The following case study will be familiar to practitioners who participated in our training day last October 2017 as part of our Practitioner’s Toolkit series. Mr L, as we referred to him, was one of two real-life cases that we worked with over 6 months to bring the day’s theme of functional testing to life. His case is particularly pertinent to our lead article this week and illustrates the dynamic changes brought about addressing both emotional and physical imbalance. It also provides a practical window into how drug-free, holistic, natural health approaches can transform lives.

Making introductions

Mr L (age 62) is a tall man who appeared fit and not evidently overweight because he carries a lot of muscle. He presented with a tendency to depression, introversion and difficulty in communication. He expressed concern for his over-eating habits, poor dietary choices and steady weight gain over the past year. His father was a type 2 diabetic and at the time of the first consultation his brother had just suffered a heart attack and survived. His father died following a heart attack one month into Mr L’s programme.

Although Mr L had suffered several episodes indicative of cardiovascular concern, no definitive medical diagnosis had been given because nothing concrete had been found. During an ‘episode’ Mr L would become pale, faint, lacking in energy and on one occasion suffered a prolonged loss of consciousness. Despite being hospitalised for a week, nothing was found and no diagnosis was made. However, Mr L’s prime concern was his weight gain and his desire to lose weight was reiterated throughout the first consultation.

Mr L was very open about issues around his eating behaviour. A self-confirmed comfort eater, he also presented with gastro-intestinal distress and constipation, often going up to 4 days without a bowel movement. He was aware that his gastrointestinal symptoms worsened with wheat consumption.

Stress had always been a key factor. From early life trauma through to adulthood, Mr L’s life was mired in stress, which was reflected in symptoms of hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenal (HPA) axis disruption - poor sleep, anxiety, depression, disturbed circadian rhythm, male hormone imbalance, fatigue and constant carbohydrate cravings.

Programme goals

Mr L’s goals were:

  • A weight loss programme
  • A lifeline for changing his unhealthy relationship with food
  • Better sleep
  • Enhanced self-esteem

From a systems approach, the practitioner-led programme was centered around:

  • Restoring healthy gastrointestinal function
  • Returning metabolic flexibility through better carb/fat handling and applying principles of nutritional keto adaptation
  • Better glycaemic (sugar) management
  • Enhancing mitochondrial (the energy ‘factories’ in cells) function through nutrition, lifestyle advice and exercise
  • Using the ANH Food4Health guidelines as a basis to address nutrient deficiencies
  • Better endocrine (hormonal) and neurotransmitter balance using food as information, lifestyle advice around sleep and exercise and just having time to talk and have attention focused on him

The functional tests used:

The progamme and results

Mr L participated fully in his programme and was very compliant, which rewarded him with quicker results, spurring him on further. He was also very appreciative of the systems approach, which took the additional information garnered through the functional testing and then applied it in creating his individualised programme. This was fully participatory, which meant that Mr L was engaged and taking responsibility for his journey.

His initial protocol was based on a food plan with 26% protein, 51% fats and 23% carbs. Given his clear sensitivity to wheat-based foods (which he indulged in daily) all wheat and gluten-containing grains were excluded, along with milk and cheese initially. Butter and ghee remained. Alcohol was excluded initially and in fact Mr L has never returned it to his diet. There was specific focus on enhancing the diversity of above-ground vegetables and ‘eating a rainbow’ of colour every day. Snacks were excluded between meals and healthy fats increased at every meal to enhance a feeling of fullness and provide sufficient energy. Advice on how to cook proteins and fats was included to ensure that very high heat was avoided. Recipes, cooking tips and general food shopping support helped to educate Mr L and widen his repertoire of foods and flavours.

Lifestyle advice included sleep hygiene, mindfulness techniques and support for how to get back to exercise as his energy levels increased. Some targeted supplementation was used to support his food-first programme.

Within a few weeks the results were evident and Mr L’s mood had lifted considerably. His weight loss was steady, but use of a Tanita body composition scale showed that muscle mass was being maintained. As his diet improved, his sleep improved and in turn his outlook on life. Mr L continues to be a very light sleeper, as he has always been, and it is still his Achilles heel, but he has managed better sleep since changing his diet.

Now nearly a year later, he has remained mostly compliant and has not returned to eating starchy gluten-containing foods, eating crisps and junk foods or drinking alcohol. Within the 6 months of the programme, Mr L had reached his goal weight, was back cycling on a regular basis and had opened to being more social again. Whilst his past history of stress and trauma still exists, his nutrition and lifestyle now support his body, rather than creating imbalance. He feels that this experience has provided him a new lease of life and is the best insurance he has against going down the same health route as his father and brother. Participating fully in his return to health and achieving all his goals has played a key role in building confidence, self-esteem and lowering stress.

Disclaimer: the above article does not purport to be medical or health care advice and is for information only. Please consult a qualified and experienced health care professional (such as a functional medicine practitioner) if you require support of this nature.