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Sherlock Holmes and the Trick of the Bacteria

Exploring the human condition is like entering a Sherlock Holmes investigation. We start with a patient who comes into the office for an appointment. His main symptom is pain in his leg muscles, but upon further investigation, we discover he also has digestive

Sometimes going into the mind of Sherlock Holmes can help solve the case of your health.

difficulties and gas. What could cause pain in his legs and digestive problems? The Health Center of Hillsborough is on the case.

Sometimes pain is a result of a mechanical problem in the body, but other times the cause is more subtle. Like Holmes, we start with questioning the patient for clues. When did the leg pain begin? When did the problems and gas begin? What time of day? Where exactly is the pain? What happened before the symptoms started? Is the digestion and leg pain problematic at the same or different times?

Looking over all of our information, we discover the following clues:

  • Both of the patient’s problems have been going on for a long time.
  • He’d had low back pain off and on for almost a year, but he claimed he could always “walk it off.”
  •  The patient plays basketball with his guy friends on the weekends.
  • Eight months ago, the patient got a sore throat, which was cured with an antibiotic.
  • The patient’s bowel gas and digestion worsened, as well as his leg pain, after the antibiotic cured his sore throat.

We decide to explore deeper into this patient’s problems. After an evaluation, we discover the patient has a misaligned spine causing pressure on the nerves going down to his legs. That explained why the patient had leg pain, but why did it get worse after his sore throat? We go into our doctor’s mind palace and realize that the same nerve roots that go down to the legs also have branches that go to the lower gut. We also know that the entire digestive system is filled with “good” bacteria, which are vital to how the gut works. Kill off these bacteria and a lot of things stop working properly.

We have gathered enough clues; it is time to solve the case. It turns out that it was the antibiotics the patient took that made his problems worse. The antibiotics ended up killing the good and bad bacteria in the gut. When the good bacteria are gone, it can cause problems. The digestive problems sent signals up through the nerves to the spine, and since the same nerves also go down to the legs, the patient’s leg pain increased.

In The New Yorker magazine of October 2012, Martin J Blaser, the chairman of the Department of Medicine at the New York University School of Medicine, said, “Germs make us sick but everyone focuses on harm. And it’s not that simple, because without most of these organisms we could never survive.”

To help the patient, we must address both his digestive and spinal issues. At the Health Center of Hillsborough, we work as a team. Chiropractic and acupuncture is where the Health Center started, but now we have 7 practitioners and each of us dovetails in with the others.  Massage therapy is more than relaxing. It has a contribution for healing. Our nutritionist/registered dietitian might be the one who recognizes a particular clue and offers healing. Clinical hypnotism and physical therapy contribute, as does weight loss coaching. And perhaps, most importantly, is that we encourage you, the patient, to contribute knowledge as well. You are the healer and that is why we call our website

Tune in to the next article for more on how our good bacteria manage appetite.

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