How Mark Healed Brain Fog and Stomach Pain

Persistence with Healthy Gut, Healthy You heals the gut.

After time spent in Asia led to chronic stomach pain and brain fog, Mark used the Healthy Gut, Healthy You protocol to heal. Learn how Mark recovered using diet, probiotics, antimicrobials and more in the right order at the right time.

In This Episode

Mark’s Story: Indigestion, Throat Tightness, Brain Fog … 00:00:55
Careful with FMT … 00:04:01
A Piecemeal Approach Didn’t Work … 00:06:07
How Mark Recovered Digestive Health … 00:07:44
Fasting & Paleo Diet Helped Symptoms … 00:10:23
Dietary Fiber Pitfalls … 00:11:30
Good Diet Quells Food Cravings … 00:14:48
Antimicrobials … 00:17:40
Exponential Improvement … 00:19:05

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  • Mark developed tightness in the throat, indigestion, and brain fog after spending time in Asia.
  • He saw some improvement with a low FODMAP diet, but symptoms got worse.
  • Mark tried several treatments piecemeal, including FMT (fecal transplant), which made him very sick.
  • Using the Healthy Gut, Healthy You steps and system had him make progress.
  • Within a year, Mark felt recovered. Fasting, a paleo diet, and antimicrobials were especially helpful.

➕ Full Podcast Transcript

Intro:

Welcome to Dr. Ruscio Radio, providing practical and science based solutions to feeling your best. To stay up to date on the latest topics as well as all of our prior episodes, please make sure to subscribe in your podcast player. For weekly updates visit DrRuscio.com. The following discussion is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease. Please do not apply any of this information without first speaking to your doctor. Now let’s head to the show.

DrMichaelRuscio:

Hi everyone, this is Dr. Ruscio and I’m here with Mark, who has had some nice results after reading Healthy Gut, Healthy You, and he’s here today to share his story with us. Welcome. All right, thank you.

Mark’s Story: Indigestion, Throat Tightness, Brain Fog

DrMR:

Tell us a little bit about before Healthy Gut, Healthy You because I like to give people a synopsis of the road up. What were your symptoms? What had you maybe been tinkering with? What did that all look like?

Mark:

Sure. It started about seven years ago and I was living in Hong Kong. I was going through quite a stress at the time. I ate a really, really bad diet looking back. Kind of terrifying how bad it used to be. Just as an example, I used to post-gym workout down a liter of chocolate milk thinking it’s a lot of protein and I’d be fine. Being a skinny guy, it wasn’t really a big deal to me. I didn’t put weight on. So I thought it wasn’t doing me any harm, but it obviously was. So I think the mixture of stress, terrible diet, and maybe living in a region of the world where the quality of water, the level of cleanliness of the water, which is fine for people that have grown up around that. But as a foreigner coming in and probably wasn’t so good for me. I started to get discomfort initially and a bit of tightness in the throat discomfort. Over a period of weeks, I thought I’ll go soon. It will go soon. But it didn’t go. It started getting a little bit worse, so I went to see my GP they just gave me some basic recommendations saying, just wait a little bit longer, maybe try to relax. That kind of stuff but nothing helped and it got gradually worse year after year.

DrMR:

So there was indigestion as well as a feeling of tightness in the throat?

Mark:

If I ate something such as, I don’t know if you have Weetabix in the US but if I ate like a heavy wheat cereal with lots of milk or something like that, maybe for a day or so I would get tightness. But the main symptom was just general discomfort and like a gnawing feeling in the stomach and some cramps in the morning or maybe at night. I think that messed with my head a little bit as well. It caused a little bit confusion and brain fog, which caused me problems at work. Um, and these would all abate and come and go. So it was very difficult and frustrating to describe to a doctor sometimes, especially when it’s the general practitioner, who is usually just thinking it is stress and I’ve not been eating very well. So over the next three or four years, I tried loads of different stuff. I started off doing the basic things like getting off the shelf probiotics, tried to change my diet, being a little more healthy, exercising, meditation. The one thing that did work for about a year and a half, maybe two years was following the FODMAP diet. That did initially work. Towards the end of that two years, it started to tail off. So I started to avoid alcohol. What else did I do? The most extreme thing I tried was FMT under supervision of gastroenterologists. Also didn’t work and it was really bad results for me, a really horrible .

Careful with FMT (Fecal Microbiota Transplant)

DrMR:

So there’s a good thing I just want to piggyback on really quick because one of the things that some of our patients will think is that FMT is the best, most powerful therapeutic that can be used for your gut Understandably so, partially because it’s pretty invasive. Also, it’s a new therapy and sometimes we confuse new with better or good. I routinely advise patients to leave FMT, because it is a viable option, to the very end of the kind of treatment road for the very reasons that you’re describing.

Mark:

It was a really weird experience for me. I read a lot about it and I thought a lot about it beforehand. And I’ve got an engineering, sciencey background, so I like to read up in as many papers that are freely available as possible. But the experience I had was I felt extremely ill. I tried three to four times and after each one I felt like I just wanted to curl up into a ball and die. It was really, really horrible experience. It could have been the donor that I was using. I was recommended to go with my wife as the person that was most in closest proximity to. By that point, I then just reverted back to a semi FODMAP diet and just hoped for the days where I felt healthier. It was common to despair, cause you’re feeling extremely sick. It was quite debilitating. It affected my mind as well and I had a hard job, so it took it’s toll. So I then got involved with a group of people, weirdly, in the US, in Colorado. They mentioned your name and one other that I can’t remember, and recommended you. So I started to listen to one or two of your podcasts, the short podcasts are quite easily digestible. Then I got your book, read it on Kindle and devoured it in about a week and a bit. It was great because I had loads of this stuff that

Speaker 2:

A Piecemeal Approach Didn’t Work

Mark:

I was familiar with, that I read about in different papers, but I just tried them on their own. I just tried them in piecemeal. Yes, it brings some benefits. Like for example, I found doing a 36 – 72 hour fast helped, but then I’d go right back into eating a relatively high carb diet and not doing anything else to follow up on it. Just hoping that that would be the one fix. Putting into a framework really, really did work for me, but I needed to follow all of it. I went through certain parts, the Great-in-8 process. I did that maybe two times, especially the earlier stuff. It was a slow going process for me as well. I was telling myself when I finished the book, four or five months I’ll be done and I’ll be fixed, but it took me a year and I really had to persist. I think if I had not had such lows and if I had not hit rock bottom, I wouldn’t have had the perseverance to stick with it. So I think that’s one of the reasons that I do recommend your book to a lot of people, and one of the things I say is the first step is the fast. If you’re put off by doing a five day fast, then you’ve not hit rock bottom yet because it really has to be that terrible for you to be motivated enough to do it. And honestly, the fast wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I thought it would be.

DrMR:

The modified fasting really isn’t too hard, cause you do have a source of calories just to clarify for people it’s not exclusive fast. You do have the option of bone broth for two to four days, you can go longer if you want.

How Mark Recovered Digestive Health

DrMR:

Let’s jump really quick to where you are now are all the symptoms gone and then let’s come back to what the road through Healthy Gut, Healthy You looked like.

Mark:

So since finishing, I’d say I wrapped up fully in September last year. My wife and I were not wanting to count our chickens really. It was fine until maybe about a month ago and it started to come back a little bit. So I’ve now got like a lump in my throat kind of sensation. But other than that, no gut issues. Nothing like they used to be and no brain fog is coming back. So I’ve been biding of my time to sort of start taking more seriously again. This lump in my throat is back a little bit, but it’s not a big deal.

DrMR:

So maybe seven years of this indigestion gas and this kind of connected brain fog. Seven years and then about a year that has now been resolved and you’ve maintained that other than maybe a slight regression, like the lump in your throat, which you’re now gonna start tinkering to address, is that a fair encapsulation?

Mark:

Exactly. That’s exactly right and I’m not despairing this time, because I feel I’ve got the structure to work through. The symptoms I have this time are far more mild and I feel confident that I don’t have to go through all the 8 steps this time. But if I do, I will, it’s worth it. There’s a path for me to follow, which will resolve this. And it’s not that much of a problem to be honest. I think one important thing, looking back, was the need to be honest with myself about my diet and my relationships with food. Like I said, I’m a skinny guy. So I didn’t worry about what food I ate. But I ate terribly, and I never really took responsibility for that.

DrMR:

It’s one of the, maybe the liabilities of being thin. You feel you can get away with a lot more. I actually fell into that same category. But for me, it was predominantly neurological symptoms that I would notice. More food reactive brain fog, and it took me a little while to make the association. It took me a while to realize “I can kind of eat whatever I want and my body composition won’t change, but I’ll feel it more so in my head”, which to me is one of the most debilitating symptoms. So I feel your pain there, but I’m glad you were able to kind of connect those dots. And you learned that with the FODMAP, like you were saying, with going through the initial phase of the Healthy Gut, Healthy You protocol.

Fasting and Paleo Diet Helped Symptoms

DrMR:

Did any other dietary realizations occur?

Mark:

I think from doing the recommended fast that you had in the book, did help me exercise more self control over what food I did and didn’t eat. After that, following the Paleo diet, I don’t know if this is normal or not, but I really felt like once I was properly into the Paleo diet, I stopped craving food.

Very, very commonly reported,

Mark:

It was strange because I mean, even normally now, and the past year, if someone’s eating a delicious looking cake and I know it’s not going to be wheat in there, I’ll maybe have some. Whereas on the Paleo diet, and I really did stick to it, I didn’t really crave anything. I can watch people eat delicious snack in front of me and just pass. It was like real control. If you know that the diet is causing the problem in the first place to know that you don’t need to do it helps you get on this virtuous cycle. That was a cool insight around diet.

Dietary Fiber Pitfalls

Mark:

One thing that didn’t work for me dietary wise was, I think it’s the seventh step. I can’t remember, about increasing the fiber intake. That didn’t have the desired effect for me and didn’t mess with my gut much. But the brain fog was really quite intense. So I, I tried that a few times and then try to it in very small amounts. But as soon as I got to over a teaspoon a day, it caused me problem.

DrMR:

I’m glad you mentioned that because thereare some camps on the internet that are really all about optimizing dietary fiber intake, which is all fine and good in and of itself. But for some people trying to optimize fiber intake and really maximize fiber intake doesn’t go well for their gut. That’s where kind of zooming out and to a point you said earlier, you have all these different things that you’ve read about. Healthy Gut, Healthy You finally puts them into an organized structure to help you see the cause and effect of what you do, and how it helps. Alternatively, you can recognize what you do that doesn’t help. You can isolate that variable, try it a few times, and see that it doesn’t work for you. And I think part of the thing that makes it so hard for people to finally feel, like you said, a little bit empowered or not worried about having a regression is needing to have learned along that road what works for you and what doesn’t work for you. That’s part of the rationale behind breadking do the process into steps. So you can learn what works for your system and what doesn’t work for your system. Then you’re empowered when you do have a regression to say, okay, this is what really worked well for me over the past several months, I’ve been feeling better. I’ve kind of loosened things up, but now I know where to go back to in order to feel better. The analogy I use for people who sometimes frame this the wrong way, like, Oh, there’s something wrong with my gut and I’m always going to have to do this. Not really. I oftentimes parallel a musculoskeletal analogy. Like if you had a really bad hamstring sprain in college, you may temporarily need to go back to some of your stretches and exercises to rebalance some of that musculature. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong. It just means here’s something that you need to give a little bit of attention to periodically, and then everything’s fine.

Mark:

Yeah. That’s exactly how it feels. The analogy you used with having a sprain or an injury, like a physical injury on a joint or something. It does kind of feel like that. Like, you know, it’s still maybe they just need to get a bit of attention and get it back to normal again. I think that I have one more, one more insight that I gained through your book around diets. I’ve realized if I had spoken to myself 10 years ago and said, Hey, look, you’re gonna have to completely change your diet. I don’t think the old Mark would have done it. I think just through doing it slowly and doing these different things and starting with a fast and then doing these sort of slow increments, it definitely changes my relationship to food and I now realize it’s all just a habit.

Good Diet Quells Food Cravings

Mark:

So foods that I shouldn’t eat like high fiber foods or a lot of food in my diet, it’s just through habit that that I now no longer crave them. So learning all those little things like avoid too much fiber or more than two coffees a day isn’t great for my gut and that’ll start to put me on a downward spiral. After a while I stopped craving that stuff. I just learned to not crave stuff and it’s not that I don’t enjoy my diet just as much as I did 10 years ago, I just eat better now. That’s all.

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DrMR:

Yeah. If you can learn through the process, it’s funny how once you make some changes, even though you may kind of be dragging your feet at first, as you start the changes and start to have a more clear mind, less symptoms, better energy, you start to associate the new foods to the new feelings and it really kind of de-programs the cravings that you have prior, cause you now start to see the association between those foods and feeling poorly. And it really does kind of dampen the cravings for those foods. As well as when you’re physiologically healthier and less inflamed, people do seem to crave less, which is also another thing that really kind of compounds together. So it’s almost like as you start getting better, you get better and better and better because the cravings abate, the cravings stop you from flaring. Those flarings stop you from having satiation problems where one of the analogies or examples I’ve used is sometimes when people are tired or they have brain fog, they think they should eat to improve their energy and improve their mental clarity. Whereas that’s probably because they’re inflamed, the inflammation is causing those symptoms and there’s some weird reflexive mechanism in the body where we sometimes want to try to eat our way out of a problem and that can make the problem worse. So I’m glad that you’ve presented those thoughts. It’s kind of like teaching you to fish rather than giving you a fish.

Antimicrobials

DrMR:

What else with other aspects, probiotics, antimicrobials, dieting, anything else there that really seem to help you?

Mark:

The Paleo diet and then following the regimen. So I went through all the stages, right? So it is a while ago now almost a year, but I guess it was the extracts for me, the herbal supplements.

DrMR:

The antimicrobials?

Mark:

Yeah. So I followed all that. That wasn’t always easy, but because it was cyclical and you moved into different things after a few weeks, it was fine. I went through that stuff twice. I don’t think I learned anything from those specifically and, but I am glad I took that route as opposed to what I tried in previous years, which was searching online for a regimen of antibiotics, mega doses, and going to a general practitioner and saying, I’d like to do this please. And that was hard. So it was a little bit more of a soft approach over a longer period. I preferred that. I guess maybe one thing I learned was that, because there’s so many stages, I learned that it was to take a while for my stomach to heal and improve. It’s a slow, deliberate process I’m going through as opposed to looking for quick fixes.

DrMR:

A question there for you. Did you notice, I’m hoping you noticed, that even though it’s relatively slow, meaning if we’re looking at taking an Advil, you’ll feel better in 20 minutes. This was a number of months in your case, but I’m assuming that every month there was a degree of improvement. So that even though it was a longer road, you felt like you were seeing some improvement along the way, helping to keep you engaged and motivated.

DrMR:

Is that fair or was your road a little bit different?

Mark:

That is a really good question. I felt I made gradual improvements and through the early stages, especially the first four or five stages. But I felt that it all started to really come together towards the end. All I can really put my finger on is that I started to bring in more obvious, basic steps of self-discipline like not eating after 10:00 PM before I go to bed and being a little bit more disciplined with taking digestive enzymes after a meal. Those kinds of things I think helped compound it. In the background, I guess my gut health was improving anyway. Maybe like you said, when things are getting better, you become more top of your game anyway. Then it’s a virtuous cycle. So I felt it was very much like an exponential kind of increased improvement. I didn’t really move to the next step until I felt I’d made a noticeable improvement, even if it’s just five, 10% improvement. Otherwise I did it again and carried on.

DrMR:

Well, that’s good to hear because there are different trajectories. Some people improve a lot out of the gate and then it’s a slower road to the rest of the way they probably have the easier road. But then there are some that start a bit slower and then build, exponential at the end. It’s important to start to identify these patterns so that people don’t feel like what’s happened to them is abnormal. I was actually more like yourself, where after I resolved the parasitic issue that I had, it was kind of slow. Then I looked back to my life a few months prior and said, wow, there was no way I could have been in classes all day, come home, went to the gym, come home and, and studied. I would have needed at least two naps during the day prior. And I didn’t realize it until three months later or so I was doing all that stuff with no nap. Just great energy all the way through.

DrMR:

Mark is there, is there anything else that you want to share with people? This has been great. I’m super appreciative of this because people really do benefit from these. We get such great feedback on the sharing of the stories. Is there anything else that you want to leave people with?

Mark:

I wanted to say, thank you to you for putting in the time to write that book. It really did help like my quality of life and my mental health was really terrible going through periods of that. So thank you very much and thank you to your wider team as well, your team on the forums were super helpful. The content you have is fantastic. So thank you.

New Speaker:

Awesome. Yeah, you’re welcome. I mean, these exact stories are really the wind in our sails to keep us motivated because I’ve been in your position. I know how awful I felt and how I would have done anything, not to feel that brain fog and fatigue and everything else. What to gift to feel well. We take it for granted sometimes that, you know, I’m just walking down the street and I have normal energy and normal cognition. As opposed to, “Oh, I feel bloated or painful or foggy, like I’m disengaged or goofy”. When you don’t have that, you realize how much we take it for granted, how much of a gift health really is. So it really makes it worth it and I’m thrilled that you are feeling better. Thank you for the compliment and thank you again for sharing your story.

DrMR:

Thank you. Thanks for listening to Dr. Ruscio Radio today. Check us out on iTunes and leave a review. Visit DrRuscio.com To ask a question for an upcoming podcast, post comments for today’s show and sign up to receive weekly updates.

 

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One thought on “How Mark Healed Brain Fog and Stomach Pain

  1. I took S. Boulardii for many months. Along with the other two you recommend. When I first discovered it I read some things that said it shouldn’t be taken over a prolonged period. Is that true?

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