I've received some requests for updates on how our GAPS journey is going...and I also wanted to record this for us to look back on (because my memory is **shot**...is that something GAPS will help?!?).
I want to start with a big 'ol disclaimer - that you already know - but that I feel obligated to throw out there anyway: I am not a doctor...nor do I play one on my blog. I am just a mama. A mama who likes to read and research. A mama who wants her babies to feel good and be healthy. Oh, and she wants to feel good and be healthy also.
So there you go, a reminder that I really know, well....nothing. Zilch. What follows are just my ramblings, my observations, my anecdotal evidence from our very small sample size of GAPSters.
So, have we seen changes/improvements since being on GAPS???
My answer would be a definite....maybe. I think so. I'm pretty sure. No, on some fronts we definitely have. On others, it's hard to tell. Yet. For a black-and-white, spreadsheets-and-numbers-loving girl this has been hard for me. Not all of this, by its very nature, lends itself to hard-and-fast numbers and objective observations. Its all too subjective for my taste.
Wait, there are some hard-and-fast numbers I can point to: 20 and 15.
That would be the amount of weight that Jas and I have lost, respectively. I had read that GAPS will help someone who needs to lose weight lose it...and help someone who needs to gain weight gain it. Losing weight totally isn't **why** Jas and I are doing GAPS, but it has been a (happy) side effect of us doing it. Jas has been wanting to lose some weight...and I still hadn't lost the last of the 25 pounds I'd gained while taking medicine to induce lactation for Gabriel. So, we're both thrilled. My pants and jeans I haven't been able to wear in two years fit again! But I very much did not want the children to lose any weight doing GAPS (I specifically prayed against it), and they haven't. They eat a lot. A LOT! They easily eat more than me and Jas. And that is just fine by me. (Our food bill is worse than our mortgage, though)
Has Gabriel's skin improved?
Yes. And I'm so very thankful for that. It started improving within days of beginning him on GAPS. And then - about 3 weeks in - it started looking worse and being itchy again. Wha? I took him to our new pediatrician, Dr. K (who I LOVE) and we talked through all of it thoroughly. We bounced around ideas: I wondered if he was dealing with candida? Was it that we'd just added fruit back in for him? Did his skin not agree with the homemade body butter I made for him (coconut oil, cocoa butter, shea butter)? Was it some die-off, as I'd just upped his probiotic dose some? Does he have fructose malabsorption? We didn't know the cause for sure...but wow, it sure is nice to talk with a doctor who is on the same wave-length. I came home with a new multi-pronged plan: Limit his fruit to two pieces per day (he'd eat nothing but fruit if given the choice, which is concerning in and of itself). Give him detox baths at least 5 times per week (alternating between epsom salts and baking soda). Stop using coconut oil-based body butter. Start using Florasone again, as it had seemed to help him in the past, and definitely helped when he had itching (it is a topical cream that is a homeopathic alternative to cortisone).
Thankfully, his skin got better again. And it looks great now. Which of those things helped? I don't know. Making lots of changes at once makes me crazy, because then you don't know which factors helped or influenced what. But I should just be thankful that his skin is better...and I am!
We still have Gabriel off dairy, eggs and nuts. (These are three of the "Four Dark Horsemen..." of this kind of elimination diet) We tried several weeks ago to take baby steps to reintroduce dairy. I gave him a little bit of our homemade kefir. And I mean a little bit - like 1 or 2 teaspoons. By the next day he had developed little pustules. You don't want to know where. (sigh) Poor guy. I said "dadgummit!", but Dr. K nicely said, "Dairy isn't going to work for him right now."
Now, to move on to another child. The identity of this child will be concealed to protect the
This child has always struggled with seasonal allergies. More so than anyone else in our family. This child has also struggled more with attitude and behavior than any of the other children. Strong-willed? Challenging? Uh-huh. That is putting it nicely. It wasn't all the time. Not at all. This child is so sweet and kind about 95% of the time...but the other 5%, watch out! And it would be out of the blue. I had wondered at times previously if this child had bipolar disorder. This child has brought me to (frustrated, at-the-end-of-my-rope) tears more than once.
At the very beginning of July, this child woke up with swelling one morning:
We saw the other Dr. K (husband of our new doctor), and he said it could be one of about a billion things. He listed some of the most common, and me and this child zeroed in on two that we'd just had the night before this swelling: strawberries and salmon.
Dadgummit. Two of our favorite things, that we have often, that are healthy for us. But we had just been at the beach for two weeks and hadn't had these things once during that time...then we come home, have them, and BAM! That is the only reason I can figure that we'd never seen a (obvious) reaction before during consistent use of these two foods.
This child went on to have these welts/swelling every day for the next two weeks! We never knew where on the body it was going to pop up. And it was so itchy!
|I know it's hard to tell scale in this photo, but it is showing welts that went from the waistband up to shoulder blades|
Histamine reactions like that? The body overreacting to "safe" things? Not good. That earned this child the privilege of joining us on GAPS.
We eliminated strawberries and salmon for several weeks. Then we tried strawberries in a smoothie (when fruit was allowed back in our diets) and an immediate welt bigger than we'd heretofore seen came up with 10 minutes. So back off strawberries for weeks. 6 weeks? Tried them again. Good. No problem. Whew!
After being on GAPS for several weeks, and off salmon totally, the first few times we tried salmon again, this child did develop welts, but not not near as big or bad, or as long-lasting. And one time, when we had a particularly hellacious morning (behavior-wise), I realized that we had just had salmon the night before. Had this child's difficult-ness been related to food reactions all along? It was something I'd never considered before...but this instance definitely got my wheels turning.
Now, this child is not reacting physically at all to strawberries or salmon. And honestly, it really does seem to me that the challenging behaviors and strong-headed-ness has subsided. Is this child's behavior perfect? No! But I'm not talking about normal childhood issues. I do think that the worst of the (make-me-want-to-pull-my-hair-out) behaviors are gone. I realize this is subjective...and as I said above, I don't like that. But I really do believe this to be true...and it blows my mind! And....I'm very thankful!
The reason I'm doing GAPS is because of my hypothyroid. About 90% of hypothyroid issues are caused by Hashimotos, which is actually an autoimmune disorder. What finally caught my attention a few months ago (and gave me a kick-in-the-pants wakeup call) and convinced me I did need to do GAPS was reading that autoimmune disorders, if not dealt with (the root cause, not the symptoms) can lead to developing other autoimmune disorders. Think: multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, insert-many-other-fun-names-here. I cannot explain the time and research I've put into all this recently. This topic is a whole 'nother post! It makes me very upset with myself that I did not do all this research 10 years ago, when I was first diagnosed as hypothyroid. I've just had blood work done a few days ago, and I'm waiting to see what in the world those results will say...and then we'll take it from there. Hypothyroid/Hashimoto's will affect 10% of women, so I'm thinking that I'm not the only one reading this that is affected. I plan to write more on this topic...
We so far have not used the help of a certified GAPS-practitioner...but I do not rule that out, if we felt we needed more help and direction. These practitioners are all over the country, and we could use skype or telephone to consult with someone. I hope we don't need to...but don't rule it out if we get stuck somewhere.
When we first started GAPS we did see some die-off reactions and detoxing in some of us. Ok, mainly just me. For instance, my wedding ring that I've had for 18 years now and have never had a reaction to? I began reacting to:
It burned! My finger got itchy and peely. I had to take the ring off for a few days...which just felt downright weird. Then I put it back on and everything was ok for a couple weeks, and then I started reacting to it again and had to take it off for several more days. When I put it back on again, everything was fine and has continued to be fine, thankfully.
(Be thankful I don't have a picture to go with this next paragraph!)
Another example with me: After just a few days on GAPS, I developed lots of little pustules. (I detest that word...it sounds so gross, but I think it is the correct word here.) They looked - according to Jas - like ant bites. But I knew I had not been bitten by ants! They were on both of my legs and both of my arms. They lasted for a couple of weeks. I made sure not to mess with them in any way, and they went away fine on their own. Good riddance!
Here is another ultra high quality picture from my phone:
So how are the mechanics of the diet change itself going - you know, eliminating all grains, processed sugar, uncultured dairy, and starchy vegetables?
Amazingly well. And it is downright easy now. The children have really been troopers. Not that there hasn't been any complaining (because there has), but I really am impressed with how they've handled the changes. In fact, two of them have said to me (separately) that they're glad we're doing GAPS, because it has caused them to try (and find out they like!) new foods. I heard a quote about GAPS before we started: "GAPS will make your taste buds grow up." I believe it. I've seen it in me and my kiddos. I do not worry about the children cheating when they're around other food, like at homeschool group get-togethers, or at the children's activities at church every Sunday night (where supper is served).
We have made accommodations and changes to the way we do things in order for our special diet to not isolate us from friends and family and social events.
- supper is served at the church every Sunday night for children's activities. And supper is served every Sunday night for our adult community groups that meet in members' homes (ours is meeting in our house right now). In these instances, we all just eat here at the house as a family before we head to our church activities on Sunday evening.
- when we will be eating somewhere else, we just pack a picnic (like we used to do anyway) that has GAPS friendly food. We do this for our Co-op pick-up days, homeschool group picnics, etc. (Typical menu: chicken salad or meatballs, cut up raw carrots, sliced apples, nuts, slices of cheese...which could have easily have been our menu in our pre-GAPS days)
- if the situation is appropriate, we take GAPS friendly food to eat instead of what others will be eating (like Elisabeth did when she went to the birthday party recently: I talked to the mama to find out what the menu would be, and Elisabeth took stuff that was the same, just GAPS-friendly)
- To a bigger buffet-style gathering, we bring GAPS-friendly food to share with everyone that we know we'll be able to eat, even if we can't have anything else offered there. For example, when I have a homeschool mom's meeting (we always bring heavy hors d'oeuvres and desserts to these). Another example is my extended family's Thanksgiving meal. (We knew we'd be able to have the turkey and boston butt, and our family brought Cauliflower Mac and Cheese, roasted asparagus, and apple tart and my mom brought lima beans that she knew we could have.)
Before we began GAPS, it wasn't unusual for us to eat out once, or sometimes twice, a week (usually lunch with my mom or some of our friends). This has DEFINITELY cut down on that eating out. The children haven't been out once since we began GAPS. I've been out exactly once (went to Ruby Tuesday with two girl friends, got the salad bar, brought my own dressing in a little jar). Jas is the exception here. He eats out at lunch some still...and just aims to eat GAPS-friendly stuff. For instance, a hamburger, but he takes off the bun, and doesn't get fries. Or when he goes to the country club for that once-a-month meeting they have there (rough life) he'll get the steak sandwich or Philly cheesesteak sandwich without the bread.
An upside that I've seen in action here just very recently: I'm pretty sure (is that subjective enough?) that our immune systems are in better shape. (Which makes sense, since for one thing, we've totally cut sugar out, and sugar impairs your immune system.) My anecdotal evidence is based on episodes over the past couple of weeks with Gabriel, Elisabeth and I. G had a runny nose for a few days (that wasn't related to teething) that had in the past turned into ear infections (confirmed by Dr. J, but we treated at home like THIS, not with an antibiotic). Elisabeth started with a pretty nasty cough, and in the past it has quickly developed into a bad respiratory thing - she has had pneumonia several times in the past. But she was able to kick it without it getting worse. And then just two days ago, I woke up with sinus issues, and my throat felt funny and I was coughing. I downed some raw honey, an extra dose of Fermented Cod Liver Oil, some freshly squeezed lemon juice and three cloves of fermented garlic. So, yes, I smelled like I'd just eaten at Olive Garden, but I kicked ALL my symptoms to the curb by lunch that day. These are each very anecdotal, and totally subjective...but I'm starting to be a believer!
So, just over three months in, and things are going "well" to "very good" on our GAPS journey. We've seen progress in some areas, even more than I really expected at this point. From what I've read, once we've had "good digestion" for at least 6 months, we can begin the process of reintroducing some of those illegal foods. So, we're still here for several more months. And I am just assuming that **I** will be here for longer than that...longer than the rest of my peeps. But we'll see......