Paul was feeling desperate when he came to see me. He said he had spent years abusing his body by drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and not eating well. Now he was drinking less and trying to eat better but almost all foods would produce loose, watery stools. He wasn’t able to identify particular foods that triggered the reaction because it felt like it happened all the time – no matter what he ate. Paul was keen to get some answers about the foods which aggravated his gut and so he ran a food intolerance test to find out.

The results showed a long list of reactive and borderline foods – this is typical for those with a ‘leaky gut’. Alcohol is a well known trigger for promoting a leaky gut and this allows numerous food intolerances to develop. We agreed to cut out some of the foods promoting a stronger reaction and rotate the rest to avoid any real aggravation. A temporary diet was put in place that reduced fibrous and hard-to-digest foods but was high in nutrients too.

Another temporary measure we used was to supplement with l-glutamine, this served two purposes to help seal the gut wall and to help Paul deal with his cravings for alcohol. He reported that this had been a really useful tool in the early days of the programme. It enabled him to cut down on both alcohol and sugary foods. Paul was one of those clients where you can see lots of ways to improve the diet but it would prove impossible unless there was some strong support of blood sugar levels to help control his addiction. L-Glutamine provided that support in the initial stages.

Paul also presented with strong anxiety, particularly social anxiety and it seemed that this was present before the alcohol use and IBS appeared. He also had a family history of alcohol abuse and eating disorders. This prompted me to order a urine kryptopyroles test for Paul to find out whether pyroluria might be an issue for him. It came back positive.

We needed to embark on a gut restoration protocol which involved lowering inflammation, restoring normal digestive function, sealing the gut wall and restoring the gut flora. This is a process which takes time to implement properly but is key to maintaining health. Identifying pyroluria was important because without restoring zinc levels Paul’s digestion would never be good and his tendency to alcohol abuse could easily return.

Pyroluria is a metabolic condition that, over time can lead to addictions, eating disorders and social anxiety – to name just a few. It depletes zinc and B6 levels and regular supplementation is needed for life. Once the issues that are a result of the deficiencies have been resolved (in Paul’s case IBS/gut isues, alcoholism, social anxiety)- daily supplementation controls the condition.

Paul no longer struggles with IBS and is able to eat a wide variety of foods. His social anxiety has improved substantially as have his cravings for alcohol.

Nutrition case study: IBS, anxiety, alcohol and leaky gut