This post is a continuation of my last post regarding the GAPS diet (Hope and Healing: our food journey to happiness).
When I last wrote, I was so full of energy and hope about what the GAPS diet had done for us, and we weren't even ON the diet at that point. We had just introduced the first and most important gut-healing foods: homemade probiotic foods (sauerkraut and yoghurt) and the meat stocks and broths. Now I feel like laughing at the ‘old’ me of 3 months ago, because if I thought THAT was good, it is no wonder that since then, I have become 'that woman': until very recently, if someone so much as LOOKED at my son, I launched into this speech: “Oh, yes, this is my son Daniel, he IS looking healthy, isn’t he?” (They hadn't commented that he was looking healthy). “Well, would you believe it but not even four months ago, he was so allergic that he only had 7 safe foods that he could just about tolerate without vomiting. Yes, that’s right.” (The person is now looking around for help, maybe even backing up out of the shop. I advance. I no longer have a great sense of personal space.) “Well, let me tell you, we put him on this incredible healing diet…” (I then proceed to try and cram ALL of the information that is in my head into 4 or 5 sentences. This never works, so it comes across like a kind of mad rambling). “…and he is now HEALED. Hallelujah.” By this stage I am talking to myself.
I am living in a new, unlimited world. Now, all the things that I suspected about general society's ill health, but was too afraid to act upon in my own life are my truths. My eyes are firmly open. And it is such a thrill to ACT upon these truths, rather than to pretend they don't affect me. And when the rate of cancer is skyrocketing, and the World Health Organisation advises that only 10% of cancers are due to genetic inheritance, which means 90% is due to lifestyle, it is worth acting upon these truths alone: processed food is bad, so don't eat it. Sugar causes untold health issues, so remove it from your diet. Good quality animal fat is a basic human need, so source it from farmers and devour it daily. Organic veggies aren't covered in pesticides, and bring good bacteria back into your diet, so eat them instead.
But I am getting WAY ahead of myself. Let me tell you what happened.
Spoiler alert: it's a freaking miracle, that's what.
When I last wrote, we were still eating grains and sugar, and had already received some pretty sizeable results from just introducing the 3 healing foods of meat stock, sauerkraut and 24hr fermented yoghurt, all homemade. But shortly after I wrote, my son started to get some weird symptoms. His legs started cramping up at night, like muscle seizures, and no amount of pain relief would help. He was screaming in pain nearly every night. Then his lymphatic gland in his neck swelled up so much that he was diagnosed with the mumps and had to stay home for 2 weeks (no one else had the mumps, so it was weird, and in retrospect, probably not the mumps). The black smudgy rings under his eyes returned with a vengeance, and he just seemed to be generally unwell with no specific symptoms. So I started reading again. I read the GAPS book from cover to cover, and every article I could get my hands on about gut flora, candida, staph, healing leaky guts. I realised that we were forcing this little chap into detox, without removing the foods that really just caused him to 're-tox'. In other words, we were killing off pathogenic bacteria, a 'die-off' process which can make you feel quite unwell, but then we were just feeding the same bad bacteria so that they grew up again, only to die off again, etc.
Once I got my head around the problem, it became clear that we were not going to get the permanent healing of our family’s gut linings (and all the related issues) without doing the hardcore full on GAPS Introduction Diet. Now, I was petrified of doing the Intro diet, so I was praying like a very scared mother at this point. I felt a lot of fear. I also felt like God was telling me to be obedient to Him and do the diet. This isn’t crazy religious zealous talk, this was a gentle instruction that I was receiving on a daily basis, through conversations with other people, weird dreams, and a permanent gut feeling (excuse the pun) that this was a Godly diet, and not to be avoided. I started to have panic attacks. This was going to be really, really hard, for three reasons:
1) Every food that you eat on Intro Diet was a food that Danny was either allergic or intolerant to. Around day four, depending on our progress, we were supposed to give him RAW egg yolks. I was still carrying an Epipen in my handbag in case he came in contact with raw egg. How was I going to do this?
2) I was going to have to prepare all the food from scratch. Everything. Soup, meat, vegetables, snacks, condiments, nut flours, yoghurt, sour cream, broth, ghee, tallow, kiddies treats…everything. There was no convenience store for this choice. Unless the store's name was MOM.
3) I had joined a fascinating Internet forum, where matriarchs of this diet offer their unparalleled advice and support. These are mothers who, in the face of aggressively protesting husbands, mother-in-laws, doctors and strangers with strong opinions, have followed the diet to the T, and received for their efforts, incredible healing for their children. Many of the mothers had reached the end of their tether with symptom management, especially for Autism Spectrum Disorder kids. (I still get goose bumps reading the stories of healing that pour out of this forum).However, the stories of the first few days of Intro were of kids refusing to eat, suffering such lethargy and tantrums and awful symptoms that mothers were desperate, crying, not knowing what to do. (I now know that the kids were fasting, but more on that later.) It is quite a big ask for a mother to knowingly put her child through un-wellness.
But then I reminded myself that we had lived with un-wellness that we COULDN'T control for 5 years.
God’s words kept coming, and they were powerful and promising: If you will be obedient, then I will pour blessings on your family like you have never seen. The blessings will come pouring through your doors and windows. You will receive healing, divine health. But you need to be obedient.
Powerful promises. I decided to hedge my bets and to do Intro myself, that way I would be able to see what all the fuss was about. God had other plans.
A couple of nights before I was due to begin, my son came to me and in his inimitable angelic way, begged me not to leave him behind. He wept with his head on my lap that he didn’t want to be sick anymore. He wanted to do Intro with me. My heart was in pieces. So we talked about how hard it was going to be, that he would feel like he had the flu as the ‘poisons’ left his body. We had a phrase: “It’s going to be HARD, but we’re going to be BRAVE.” We prayed every night that Jesus would help us to heal QUICKLY, so we could move further, faster.
On the start day of the diet, my husband took the first shift of feeding my son his broth, meat and butternut soup. He came into the bedroom to advise me that our 3 year old daughter was quite indignant, and would not be left out, so she was doing Intro too! Oh I had to laugh at this, but now I see that it was the best thing ever, because my little three year old, we have since discovered, also had some serious healing to do.
As I expected, the Introduction Diet was one of the hardest things we’ve ever done. While my kids ate food from day one, which was SUCH a blessing, their appetites were tiny, they lost weight, they felt awful. My daughter got a fever and vomited. And I got to feel firsthand what it means to detox. I have to be honest, I thought the words ‘detox pathways’ were a bit of a hippie phrase, like a yoga spiritual mantra for how the bad vibes leave your body. It is not a hippie phrase. It is a very real and powerful thing, and if your detox pathways don’t work well, then you suffer when you detox. And boy did I suffer. It was hard, but we were brave!
I made the mistake of taking a tablespoon of sauerkraut juice with each meal. Sauerkraut juice is highly probiotic, which means that it sends all these warrior good bacteria into your GI tract to kill off the bad bacteria. This in turn causes the bad bacteria to release their toxic load. If you have a LOT of bad bacteria, then you get a big dose of toxins into your very fragile system. I learnt the hard way that it is best to start with a DROP of probiotic foods, if any. I had the weirdest experience. I got a pain in my hips that then moved all the way down to my feet. I had this pain for 3 days, and it was getting progressively worse. The pain seemed to emanate from my pelvic area, which has been damaged many times through horse riding accidents, snowboarding accidents, and childbirth. Spiritually, it felt like this area of my body was holding onto some demons from my past (ok that sounds like a hippie Christian phrase, but I’m just saying). Physically, it actually made sense. I had read that candida can overgrow in areas where there is a lot of scar tissue. Because all we were eating was soup, broth and meat, and nuking these bacteria with sauerkraut, the first die-off was more intense than I would ever like to repeat in my lifetime. After three days, we reduced the sauerkraut juice to literally 1ml per meal, and the symptoms eased by that evening.
During those first few days, we were fasting, as it turns out. The appetites disappeared, and only broth and soup and other easily digestible foods like meat cooked in broth were desired. I have now seen for myself the benefits of fasting. The only way I can describe it is it was like rebooting a computer. Before the fasting, we were sick and intolerant to many foods. After three days for our family, those intolerances were no longer there.
Day 4 arrived and we felt it was time to trial my son, who was coping the best out of all of us, on raw egg. We had tried raw egg yolk just before starting Intro, and he had failed, vomiting on the tiniest amount, so this was a difficult decision, and we decided to follow the Sensitivity Test protocol. Even so, let me tell you, I prayed over this egg yolk like it was the end of the world. We 'painted' a tiny bit on his wrist overnight.
He passed it.
No skin reaction whatsoever (little fist pump and thanks to God, but a ways to go yet).
We rubbed it onto his lip and waited. Oh, I pretended like it was nothing, washing dishes, singing songs, praying and praying and praying in my head.
He passed it.
No tingling whatsoever.
So then I put a tiny drop on his tongue.
And he passed that.
So then he had a quarter of a raw egg yolk. To this day, he has not reacted to raw egg yolk ever again. One of many FIRSTS for this kid.
Do you know what it is like to live without eggs? Take a moment to think about it. Then remove every other food except rice and you're getting close to where we were before GAPS. When he passed eggs, I felt a blessing pouring through my windows and doors. I felt the fear of uncontrollable contamination, a five year old fear, lift from my shoulders, and my lungs filled with air, and HOPE made its home in our house.
5 days later, we trialled avocado. He is highly intolerant to avocado.
He passed it.
10 days later, we trialled almonds. He is highly allergic to almonds. His allergist had been very clear that children don't grow out of nut allergies.
He passed it.
No reaction whatsoever.
Around this time, the kids got hungry. REAL hungry. I have NEVER in my life had to cook so much food in a day. I was shovelling it into them. My daughter was talking in her sleep about drumsticks and sour cream. I bought a weeks’ worth of organic meat and it lasted 2 days. My husband and I were exhausted, but laughing out loud at our little vacuum cleaners, just inhaling their food and looking around for more. Their bodies had finally shifted from using carbohydrate to feed the pathogenic bacteria in their guts, to using the fats and proteins to nourish their own bodies, and their bodies were CRAVING nourishment!
And the variety of food! Oh my, this was new. This is the list of food that both my son and daughter were now devouring, all food that they had reacted to before Intro. They passed these one at a time. This is the list of blessings that flowed down because we were obedient:
Chicken, Beef, Butternut, Honey, Lemon, Zucchini, Onion, Garlic, Avocado, Eggs, Ghee, Sour Cream (DAIRY PRODUCTS!!!!!!), All apples (as opposed to only peeled red delicious apples), Almonds, Coconut, Cocoa, Dates, Peas (his first reaction to peas was the day I started him on solid foods at 6 months old), Beans, Spinach, Apple Cider Vinegar, Strawberries, Raspberries, MANGO!!!, Watermelon, Yoghurt, Butter.
The first time my son failed a food was on day 10, raw egg white. But if I cook it for 1 second, or beat it up into bread mix, he doesn’t react to it, so I am expecting full healing soon.
The second time was to Walnuts, and that was on day 35, and it was the first time he needed medication since we started. It was a scary reaction, but I hold out hopes that once his gut is fully recovered, reactions to all tree nuts will lessen and then disappear too.
In the middle of all this, his wheezing and sneezing finally stopped for good. He used to be on 7 medications, sometimes daily. He is now on none. Unless you count Fermented Cod Liver Oil (Yummmm...not.) We do have antihistamine and an Epipen still on the shelf for his remaining nut allergies. Hopefully not for much longer! In fact, both kids have only had one sniffly cold through this period. This was after 8 long months of illness, one awful thing after the other, visits to the hospital, and basically collapsed immune systems. It has taken some excellent, powerful, simple foods to turn it all around in a very short space of time.
My daughter got her little swollen belly back for a few weeks, and then it just eased and disappeared. It comes back when we 'feed the yeast beast' too many fruits and nuts, but the introduction of yoghurt and kefir has brought with it amazing healing. You could actually see the dead candida yeast coming out in her poop (sorry about TMI). After we introduced yoghurt, she would get these spots on her bum for a day, and then they would be GONE. Her belly is mostly nice and flat now, until we up the sauerkraut again, then she has another detox of all this bad stuff, and then it's gone again. It's like walking up a flight of stairs, then reaching a flat bit, then you keep going up again.
We went through 3 weeks of heavy morning detoxing, requiring Epsom salt baths as soon as the kids woke up, and magnesium oil on his feet to help Daniel to feel better. And then one day, he didn't detox in the morning, and I noticed that the dark smudges under my son’s eyes, our constant companion since he was born, disappeared for good. When they are gone, it is hard to imagine how you thought they were ok for so long. My son, who we used to call Casper the friendly ghost, because he was so pale, actually has a sallow skin. Now that he is eating food with colour in it, his face has gone all pink and peachy, his legs are brown as a nut: he looks like a little Mediterranean kid. And he has just PILED on the weight he lost in 2013.
I must also mention emotions and psychology. My son has always had an acute sensitivity to noise, and light, and touch. He was not an affectionate baby or toddler. He was always quick to breakdown emotionally, and would freak out anyone in the public toilets with his screaming if someone happened to use the hand dryer. I suppose he had Sensory Processing Disorder, but it was never diagnosed. Since doing Intro, he has become the most cuddly and affectionate child ever. He told me once that his skin doesn't hurt to be touched anymore. He doesn't freak out in loud groups anymore. He is calm, happy, life is GOOD for him now. My daughter showed all the symptoms of ADHD. She had trouble focussing on a task, and I don't mean 2 year old trouble focussing: I mean she would look at you in bewilderment after you had held her face and repeated a short, easy to follow instruction 10 times over. She was in la-la land, to a worrying degree. And having some experience with ADHD, I was worried for her. Those early symptoms are gone now. Her speech has sky-rocketed, her focus is clear-eyed and she follows instructions to the letter (when she is not being a plain old naughty three year old). I am no longer worried about my daughter AT ALL. She is going to be fine, and she is going to have only the normal stuff to worry about.
My own depression and anxiety, something I have battled on and off for 15 years, has lifted. My foundations are solid, I do not feel near the cliff edge, I have enough serotonin reserves to deal with anything. I am not emotionally fragile, always close to tears, or trauma, or rage, or exhaustion. It took me longer than the kids to work through this, and it was quite remarkable how, on the days we increased our probiotics, my moods would initially plummet. In the early days of Intro, it was hard to peg it on anything, because it would last for days and I would feel terrified that I had brought depression back into our lives. Then I started noticing that it would happen after I had sauerkraut juice, and it would last for a day, then it would last for an afternoon, then a few hours, and then one day I noticed that it didn't come down like a clamp around my skull.
I haven't felt depressed or anxious in a month now. It was my final journey out of depression, and I feel so well grounded that it is hard to imagine it returning. If it DID return, I feel that I would have such a clear action plan, having had those weeks of experience talking to myself in the darkness, and assuring myself that it would end soon. And it ended every time. And then it ended for good. These days, my emotions and exhaustion come from sore feet, from cooking all day long, ha ha! And I LOVE it. It is SO hard, but what a pleasure to be able to cook real, nourishing food for my family. I sit with my chin in my hand and just stare dreamy-eyed at my kids as they wolf down their healing foods. There are so many colours on their plates. I feel such joy packing their little lunchboxes with all these beautiful foods. I get so tired, but not tired enough to wish it away. There is also the added and unexpected bonus of 7kgs weight loss. On a high fat diet...
Don’t get me wrong, some days I do feel the enormity of it all, the lack of convenience, the self-pity about how we haven't had an easy path. But other days, I remember how it was, and I just want to cry out my thanks to God that it is different now. That He brought healing into our house through this amazing diet. It has been unlike anything I have ever experienced in the medical world, but it has been the most powerful medicine I have ever applied, the results speak from themselves.
Our little family are living proof that we are what we eat. We are all, as a society, living out the consequences of 50 years of a changed diet, bad nutritional advice (like low fat diets), packaged foods, chemicals in our water and on our plates and our clothes, a complete lack of good bacteria which is our inside armor (it's all pasteurised and heated so it can have a 'shelf life'), and a lifestyle that has moved away from nature, where so many of our minerals can be found in the water and soil. So when I think about our journey, if there is ONE testimony I would like people to hear from us, it is for people to EAT REAL FOOD. Don't shy away from making small changes at first, and let it lead to big changes. Reverse the trend, prevent cancer, resolve behavioural disorders, skin problems, stomach aches, regular diarrhea or constipation. Stop believing that all these things are 'normal'. These things are NOT normal. They are symptoms of damage inside us.
We have become like the frog in the hot water, do you know what I mean? It was in the movie 'An Inconvenient Truth.' Put a frog into boiling water, and it will jump back out. Put a frog into tepid water, and slowly heat it up, and it won't notice until it's too late. As for my family, we are SO happy, finally. It has been one helluva journey so far, with a way still to go on the Full GAPS diet, while the gut linings heal and to ensure that they STAY healed. I hope our journey will encourage you to seek outgood healthy eating options for you and your families, and that in turn that will take you on a food journey of HOPE and HAPPINESS!
*Please understand that I am not a doctor, so this is not medical advice. I am just a mother who decided to feed her children a certain way, which is a mother's prerogative. We have followed the GAPS diet protocol, and we have reaped such rewards. For more information, please see the official GAPS website: www.gaps.me