In today’s case study, we have a five year old whose parents contacted me for help regarding some worrying neurological symptoms.
With some thorough investigation, we found that these odd symptoms had their roots in a digestive infection called Clostridium difficile and some nutrient imbalances.
It is one of the most challenging but interesting cases I have worked with in eight years.
Because this is a sensitive case, I have changed the names of my clients. Confidentiality and privacy are, of course, of the utmost importance.
In 2016, I spoke with Charlie’s mum, who told me Charlie had developed a tic disorder. Examples of tics include:
The medical system advised Charlie’s parents that he had the early stages of Tourette’s syndrome and that he’d probably have this disorder for the rest of his life.
This was obviously quite distressing for the family.
He had been to several high level specialists including osteopaths and neurologists and various additional opinions had been bandied round.
However none of these specialists had, in my opinion, conducted a thorough enough assessment to draw accurate conclusions.
Charlie’s parents had been on several online forums and learned that tics and other neurological symptoms can be related to food reactions, environmental allergies and other seemingly unrelated triggers.
They wanted to explore foods, digestive health and nutrient balance to see if there were any clues.
I had no idea whether I could help, but I guaranteed the family I would do my very best. Thankfully, it proved to be just about enough.
Charlie’s digestive health
Charlie’s mum told me that he was having diarrhea each morning. This gave us some clues that perhaps an allergic reaction or digestive infection could be causing problems.
I made sure we ran a stool test and also an organic acids test to assess Charlie’s digestive function. It turned out to be a wise choice (thank goodness).
Charlie’s test results
We ran four main tests to see what we could uncover. These were:
There were quite a lot of findings, the most important of which are summarized below.
First, in the stool test we found evidence of a Clostridium difficile overgrowth. This was profoundly important, as you will see shortly.
The stool test also showed a very low sIgA level (a marker of immune function) and elevated lactoferrin, which is a marker of intestinal inflammation, which was being caused by the C. difficile bacteria.
The organic acids test revealed an elevation in marker #41, which is a urinary marker of Clostridium overgrowth. The stool and urine test results matched.
The organic acids test also revealed some interesting nutritional imbalances. In summary:
Dopamine excess – strongly associated with tics
These results were very interesting because B6, B12 deficiencies and oxidative stress can all have a very big impact on brain, nerve and neurotransmitter function.
Another very interesting, but not so obvious finding was an increased ratio between marker #23 (HVA) and #22 (VMA).
When HVA is much higher than VMA, as it was in Charlie’s test, it means that dopamine is not being effectively converted into noradrenaline.
This might be gobbledygook, but it’s highly significant. If dopamine is not broken down properly, it can be present in too high a level.
Two of the symptoms associated with excessive dopamine are tics and Tourette’s syndrome!
C. difficile toxin impacts dopamine levels
Furthermore, it was shown in the 1980s that toxins from Clostridium difficile slow down the conversion of dopamine into noradrenaline by blocking the action of an emzyme called DBH (dopamine beta-hydroxylase).
The key point here is that Charlie’s digestive infection toxins were altering his neurotransmitter levels and creating seemingly unrelated symptoms in addition to diarrhea.
HOWEVER, we could not ignore the vitamin B6 and B12 deficiencies because they can also significantly impact brain chemistry.
B6 is needed for the conversion of glutamate, which excites the nervous system, into GABA, which relaxes the nervous system.
A B6 deficiency favours glutamate over GABA, which can lead to anxiety, restlessness and ADHD. These symptoms are also similar to those being experienced by Charlie.
Charlie’s blood test indicated digestive inflammation, which matched his stool test, and showed he had magnesium and vitamin D deficiencies.
Magnesium was important in this case because like B6, it is a nutrient that helps to relax the nervous system.
The final test we looked at was a hair mineral analysis because I wanted to check Charlie’s zinc to copper ratio.
The result showed that his copper (Cu) level was way too high, which is another possible reason for neurological and behavioural symptoms.
Summary of results
The test results were really quite something. We found:
Any of these imbalances has the potential to cause neurological, mood and behavioural symptoms, but the key finding was the C. diff overgrowth in the stool and urine analysis, which was driving dopamine levels up.
The biggest challenge with Charlie’s program was that he is so young.
In a teenager or adult, it is relatively easy to give supplements that may not taste nice or that are in capsules.
But in a five-year old, we can’t give lots of pills and sometimes children reject herbs that have a strong taste.
In any case, working with a five-year old requires a great deal of sensitivity and care to make sure symptoms are not worsened.
Here’s what we did:
Mum did a great job of ensuring Charlie would be able to take all his supplements
It took a little time, but Charlie’s tics gradually improved. After several months, his mum reported a 95% reduction in his tics.
The key points
The main reasons I wanted to share this case are:
No matter what medical specialists say, there are always other avenues of exploration to help uncover why someone has symptoms.
Digestive infections like C. difficile, H. pylori and Candida can trigger problems in ANY area of the body, including psychological and behavioural symptoms.
The functional lab tests available to you are phenomenal. They are backed by science and hundreds of thousands of clinical success stories.
Apart from a routine blood test with the doctor, all Charlie’s tests were done at home using non-invasive samples (stool, urine and hair).
It doesn’t matter whether you are 5 years old or 84 years old (as the last case study before this was): You can improve your health at any age using evidence-based functional medicine.
This was a really difficult case for many reasons, but with belief and hard work, Charlie’s parents got his symptoms under control.
Equally, if not more importantly, they were able to see with certainty that something was causing Charlie’s symptoms and that he did not have to live with them for the rest of his life (which could literally have been another 70-80 years or more).
Would you like some help?
We would love to hear from you if you have a sticky situation with your health. Whatever it is, I believe we can help you.
I’ve purposefully started sharing some more complex cases this year to show you that we have a lot more to offer than stool testing.
BUT, if you have digestive symptoms of any kind coupled with energy or mood problems, sleep issues, skin symptoms and so on, a stool test is the best way to start.
Perhaps Candida is overgrowing in your GI tract, or maybe you have a bacterial problem like Charlie did?
Whatever it is, with a simple home test we will help you find it.
Yes, a stool test is a bit messy and it’s not the most pleasant of things to do, but the rewards for taking action can be incredible.
What’s more, you don’t need to leave your home to do a test – it’s completely private and there’s no embarrassing conversation to have with a doctor.
Anyway, I’ve said all I can for now. I hope you enjoyed the case study and look forward to hearing from you soon.
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