How Sylvie transformed her digestion, energy and emotional health

Can compounds in so-called “healthy” foods contribute to chronic low energy levels, depression, attention deficit symptoms or even bipolar disorder?

Can these very same compounds even be the main cause of these symptoms?

I believe so, and this excellent case study shows how.

It knits together the twin disciplines of sensible nutrition and functional medicine and shows how basic dietary factors along with cutting-edge home lab testing can transform a person’s life in a short space of time.

Meet Sylvie

When Sylvie from Toronto in Canada contacted me, she was having deep trouble with a variety of symptoms.

As a 42-year old Mother of two, she needed more energy and a clearer mind. Sylvie had previously been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and bipolar II. She had also been told that her thyroid was underactive.

The solution to Sylvie’s symptoms was simple, yet it required a little bit investigation to be certain we were on the right track.

This is an inspiring story that reveals just how important nutrition and functional medicine can be in healthcare.

I hope Sylvie’s story inspires you to say “no” to chronic symptoms and find a functional medicine clinician who can help you transform your wellness, just as she did.

Primary complaints and history:

  • Diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and bipolar II, along with lab evidence of hypothyroidism
  • Struggled with energy issues all through her life
  • Began a vegan diet in 2015 – symptoms worsened
  • Was more concerned with cooking for kids than feeding herself properly
  • Lost 14 lbs in 3-weeks after a food poisoning incident on holiday
  • Experienced itching in ears, crawling sensation in neck, urticaria, pinching in throat – crawling sensation from nostril to ear
  • Two years prior to this, noticed itching on thighs


  • Aged 4 – whooping cough
  • Experienced “night terrors”
  • Feeling of spiders crawling on body
  • Would lash out
  • History of yeast infections
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog and poor memory
  • Social withdrawal
  • Ear infections and tinnitus
  • Psoriasis on back of neck – moved to vulva aged 25
  • Chronic yeast infection
  • Family history includes psychological symptoms, cardiovascular health problems and skin complaints.

My analysis:

Sylvie’s history is obviously quite complex but there are some very important clues as to what was going on.

I am always looking for the underlying cause so the specific nature of the symptoms are not as important to me as the triggers behind them and reasons why they have developed.

  • First, I noted the history of yeast infections all the way back to childhood, along with symptoms often associated with yeast and fungal overgrowth.
  • Second, her symptoms worsened on a vegan diet (higher carbohydrate/lower protein intake along with higher oxalates and lectins).
  • Third, skin symptoms such as psoriasis and urticaria are often associated with issues in the gut.

There is a complex and varied family history with a trend towards psychological and behavioural symptoms – anger, depression, attention problems, etc.

With all this in I recommended we run the following lab tests:

  1. Organic acids (I felt the answer would lie in this test)
  2. Urine kryptopyrrole test to check whether a condition called pyroluria could be stripping B6 and zinc from her body (common in psychological symptoms)
  3. Urinary porphyrins (to check for the impact of heavy metals)

All these tests were done at home without the need for stressful clinic visits and blood draws.

Lab test results

You do not need to understand complex biochemistry and all the fancy names you’ll see in this section.

I just want you to see how we can extract data from lab testing, current and past symptoms, health history and diet, to figure out what is going wrong, and how to put it right.

Organic acids

Sylvie’s organic acids test result was extremely helpful and you can see the main findings, below.

On this first chart, you can see clear evidence of Candida and other fungal/mold overgrowth – possibly Aspergillus – in her intestine (see markers 5, 7 and 9, which are all too high).

The potentially toxic substances produced by this fungal overgrowth could actually cause all the symptoms Sylvie had been experiencing.

Next, see the elevated oxalic acid marker (#21), which is extremely high, indicating that Sylvie’s oxalate levels could well be a major problem for her.

Given that we know Candida and other fungal organisms can cause high oxalates, and given she has a history of yeast infections, things are starting to come together.

If you have not read about oxalates you can do so here. In some people, oxalates can cause enormous health problems and the solution may simply be a low oxalate diet and restoration of proper digestive function.

Neurotransmitters and brain chemistry

The next section takes a little more explaining and focuses on neurotransmitters, which regulate mood, behavior, digestion and sensitivity to pain, among other things.

Look at marker #35. Sylvie’s HVA to VMA ratio is too high. What this means in plain English is that she was not converting dopamine into noradrenaline.

Her neurotransmitter balance was not optimal, favouring higher levels of dopamine.

We need dopamine to feel rewarded and good about ourselves. Low dopamine leads to addiction, depression, low sex drive, low motivation, mental exhaustion and others.

But excess dopamine can result in aggression, violent behavior, reckless behavior, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and schizophrenia.

Now recall Sylvie’s past and present symptoms: Lashing out, ADD/ADHD and a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. There could quite easily be a connection.

Importantly, it’s common to see imbalanced neurotransmitters when the gut is not working properly.

Why? Because 80-90% of your serotonin and dopamine are made in the gut, NOT in the brain.

This is why optimizing digestive function so frequently improves people’s mood, focus, memory and brain function.

Fat metabolism markers

The next set of markers focused on fat metabolism – that is how effectively the body takes fat and uses it to make energy in cells.

Adipic and suberic acid (#47 and #48) were high, indicating some inefficiency in fat metabolism, which can lead to low energy levels.

These chemicals often elevated in the urine due to deficiencies in vitamin B2 and carnitine, which shuttle fat into cell engines for energy production.

Carnitine comes from meat and given that Sylvie had eaten a vegan diet for a significant part of the year leading up to her contacting me, I felt this was important.

Low carnitine and/or vitamin B2 levels could easily be contributing to her low energy levels and other symptoms.

Finally, we have some markers. I want to pay attention to three of these.

Marker #51 is a marker for vitamin B6 status. Low B6 can lead to high oxalates, which we saw earlier.

B6 is also crucially important for brain chemistry, detoxification and hormone balance.

Then, we have #53 being too high, which is another indicator for low vitamin B2.

Finally, we have #54 ascorbic acid, which is a direct measure for vitamin C levels in the urine.

It is not an exact measure but it does give an indication of vitamin C status.

As you know, vitamin C is a critically important nutrient, acting as a major antioxidant to protect cells from free radicals.

I hope you can see how we can extract data from simple home lab testing, symptoms, health history and diet to figure out what is going wrong, and how to put it right.

Sylvie’s next steps

The next steps were fairly straightforward. We went back to her organic acids and hair tests and pulled out the key markers:

  • High fungal overgrowth markers – a definite case of SIFO (small intestinal fungal overgrowth.)
  • High oxalic acid and a high likelihood of associated problems.
  • High HVA to VMA ratio, indicating high dopamine and associated symptoms.
  • Low carnitine, B2, B6 and vitamin C, all indicating a pattern of nutritional depletion associated with the neurotransmitter imbalances and energy production.

However, it was important NOT to use vitamin C in Sylvie’s protocol, as vitamin C can increase oxalates, which were already one of the main problems.

My recommendations:

  • Step One: Follow a low oxalate diet (not everyone has to do this – nutrition is very individual, but Sylvie’s lab work gave clear indication that a low oxalate diet was needed).
  • Step Two: Avoid gluten, soy and cow’s milk; minimize processed sugar and grains.
  • Step Three: Take herbal anti-fungal herbal supplements to bring the Candida and other organisms under control.
  • Step Four: Take therapeutic doses of B2, B6, carnitine

Improvements after 5 weeks:

  • A big improvement in mental clarity and memory
  • Much greater stability in mood
  • Much higher energy levels

After 4 months:

  • Improvements have been maintained
  • Sylvie has experimented with different food and now listens carefully to her body to optimize her nutrition

It wasn’t that difficult!

When I first spoke with Sylvie, I really thought it was a tricky case. Her symptoms, health history and family history were all complex.

However about 80% of the answers we needed were contained in the organic acids test, which is a simple home urine test that anyone can do.

Fungal overgrowth, oxalates and nutrient depletion were the key issues and we were able to quickly deal with them.

A lifetime of symptoms began to improve within a month simply by understanding Sylvie’s key nutritional, digestive and metabolic imbalances.

Can you do this?

If you are feeling unwell and feel you have nowhere to turn, I am confident our services will help you find the answers you’re looking for.

In these times where doctors can only spend 8-10 minutes with you and have limited access to functional testing as described here, it’s hard to get the personal attention that’s so badly needed.

For me, it’s nice to have an opportunity to spend time with people like Sylvie and really dig deep to find out what’s causing the issues.

The testing isn’t hard to do – in fact it’s very simple.

All the tests Sylvie performed were done at home using urine samples.

Once you have your results, you will quickly look and feel great again if you are willing to apply changes to your foods, eating habits and other important lifestyle factors, and take customized nutritional supplements.

If you will make a commitment to yourself, we will hold your hand every step of the way.

Click here to learn more about a personalised initial consultation and case review.