(GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome and is a book/diet/short term lifestyle change written and coined by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride)
A little background first:
(If you want only to read about my GAPS experience and not my health background which lead to the GAPS diet please scroll down do “Starting the Intro GAPS Diet”)
When I started GAPS 60 days ago I was in the absolute worst health of my life. It was literally a crisis. I thought I was going to die. For real. I have been fighting my hypothyroidism for 7 years along with Hashimotos Thyroiditis. My old endocrinologist said Hashimotos is not big deal, just take T4 and you will be fine. What an ignorant MD who is in absolute denial and has succumb to the corrupt greed of the pharmaceutical companies! He was SO far from the truth in telling me that. He mislead me on a terrible path for years allowing my thyroid to get progressively worse and my body to become a host to multiple autoimmune diseases and immune suppression.
Through the lack of treatment and understanding with the Hashi's, chronic severe stress in my life for more than two and a half years, major sleep deprivation for two years, a diet filled with sugars and starches (even the good for you ones like beans, lentils and fruit), antibiotic usage and more, I started contracting more autoimmune diseases. The next one after Hashi's was a small amount of arthritis and the one that I have dealt with almost since my Thyroid diagnosis 7 years ago is a severe form of dermatitis resembling Lupus and/or Psoriasis. I have never tested positive for either of those (thank goodness) but have also been told that I have Seborrheic dermatitis. To this day I still don’t have a proper diagnosis for my ailing skin.
In January, coming out of the holiday stressors and eating more starches and sugars than normal (again good ones – whole grains, fruits, beans, corn), I crashed. My husband was scheduled for surgery for a fusion in his neck on the 10th. During that week I got the flu and was down for three days. I started feeling better the day of his surgery and thankfully was able to go to be with him. Of course that meant poor sleep, more stress and a lot of “bad for my health” things going on. I would do it again to be there for him though. He came home the next day after a successful surgery. Praise God! Then the day after that I woke up with swelling in my face. My ears were painful, bright red, swollen and on fire with a burning itchiness. My eyelids were swollen and the top half of my face was swollen. I freaked out. “What is wrong with me?!” I screamed as I got out of bed and looked in the mirror. It was a very scary day. Because I freaked out, I took a round of antibiotics and prednisone for the swelling. Dumbest thing I could have done. Those things made my healing go backwards and in turn I will take a lot longer to heal now – by months (maybe years) – just from one decision to take the stinkin’ antibiotics.
Still dealing with swelling and infection of some sort - fast forward to the following week, 4 days later…. I woke up this time to my eyes almost swollen shut. My boys couldn’t even recognize me. My face, ears, neck, and head were burning and itchy with scales that were flaky and bleeding all over them. My whole body felt infected. The antibiotics had done nothing good. The prednisone continued to suppress my immune system so it couldn’t fight off anything. My white blood cell count was SO low. I was in one of the deepest, darkest valleys of my entire life. All of the unknowns were haunting me. Cancer, something else debilitating, will I be around for my kids, am I going to die, etc, etc etc?
I went to the ER that day. What I thought was my last hope. On my way to the ER I got a call from my Functional and Integrative Medicine doctor (*I highly recommend this kind of medicine, I had just started meeting with her) and she told my I tested positive for MONO! I am not in college. This is not something that a 34 year old should get! If only I had a working immune system. The Emergency Room Doctors could do NOTHING. They didn’t even give me anything for my swelling since it wasn’t an anaphylactic shock type swelling (probably a good thing in retrospect.) In other words, my airways were fine. $2,000 (on top of the thousands I have already spent over the years) later and no diagnosis, help or hope I decided I was done with allopathic medicine. They treat the symptom, not the cause. This had been a long time coming and in general I never had any good experiences in the western medicine world. I will only ever go back to a western medicine doctor for an acute problem like a broken arm or a heart attack. My family will not go to one either. It is a waste of time and money. They have been no help and actually have contributed to my decline in health over the years.
In the days following I could barely function. However, I started getting down to business with my FIMD (Functional and Integrative Medicine Doctor.) She ran the gamut of tests and talked to me for hours (yes it is true a doctor will actually spend hours with you if they truly care and are not run by big pharma) about things to try to help my dying, immune-suppressed body. One of the ideas, among many, many others, that came up was to try the GAPS diet.
During all my time at home I did a lot of research and a lot of praying about trying GAPS or some of the other things she mentioned. I couldn’t physically “do” anything else. I couldn’t cook, clean, take care of my family, homeschool, grocery shop, go anywhere (except doctors appointments) or do anything that required energy. I felt so sick. I prayed and I researched. Thankfully my fully supportive family picked up the slack in ALL the other areas. Praise God for family.
As I read more and more about GAPS and watched some videos, it all started making sense. I started to understand why I was so sick, what was happening to my body, what my body needed, why I was having the symptoms I was and what I needed to do to get back to health. I still waited and prayed though because in the past I had done things that made my health worse not better – deathly cleanse, ALCAT diet and more. After I felt confirmation from the Lord I decided to give the GAPS diet a try for 30 days and if I didn’t see any changes then I would abandon that and try an Auto-Immune Paleo diet.
Here is a list of my symptoms and issues before starting the GAPS diet:
Starting the Intro GAPS Diet:
I started the GAPS Diet at Intro stage 1. I had no other choice but to start at Intro stage 1 since I had so many health issues. I secured a place for grassfed beef bones to make bone broths, bought (or had my family who was shopping for me) buy organic everything, found some grass fed bovine raw milk to make yogurt with and made my own sauerkraut and ghee (eventually.)
My breakfasts were beef, chicken, or fish with a homemade bone broth and loads of GAPS legal veggies along with homemade ghee and Celtic salt.
I ate this way for breakfast lunch and dinner and also introduced one of the most important things -two new GOOD probiotics GUTPro and Prescript Assist. I also eventually added Vital Nutrients, a new multi-vitamin (with no iodine because iodine can cause Hashimotos antibodies to rise as well as a few amino acids and vital minerals.
In the beginning I was also having 1-tsp of homemade, 24 hour fermented, raw milk yogurt each day and 1 tsp of sauerkraut juice. Occasionally I would add in an egg yolk to my bowls of soup too.
Within 1 week of eating this way my energy was coming back. I started to feel less infected overall. My face redness, flakiness and itchiness cleared up and went away. This is redness, flakiness and itchiness on my face I had for 6 years! My swelling went down. It was so nice after a few weeks to not go to bed fearing what I would wake up to. My itchiness overall the rest of my body was not going away though. I was still eating something or doing something my body didn’t like. I cut out the raw milk yogurt, sauerkraut and eggs to see if there would be a difference. I was also detoxing and so my body (arms, hands and neck mostly) itchiness got more intense for a time. It would keep me up at night.
My symptoms and issues continued to improve over the next month. I was feeling full and satisfied with my meals and everything tasted so good because I was so malnourished. Through the broths especially, my body was getting the vitamins and minerals it needed. I was losing my fear of eating because there were finally foods that I could eat that didn’t make me react in some horrible way. My blurred vision went away. I could focus and I felt like the fog in my brain had lifted. The headaches and sores on my face went away. Only occasional cystic acne. My arthritis pain went away too. There were good things happening. I was so happy!
The second month was more of the same. Some days were worse than others though depending on how much probiotic I was taking which in turn caused more detox or if I introduced a veggie my body didn’t agree with. I did Epsom salt detox baths, bentonite clay soaks and tried numerous oils (like coconut) to moisturize my rough painful skin. I now use only pure shea butter on my arms and neck. The rule is, if you can't eat it DON'T put it on your skin. I realized I reacted terribly to some things like onions, garlic and coconut oil. It is because they cause detox for me and they are also FODMAPS which I think I have a sensitivity to some FODMAP foods. Chicken or fish doesn’t really sit well with me either. I have a hard time digesting it.
Now, after 60 days on the GAPS diet. I am on Stage 3 / 4 of the Intro diet. I stayed on the stage 1 for a long time (more than a month) because I had to back track when I had to eliminate eggs, yogurt and sauerkraut mid way. I just wanted my skin to clear up.
I am beginning to introduce more foods in the past two weeks though. I still skip the egg yolks but will be trying raw milk yogurt at the end of the week again and sauerkraut next week. I am also introducing other foods.
Now I make my own sausages from grass fed ground beef for breakfast and I throw those into my bone broth veggie soups. I also plan on starting to juice in the next week but have to take that slow because it causes detox too. I hate detox!
After 60 days on GAPS my energy is back to almost full swing. I have to be careful to go to bed at a decent time and get enough sleep (due to my adrenals healing.) My egg size swollen lymph nodes on the back of my head and neck are gone and I only have two tiny ones on my neck now. The only symptoms I am still dealing with and may be for a lot longer are itchy, bleeding eczema on my arms, hands and neck that ebbs and flows. I can’t get them wet or the itchiness drives me insane. Others are dry skin, irregular periods, still some digestive issues, occasional depression, ridges in my nails and a bit of hair loss (due to extreme diet change I believe.)
From my first symptom list to now I am pleased with the progress I have made on 60 days with the GAPS diet. There have been bumps in the road and a lot of trial and error. There have been doubtful days too. I do believe that it is helping my gut to heal which in turn is helping my thyroid, adrenals, hormones and all other issues heal. It is a long journey.
It took me essentially 34 years to get to this state of health so I expect to be in this for the long haul. It is worth it to me though to have my life back and be able to function and be a mommy to my 2 sweeties and a wife to my hubby of almost 9 years (who by the way has been SO supportive through this whole process. Poor guy was supposed to be recovering from neck surgery when I got the sickest. Instead he started taking care of me.)
The GAPS Diet has helped to nourish me back to health slowly. I am so thankful for it. In another post I will talk about how this health journey has affected my spiritual journey. God is working on me and challenging me in some amazing ways though this valley of the shadow of death. It is SO hard but I am excited in the refining process because that is where life is. I want to know my Lord and Savior more. The only way is going through the fiery furnace and walking the road to Calvary with Him in suffering and pain.
I trust if you have read this whole post you are searching in your health journey (or you’re my family :0). I would love to answer any questions you have. Just leave a comment below. The Internet has been priceless in my quest for knowledge about my body, my health and healing. I hope in some way this post can help you in your journey as well.
I will post another update in a couple of months about my continued GAPS healing and journey – Lord willing!
Please note - I am not a medical doctor. What I say on this blog is based on my own research along with my own personal experiences. I assume no liability and my advice, ideas or suggestions should not replace those of your own practitioner.