A lot of my clients are doing it tough at the moment. When there is a pause, or a regression, while we are on a healing pathway, we can often lose hope. I contacted some of my clients who are further along the road of healing, who can yell back to you to not lose hope, to focus on the task at hand, and to keep your head down and your bum up and HEAL THE GUT, HEAL THE GUT, HEAL THE GUT! Here is the first post in a series called Hope for Healing, and it is a doozy. Anne-Marie has kindly sent the details of her incredibly journey of walking out of the pain of Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) using the GAPS Introduction diet. One of the most satisfying moments of my career as a GAPS coach was the day that Ann-Marie messaged me to tell me that for the first time ever, she had surprised her daughter at school and they had walked home together. Such a small, huge thing.
"The year I turned 40 (2013) I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) – a progressive form of autoimmune arthritis which causes severe system inflammation, primarily affecting the spine and over time fusing the vertebrae together. It causes extreme pain and makes daily tasks like walking, sleeping, getting into a car or lifting a small child an exercise in agony. Getting a diagnosis explained the pain that had plagued me since my late 20’s and identified the gene that predisposed me to this disease, but there was no good news to come. Medical specialists hold the belief the progression of AS cannot be halted, prescribing medications in ever-increasing strength to help manage symptoms. And my rheumatologist famously told me when questioned that “diet has zero impact on this condition”.
Before GAPS I was living on a daily dose of high strength anti-inflammatories. These dulled the pain and gave me back some movement, but they also dulled my brain and created a host of digestive issues which saw me removing more and more foods from my diet. I had gained weight and was feeling bloated, exhausted and unhappy. My skin was breaking out and the pain was returning, targeting other joints and tendons and impacting every aspect of my life. I tried paleo, then a starch-free diet, and an extensive list of very expensive supplements, all of which relieved my symptoms to a degree but in time they would return and I would be back relying on the hard drugs just to get through.
My choices were to move on to more serious medications (this terrified me, as research revealed side effects not only included cancers and heart disease but an increased speed of progression of the disease itself!) or find something which would naturally heal me. My research kept leading me back to GAPS, there was nothing else that promised root-cause healing and I wanted the chance to reverse my disease and get my life back. I read and re-read the GAPS book and the FAQ’s online and finally worked up the nerve to give it a go. I had actually attempted GAPS once before, on my own and although I experienced some good results, I floundered on my own and gave up after a short time. I knew this time I would need some help!
Enter the amazing Mary of Good Mood Food, who immediately gave me my two most important learnings about healing. The first was that GAPS would need to be tailored to my specific needs and not followed to the letter of the book. The second was that we were going to be moving very slowly and learning patience, with no deadlines or timeframes, just listening to my body. Mary went through my history with me, intuitively knowing just what my symptoms were trying to tell me, and with her guidance I embarked on the introductory stages of GAPS.
That was six months ago and I am so excited to be able to tell you that HUGE healing has taken place in that time. I am now around Stage 4-5 (tailored) of the intro phase and have not taken any medication since about week 3 of starting GAPS. My life is virtually pain free and my inflammation levels have reduced so much that I’m now ready to begin exercise and movement programs to strengthen my very weak muscles. My head is clear, my skin is glowing (people keep telling me so!), my weight has stabilised and I am once again eating foods like onions, cauliflower and ghee, which previously would have caused me extreme digestive distress. I’m sleeping well and feel calmer and happier, and as a result our home is happy and harmonious in a way it never was with a sick and desperate mum.
The food of GAPS is (thankfully!) incredibly delicious, even those very early stages (while a little monotonous) are filled with food that tastes amazing and feels so comforting. I must highlight how invaluable Jo Whitton’s Quirky Cooking for Gut Health Program has been in providing easy, tasty recipes, menus and advice on all the cooking aspects of GAPS through each of the stages. Jo is just as gifted with creating food as Mary is with providing coaching and expertise, without their help I don’t know how I would have made it this far. My heartfelt gratitude to these two beautiful women who give so much to help others.
So where to now for me? I believe there will still be stages of healing to work through and I am prepared to patiently continue down this road for as long as it takes. I’m so thankful to have Mary to call on through these times, her personal experience, knowledge and gift of intuition have all been an absolute game-changer for me. I truly believe that through GAPS I am experiencing what specialists told me was impossible – the remission of this debilitating disease.
Is GAPS hard? Yes, it can feel that way in the early stages, but it IS doable and nothing compares to how hard it is living with daily pain and misery, it’s actually a lot easier than that! I know I will thank myself forever that I made these changes for a relatively short period of time which will benefit me for the rest of my life."
Anne-Marie has recently started blogging about her condition, in order to share some hope and positivity in that very gloomy world. You can read more about her journey here: http://www.livingwellwithas.com/