Disclaimer: I’m about to talk about poop and how it relates to your health. If you don’t like to talk about poop read no further and have a spectacular day. The information in this post is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.
In my quest to heal my digestive health I had a comprehensive stool analysis done in March of 2016 to find out if my poop is healthy. With the excitement of the move from Toronto to Ottawa I received an action plan from my Naturopath in Toronto but was absolutely horrible at compliance so I’m starting from scratch this month after meeting with a Functional Medicine Practitioner here in Ottawa.
The test found 2 different things that have been causing problems with my digestion.
Imbalanced & Dysbiotic Flora that includes Alpha Hemolytic strep, Citrobacter Amalonaticus, Gamma hemolytic strep and Staphylococcus Aureus
The lab also tests for what natural & conventional treatments would work best to kill off the yeast and bad bacteria. From a natural standpoint, Grapefruit Seed Extract was tested to work the best. After discussing the action plan with a Naturopath in Ottawa, I’ll be taking the Grapefruit Seed Extract 3 times daily. 1 capsule = 250mg.
I’m going to stop all probiotic supplementation at the moment while I kill off the yeast & bad bacteria overgrowth. After one month we’ll re-test my stool to see where my body is at before putting together an action plan for re-populating the good bacteria in my gut by ensuring the yeast & bad flora have actually been killed off before supplementing with specific strains of probiotic.
Here’s to a healthy gut and healthy poop in the future on my continued quest for better digestive health.
On Sunday I tackled not only my first long bike ride but I was able to give back to the Multiple Sclerosis Society in a financial way. My future mother-in-law, Rachel, offered to join me on this ride. Since Mike had to work this past weekend it was a girl’s only event.
We arrived in Prince Edward Country on Saturday afternoon. I booked us a hotel room in Picton by the harbour. We checked in and then headed over to the Community Centre to register. Because we were both able to fundraise over $1,000 each we were gifted with MS branded Jersey by one of the sponsors Louis Garneau.
In total, the Alpha Female team raised $2,310. To everyone that donated I’m very very grateful for your generosity.
At registration, we grabbed ribbons for our bibs. Since we are both rookies to the ride we grabbed the green ribbon (seen below), the $1,000 club ribbon and I will end MS (the black ribbon seen below). What grabbed my heart on Sunday morning was seeing that Rachel had also put a “Someone I Love Has MS” ribbon on her bib (the maroon one seen below). That might have made me tear up a bit.
We were only going to tackle the 40km portion of the ride since it was my first time on a bike. After buying the bike in the fall of 2015 and being absolutely terrified my first time on it I was a bit skeptical about how I’d do this time out. But after 2 rides the week before the ride with Mike coaching me (one 5km and one 8km) I felt great. We headed out Sunday morning with perfect weather. It was overcast but not too cold. The wind gusts were a bit strong at times but nothing unbearable.
I still wasn’t confident enough to clip in so I was peddling on clip pedals with my trusty Mizuno Wave Rider 18s. Around the 20km mark after one pit stop for snacks and water, we were feeling great so I suggested we bump our goal up to the 75km route and Rachel was game. I’m glad we did because the view of Prince Edward County and the Big Island was just gorgeous. There were minimal cars on the road and I loved hitting the downhills. To think that only last October I had tears streaming down my face in fear from attempting a hill for the first time.
There were 4 pit stops for the 75km route with ample water, Gatorade, port-o-potties, snacks (I loved the peaches at stops 2 & 3) and even a band to serenade us. The MS Society of Canada had put up signs thanking all the teams & top fundraisers.
I’m a little sore, bruised and tired but very very happy of not only the fundraising efforts of those in my circle but also my physical achievement on the bike. My foot was weirdly numb and tingly the whole ride but I felt strong. I powered up every single uphill and can’t wait to learn how to clip in so I actually have to do less work than my running shoes had to do on the clip pedals! The only potentially crazy part of the ride was when a hornet flew into my helmet on one of the long uphills. I didn’t want to stop so I prayed he would’t sting me until I got to the top. I stopped and ripped my helmet off and sent him on his way. Definitely a bee in your bonnet type moment.
I’m so grateful I had the bonding opportunity with Mike’s mom and I’m so grateful that we are contributing to a society that is working hard to find a cure within my lifetime.
The lesion on your spine is no longer visible on the MRI. However, you have 2 new lesions on your brain.
I was filled with excitement and disappointment all within 30 seconds of hearing my family doctor’s voice over the phone.
Since my diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis in 2014 what’s been amazing is that when my MRI results come in, a copy of the report gets sent to my family doctor and she would call me right away to give me the news. I heard from her first in July 2015 and at the end of March 2016. So why am I only blogging about the March results now? Because I wanted to speak with a neurologist to properly process the results.
Ok so back to the story…
“Wait? What did you say? [pause for effect]
The lesion on my spine is gone? [more pausing]
What does that mean? Gone? Like no inflammation gone, or I’ve re-myelinated gone? [more pausing]
I had my “annual” spine & brain MRI the last week of March. The last MRI to monitor the potential progression of my Multiple Sclerosis was in July 2015. At that time last year, I had amazing news. I had no new lesions and many looked diminished in size. This time around, the report wasn’t as rosy. My family doctor called me the first week of April with the news. She said that she believes the spine news is a positive one but to confirm with my neurologist. I had to cancel my appointment with Dr. Baskind which was scheduled for mid-May as I had moved to Ottawa suddenly. So I had to wait patiently for a referral to the MS Clinic at the Ottawa Hospital, to meet a new neurologist.
As I said goodbye to my family doctor, she paused and said “I just wanted to let you know it’s been amazing to see how you’re taking care of yourself, it’s truly an inspiration.” It was so amazing to hear that from one of my health care team members and really lit my heart up.
It was taking forever to get an appointment. Luckily (or unluckily) my father had an appointment with his neurologist in June and let them know I was waiting for an appointment. We discovered that my records from North York Hospital hadn’t been sent over yet so a quick phone call to the records department and they were on their way.
I was seen on June 20th by a resident who put me through the interview portion of the appointment and all the neurology tests. I was finally able to ask her some questions including why did she have an interest in neurology and also requested to see the attending physician Dr. MacLean. She seemed in a rush when I saw her and I didn’t feel like she had the best bedside manners but she took the time to answer the questions I had prepared in advance and written down just in case.
I asked what the spine MRI meant. It was explained to me that I was correct in believing the inflammation is gone. The MRI technology is not sophisticated enough to actually see the myelin sheath so we can’t actually tell how much re-myelination has occurred in the area. It would only be visible if a cross-section were to be taken and for that to happen I’d have to be dead. So with that, I’m ok with no lesion showing up on the scan. I have to believe that what I’m doing to decrease inflammation is working.
I asked if I needed to worry about the 2 new lesions on my brain and while my new neurologist was honest that I should continue to think about Disease Modifying Drugs (DMDs) she fully supports and appreciates that I’m treating myself holistically. She said she would’ve been more worried if there were more than 2 new lesions so I can continue taking care of myself as I have been. I feel confident in staying with my current regime and ensuring I’m 100% compliant with the holistic, healthy habits that decrease inflammation and stress on my body.
I could’ve been really upset with the brain news but I chose to separate the two. I chose to celebrate the spine news and understand that the brain news is just a gut check to take better care of myself. Since my July MRIs, several things have happened. I spent months in a relationship questioning if it was right. Not wanting to hurt another individual and eventually completing that relationship at the end of 2015. This, needless to say, wasn’t exactly without stress. The week of the MRIs I left my full-time job at Kobo and was deciding to move across the province to Ottawa to be with a man I met 6 months ago. Amazing news but nevertheless, stress-inducing. I tried my hardest to not let it affect me but I can only handle so much. I wasn’t sleeping properly all the time. I can’t say that my supplement compliance has been 100%. So with those confessions I know I can take note of where I’ve been lacking and take these results as simply a reminder that I can always take better care of myself. This is simply a mark on the disease continuum to go back to everything I was doing when I was newly diagnosed. I’ve been a bit lazy and that’s ok. I can’t always be perfect. But I can continue to strive for better.
1. How many of the patients are eating a healthy diet with no inflammatory foods in addition to the chemo & stem cell treatment?
Unfortunately, this was not a focus of the study and therefore there is no answer.
2. Is sleep & decreasing stress ever factored into this study?
Unfortunately, this was not a focus of the study and therefore there is no answer.
3. Does this research study have any impact on regenerating the myelin sheath or simply halting the progression of the disease?
Simply halting progression or reversing symptoms in the body. They are not able to study if there is the possibility of re-myelination.
3. Will this treatment be covered by our Health Care system or will patients have to pay out of pocket?
Too early to tell.
I also asked if these patients are being treated with their own stem cells and if MS is partially genetic what’s to say those cells won’t get confused in the future and start attacking the body again. I was informed that this is indeed a possibility but the hope is that these new cells won’t be exposed to toxins or environmental or lifestyle elements that contributed to this disease developing in patients in the first place so it hopefully won’t develop in the future. I completely see the benefits in this trial but I believe it is still too early to tell and the way the information was presented was very misleading to the general public who have been messaging me left right and centre that they’ve found a cure! I’m not being a negative nancy about it but if anything I’ve learned how to be realistic with this sidekick and I’m careful with the way all information is presented.
So on that note, I’m off to relax, destress for the evening, play with the puppies, take an Epsom salt bath and attempt 8 hours of sleep with one pee break in the middle of the night for Rogue.
Disclaimer: This is merely a blog showing a window into my health care plan and how I approach caring for myself. The information held on this blog is merely the opinion of a layman individual. I am not a doctor nor do I claim to have any formal medical background. I am not liable, either expressly or in an implied manner, nor claim any responsibility for any emotional or physical problems that may occur directly or indirectly from reading this blog.
At the beginning of 2016, I decided to up my holistic health care to a new level. I found a functional medicine doctor and practice in Toronto called The Dempster Clinic run by Dr. John Dempster. After 2 appointments I’ve come home armed with new test results and a new supplement protocol routine.
Why did I decide to start going to a functional medicine doctor? Two books that have been important in my care are by Dr. Terry Wahls and Dr. Amy Myers, both functional medicine doctors in the US. I wanted to find one a little closer to home. So I simply googled functional medicine Toronto and found Dr. Dempster.
He boasts a list of qualifications on his website that intrigued me.
Summary of Qualifications:
Board Certified Naturopathic Doctor (CCNM)
Licensed to practice Naturopathic Medicine in Ontario
Licensed to practice Parenteral (IV) Therapy in Ontario
Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors, member
Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors, member
Board Certified Fellow in Anti-Aging, Regenerative, and Functional Medicine (FAARFM)
Board Certified member of The American Board of Anti-Aging Health Practitioners (ABAAHP)
I am already in the care of my current Naturopath but I was really curious about Functional Medicine and wanted to see if there were practitioners in Canada and how they could add to my overall care.
Dr. Dempster and I chatted over the phone about my MS diagnosis, my supplement routine, my digestive health and the steps I’ve been taking so far to clear up my irritable bowel symptoms. He told me there was a multitude of tests we could go over. I said I was diving deep into research and was learning about things like organic acid tests or hair mineral analysis, etc and wasn’t sure what would be appropriate for me and my health care. He seemed knowledgeable and wasn’t dismissive in regards to my self-education so I decided to make an initial consultation.
The clinic is in the heart of Yorkville, Toronto, (97 Scollard St) on the second floor of a house turned into a business. The clinic is clean, welcoming and has a warm ambiance. Dr. Dempster has a vitamin IV service so he was in and out of a room while I waited, administering vitamin cocktails to patients.
I had so many questions but definitely felt rushed moving through them once we got into his office. As part of the onboarding, I received a sheet of paper of all the tests they had access to. I wanted to know what everything’s purpose was. I’m curious like that. I know he was being short and concise in his answers or the appointment could’ve been hours but I didn’t feel very comfortable at that point. I definitely felt like I was being rushed and at one point even asked if we only had a short amount of time. In Canada, we are used to publicly funded health care. However, functional medicine is considered private medicine. Although the cost of the appointment is thankfully covered under my benefits, tests that could be performed would be paid out of pocket. I wanted to ensure I was getting enough time to ask all the millions of questions that can pop into my head about my health care.
What I thought was really great at the Clinic was the onboarding paperwork which was sent to me ahead of time so I could complete and bring in. It was extremely thorough. At one point in the onboarding, I was asked what my top 3 objectives were for coming in. I believe I wrote down.
Manage my MS for life
Completely heal my gut health
Ensure I’m taking the right supplements and understand if they are working
This definitely provides a focus for a doctor / patient relationship.
Here’s a bit of background on the lab conducting the test and how it works.
SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc., is a specialized clinical testing laboratory company. [They] were established in 1993 to commercialize a patented, groundbreaking technology for micronutrient testing. The technology was developed at the University of Texas, by the Clayton Foundation for Research, as a diagnostic blood test for helping clinicians assess the intracellular function of essential micronutrients.
It was explained to me and I did my own online research after the appointment to confirm that: “Micronutrient testing measures how micronutrients are actually functioning within your white blood cells.” I had been previously looking at blood tests requisitioned by my family doctor which was explained to me to only give me a picture of what’s in my body in the past 24 hours while a micronutrient test of your white blood cells provides a larger picture up to 6 months. I was excited to see what my body has actually been able to absorb from the food that I eat, to the supplements that I take.
We discovered that I’m deficient in:
Vitamin B6, Zinc, Glutamine, Coenzyme Q-10, Inositol, Insulin and Immunidex
The results printout I received is comprehensive and I was explained how to read them. Anything with a green box above the yellow line shows adequate levels, black in the yellow line was borderline deficient and anything red in the blue area was considered deficient.
So Vitamin B6 turned up deficient but I was also borderline deficient in Vitamin B2. Deficiency symptoms that I’ve seen in my demeanour lately include irritability & anxiety.
From an Amino Acids & Metabolites standpoint, I was deficient in Glutamine (which was shocking as I take 2 scoops a day) and Inositol. I was borderline deficient with Serine and Choline as well. There are no deficiency symptoms for Glutamine because of “endogenous synthesis and high dietary intakes.” I didn’t even know what Inositol was. I have never come across it in my health journey to date. Symptoms of an Inositol deficiency have not been reported conclusively but could include eczema and insomnia. The skin on my hands has been extremely dry lately and due to anxiety a bit of insomnia exists in the first few months of the year as my life was going through some major changes.
In terms of other vitamins & minerals, we discovered I was completely deficient in Zinc and borderline deficient in Vitamin D3 which was interesting as my 24-hour blood level show it to be sufficient and I dose at 8,000 IUs a day. Dr. Dempster also believes I was dealing with adrenal fatigue when ran the iris dilation test and my pupils decided to grow larger when exposed to light which is the opposite effect of normal function. Symptoms of a zinc deficiency include fatigue which I’ve been experiencing since January. I’ve barely wanted to work out and opted for sleeping in many times over morning workouts or working on my side hustles. I’ve also had poor wound healing for a while now. The scrapes and bruises I get from OCR-related training always take forever to disappear. I cut my shin twice in February doing box jumps and tripping at a spa and the scabs are still healing on my shin.
They tested my carbohydrate metabolism and I’m deficient in glucose-insulin interaction. My chromium levels are borderline deficient and the report states this level is “closely linked with insulin function and glucose tolerance”. This definitely deserves extra insight as I’m not currently consuming any carbohydrates, refined or processed sugars.
Additionally, my coenzyme Q-10 was showing up in the red zone and Cysteine & Vitamin C are borderline deficient. The only deficient symptom of CoQ10 would be the same fatigue I’ve explained prior.
Finally, they do a test called Spectrox which indicates antioxidant function. I am below 40% which indicates a decreased ability to resist oxidative stress or an increased antioxidant load. When we look at my Immunidex it indicates a deficiency which translates that it may indicate a weakened cell-mediated immune response. This doesn’t really shock me if I’m dealing with an auto-immune disease on my hands. Thanks, test!
The report from the lab is very comprehensive. It explains the function of each area of deficiency, symptoms I may be experiencing due to the deficiency and repletion information. There is so much information there it’s a bit overwhelming. I can start looking at my weekly meal plans and see where I can fortify my deficiencies with food and continue to support my immune system through supplementation to ensure I’m getting all the micronutrients my body needs. I have a supplement protocol plan outlined by Dr. Dempster and I’ll continue to monitor my symptoms associated with these deficiencies moving forward. I’m not sure if I’ll repeat this test at a further date as it was quite expensive but it’s a great measure moving forward.
However, my one confusion was receiving the test and not discussing possible causes but simply going into how to change my supplementation only. My understanding of functional medicine is that it’s supposed to deal with the root of the problem and not just treat the symptoms. I would’ve valued much more time spent discussing root problems.
Supplement Protocol Plan
Increase my CoQ10 supplement from once to twice a day
Consistent 8,000 IUs of Vitamin D3 daily
Increase my NAC from once to twice a day
Start taking a B Supreme & B5/B6 supplement twice a day
Start taking a Zinc supplement daily
Consistently take current Vitamin C supplement twice a day
Start a new Glutamine supplement and take 2 tsp a day
I’m not going to lie and say it’s super easy to just adapt things easily into my lifestyle. Moving to Ottawa and trying to ensure I’m creating a new daily routine for myself while changing my supplement protocol is proving to be challenging in terms of compliance. I have alarms set on my phone to remind me to take everything but I’m starting to ignore them and dismiss them. I’m going to have to do something about it to ensure I’m getting back on track.
How do you find out if you have a leaky gut? Stay at home and pee in a bottle for 6 hours.
That’s what the test instructions basically said and since that’s technically easy enough I freed up a Saturday and got myself mentally prepared for capturing urine in a bottle that would be stored in my fridge all day. I know, it’s a lovely thought. If you’re squeamish or hate talking about body fluids you’ve been forewarned.
In March 2016, I visited the Dempster Clinic, a functional medicine clinic in Toronto in search of more answers to how my body is functioning. I came home with 2 different tests (leaky gut test & full nutrient panel) and an acai bowl from The Good Press in Yorkville. I needed a treat after being super overwhelmed with the number of things I can test for. I also had a stool test at home that was a requisition from my primary Naturopath. I had discussed with Dr. Dempster the importance of going off of probiotics for 2 weeks prior to completing that test.
I’ve been doing a ton of things from an auto-immune paleo elimination diet to a fibre supplement every morning, to acupuncture of digestive points, to reducing morning green smoothies that are too cold for my body to digest and drum roll, please… I have been slowly feeling like everything has been working. TMI but solid bowel movements come more often than not in the past 3 months and are fully celebrated with a fist pump.
Dr. Dempster explained that an intestine permeability test directly measures the ability of two non-metabolized sugar molecules to permeate the intestinal mucosa. The patient drinks a pre-measured amount of lactulose and mannitol. The degree of intestinal permeability or malabsorption is reflected in the levels of the two sugars recovered in a urine sample collected over the next 6 hours.
So this is how that fateful Saturday went:
Step 1: Wake up, collect pee in a cup, and transfer to a test tube using a pipette (throw away pipette).
Step 2: Drink provided lactulose mannitol liquid.
Step 3: Collect pee every 6 hours in a cup and transfer it to the large container that you store in your fridge.
Step 4: At the 6-hour mark, shake the container, and use the second pipette in the test kit to transfer pee to the test tube. Place in provided kit box, pre-paid packaging and call Purolator to pick up based on same day instructions provided in the kit.
Results: I officially do not have a leaky gut!! In the past 3 months, I’ve consistently had solid bowel movements which have been leading me to believe that all my usual leaky gut type symptoms (loose bowel movements, gas, bloating) have been slowly going away. So to confirm that my intestines aren’t leaking is actually freaking fantabulous great news.
If I could high-five my intestines I would.
Next Steps in my Digestive Health journey: I need to figure out what type of gut bacteria is actually living inside my body and what role they play in being able to break down the foods I’m consuming. I’m still on an auto-immune paleo meal plan which means no dairy, no gluten, no nightshade vegetables, no processed foods and no added processed sugar (I get all mine from fruit!) So the stool test will hopefully have more answers. At the time that I got all the tests, I had to wait 2 weeks to get off of probiotics before doing the stool test so I’ll have to wait for those results a bit later.