1. Blastocystis Hominis – Introduction

The pain of blastocystis hominus 'infection'

The Gut-Wrenching Tale of

For years I have been promising not only to myself, but to many, many other people that I would write down my ‘Tummy Story’, my ‘Blasto Blog’.
As part of the introduction, I thought I’d open with the most commonly asked questions:

“What Is Blastocystis Anyway?”

Blastocystis hominis is a gastrointestinal parasite.  I can feel you squirming at the thought of it!
Bear in mind that our guts are host to millions of little critters; many of whom play a vital role in our health. Others are not so helpful.  Some, only become a problem when a change in their environment results in it becoming an uber-friendly place to live!  The little critters, or to use a more correct word, the microbes; like bacteria, parasites and viruses, can then have a ball! Reproducing and spreading in this perfectly appointed, ‘new’ home. 
(Changes in the gut flora can happen when there is a change in diet, medications, stress levels etc)

Think about yeast/thrush/candida albicans. (Not a particularly pleasant thing to think about I know!)
We all have it, we all need it, but feed it with too many yeast-containing foods, and you may develop unwelcome symptoms. Some critters can cause some people absolutely no problem whatsoever, whilst proving an absolute bloody nightmare to others.

Unfortunately, the blastocystis species is a controversial one; nobody has a definitive answer as to whether it can or cannot cause symptoms and/or disease.  Yet.
The very fact that it might cause any kind of long-term problem is mostly ignored in most (UK) quarters.

In fact, if you look up Blastocystis Hominis on the NHS websites for Scotland and for England/Wales, the search result comes back,
‘no results found.’

*Update: August 2021 – I have found this paper, published in November 2020 which shows that research IS happening Worldwide prevalence of emerging parasite Blastocystis in immunocompromised patients

Australia seems to be quite ‘switched on’ when it comes to gut health. In fact, one of the antibiotics for my triple anti-b treatment was imported (to the UK) from Australia. On the New South Wales, Australia, Government website, there is an excellent fact sheet on Blasto: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/blastocystis-hominis.aspx
In it, it states:

“Due to the uncertainty of whether this organism is a pathogen or not, it is difficult for doctors to decide whether to treat the infection.”

“What Was Wrong With You?” How Did It Affect You?

Initially, at the end of 2013, I had begun to have digestive problems. After eating food or drinking fluids, my upper abdomen became extremely distended – imagine the shape of a woman’s belly who is 7 months pregnant. I even had the walk of the heavily pregnant woman when it happened too! More of that in the Blog, 3. My Blastocystis Symptoms
This progressed, very quickly, to having severe diarrhoea after eating any food except pure protein eg. grilled chicken or eggs.
I also experienced extreme abdominal pain, ‘post-poo’.

Within 6 months I lost over 2 stone (14kg, 31lbs)
I went from being a healthy, active, self-employed physical therapist to a skinny, miserable exhausted shell of my former self, weighing in at
just under 7 stone (44.4kg 98lbs)
I am 5 ft 4” tall with a healthy weight, for the last 30 years, of around 8 ½ – 9 stone (129lbs, 58.5kg)

“So Did They Run Some Tests? Stool Samples?”

Over the course of the 9 months or so, I had a series of NHS blood tests and ‘donated’ my poo in a pot more times than I care to remember!
There may be an NHS test for blasto, but I actually don’t know. There was a complete lack of interest in anything parasite-related, unless one had recently travelled abroad, specifically to a developing country eg India or the Far East.
Once it was ascertained that I had not been abroad for years – even to humble ol’ Spain (!) the parasite idea was completely dismissed..
Unfortunately, all the tests came back negative.
So if there is ‘nothing’ wrong with me….. then there’s ‘nothing’ to treat.
*as she continues to shit violently after eating*

“So How DID You Get Better?”

Ah, the million-dollar question! It was not easy, nor is it something that I can answer in a couple of sentences…. Hence this blog! The road to recovery was long, exhausting, at times all consuming and all out-with the UK NHS.

The reason it’s taken me so long to write this all up is, the whole nightmare was/and is so complex.
My attempt to ‘just write a blog’ about it, got complicated! It kept growing arms and legs, multiplying in much the same way as the blastocystis hominus parasite did.
It effected SO many – hang on scrub that – it affected ALL aspects of my life. Not only my weight and diet ‘obvs’, but also my periods, social life, sex life and mental health.

As is now very well documented, having a compromised gut biome can have a direct impact on one’s mental health – possibly leading to increased levels of anxiety and fear.

So many fears; inadequacy, failing, being ridiculed, admitting weakness, being misunderstood. The fear of not being particularly good at this writing malarkey. The fear of admitting that I wasn’t coping back then. The fear of the stigma around mental health. In short – I was never gonna be able to shove those fears into the box under the bed, until my tummy became strong and resilient again. 

Plus, the pain. Dear God, the pain…. To revisit not only the physical pain but the emotional turmoil as well, was not something that I wanted to entertain any time soon. Once I was able to eat a healthy range of foods, to dine out again and begin some gentle exercise, I just wanted to put it all behind me, continue to recover and start living again.
Many people have expressed a desire to read my story. Some for professional reasons, some for personal reasons. Some for an actual need-to-know basis, as they too are suffering from similar symptoms and it is this last group that I write for.

People need to know that this blastocystis hominis ‘infection’
exists & is treatable!

To me, and from my experience working within the complementary therapy industry, that ‘catch-all’ diagnosis of ‘IBS’ is an ‘easy way’ for medics to categorise symptoms without actually exploring why the symptoms are there. Why is your bowel irritable? What is making it irritable?

In a good majority of cases, your bowel didn’t just wake up one morning and think to itself, “ach feck! I’m going to be in a really bad mood today for no apparent reason!” (NB. I am not including Cancer in this group)
If I can help even a few people, then sharing my story will have been worth it.

I had the good fortune to meet Dr.Chattergee a few years back. 
(At his book signing event… not like, on a date….)
He expressed an interest in reading about my experience with blasto.
In his books, he speaks of living with purpose. 
I feel this is a major one of mine. 
I just needed the guts (pun fully intended) to do it.

(btw, he’s really tall…. I’m not as short as this pic seems to suggest….)

If I can help even just a few people to get better, then writing this blog will have been worth it.

In future blogs I will delve in to how I recovered from the ‘Diarrhoeal-Disaster Years’ and how I continue to manage my digestive and mental health through the ebb and flow of life!
That damn ‘ebb and flow of life’ threw me a curveball in March 2021 – A new challenge that neither I, nor my guts were prepared for in any way, shape or form.
In the shape of 2 SCAD heart attacks.
I know! Random!

Medical Herbalist/ Nutrition Clare McQuade at www.deeatkinson.net
Email – [email protected]
Nutritionist – my nutritionist is no longer working but I highly recommend Kate Swaine https://www.edinburghclinicofnutrition.com/
Private GP specialist – Dr. Econs

By now, you know I am not a doctor, nutritionist, qualified gut specialist, nor cardiologist!
By staying on this website the reader fully accepts that this content cannot be used to replace qualified medical advice.
I can offer advice sessions on how to Be Your Best Advocate in a healthcare setting.
I am a fully qualified & insured physical therapist and can offer musculoskeletal advice. For information on this subject see –http://www.jillmclagganmassage.com
I currently do not receive any commission from any therapist, clinic or company mentioned in this blog.
Should this change, the arrangement will highlighted.
This blog is a personal blog, written and edited by me, Jill McLaggan. All content is to inform and entertain. All opinions are my own.