Getting to the Root of Chronic Illness: Part III

In Review of Part I and II:

In part one of this article series, I presented the concept of the "Stress Cascade",  talked about how Chronic Fatigue and Pain Syndromes are the result of the "Perfect Storm" of events, and discussed how the absence of symptoms does not equate to good health.  In fact, focusing on symptoms and taking remedies/medications to suppress them only serves to drive dysfunction deeper into the body. This practice further advances a person on the Stress Cascade and fuels the Perfect Storm that ultimately can, and often does, lead a person down the rabbit hole of chronic illness - which is where I spent the better part of 18 years trying to navigate my way out.  Part I ended with a list of the 16 factors that I believe to be some of big hitters for laying the groundwork for chronic illness states to develop - particularly Chronic Fatigue and Pain Syndromes along with the associated digestive challenges.   

In part two I then went into greater detail of the first two factors on the list of big hitters:  

#1 Psychological Stress, Unresolved Trauma, and Repressed Emotions

#2 Sleep Deprivation

This article is going to go into detail of the next three factors on the list.

#3 Sedentary Lifestyle, Lack of Exercise

Bottom line, we are designed to move! Our health, happiness, and wellbeing depend on movement as much as they depend on the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the people we love, and those that love us back.  We are not designed not to be sitting in a car, then at a desk all day, then back in the car, and then onto the couch.  Yet, this lifestyle pattern is a common reality for many people. 

 

Lack of movement for extended periods of time will negatively impact circulation, digestion, energy production, cognitive function, musculoskeletal health and much more. Without adequate, regular movement in our daily lives, our bodies will not detox properly, our organ systems will not function optimally, our muscles will not remain strong or lean, and our brains will not remain sharp.   Moreover, our lymphatic system, which is one of the most important detoxification pathways in the body, depends on movement in order to clear our cells and blood of metabolic waste products.  Exercise is so crucial to health that in 2012, The National Institute of Health declared that chronic diseases are the number one killer of the modern era and that lack of movement/exercise is a primary cause of most of them.  

#4 Physical/Bio-Mechanical Stress

Many people underestimate the long-term effects that past physical injuries can have on our ability to maintain good health.  Incidences such as athletic injuries, a car accident, a broken bone, a surgery, or a bad fall can often lead to long-term muscular and structural imbalances.  Unaddressed structural and muscular imbalances cause the body to go into compensation mode, which overtime, can keep the body's stress response chronically engaged.  This, in turn, will slowly drain the body’s energy reserves and perpetuate the stress cascade.  

Sometimes a physical insult to the body can be so profound that it can trigger illness right away.  This is why it is not uncommon to hear of people developing Fibromyalgia Syndrome or some other illness soon after a major physical insult to their body.    

I suffered two serious injuries while in high school that resulted in the need for corrective back surgery.  One was in gymnastics and the other was in soccer.  After these injuries and the subsequent surgery, my upper back and shoulder area could never fully relax and over time the rest of my body began to compensate for the imbalance in that area.  This continual need to compensate served as a chronic stressor for my entire system and surely fed into the “Perfect Storm” which eventually manifested as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome later in my life.  

#5 Low Stomach Acid (hypochlorhydria)

The body’s primary digestive and disinfectant fluid is hydrochloric acid.  Our gastrointestinal tract’s ability to properly digest, absorb, and assimilate protein into useable amino acids for our cells depends on adequate levels of stomach acid (hydrochloric acid - HCL).  Additionally, HCL, due to its highly acidic nature, serves to destroy potentially harmful microbes that hitch a ride into our body through food, water, and other avenues.  

Without adequate levels of this important gastric juice, proteins are only partially digested and unwanted microbes are able to set up camp in our guts.  In some cases, these microbes can even make their way into our blood stream, where they declare war with our immune systems.   The undigested components of ingested protein remain in the gut where they then rot and putrefy, much like a compost pile used for fertilizing a garden does.  The putrefied protein then produces an organic compound known as lactic acid and also serves as a food supply for the microbes that now call your gut home.   

Lactic acid burns, inflames, and weakens the stomach.  Under these circumstances, the function of the esophageal sphincter is also weakened, allowing acid to rise up into the esophagus, creating conditions commonly known as reflux and heartburn.   When this happens the common practice is to reach for antacids or proton pump inhibitors such as Prilosec, which then perpetuates a vicious cycle.  This vicious cycle causes the body to work harder in order to maintain homeostasis, fuels the stress cascade, and inevitably manifests as countless health complaints.  

Some of the health complaints most often associated with low stomach acid include chronic digestive distress, gastrointestinal infections, fatigue, hormone imbalances, poor muscle quality, blood sugar deregulation, anxiety/depression, brain fog, poor recovery after exertion or acute illness, rectal itching, and much more.  As Hippocrates, the father of medicine, pointed out long ago, "All Disease Begins in the Gut!"

For years, I suffered from chronic gastritis type symptoms and bouts of severe reflux.  Each time this happened, I always panicked and opted for quick relief in the form of acid reducers such as Zantac.  After years of this very misguided habit, the end result was a badly damaged intestinal mucosal barrier and many un welcomed residents in the form of parasites, bacterium, yeast, and fungus.  These undesirable microbes further burdened my already exhausted adrenals glands and put my immune system into overdrive.  No wonder I was plagued with exhaustion and pain and became a walking petri dish of chronic infections!  

Stay tuned for part IV of this article series where I will be going into greater detail of the next three factors on the list of top contributors:  

#6 Hidden Food Sensitivities, Intolerances, and Celiac Disease

#7 Dysbiosis (aka: Out of Whack Gut Microbes)

#8 Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth

Until then, I encourage you to explore different forms of exercise/movement that you find nourishing and enjoyable, consider the role that past injuries and the resulting bio-mechanical stress may be playing into your current health challenges, and evaluate whether or not low stomach acid could be an issue for you.

Here's to Restoring Your Health and Reclaiming Your Life!