I have written up my kids stories (Danny and Eden) about their incredible healing through the use of the GAPS protocol, but now it is time to tell my story, so that you can see the clear path that lead to the birthing of two kids who developed chronic health issues, and so you can also see the clear path to healing all those issues.
It’s fascinating to me to look back on how we got here, and I hope it is to you too.
We’ll start with my childhood.
I grew up in a wonderful, healthy home, with a mother and a grandmother who both had a real heart for food, especially good, nourishing food. In my early years, my mum was mostly a stay at home mum, although she did work part-time as a nurse to supplement our family’s income. It was a nurse, before my mother was married, that she contracted Tuberculosis. This disease of the lungs can be devastating, and is fatal if not treated. My mother was put in isolation for about 6 months, and pumped full of lifesaving antibiotics and other drugs. Can you imagine having to spend 6 months in hospital?
She told me recently that when she was discharged, the medical staff advised her that people often suffer from extreme fatigue and other chronic health symptoms after treating Tuberculosis, and “Good Luck with that.” But she’s an optimist by nature, so she didn’t dwell too much on this issue, and went on to marry my dad, and give birth to 3 lovely children.
This event in her life is significant to my health, but I will come back to it.
As a child, my biggest health concern was a snotty nose. I was generally healthy and full of beans, but I always had a post-nasal drip, and my mum was always wiping my nose. My mum and our family doctor concluded that I might be reacting to dairy, and so mum removed dairy from my diet for about 6 weeks I believe, but the symptoms persisted, and so she reintroduced dairy and I continued to live with the very minor symptom of a snotty nose.
The other fairly common symptom that I displayed, seemingly so minor that it is only upon reflection that mum and I have pieced together the full picture, is that: - I always had a round hard belly. We found evidence of this in photos of me as a 3 year old. - I also had a very unsettled stomach, and would suffer severe motion sickness on car trips.
- I was the family ‘picky eater’. I ate like a bird, rarely finishing a meal, to my parents chagrin, and the food I preferred was all white, carby, flavourless food. This continued until my teenage years, when I got a bit braver about trying new foods.
When we were a bit older, mum bought a microwave. This was absolutely the done thing in the late 80s and early 90s, and was a particular blessing as mum was now returning to full time work. I was now suffering pretty severe dust mite allergies, but my health and my immune system was generally good.
Off I went to university, and the wholesome diet of home cooked meals fell to pieces. I was a bit young, and I was FREE TO EAT CRAP! I definitely made those traditional immature choices about food and alcohol, and in the beginning of my second year, my health began to unravel. I had no energy, was suffering from depression, and as I was spending all my spare time rowing crew and training VERY hard, I was surviving on concentrated energy drinks and pies.
Half way through the year, I had a break down. I went home, and the doctor diagnosed tonsillitis, and I took two weeks rest before heading back to rowing camp. I was on antibiotics for about 6 months over this period while the doctor tried to treat the tonsillitis.
After 6 months, he called me into his office to explain that I had, in actual fact, had a recurrence of Glandular Fever, and that he was very sorry for the misdiagnosis. So the antibiotics had been in vain, and the worst possible thing to do when you have GF is exercise.
I went to see a homeopath for the glandular fever, and it resolved the immediate symptoms of fatigue, as well as the rest over the holidays.
But then everything got worse.
The following year was the biggest rowing year, where the crew I was in were really good, which meant at least 3 hours of training a day, every day, for the whole year.
By the middle of the year, I was suffering regular hypoglycaemic seizures, for which the immediate cure was a can of Coke.
By the end of the year, I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Again I turned to homeopathy, and the symptoms eased, but it was still fairly unmanageable.
I met my husband a couple of years later, and he ate a really wholesome diet, which I then embraced. This is when I noticed the biggest improvement in my energy levels, and the hypoglycaemic seizures dried up completely on a diet that included more vegetables and meat, and less processed food and sugar.
However, over the next few years, I started to get a very bloated stomach when I ate dairy or wheat.
I cut these out, and felt much better, but would still get occasional sever stomach pain and bloating. I felt that having a daily dose of Yakult really helped my symptoms, so we did this for a few years. Every morning I would wake up and drink my probiotic yoghurt.
At the end of 2007, after 5 years of marriage, we decided to have a baby. I fell pregnant immediately, to my delight! But the morning sickness was unlike anything I have ever experienced. At one point, I had to be hospitalised in order to be rehydrated. It finally subsided at 16 weeks, and then the cravings came. FRUIT. All I wanted in the world was orange juice and red grapefruit. I put on 25kgs during pregnancy, and once my baby came along, I struggled to lose this weight. Nothing helped.
My son, as you may know, was showing symptoms of extreme food allergies from 3 weeks, and you can read about his story here. My daughter also had issues, more similar to my own as a child, but with additional behavioural complications.
Over the next five years, through all my researching to resolve my son’s issues, I came to understand my own issues, and my daughters.
And considering everything above, here is how the puzzle fits together:
1) When my mother was treated for tuberculosis, the antibiotics that she was on raped her gut of all beneficial bacteria. As a result, CANDIDA ALBICANS, a fungus that damages the gut lining, and that comes out in other places in your body and organs, like your mouth and cervix, was free to flourish unchecked.
When a baby is born, as it passes down the birth canal, its mouth is forced open. This birth canal is warm and damp, and houses the same bacteria as those in the gut. It is nature’s way of ensuring that our sterile baby GI tracts receive the mothers (hopefully) good bacteria, which starts the process of strengthening the immune system through the development of a healthy gut.
Babies also receive this bacteria by lying on the skin of the mother and father (the skin has the same bacteria as the gut), and through the breastmilk.
When my mother gave birth to me, as I passed down the birth canal, I breathed in all that pathogenic, unchecked bacteria and fungus that was a result of her antibiotic treatment. This fungus caused early damage to my gut, which was not severe, because we had a healthy diet which included broth, but which was never resolved because we did not eat probiotic food like sauerkraut and kefir. SO the good diet kept it from getting worse, that is until we got a microwave (microwaves destroys all the nutrients in your food), and then I left home and ate mostly food that feeds pathogenic fungi and bacteria (processed high sugar crap).
2) The real turning point was the time that I then spent on antibiotics. What good microbiome I had was essentially destroyed. Every time my diet improved, so did my health (for many reasons, including eating food that contributes to healing your gut), but I never did enough to fully resolve the symptoms.
And then, with my chronic yeast infections firmly in place, I gave birth to my children, and just as my mother had unknowingly done for me, I passed on our family line of shocking gut bacteria.
The puzzle above needs to take some other factors into account:
My grandfather on my mother’s side suffered from terrible bouts of ulcerative colitis, so there was already evidence of pathogenic bacteria, but my grandmother fed him and her children a nourishing diet of broth, vegies, fats, and cod liver oil. So even though they had this bacterial profile in their family, it was MANAGED through healthy food.
My husband had a history of parasites, especially GIARDIA, from when he had lived in South America. He was symptom-free, but we have since discovered that he was not actually rid of the parasites. These were inevitably passed down to the children, but I will write a separate blog on parasites next week.
I believe that much of what we think is GENETIC, and therefore unresolvable, is far more likely to be a result of our gut bacteria interacting with our genetic predisposition. I have been researching the concept of EPIGENETICS, which suggests that certain genes are turned on and off based on our bacterial profile, and that NEGETIVE harmful genetic predispositions (like the ADHD and allergies in my family tree) are more likely to be turned on by a negative microbiome. We are MORE than just our genes, and imagine if we can control what genes and inherited diseases we suffer from, by controlling our gut health?? There is a LOT more to this than my brief explanation, but I recommend researching it!
So when we started the GAPS diet, I was breaking the cycle of bad gut bacteria for the first time.
I am going to talk about my healing journey briefly, but I will say that it has been much harder than the kids’ journey. This is because my body was more damaged than theirs, my GI tract is longer (30 feet as opposed to 15 feet in kids), and my detox pathways (lymphatic glands, skin, liver, to name a few) were collapsed from glandular fever and chronic fatigue, as well as from years of eating and drinking toxic foods that just got stored all over my body. It was just too much to dump into a system that had no clear pathways to move it out.
When you eat probiotic foods and detoxifying foods, two things happen. The first is that the pathogenic bacteria in your gut dies. Yeast, when it is in control, is very good for us: it mops up extra toxins to keep our liver nice and healthy, and free to do its job. When yeast is out of control (candida albicans), and you kill some of it off, it releases these toxic substances into your blood and GI tract, and you feel pretty awful. This is known as 'die-off'.
Detoxifying foods (fruit, vegetables, egg yolks, garlic etc.) also send a message to your body to let go of stored toxins so that they might clear out. This is a nice idea, unless you have a damaged gut which means that for years, toxins have been leaking into your bloodstream, and your second and third line of defence have been mopping up these toxins. These are your MUSCLES and your EYEBALLS (who’d a thunk it?) So when you eat a detoxifying food, suddenly your body lets go of stored toxins, and you come down with a headache and brain fog, (eyeballs), as well as muscle pain and fatigue.
So in the beginning, eating probiotic foods and forcing my body to release these toxins was incredibly painful, because they had nowhere to go in order to clear out. I had to resort to heaps of detox support tools (things that soak up toxins in your gut and bloodstream, and help to move it through) like Epsom Salt baths 4 times a day, magnesium oil on the soles of my feet, drinking activated charcoal, heaps of fat and organ meats, even dreaded enemas in the beginning to keep my bowels moving the toxins out.
My lymphatic glandular system didn’t cope, it was laughing at me, and I pretty much had swollen glands for a year. I can look back now and see that I was in such a rush to heal that I pushed myself way too hard.
It took a while to learn the lesson of slowly and gently that Dr Campbell-McBride promotes in the GAPS book. It’s because going too hard just causes inflammation which inhibits healing.
Anyway, I definitely received heaps of healing over the long term, especially in terms of my immune system, my dust allergies, my skin tone, and depression, but it wasn't until about 6 weeks ago that things really got a bit EXCITING.
I FINALLY did a stool test, and found that I have two parasites: Blastocystis Hominis and Dientomoeba Fragilis.
What you say?
Blasto and D Frag for those who are down with it. I believe that these are the final piece to the healing puzzle, and I am SO PUMPED to get rid of them!
So I shifted my focus from just plugging on with GAPS, and I have been focussing on the GAPS parasite treatment for the last 6 weeks, and you cannot believe how good the results are! The things that are healing are the areas that just weren’t healing on full GAPS, the areas where I got stuck. Ironically, I read back in the book and she says if there are areas that aren't healing after a year, treat for parasites...
I am sleeping less (from 10 hours a day down to 8.5 without any fatigue during the day)
I am able to increase my probiotics faster without terrible die off symptoms
I have more physical energy and have started exercising again
My brain fog is gone
My SWOLLEN stomach is gone, EVEN when I eat the odd piece of sourdough bread and cheese
My body has decided to lose weight!!
My period is going back to its old regular 28 day cycle
Most importantly, my mood swings are just non-existent.
Parasites are usually kept under control by a healthy microbiome, so I know that everything we have done up until now is contributing to the huge success of our parasite treatment, and I will write up a detailed post on parasites, but for now, I want you to take hope. Healing is like peeling an onion, our history and our complications all have a cause and an effect! So I want you to reflect on the generational journey that might have lead you here, to see if it might provide answers to your specific symptoms.
You’ll be happy to know that my mum AND dad, who are in their 60s, are on the GAPS diet, with incredible results. It is never too late to start healing!
I also want you to take a moment, if your healing is slow and hard, to acknowledge where you might be pushing too much. Inflammation hinders healing. Be gentle with yourself, and surrender the control. This is going to take time, but each day will bring you a step further up the mountain.
Here are some pictures of me BEFORE GAPS, when I was really not a healthy woman, and then the second picture was taken after 6 weeks on GAPS introduction, where I was literally a different woman.