Life after bipolar and a letter from Sir David Attenborough

I am not sure if Karen will remember emails we exchanged many years ago while we were each still struggling, having been told no one recovers from  bipolar disorder.

Contrary to ‘expert’ opinion, we have we each recovered. Karen has a video on this web page where she talks about her recovery:

This is not new news, so why am I mentioning Karen now?

There is something about her latest book that is grabbing a great deal of attention. It is a letter of support from Sir David Attenborough for Karen’s ‘Great Barrier Reef Rescue’ for children, an eco-adventure mystery, to educate and empower kids to care for the reef.

I am sharing this because not only may it help inform more people of a new or greater danger to this habitat… It also to let more people know recovery is possible and Karen is one of many examples of people thriving beyond / after being described as bipolar.


Stomach Acid 2 of 4 – How do we know when we have too little stomach acid?

Recovery from bipolar or any other disorder depends on our digestive system working well.

Ideally our stomach valves remain closed most of the time. How tightly these valves close depends a lot on the fullness and acidity of the stomach. The top valve only needs to open and then close again each time we swallow a mouthful of food or drink. When the stomach is full this top valve needs to close tightly. Ideally the bottom valve will remain tightly closed until a meal has been bathed in acid long enough to:

1) kill the vast majority of the harmful organisms that can be present in food,

2) break up much of the protein with the help of the stomach enzyme, pepsin.

Stress can cause any part of the digestive system to malfunction as energy is diverted from elsewhere in the body. One effect of stress is a lack of stomach acid when it is most needed and this may contribute to the valve at the bottom of the stomach opening too soon and letting partially digested foods through. This can lead to abdominal pains as partially digested foods tend to irritate the gut lining. It can also lead to a need to get to the toilet sooner than you would normally or even to what seems like frequent diarrhoea. From a survival point of view diarrhoea is a sensible reaction to under digested food as it is more likely to contain harmful bacteria.

Food not being in contact with strong enough stomach acid for long enough can cause Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). For everyone I have worked with who has had bad IBS, treating their low stomach acid that has lessened any pain, diarrhoea and bouts of constipation.

With low stomach acid the top stomach valve tends not to close so tightly which allows small amounts of stomach contents up into the oesophagus. The acid may be weak but with pepsin present it can start to dissolve any part of a body that is not stomach lining. This hurts! As the part of the oesophagus affected is near the heart, this pain is often called ‘heart-burn’. For some the pain is mild but can be frequent. For others the pain is severe and can even cause people to believe they are having a heart attack when it first happens.

Contrary to popular belief, pain due to too much acid or acid that is too strong is extremely rare. Here are some reasons for this:

  1. It takes a lot of energy to make stomach acid so our bodies do not waste energy making any more than is needed.
  2. The stronger the acid in your stomach the tighter the top valve should be closed to stop it coming out to burn the oesophagus.
  3. There are many disorders, illness and deficiencies that slow down stomach acid production but no common disorders (that I am aware of) that lead to the speeding up of acid production.

If you get chest pains related to your digestive system then it is almost certainly due to weak stomach acid and not your stomach making excess acid. (Low acid is even more likely as you get older and is affecting 50% of those over 60.*)

If you are feeling very stressed your body will almost certainly have too little stomach acid. Saying, “Be less stressed” is not going to help, instead I want to share simple ways to improve your digestion over the next few pages.

(Next article to be added about 13th July)

Roger Smith – – article updated 30th June 2014

Ref*… see slide 9 of:

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