Bianca* aged 37, came to see me about her insomnia and subsequent fatigue. She also wanted to quit smoking and reduce her drinking - she was enjoying 3-4 glasses of wine every evening.
She described herself as always being an anxious person, and also had been diagnosed with depression previously. Bianca had seen psychologists and psychiatrists frequently in the past, and at times had been on various antidepressants.
In her 20's, she had been, in her own words, " a bit rock and roll" - binge drinking and regularly taking recreational drugs - which she now felt she had been using to deal with her anxiety and depression.
She never felt completely well. Always tired and she had trouble thinking clearly.
Most nights she had trouble getting to sleep - sometimes she didn't fall asleep until about 3am, and then struggled to get up in the morning. As a result, she was often late for work, and on weekends wouldn't get up until the afternoon.
Bianca was worried about her current mood swings. She noticed that recently she had started lashing out with anger - "explosive rage" she called it. And her libido was low.
After taking her case history, I suspected that she may have Pyrrole disorder -the main biochemical features of this disorder are a severe zinc and B6 deficiency (amongst other nutrients).
A urine test to detect the disorder was organised, and 2 weeks later we had indeed confirmation from the laboratory that Bianca likely had Pyrrole disorder, which meant here body had trouble storing zinc, B6 and other nutrients - vital for mental health and hormonal health.
The next step was to supplement. When dealing with mineral and vitamin deficiencies, it is important to supplement very carefully, as reintroducing too much can cause side effects. So, an individual supplement regime was put together, gently introducing vitamins and minerals to Bianca over a period of time.
In addition to this, I also put together a herbal mix to support the nervous system.
After a month, Bianca came in to my clinic to tell me that she was able to fall asleep more easily, and sleep soundly. She felt better able to manage her mood and angry feelings during the day. What's more she had started to reduce the number of cigarettes she had daily - she noticed that she just didn't think about smoking as much anymore (addictive behaviour has been linked to Pyrrole disorders).
Two months later she reported her energy had improved significantly, and she has the motivation and energy to move from part time to full time work. She was sleeping really well, and found it easier to get up in the morning.
She also noticed that her skin had improved (she suffered from eczema) and her menstrual cycles were more regular and with less incidence of PMS - an example of how when we address the root cause of one thing, we end up improving other health conditions.
Three months later, and Bianca now feels that her energy has gone from 3/10 to 9/10 on average. She has given up smoking, and now only drinks on weekends, just having one drink at a dinner out.
This is a great example of how correcting a nutrient deficiency can have effects in many parts of the mind and body.
Jackie*, a 37 year old accountant, came to see me in my Sydney clinic, wanting help with low energy, low motivation and difficulty concentrating at work. She told me that she would try to eat well during the day, but at night would eat compulsively. She craved chocolate and salty foods especially.
She had had a child 6 years ago, and in that time had gained almost 30 kgs and now weighed 102 kg, which made exercising difficult.
She had tried different diets, including shakes and then a low-calorie, home delivery meal program, but it left her feeling unsatisfied.
During the day she was very tired, but then would have trouble sleeping at night. She was plagued by regular headaches and had also developed eczema on her hands, inside the elbows and behind the knees.
A recent course of antibiotics had complicated things by causing bloating in the abdomen and reflux.
Her mood was very low, and she felt “heavy and stuck”. She found that she was not coping with stress very well.
We undertook some tests which showed that Jackie’s cortisol was elevated, and she also had an imbalance of several key nutrients.
WHAT WE DID
I first started Jackie on a six week nutritional detox program with specific strains of probiotics to support the liver function and establish a healthy flora balance in the gastrointestinal tract. We cut out many processed foods, especially refined carbohydrates and sugars, and started on a “cleaner” way of eating.
At the same time, I prescribed a herbal medicine to help support the nervous system, energy production, stress response and low mood; a high quality fish oil; and also a herbal and magnesium sleep formula.
By week two, Jackie reported a significant improvement in both mood and energy levels along. By week four, she told me her concentration had started to improve, and her bloating reduced. She felt that she now had the energy to start going for a regular 30 minute gentle walk each day.
After 6 weeks, her eczema had improved significantly, and Jackie noticed she didn’t get a headache as much, in fact she couldn’t remember when she had last had one. Even though we hadn’t yet started focusing on weight loss, she lost 4.5 kgs in those 6 weeks, and was thrilled with this.
She was keen to continue with weight loss as an objective, so we commenced on an efficient weight loss protocol with the aim to improve leptin sensitivity (the hormone which regulates appetite) and also discover if there were any particular foods causing inflammation.
By week 10, she had lost a total of 11 kgs. Jackie noticed that she could think more clearly and had a lot more energy and so had joined a gym, where she especially loved the aqua-aerobics classes. She had noticed that she was able to deal with challenges at work which previously used to stress her out.
Jackie had started to enjoy cooking and eating wholesome foods, and had cut out some specific foods which she noticed gave her a headache and skin rashes - a sign of inflammation in the body which can contribute to weight gain.
By week 14, she had lost a total of 15.5 kgs, and her energy had improved so much that she wanted to start training for a 5 day hike in New Zealand, something which had been on her dream list for a long time.
At this point, I moved from Sydney to Coffs Harbour, but I asked Jackie to promise to tell me when she achieved her hike.
Jackie’s case shows how strategic detoxification and weight loss can have so many positive effects on the mind and body. Jackie did all the hard work, but I was proud to be involved with such a positive change.
UPDATE: 3 Years Later
I received an email from Jackie recently who reported that she had spent her 40th birthday in New Zealand, where she completed a 10 day hike (her third long hike!).
She now weighed 72kgs, which was less than before she had her daughter. She had been offered a partnership in her accountancy firm, and she also cheekily shared that her libido had improved.
Her next goal was to start sailing, and to take the family sailing around the world for a year. I can’t wait to hear from her when she achieves this.
Thank you Jackie for letting me share your story today.
Naturopath, Nutritionist and Herbalist