Friday, October 28, 2011

Mary Katharine's Story

Our family started the GAPS diet after a string of events that started with our 2.5 year old daughter suffering a severe eczema outbreak. As a baby, I could tell that she was milk intolerant. While breastfeeding I eliminated all dairy (except my beloved cream in my coffee) and things improved. She had a rough go of teething and I ended up nursing much longer than anticipated, to 2 years old when I became pregnant with our 3rd. She was always very verbal, very precocious for her age, petite, and a little stick of dynamite! We joked that she never walked anywhere, point A to point B was always a sprint, even if just 2 feet away.

Thanksgiving of 2010 she was hit with a bad upper respiratory virus. Certain it was pneumonia; we went to the KidMed the night before our flight to visit family. It was just a virus, we were sent away with a nebulizer, some steroids and the all clear to travel. She did have some GI distress with the virus as well. She got better, but she did not feel well and was not herself for at least 2 weeks. During this time she ate and drank little.

Once recovered pre-Christmas and Christmas festivities were in full swing and we were eating like our lives depended on it. Sippy cup upon sippy cup of Horizon Organic Milk were flowing (we introduced cow’s milk to her upon the recommendation of our pediatrician at one year and she seemed to tolerate it). December came and went, January arrived and as we were getting back into the swing of things the eczema started. First in the creases of her arms, then the legs, then the chest…this is when I knew a dietary intervention was needed. We pulled the most obvious, all dairy and soy, first and things improved significantly but still lingered.

I would notice little skin flares after eating certain things. We saw a Naturopath and had the enzyme intolerance test done. She and I were both intolerant to potato and the sugar-fruit combo. Huh? Potato? Based on her blood type (o), the ND recommended a grain free diet as well. So now we are *basically* grain free except the few on the legal list like rice. Again, things improved but still lingered. She was easily potty trained at 2 years old,but now she was having early morning bm’s in her diaper. I was getting an up close and personal wake-up call every morning and let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty. Things were holding steady enough, I was about to have the baby, luckily my mom stepped in to cook and adhere to our current eating plan for now and in the back of my mind I was thinking that next I would pull eggs. What in the world was she going to eat?

Fast Forward to me “taking back over” after our baby was born. I was shocked at how the digestive situation had really declined. I was hearing about the messy poops from the family members but now seeing it with my own eyes really made me worry. She was clearly not digesting many foods. Some research led me to learn that she was having malabsorption issues. A checkup at the pedi showed she had dropped in weight percentile, nothing to worry about yet, she is petite, but something about that didn’t add up for me.

I had heard about GAPS from Kati about a year before, was abnormally intrigued by the whole thing yet stayed at an arm’s length because man, that diet is CRAZY! The whole time it was in the back of my mind though, and somewhere in the midst of all this I read the literature and just knew this was the only solution. There is an example in the book about 3 generations of women and their “ailments” and it was our EXACT situation. It could have been written about us. Nobody has any major disease, yet, but all the little quirky things could be chalked up to “leaky gut”. Since MK’s issues started so early, I knew we had to reverse things now to save her from years of lingering health problems and likely a full blown autoimmune disease.

The final straw was when the new baby had a quick and fast reaction to me “going off the dairy wagon” one post partum weekend with pizza and who knows what else while I was at it. His stool immediately changed. Another kid milk intolerant. Clearly they are all getting this from me. Me and all the crappy processed dairy I've consumed over the years.

We started GAPS intro in August 2011. The first 2 weeks were ROUGH. My son and daughter did the intro, my husband played along for the first weeks and was a big help and I started strict full gaps. They starved themselves, they puked, they lay lifeless on the floor napping and sleeping. The detox was intense. We psychologically tortured my poor mom who was in town to assist me. Then they started eating, quit fighting the broth and acted like pancakes made of squash, egg and nut butter were the best things in the whole world.

I started my 6 year old son on the program at the same time because he was also dairy intolerant but his symptoms manifested in different ways. He was chronically congested,generally fatigued and craved sweets, I mean CRAVED to the point that it was very frustrating. I had the same cravings and according to the GAPS literature if one child has a GAPS condition it’s safe to bet any siblings do too, they are just presenting different clues.

Shortly after intro we learned an important piece of the puzzle for MK. She had/has a yeast overgrowth in her upper GI tract. Our new pediatrician (yep, I switched) saw this in the back of her mouth at her 3 yr checkup. She prescribed Nystatin. I gave myself 3 weeks to try a non-pharmaceutical alternative. We saw immediate results in her digestion. Immediate. Things are consistently “normal” with her digestion and elimination. She’s put on 3 lbs in the last 2 weeks. Maybe she’s not supposed to be petite? We’ve had a couple setbacks here and there but trend is definitely in the right direction.

My son looks MUCH better, has better color, much better energy and his sweet cravings are completely gone. A piece of fruit is now a treat in our house and they enjoy it so, so much. We have months ahead of us but I am confident that following this approach will get us to where we want to be. My husband has even noticed things in himself from “sort of” following the diet with us. Like Kati said, the guys are reluctant to give up the beer J Who can blame them living with these crazy,driven, problem-solving, operating without a medical degree, self-diagnosing
crazy women?

Looking back, I know exactly how we got here:
  1. Various food intolerance in me, passed down to the kids. They should have never
    had a sip of cow’s milk and it wrecked havoc on their bellies.
  2. MK had several early ear infections, treated by antibiotics.
    I did probiotics, but not therapeutically and probably not each time. I remember the pediatrician told me they generally don’t recommend probiotics until the second round of antibiotics in the row. *growl* I knew better. After the 3rd EI, I saw an ND who helped us get on a non-pharmaceutical regime for fighting colds and EI’s and (knock on wood),
    we haven’t had one since.
  3. Lots of shots. We did a staggered schedule, but she still got them all. Lots of shots
    on top of a compromised gut, even just from food intolerance, are not a good idea in my opinion. ( There is definitely some science to back that up too).
  4. She had a horrible time teething. I put A LOT of stuff in her mouth. 95% homeopathic, but
  5. Gave her cow’s milk at 1 year old, seemed to tolerate but I’m convinced by long term breastfeeding held off her body from having an immune system reaction. She was protected until I quit making the antibodies for her.
  6. She got the flu mist last fall. I have a feeling this contributed to the yeast growth and/or healthy flora suppression in her mouth and throat.
  7. The Thanksgiving virus and GI distress further damaged her gut wall, making her very, very
    susceptible. Pour on top of a susceptible gut normal Christmas eating behavior and voila, eczema, the first sign of what was to come. If left unaddressed, what is next to come? I am finding that just in my circle of friends there is a huge link between baby/toddler eczema and ADD, ADHD, learning delays, asthma…yet all can be avoided with just one
    simple thing. The right food.

In reality, we are lucky to have caught this so soon and that our current symptoms are physiological (although I have seen a DRASTIC improvement in behavior, focus and drama). I figure this crazy cooking and living in our weird food bubble for a brief time is a small sacrifice for setting up a lifetime of good health. Also, by eating more cleanly my husband and I have noticed food intolerances in ourselves that we would have otherwise ignored or not attributed to the gut. I’ve known I was due for a big dietary overhaul for a while now and was even discussing recently with a vegetarian friend that I could see myself going that route. I have to laugh about that now, I couldn’t be on a more opposite end of the spectrum with GAPS! Thank goodness I didn’t go veggie, that would have only worsened my particular intolerances. Not to say a vegetarian diet isn't perfect for some, it just wouldn't be the best for me at this moment.

I do worry that at some point they’ll end up in the same shrink's chair as Kati’s kids, talking about how “I had avocado as a snack at school while the rest of my classmates at goldfish, I was so left out” and “my mom made me eat soup and I hated it”. Oh well, time will tell!

PS: We have always been healthy eaters! We were not eating the SAD
(Standard American Diet) or even close. We did fall victim to convenience foods and that’s where we are all just screwed at the grocery store. Just because it’s “all natural” or “gluten free” doesn’t mean shit. If it’s in a box or a package, don’t eat it.

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