Gut Healing Often Involves Ups & Downs, Matt’s Story with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Today we speak with Matt who has seen remarkable improvements in the symptoms of his inflammatory bowel disease. There were 2 keys to Matt’s success; addressing overgrown bacteria in his gut and balancing his immune system. While Matt is feeling very healthy today, he had to work through regressions to finally reach his goal of no more symptoms. His case teaches us that ups and downs are part of the healing process. With his new found health, Matt is able to pursue his career goals uninhibited by prior symptoms.


Dr. Michael Ruscio, DC: Hey, guys. This is Dr. Ruscio. I’m here with Matt who has had some really good results after a couple speed bumps, a couple ups and downs. And really happy to say Matt is doing very well. And again, we had an up and down. So Matt, do you want to tell people some of the roller coaster that you just went through.

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Dr. R’s Fast Facts Summary

IBD Patient

  • Symptoms improved greatly with first round of natural antimicrobials
    • Quickly started to regress
  • Tried a second round of natural antimicrobials but did not see that same improvement
  • Next tried short course of Elemental Diet paired with SBI
    • Patient showed great improvement and continues to be symptom free
    • Digestive symptoms, brain fog, fatigue, and motility issues all improved
  • Able to move away from drug therapy – prednisone

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Matt: Sure, yeah. It’s been a bit of a journey. I’ve been working with you for about a year now. And what has happened is, as we’ve discussed different treatments and did some initial lab testing to find out what could be going on, we decided on a few different approaches. And once we get going, often what I would find is things would work. And I’d see improvement. And I’d get really excited.

DrMR: And improvement in… Just to give people some context. Irritable bowel disease. It was indeterminate in terms of what type. And some of the bowel frequency and urgency and digestive distress were the symptoms that you were plagued with and to a certain point where they were even interfering with your job which is what made me feel for your case so much. You had just taken this new job. You were excited about it. And then the GI symptoms were potentially going to hinder your ability to do this job that you really liked.

Gut Health

Matt: Exactly. And it’s tricky to make life decisions based on how your symptoms are doing at a certain point. So when you’re doing well, you want to bank on keeping them well. But I’ve learned through life experience now that it’s not necessarily going to always be that way. But it’s also important to not lose your sense of direction and purpose and keep going the way that things are laid out for you because it’s easy, I’ve found, once you’ve had that progress and start regressing a bit, to panic and think that what you had was useless, and it’s not going to be anything.

And I’m glad I was able to check in with you during those times so I didn’t completely lose my mind.

DrMR: Let’s expand upon that just for a moment. So essentially, we had started off with some preliminary therapy. But where we really broke things open and saw you improve nicely was with a course of herbal antimicrobials. And you went from 0 to 60 in terms of healing in a few days, maybe a week or so. And I was super happy for you. And you looked healthier when we checked in. Your symptoms were all gone. And you were just ready to bull ahead in your life. And I was super happy for you.

Then a few months later, you started to regress. And what happened?

Matt: Yeah, I finished the two months of antimicrobials and was feeling pretty good for a couple weeks and then quickly started to regress and was really discouraged, obviously, when that was happening.

DrMR: And then I think even more discouraged when we said, “Okay. Well, this antimicrobial therapy has been helpful. But we maybe need a little bit more of that stimulus to maintain you in this remission.” So we did the antimicrobial treatment again. And you really didn’t even respond.

Matt: Which I was very excited to do because, again, this is something that helped so much. And I’d finished my two month course. And it’s like, “Alright. Give me the stuff that works again.”

DrMR: And then the second time, it didn’t really work. And I think that was this kicking a man when he’s down experience for you where you had such high hopes for this therapy that got you to this plateau. And then it didn’t deliver.

And so for the patients and the clinicians listening, don’t be disheartened if that happens. There’s a good therapeutic tool in the natural medicine toolkit that we can apply to irritable bowel disease.

And so what we did in your case was we used a short course on the elemental diet, which has some pretty impressive documentation for IBD. And we paired that with this gut healing compound known as SBI which can help with binding toxins in the gut and restoration of the gut barrier. And those two things have gotten you back to your previous plateau. When I say plateau, your peak level of plateau. And it sounds like you’re actually even a bit better than you were at your previous peak.

Matt: Yeah, and when we talked about this before, it was like an upward trend of a stock market chart where it’s progressing up. But if you look at the long term picture, there are always some dips in it.

DrMR: Right. True.

Matt: Exactly. And so I definitely entered a valley not too long ago. But now, we’re back climbing up the mountain and doing well. And as we were discussing earlier, it’s so important not only to keep a level mind about these things but also your confidence builds once you get more tools in your tool chest to work on these types of things and know that certain things do work. And sometimes, you just have to give them time.

And sometimes, you just have to have the patience to get through those rough patches because it’s so easy when you’re in one of those rough patches to think that you’re never going to get back to where you were.

But as long as you continue to think about that progress that you’re making and work towards it, I’m grateful that I was able to keep a level head with that and get to that point.

Prednisone

DrMR: Yeah, I am as well. And you’ve also been able to move away from some of the drug therapy, which I’m not philosophically opposed to. But certainly, if we can find a natural, and especially a nutritional-based, invention for these things rather than a drug therapy—like prednisone.

Matt: Yeah, and I’m realistic about that too. I really try not to use those drugs. But it’s like the “in case of emergency, break glass.” I’m not going to break the medicine cabinet glass. But it’s in there.You were using prednisone to quell your flares. And that doesn’t come without a cost. And you were aware of that. We were both aware of that. And so we were really trying to say, “Okay. We know the prednisone works. But it’s doing other damage. And so what other options do we have?”

And even when things were really bad and I was really struggling to get to work, I was able to hold off because I wanted to. But you always want to weigh that because I also knew I wanted to get out of this flare up because you’re not getting any healing done while that’s happening.

And I was able to discover, first time trying an elemental diet, that after four days of that, I was having the same improvement that I would’ve if I’d been taking 40 mg of prednisone.

DrMR: And some of the research literature corroborates that. So it’s nice that we have these different options. And again, not saying that you should not use medicines or medicines are better or worse. But let’s start with the least invasive, essentially a hypoallergenic, meal replacement, nutritional shake compared to prednisone. And which one makes more sense pragmatically to start with? And of course, the nutritional shakes.

Matt: Exactly.

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DrMR: Yeah, so you’ve done fantastic. Your digestive symptoms have gotten better globally. The other thing I just wanted to mention really quickly for people is your fatigue and brain fog also got better which just illustrates the profound gut-to-brain connection. Anything there you want to chime in on?

Matt: Yeah, and that’s the type of thing where when you talk about dealing with digestive symptoms like this and you say, “Oh, it’s difficult to leave the house or go to work” and those things, it’s not just because of the anxiety of having to urgently use the restroom. It’s the fact that you are tired because when your immune system is working its tail off to try to heal yourself constantly, on a 24/7 basis, it’s going to sap a ton of energy. So not only are you dealing with the stress of going outside, you just don’t have the energy to do those things.

Digestive Problems

And it affects the clarity of your mind as well, which is why in my mindset I wouldn’t have even considered taking this more intensity job that I did for the summer if I hadn’t had that improvement before. I’m sure glad I did do that even though I did have a brief rough patch in the middle of that job. And that was a rough time. But in the grand scheme of things, it was short lived. It feels like a long time when you’re in the thick of it.

DrMR: And I’m glad that you did take that job because that really gave you something to motivate you to get back to being well as fast as you could. It gave you no excuse to put things off. It was like, “Yep, gotta take care of this right away.”

Matt: Exactly. And I know it’s different for different people. But for me, I’ve had that before the previous summer because I work at a school primarily. So I’m fortunate enough to get summers off. And so last summer, I was just going to take some time to just relax a bit and try different things. And man, I regressed because, at least for myself, I didn’t have the motivation to have something to work toward. I was just sitting around, hoping things were going to get better.

It was tricky, balancing the stress of this job. But for me, that was a motivation to really buckle down because the hard thing is the worst your feeling, the more energy it takes to try to get better. And that’s when you’re at your least amount of energy that you have to work with.

So that direction is working away from you. But if you can find it in yourself when you’re at that low point to actively think about how you can work to get yourself better, as soon as you start seeing that little bit of progress that’s going to be enough spur and motivation to propel you forward. That’s what’s happened to me.

DrMR: And having that external motivator to make sure you don’t just tip into this illness-induced despondency is very important.

Matt: Yeah, which is very common.

DrMR: Well, my man, you’ve done great. I’m really happy to hear that you’re stable and stable at a level of improvement I don’t think you’ve achieved historically. And we’ll continue to check in periodically.

And maybe I should share this also. Do I expect you’re never going to have a little bit of a regression? No, you probably will at some point. And the analogy I used earlier in our visit was someone who pulls a hamstring, maybe in college. Will they ever have an ache in that hamstring again? Yeah, they’ll take some time. And they’ll heal. Do some stretching. They’ll do some therapy. They’ll do some foam rolling. And they’re hamstring will probably be solid like your gut is right now.

But if enough time goes by and their exercise routine gets a little unbalanced or they’re sitting too much or what have you, could that hamstring start to flare up a little bit again? Yeah. And would it be a big deal to have to do some more stretching and PT and foam rolling and whatever? No.

DrR Video Tiles Elemental Diet

And so in your case, maybe once in awhile you have to do a little short day or two on an elemental diet to calm things down. Wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Matt: And now when that does happen, I now have the knowledge and the tools to know what to do or at least an approach of things to try and something to work through rather than just having an, “Oh, crap” moment. What do I do?

DrMR: Yeah, well said. Well, thank you, Matt, for sharing. Anything else you want to say in close?

Matt: I think, especially for somebody who has been in the same boat as me where you may be going through that rough patch and you’re just searching for any type of inspiration to keep you going, I’m just here to say keep with it. Keep trying because you’re not alone. A lot of people have dealt with this.

And I’ve seen it firsthand. And I’ve been fortunate enough to learn that advice of sticking with it and keep educating yourself. Keep learning. And good things happen as a result.

DrMR: Awesome. Awesome. That’s a great closing point. So thank you again, Matt, for sharing with us. And congratulations on your newfound health.

Matt: Thank you so much.

What do you think? I would like to hear your thoughts or experience with this.

Discussion

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