Around 20 years ago, I was fortunate to meet, and later work with, one of the great pioneers in food related disease, the allergist Dr Mervyn Garrett. For decades, he has been able to prove the relationship between types of food to diseases such as eczema, irritable bowel, colic, reflux, and many more. Sadly, he was largely ignored for most of his working life, but changes are slowly happening. Some of his articles are found on the website dysautonomia.com.au. They remain highly relevant and instructive.
From this work, when someone tells me of a problem with reflux oesophagitis or atopic eczema, chronic fatigue etc, I start to look at their reaction to food, their family history, and early medical history, for there will be clues to the traits that are part of food intolerance, and usually the solution to the symptoms. It is usually part of the successful management of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, fibromyalgia and dysautonomia.
Recent completed research in POTS (an extreme form of dysautonomia) has opened a new chapter in areas where DNA mutations and mechanical and other trauma can precipitate this condition, activating mast cells thus increasing food intolerance as the body’s immune system kicks in to defend itself, then increasing co-morbidities such as Hashimotos disease and fibromyalgia. This has now opened another door in my journey looking for causes of diseases rather then medication to manage it. All POTS patients have a similar problem with vascular compression syndromes, and while these cannot be stated to be a cause, the inflammatory and catecholamine responses are major factors in continuing symptoms, allowing management programs to be completed.
There is a tsunami of people around who feel they are lactose and gluten intolerant. They generally feel better avoiding these foods. Looking closely though, they may not really be gluten intolerant at all. Genetic modification of our wheat has changed the molecular structure of this, so in some people the reaction is to the genetically modified wheat, not gluten itself. Is it caseine or lactose, or the type of animal producing the milk in dairy intolerant people? These need to be sorted out, and while we have tests for lactose, it takes patience to sort them out. And these are but a small part of the foods we can be intolerant of.
From here I started to see patterns of other symptoms emerging, such as heart rate variation, flushes, eye symptoms and even anxiety, triggered by food types, and searching brought me to Dysautonomia, or Autonomic Dysfunction. Now as I look more closely, it seems the intolerance is a secondary problem, although control of this may allow control of symptoms.
Later with assistance from a young medical graduate, Dr Chris Soo, previously a physiotherapist working in Melbourne practicing with Craig Phillips, I became aware of similar symptoms caused by the spine. Chris joins the practice in 2019, where we hope to explore these spine-associated causes of dysautonomia. Again, close examination of history and injury is enabling many people with these problems to get their lives back.
The same patterns are found in Fibromyalgia Syndrome, a chronic disabling condition of pain and fatigue. By addressing DNA mutations, especially COMT and oxidative stress mutations, and looking at activators and drivers (usually food, spine, vascular compression, stress, mould etc) it became possible to turn off the problems causing the symptoms and again give many people symptom control, and in some, complete resolution.
Advice from Dr Pete Smith, an allergist / immunologist from the Gold Coast provided the link between all these, namely the activation of our innate immune system, the triggering of the Toll-Like Receptors (TLR’s). When triggered by things like foods, stress, or spine, these receptors produce inflammatory responses that produce the symptoms of IBS, fatigue, or dysautonomia. He then added the data on baroreceptors and ion-channels, the subject of some excellent research from Griffith University in chronic fatigue.
It takes patience to work through these problems, from both myself and the patient. There are no guidelines except for those we are developing in our new research area – Mermaid Central Research. This site describes the current and new research projects for 2019.
Using high quality retinal photography provides us with a look at the blood vessels in the brain, so it should be a useful tool in managing problems such as dementia. This data was published a few years ago by Australian optometry researchers, but it has been slow to be utilized by medical practitioners. So too is ultrasound scanning of the lining of the carotid arteries. This knowledge is over a decade old, and although difficult to use effectively as it needs a dedicated technician to assess small changes, when used correctly, it gives us a clear picture of what is happening over a period of time, so we are not limited to blood pressure or cholesterol measurements to determine whether treatment is needed, or is effective managing arterial disease. There are now accurate CT angiograms that show exactly what is in the coronary arteries in high risk people as well as the more commonly used echocardiograms and exercise ECGs.
Inflammation, the immune response of body tissues to injury or infection, is an important part of our innate immunity. Acute inflammation is a normal process that protects and heals the body following physical injury or infection. However, if the agent causing the inflammation persists for a prolonged period of time, the inflammation becomes chronic. This can result from many sources, eg viral or microbial infection, environmental antigen (e.g., pollen), autoimmune reaction, or persistent activation of inflammatory molecules.
In chronic inflammation, damaged tissues are repaired through replacement with cells of the same type or with fibrous connective tissue. In some instances, the body is unable to repair tissue damage, and the inflammatory cascade continues. Chronic inflammation is abnormal and is involved in a number of disease states.
Many diseases are inflammatory in nature, including asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica, tendonitis, bursitis, gastritis, coeliac disease, diverticulitis, and inflammatory bowel disease, to name but a few. Additionally, a number of chronic diseases have inflammatory components, such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, obesity, diabetes mellitus, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
Turning off the causes that drive the TLR’s driving this inflammation is vital. There are medications that can be helpful that are known to do this, but looking at diet and lifestyle and how to deal with injury is more important in most people. The defects from the methylation mutations can usually be managed with suitable vitamin supplementation, and other genetic mutations can often be managed by attention to the causes of the activation. This is not an expensive exercise, but as mentioned, it requires patience.
I look forward to these continuing advances, and strive in my way to deal with the diseases such as POTS, migraine, IBS, fibromyalgia and dysautonomia, by looking at activators and drivers rather than medication to control symptoms, as well as the intolerance-related diseases such as IBS, eczema, oesophagitis and colitis.
There are no medical guidelines available for most of these areas using the methods we have developed, as such are subject to criticism by traditional doctors. It is the effectiveness in controlling the diseases that the proof rests. They have been developed from current available research, but are subject to change as research brings more to light.”
Dr Graham Exelby