GAPS Diet Journal: Six Month Mark

We recently hit our six month mark of starting the GAPS diet! It is a diet that is rich in nourishing, healing foods which allow the gut to heal itself. Since many ailments begin with an unhealthy gut, this diet is ideal for a variety of chronic illnesses. It is meant to be temporary, ranging from six months to two years of strict adherence. We began the diet to help my son with his numerous food allergies, leaky gut, and behavioral struggles. I was also struggling with digestive issues, joint pain, and fatigue. I did a three month update, if you'd like to see that here.

This diet is definitely a lot of work. I spend the majority of my time in the kitchen which leaves little time for other hobbies. I tell myself it is only temporary, but there are days when it is tiresome. We have seen many improvements on this diet, which is the main thing that keeps me going day in and day out. It makes it worth it. Are there times when I wish we could be like everyone else? I'd be lying if I didn't say yes. Yes, sometimes I do wish we could be "normal." That we could just stop out and eat somewhere when the kids are tired and hungry. It takes a lot of planning ahead but I find if I am prepared, things are better. 

Over the past couple of months, my son - who has a host of food allergies - has been getting into "illegal" foods. When I was out of town, he ate a big piece of chocolate cake (wheat). Another time, he ate half of a wheat sandwich from the kid I was babysitting. Those instances were really difficult for me but they helped me realize I need to be less militant about his food choices. I have this strong desire to protect him but I can't be hard on myself when his choices are not in his best interest. Unfortunately, he had pretty undesirable reactions to those infractions with wheat (several loose stools, regression in behavior, hives, sleep issues, defiance) which tells me he still has healing to do. In many ways, those cheats were a good thing for me to see. Quite honestly, our life at times seems very difficult because he is a hard child to handle. But, if he was eating wheat, sugar, chemicals and additives daily...it would be on a whole different level. And I believe he'd be much more of a challenge. So, while he seems challenging at times right now, I am grateful because I know he is better off. 

I have felt really good on this diet. Some days are hard. I feel fatigued and run down, but I contribute much of that to the sleep deprivation that comes with being a mom of three very little ones. I notice that my energy level seems more stable now, even though I am still fatigued. I used to crash and don't find that that happens anymore. My joint pain is gone, but does return from time to time. When my joint pain returns, I know it is because I am experiencing detoxification. As you fill your body with nourishing foods, toxins (chemicals, food sensitivities, etc) are released and can cause many undesirable symptoms from cold symptoms to skin irritations to depression, etc. The good thing is that detoxification means your body is healing and afterwards, you feel even better than before! But, it doesn't mean detoxifying is easy. Shortly after Olive's birth, I began taking a commercial probiotic pill which supplied my gut with lots of beneficial bacteria and caused the bad bacteria to begin coming out. I slipped into a very deep depression. I believe it was partly brought on by postpartum changes in hormones and partially by detoxification. I have struggled with depression my entire life and am planning to write a post soon on how I have dealt with it naturally. It was very hard but I have come through it and am feeling much better. I believe my body was releasing toxins and that is what caused me to crash so profoundly (I also believe my body is and was very depleted, which I will go into more detail about later). This last weekend, I had a few days of rough detoxification but it is crazy how much better I already feel! I had such bad joint pain. It woke me in the night - it felt like I'd eaten wheat (which I had not). It was in my shoulder, elbow, and wrist on the left side. The next day, it moved to my left hip, knee, and ankle. Meanwhile, my left ear was really sore and I began feeling very run down, like I was getting a head cold. These strange symptoms lasted about three days and then I was perfectly normal. It was interesting that it was all on my left side. Detoxification is an interesting game.

In January, I went to visit my good friend and couldn't stick to the diet perfectly. Luckily, while I was there, I didn't get sick, but I did get really constipated which was really uncomfortable. On the flight home, I began to experience the same digestive problems I had prior to starting the diet and when I got home, I had such bad abdominal cramping that I really felt like I wanted to die...or at least just let the cramping subside! It was so bad I had to get in the bath and just soak, waiting for my tummy to feel better. I had completely forgotten what it felt like to feel that way and I do not miss it one bit. I do not cheat with the diet much at all (I have occasionally had a small amount of organic whipped cream or some chocolate but never any grains, except for a small amount on my trip - but I did not eat wheat) but that experience taught me that I am also not ready to get off this diet yet! My gut still needs some major healing and I will stay on this for as long as I have to. People always ask me if I miss old food and quite honestly, I can say NO WAY! I do not miss the wheat or the sugar or the processed junk at all because that is what led me to feeling so crappy! Prior to starting GAPS, my digestion was horrible. I was in the bathroom doubled over for hours every morning in so much pain. I had terrible diarrhea and abdominal cramping (definitely due to wheat/gluten). I feel so much better now and am hopeful that with time I will find the healing I need.

Max is doing really well on this diet. Right now he is in a difficult spot but I believe he is going through some detox right now as well. I just began introducing sauerkraut juice which is very healing and full of probiotics. He is covered in huge hives and is so itchy. I feel like he is detoxing and will give it a few more days before I decide if it's food related or not. My other little one is also covered in a rash (and she never gets rashes). It seems that the way my children detox is through their skin. I try to give them Epsom Salt baths daily to help with the detoxification process (it helps pull the toxins out while supplying your body with magnesium and sulfur). Speaking of skin, wen I was about 8, I was so weird about my hands...it must have been some sort of sensory issue. I hated the way they felt...I couldn't unload dishes because I couldn't stand the way touching the squeaky clean glasses felt. I would lick my hands constantly to help them feel better. All of the sudden, just a few weeks ago, that symptom returned! I felt eight years old again. I could hardly unload my dishes...my hands felt so strange. That symptom is gone now, hooray! But weird right? My hands also got extremely dry, almost cracked on top which is very unusual for me. I don't ever have skin issues on my hands. There had been about a week where I reluctantly used some of my old, chemical filled lotion because my natural lotion had run out. When I stopped using it and went back to natural lotion, my hands started cracking and got really dry for about two weeks. Once those chemicals detoxed, my hands went back to normal and are now smooth. 

Max's behavior continues to improve. His stool is regular and formed. He is speaking in sentences. He's using his imagination! And interacting with peers. He's even been fighting with peers...don't know if that's good or bad but he is at least noticing them, getting jealous, having a hard time sharing, etc. whereas before he could have cared less about others. A BIG thing this week - he is asking me questions! All the time! He is so inquisitive. I am having so much fun hearing his little thoughts. His speech still has a long way to go, but I am so astounded at his improvements in just six months. He is also sleeping better. He can now go to sleep by himself without me there (we do give him a very low dose of Melatonin which has helped him tremendously) and he sleeps through the night most nights. He still wakes up very early but has been sleeping about 12 hours. He continues to have meltdowns and they seem to peak when he is detoxing, then they get better. The meltdowns are kind of in a rollercoaster type pattern...they will really peak, then totally go away, then come back. I hope that will continue to improve over time. I am really pleased with Max's progress on the diet so far. I still hope for the day that he will be able to eat foods he is allergic to and at times, it feels impossible, but I hope with time he will continue to heal.

Maude's digestion has really improved. She began this diet struggling with constipation. She is now very regular and her stools are formed. She is sleeping really well, talking amazingly (she is twp and speaks at the same level almost as Max, who will be four next month), and is really social (when Mommy is around). She acts like a normal, happy two year old!

Overall, I am really pleased with how our GAPS journey is going. We are eating the Full GAPS diet. I have added in more fruit for myself and it seems to help with my energy levels. I am currently really enjoying organic pink lady apples. They are my big snack after the kids are in bed! Both Max and Maude do not seem able to handle nuts well (they experience loose stools, meltdowns, and rashes) so we do not use nuts very often at all. I also do not use a lot of coconut flour (though we use homemade coconut milk and lots of coconut oil) because I am not sure that they tolerate that well at all either. We mainly eat eggs, meat, veggies, homemade yogurt/kefir, and some fruit. I am working right now on increasing our dosage of sauerkraut juice (we are at 1 teaspoon each right now). I cannot get my kids to consistenly drink broth (which is very healing to the gut), so I try to do soups a few times a week but I admit I am not very good at it. I have a lot on my plate and am trying very hard to do my best. I often feel guilty, like I am not doing this diet perfectly (am I ever a perfectionist!), but I have to remind myself that I do not need to be perfect and that I need to give myself credit for the things I am doing. Pretty soon, I plan to start Max on digestive enzymes to see if that helps relieve some of his symptoms especially red cheeks/ears which may be a sensitivity to phenols in food. I also am going to start us on a commercial probiotic pill again. These things have to be started and increased slowly, in order to watch for any reactions that might happen. The slower you go, the easier it is on the body and the easier it is to pinpoint any reactions. 

I don't know what our plan is for the future. I think we will continue with Full GAPS for quite some time since it doesn't seem like Max's food allergies are nearly close enough to being healed. He does have an appointment with the allergist next month, so I am curious to see how formal testing goes. All in all, I am happy with where we are even if I do feel burned out from time to time with the mental toll it takes on me. Some days it is a lot to handle and some days I feel quite alone in the journey. But when I write this all up and see how far we have come, I am pleased and I feel good about where we are going.