I want to share a brief overview of my health journey to demonstrate how strongly the health of the physical organism affects the mind and psychological experience.
From about 24 years old onwards, I began having what I would call "fatigue spells" Horrible periods of the day where this fog of an anxiety/depressive state just arose. Usually after a meal, where I would become highly bloated and my small intestines would be gurgling.
This was during the period I was working as a paramedic and had to demonstrate quick decision making and competency. These "spells" completely undermined my ability to function and think. It felt like drowning.
Fast forward four years and I was about to have a gastro-intestinal scope carried out by a gastroenterologist. I remember him adding up my symptoms and hypothesizing that I may have had "overgrowth." How right he probably was.
But I didn't get scoped. I watched Tom Naughton's Documentary Fathead. From there I learned about the lipid hypothesis. At the time I had been interested in general fitness nutrition and lived off of lean meats, only whole grains, and low saturated fat containing canola and soybean oils.
I soon reintroduced saturated fats into my diet in a kind of binge. I didn't initially go paleo or change what I ate. I only replaced the industrial oils with natural fats and ate at much fatty meat and butter as I could get my hands on.
Well it turns out that this was just what my nervous system wanted, because I experienced a shift of my energy within days to a manic like state. I would call it "hypomania" which would be a period of excess energy and anxiety without the psychosis of bipolar I.
I thought it was a sort of "primal energy" that was released. Like I was able to come to the energetic state that much healthier paleolithic man existed with. I ignored the fact that the energy was excessive and I could never relax or focus. I simply calmed down by exercising.
Going paleo from finding this book continued this state of high energy and intermittent manic like states:
The Paleo Solution
Becoming hardcore paleo, I was hooked. And my immediate family all become paleo within that year as well, on my influence.
Well it was obvious that I was living with a depressed nervous system for years. It must have been the lack of natural fats combined with neolithic foods that caused my ever worsening symptoms. I thought I was cured.
But I ignored the recurrent relapses of strange states and mood shifts, and even a foggy-depressive state every now and then. I ignored the anxiety because it was such a relief from the low functioning states.
I also ignored how I seemed to be hit by "shadow bullets" as I called them. Where "I feel so off, so I must have had something with wheat or dairy, because what I've been eating has been spot on and I'm cured." But at one point I seemed to react to everything and only wanted to eat meat and potatoes, because, especially veggies left me bloated and fatigued.
With this manic energy my self-image changed drastically. I always seemed to be in the middle of the introvert/extrovert thing, but now I could see that I'm obviously extroverted because I'm so engaging and cannot sit still. My older self-images eventually came down and a new set of images and beliefs about my personality arose.
More recently the next phase in my healing has occurred. I discovered the magic bullet of resistant starch, in my ever widening experimentation to get rid of every last vestige of these relapses into that depressive-fog/bloated-horribleness.
I have known even before going paleo that I cannot tolerate even the smallest amounts of any probiotics. If I eat anything fermented or probiotic, I would be up for days with my small intestines gurgling and this sense of hunger that would not abate, no matter how much I ate.
But this resistant starch thing would be so different. I read all I could on it. I attempted to be intelligent about it and begin with very small amounts. It didn't cause the symptoms that probiotics did, but I had to be careful because I still became bloated.
Next, I began introducing small amounts of probiotics daily, beginning with sauerkraut but moving up to soil based probiotics. I seemed to begin experiencing more and more of that energy-anxiety that I thought I liked.
But it was more like a drug. Matter of fact, I have had bipolar clients of whom were literally addicted to their mania. Imagine going from where you are now to the sense of being on a cocaine binge. That sense of dopaminergic reward, in which you do not want to slow down is highly addictive.
But man, if only I could relax. It was a sense of like sandpaper underneath my skin. Like my peripheral nerves were burning.
Then something happened two weeks ago: epic proportions of that brain fog, bloating and sense of malaise (feeling like hell in general) returned. Suddenly I was in my pre-paleo state. It was as if I never lived this lifestyle and it felt like I may never return to it.
Luckily I heard a podcast from Kresser during this time about healing the gut and SIBO. I have heard about SIBO in the past but didn't give it much mind. I was healed right? There's no way I still had some underlying issue still there.
But my family had pointed many times out that my extreme reactions of bloating, anxiety, insomnia and fatigue to the smallest amounts of fermented foods could be showing me that there's a deeper gut issue going on with me.
For once I finally admitted that they were right. I have been much more reactive to foods than they are in general.
With more research it finally clicked that my symptoms appear consistent with some form of SIBO. This dysbiosis seems to have not been cured by paleo. Paleo only gave me enough health to have energy to be anxious instead of depressed. And I am the type who redirects anxiety into positive enthusiasm or plain hypomanic states.
It took almost a week for the fog to lift. But, suddenly I have been experiencing a relief from both the physical depression and anxiety. It's a strange, almost new feeling of my nerves being settled. I now have no idea where I really am on the introversion/extroversion continuum and frankly don't care. I just want to feel right.
I've done the above by a strict paleo/low FODMAP diet with an antimicrobial and anti biofilm protocol. In a few more weeks I'll begin to gingerly reintroduce probiotics and some resistant starch. Most protocols call for a reintroduction of microbes once the excess microbes in the small intestine have been eliminated.
I almost don't know who I am anymore. It's as if I need a new set of self-images for each shift into a new state of health. How many more shifts until I don't need to grasp at these images of myself? What would that be like?