If the title of this post has captured your attention I am glad – please let me explain what I mean by ‘not treating Blasto’ (?!)
This may be a difficult idea to comprehend if you’re convinced blasto is the root of your chronic digestive symptoms, clients and practitioners alike. You’ve probably just done stool testing and found out that you have the parasite Blastocystis hominis. Logically it makes sense that Blasto must be the underlying cause – you’ve had sluggish digestion and gut symptoms such as cramping, bloating, gas, abdominal discomfort and alternating bowels, you’re unusually fatigued, and have never been the same since travelling overseas or having a bout of gastro
Or maybe you have an autoimmune condition such as Hashmitos thyroiditis or Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), and have finally uncovered Blasto, which must be the main culprit.
What a relief to find out you have Blastocystis Hominis and can now treat it using antibiotics or herbal treatments!
If only it were that simple
As a clinical naturopath I meet many clients at my practise in Sydney who are frustrated at having chronic gut issues, fatigue and brain fog, where all the typical recommendations and supplements they’ve been taking are not really improved their symptoms
If you’ve discovered you have Blastocystis Hominis you would be absolutely certain that this is the issue, and can now treat it accordingly. But the reality is that according to the research we do not know if Blastocystis hominis is even a parasite, or pathogenic (disease-causing). There are an estimated 1 billion people worldwide that have Blastocystis hominis., most of whom have no symptoms and are healthy. I won’t go into detail discussing Blastocystis hominis. and the debate around its pathogenicity or not, but I will cut to the chase and say that the more logical approach to treating it, is to not treat it.
You may be reading this and have already had multiple rounds of antibiotics and natural medicine treatments, convinced they would work. But are still struggling with the same symptoms and you may even be feeling worse than before.
If so, this information is even more important for you. After consulting with clients and specialist practitioners in this area over many years, I have even had to undo some of my traditional learning in naturopathic medicine to simply ‘weed, seed & feed’ the gut. To take this one approach with anyone who presents with a gut infection is too simplistic and goes against the notion of holistic, individualised medicine.
Before I go on any further, I’d like to highlight one very important point:
There is NO known eradication strategy for Blastocystis hominis
Regardless of what any supplement company or practitioner has claimed. If anyone is claiming that you need no further investigation and just need to take a round of antibiotics/herbs and you’ll be fine, find a new practitioner.
If i meet someone in Sydney or via skype and they have uncovered Blastocystis hominis, my approach is to focus on the entire clinical presentation of the individual, and come to ‘diagnostic closure’ by investigating and ruling out other things going on with your gut health. This is incredibly important to understand.
Clients and practitioners alike can make the mistake of fixating on Blasto as the cause of all their health issues, and typically go straight in with heavy antibiotic and herbal treatments, which typically leaves them with even more chronic gut issues that makes complete resolution harder to achieve in the long term! Antibiotics can temporarily relieve symptoms, but typically come back in time (and often worse).
Many practitioners – medical and naturopathic – immediately go in with the ‘kill’ approach, not really understanding the impact this is having on their client’s microbiome (and therefore, their entire wellbeing). GPs generally don’t know much about it and may prescribe antibiotics which don’t work, whilst negatively impacting the gut microbiome even further.
Specialists may treat with extremely heavy antibiotics which typically leave people much worse-off, or just throw their hands up and admit they have no idea what to do about it and to ‘just live with it’.
Many well-meaning naturopathic and herbal practitioners immediately treat with very strong herbal antimicrobials and essential oils, without investigating any further into the client’s gut microbiome and overall health picture. Herbal antimicrobial treatments (especially essential oils) can also have collateral damage on the gut microbiome as prescription antibiotics do. The major issue with all of these approaches is people end up much worse than before, regardless of whether or not they got rid of the Blastocystis hominis, due to side effects of antibiotics.
GPs typically won’t go down the path of ruling out SIBO (Breath Testing required), Dysbiosis (specific comprehensive stool testing can test for levels of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ gut bacteria to know how to correct), fructose intolerance, or intestinal hyper-permeability (‘leaky gut’)…It’s crucial to investigate all other potential gut issues.
There are many things that could be going on with your gut health that need to be ruled out:
- Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) (hallmark symptom is chronic bloating)
- Dysbiosis (imbalance of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ gut bacteria)
- Post-infective IBS (very common after travelling and having gastro)
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Fructose Intolerance
- Coeliac Disease
- Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD)
To name a few. In particular, investigating the terrain of your microbiome and digestive system is one of the most crucial things to investigate properly.
Test – Don’t Guess! Thorough investigative case-taking by a qualified practitioner is extremely important. Working with a GP or specialist to rule our other conditions and get appropriate pathology completed is also essential. Seeking help with the right practitioners is essential, don’t put yourself through unnecessary stress by trying to figure it out yourself!
- I routinely order gut microbiome testing through Ubiome & Dr’s Data in order to accurately assess the state of your gut microbiome and digestive function. Majority of my clients are also tested for SIBO (glucose, lactulose and fructose) through the lab Stream Diagnostics
- Dietary modification can be tricky, and many clients are super confused about what to eat as everything seems to set them off. I encourage clients to begin with by looking into a low FODMAP diet to help reduce symptoms. This is not a long-term approach, but is useful while seeding the gut microbiome with selective prebiotics (e.g. PHGG) – PHGG (Partially Hydrolyzed Guar Gum) is a non-gas forming prebiotic that feeds beneficial gut flora so they can proliferate and exert their anti-inflammatory healing effects in the gut. A foundational and long-term goal is to heal the terrain of the gut, before going in with any kind of antimicrobial therapy. There are many other interventions and supplements that may be necessary, but this is a guaranteed beneficial and safe starting point
- Stress Management, Emotional Wellbeing & Mind-Body Work is an element of treatment that is often neglected but is just as important as the investigations and treatments. On this journey, your ability to be dedicated to stress-reduction practises and prioritising self-care is absolutely crucial. Letting go of the control of trying to ‘kill’ a parasite, and embracing a significantly modified dietary and lifestyle template may seem difficult initially but is the gateway to being rid of your chronic symptoms. There is certainly nothing to lose! I’m extremely passionate about giving people answers to their long-standing health concerns, please contact me if you’d like to know more about working together. I offer free 15 minute discovery consultations to see if we’re a good match!