic food. When I changed to this way of eating, I was able to keep a healthy weight. I also found I had more energy, slept better, had clearer skin, and more balanced moods. I have been eating like this for more than two years now.
The first time I had my blood cell analysis done, parasites were found. After going on the parasite herbal formula, almost all of the parasites were gone. However, many of the dead parasites showed up as still remaining in my blood. I was advised to take vitamin C (if I remember correctly) to flush out all the dead parasites. The next time I had an analysis done, the parasite carcasses were completely gone.
To aid in hydration and blood cell movement, I began to drink lemon water, especially first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach. This helped to clear toxins from my blood cells. I still do this today: I make lemon, cucumber, and ginger water, and I drink it throughout the day.
Toxin-free Personal Care Products
I changed shampoos; I began using sulphate-free shampoo and conditioner. And I like to use either a five minute conditioner or coconut oil on the ends of my hair after every wash to prevent damage. I use 100% organic shea butter as a heat protectant when I style my hair. Recently I began doing an apple cider vinegar rinse before washing my hair to remove built-up chemicals and chlorine. It makes a significant difference. I do this twice a month, using one part vinegar to three parts water. I soak my hair for a few minutes in the mix, rinse, and continue my usual hair wash routine. My hair feels softer and less weighed down after.
In addition to my nutritional regimen, I started to exercise and changed my attitude towards myself. After I started seeing a naturopathic doctor, I began going to the gym three to five times a week. I continue to do this today, and I change my workout routine often. Exercise helps to regulate the oxygen and hormones in my body, and improves my digestion. I changed the outlook I had on myself because I started to take better care of myself. I became very aware of everything I was putting into my body, and I started to listen to what my body wanted.
When you take better care of yourself through what you eat and how much you exercise, you begin to think more positively, and you appreciate everything your body can do.
Finally, several months after restoring the health of my intestinal lining, and eating clean, I began to see and feel thicker, healthier hair. I also slept better, had more energy, could think more clearly, and felt emotionally more stable every day.
This is when I fell in love with naturopathic medicine. When conventional medicine and doctors couldn’t help me, natural and traditional ways could. From that point on, I decided to focus more on eating clean, exercising, cooking healthy food, taking the best quality natural medicine, and practising positive thinking. This has made such a difference in my physical and emotional health, I’m forever grateful.
Today, I’m finishing my undergrad degree and I will be applying to naturopathic medical school soon. I can’t think of a better way to help others than by building a career that focuses on healing the body by alleviating the core problem through natural, scientifically proven ways.
If you have any questions for Brittany, email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on naturopathic medicine, or to find an ND in your area, visit either of the following websites and click on ‘Find a Naturopathic Doctor’:
- Provincial (Ontario residents): www.OAND.org
- National: www.CAND.ca (all provinces can be accessed via this website)