The GAPS Diet – Part 3: Healing Our Children

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Since this is Part 3 (and the end of my GAPS tales for the moment…), I won’t bore everyone with revisiting what the GAPS Diet is or does.  If you want more info, please refer back to this post and this post.  I will say that the last six months of being on the GAPS Diet with my three and a half year old have been nothing short of miraculous, and we continue to see more progress each day.

And my photo above is in total reverence to the beloved butternut squash…oh, how you have gotten us through many days

Anyhow, I’ve been saving the best for last, and wanted to talk about the profound healing that our daughter has done.  And I decided to call this post “Healing Our Children” because I am part of a Facebook group of families doing GAPS…and I don’t think there are too many people out there doing this who would report less-than-stellar results in their own children.

A little background on my sweet girl…

She was a C-section baby, which I think really set the stage for a lot of things because she did not get the same “squeezing” that comes with natural childbirth.  She also was not exposed to by own internal flora because of the C-section, which probably didn’t matter because I’m pretty sure I didn’t have anything good to give her at that point anyhow.  She was breastfed almost exclusively for about the first year (even though I worked, I was lucky to have been able to pump in my office).  While breastfeeding is one of the greatest bonding experiences ever, I’m not sure I helped her health much.  My own diet was hideous at that point – I loved/craved and ate ridiculous amounts of anything sugary (because of my own health issues) and pretty much shunned most things healthy.  But hey, I took vitamins, so wasn’t that good for something?????

She started having alot of problems with skin issues at the age of 2 months – give or take.  Severe eczema – although both of her siblings were also affected right around the same time (I do have plenty of thoughts on this, although that probably is a topic for another day) – which really didn’t phase us because the other two had it so we viewed it as “normal”.  Also right around that time, she developed a severe chest cold that turned to pneumonia.  She was on multiple courses of antibiotics, which really didn’t do much, and after a frantic ER visit one night when she was around three months old (every time she would cough, she would projectile vomit, and couldn’t lay flat) – we saw a pediatrician who put her on a dose of Prednisone.  Now…I am not knocking what he did because for all I know – we were at the point that nothing else would have worked.  All I know is that from there…we were on an endless train of antibiotics, and inhaled, oral and topical steroids.

Fast forward three years…still having mega issues with eczema, chronic pneumonia/croup/bronchitis, constant goopy nose, purple allergic shiners under her eyes, cranky crabby mood, inability to sleep all night (for the first two and a half years of her life, she woke multiple times a night screaming – we’re all pretty tired around here), and failure to grow.  She also had what I consider some sensory issues – mostly because I just don’t know what else to call it.  She would get really really glazed over and rub her ears, sometimes to the point that she would trip on herself because she was so involved with that.  That was worse if she was tired, or around a large group of people.

We kind of stumbled around with our allergist – because isn’t that what you do when your kid has allergies?!? – and had some food allergy testing around age 1 which showed nothing.  She was so small though, I don’t know that any different testing would have showed much either.  And thus continued the train of meds.  I had started to do a little reading about allergies and atopic illness – and read somewhere that food can trigger this.  We did “no dairy” for about a year starting at age 1, and then did an “egg, peanut, dairy” elimination diet for a few weeks under the direction of our allergist.  This too showed NOTHING.  However, as we later found out she was allergic to so many foods we could have never figured it out this way.  We began to see a holistic integrative physician about a year and a half ago who diagnosed her with “leaky gut syndrome” as a result of all of the antibiotics, steroids, etc., that she had been on – this killed all the good protective bacteria in her gut and left the door wide open for the “bad guys” who I never knew existed.  But they were definitely there, working their magic, and keeping our baby really ill much of the time.  The heavily processed diet full of refined sugar that we ate at the time fed this.  Think…fire and gasoline.  Anyhow, he did some treatment with her that was fairly successful.  However, she only was able to remain free of the chest crud if she was on continuous antifungal therapy.  She was on this for almost a year.  This is very hard on a person’s liver, and I knew that we couldn’t do this forever.

At some point about a year ago, I started reading bits and pieces about a program called “GAPS” (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) through other mom-bloggers who were doing it.  I read the book and thought “This is our whole family!!!”  I planned and planned and we started and it all flopped.  My kids blood sugar got too low, and they were lethargic and vomiting, and everyone was unhappy.  It was alot and I had mutiny on my hands.  Everyone wanted to quit.  And for a family of five to do the Intro portion of the diet – I spent $100 on meat for 5 days.  Just meat.  And school started.  We lasted a week.  And we kept on seeking.  My doctor suggested that she go gluten-free – which really  helped the eczema considerably – at least until she got “glutened” at an IHOP on a weekend trip out of town – so we kept on headed in that direction.  We had IgG testing done through our chiropractor, which showed that she was also allergic to dairy, chicken, every nut, rice, pinto beans and I’m pretty sure I’m forgetting something because it all runs together after awhile.  Life got harder and harder for her (and our whole family).  Shortly after that, my husband and I decided that we would give GAPS another try – but just she and I this time.  Who wants their kid to live like that if there’s a possibility for better?

So mid-February 2012, after even more planning and preparing, we started Intro again.  Between my husband, my father-in-law and I – we were blessed to be able to keep her home with us for around three weeks.  I will admit that we went through it much faster than I would have liked, but it would have been really difficult to have her do it at daycare.  Who wants to eat broth and meatballs for snack when the other kids around you are eating “normal kid” food (I do say that in partial jest as I don’t really believe there is such a thing as “kid food”!  It’s all what you’re used to!)???

A couple of observations I’d like to make: 1)  People say their kids would never eat the food.  This is true, but only initially.  After three or four stressful days of bribing her to eat with prizes (it took routinely an hour to get three bites in her), something major changed and she totally bought in to the food.  Like, eating things like eggs with cooked onions, and mashed avocado – she ate like she was going out to bale hay.  Never before would that have happened.  She is by far the best eater at the supper table these days…even with things like liver and onions!!!  And we did go through the low-carb/vomiting/lethargy for a part of a day.  After that, in our case, I decided to give her carrot juice in the morning and a cooked apple at night, which perked her up nicely and stopped the vomiting.  2)  She is awesome about knowing what she can and can’t eat.  She doesn’t sneak things.  My big kids will leave a glass of milk or some crackers laying around, and she knows better than to eat them.  She once turned down Oreos from a little friend and told him they weren’t “GAPS legal.”  Kids learn fast what makes them sick and what doesn’t.

Great things that we’ve seen:

**The chronic croup/pneumonia/bronchitis is GONE.  She hasn’t had so much as a sniffle in around four months (knock on wood!).  As is the goopy nose…

**She finally grew!!!  It started when we put her on the gluten free diet, but after starting GAPS she became a little brick :-).

**She slept all night…can you say “YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

**The purple allergic shiners went away.  I always think those are so indicative of what is going on in the body.  Her skin tone also improved dramatically, and she was no longer pasty and pale.

**Her mood improved greatly, as did her level of interactiveness, increased animation and I also think that her speech quality improved.  We also didn’t see the glazed over business, or ear rubbing for awhile.

**And her diarrhea went away…

However…as one of my very wise GAPS Facebook friends said the other day…”this is a marathon and not a sprint”.  I will admit that I was all about “Point A to Point B” for awhile.  And I introduced things that she just wasn’t ready for, in my own hopes for a little more normal for both of us.  Her diarrhea came back, and in the past couple of months, she started getting really crabby and angry again, her allergic shiners got a little worse, and she started waking up at night a couple times a week.  At that point, she was on full GAPS so it was pretty much impossible to determine what was causing what.

We tried a couple of things that really weren’t all that successful, and after alot of discussion, my wonderful husband agreed with me that she and I would restart Intro together.  Except that this time, we started at Stage 4.  Within a couple of days, her diarrhea went away, the shiners and her skin tone improved again, she’s sleeping, and her mood has been much better.  We both marvel at how much her level of animation has increased in the past couple weeks – and this is the only variable.  This time, I figured out that she continues to react to dairy and nuts, so we’re holding those.  We’ve had some hang-ups, and sometimes I take a step or two back with her, but we’re moving along.

I will also add – and I would guess that most GAPS families would agree wholeheartedly – her cognition is directly related to what is going on in her gut.  If she has diarrhea, she is much more fuzzy and ornery, and I suspect toxic inside.  If her poop is normal…she is bright and cheerful and talks your arm off.  I think that it has nothing to do with “how she is feeling” – but is more of a reflection of her level of toxicity.  We have learned that she has to take detoxification baths with epsom salts daily, or we don’t get to sleep all night.  Again…relating back to the level of toxicity.  Anyhow, for more on that…read the book.  And even though she is three and a half, she continues to take really long naps as she needs alot of rest.

Not every day is great.  This week has been TOUGH.  A couple of nights ago, we finished up Vacation Bible School, and all the other kids were eating their ice cream afterwards.  She went into MegaMeltDownMode right outside the church – and although the day is not over we have not gotten a call yet from Child Protective Services. 🙂 (kidding, kidding)  Once she calmed down, we talked about it and she just so badly wanted ice cream like the other kids were having…she said she LOVES ICE CREAM.  Anyhow, she does get MY ice cream and it’s danged good…but not what everyone else was having unfortunately for all of us.

My goal is not to psychologically scar my child by “depriving” her and/or making her “different”.  I worry a little about what others think about it.  Sometimes I forget, but we eat really weird 🙂 anyhow, so she would be different regardless.  And “different” is a good thing in my opinion anyhow.  And as far as “deprived” – we generally eat whatever treats we want – pizza, ice cream, cookies – I just make different versions of it than the rest of the world eats.  There are lots of awesome GAPS bloggers out there for cooking inspiration. Being on Intro makes it tougher, as we are creeping through slower this time, but that is not forever either.  My goals from GAPS for her:  1)  to have a healthy, vibrant childhood.  What she does after that is up to her, but I sure hope some of this sticks.  2) to have her be more “normal” than she could have ever been before – to be able to eat at birthday parties and friends’ houses without getting sick.  We will still eat like we eat at home but at least she’ll have a little more freedom.  3) To make life a little easier for all of us.  Especially her.  Being allergic to most of the food around you is really not fun for anyone.  Eating away from home can be downright horrible (although we’ve found a few things along the way that really help – plain Subway salads with no meat or dressing, and Chipotle burrito bowls are generally “safe”) and having multiple food allergies is limiting in a lot of ways.

If your child sounds anything like mine…check out the GAPS Diet.  It’s been a life changing experience – tough and wonderful all at once – and I wouldn’t change where we are at for the world.

This post was shared at the Healthy Home Economist’s Monday Mania; The Morris Tribe’s Homesteader Blog Carnival; The Better Mom’s Mondays Link Up; The Prairie Homestead’s Homestead Barn Hop; Living with Food Allergies and Celiac Disease’s Made from Scratch Monday; Real Food Forager’s Fat Tuesdays; Simply Sugar and Gluten Free’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays; Cooking Traditional Foods Traditional Tuesdays; Like a Mustard Seed’s Living Green Tuesdays; The Tasty Alternative’s Allergy Free Wednesdays; Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays; Frugally Sustainable’s Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways; The Willing Cook’s Allergy Free Wednesdays; Whole New Mom’s Allergy Free Wednesdays; Laura’s Gluten Free Pantry Allergy Free Wednesdays; GNOWFLINS Simple Lives Thursday; Real Food Freaks Freaky Friday; Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays; The Liberated Kitchen’s GAPS Friendly Fridays; The 21st Century Housewife’s Gallery of Favorites; Too Many Jars in My Kitchen’s Fill Those Jars Friday;

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About earthmuffinmom

I am a Christian mom and wife who is watching and waiting impatiently for the Lord's return in a world that is getting nuttier by the day. My main interests are in the areas of Biblical end times/eschatology and early Genesis/creation. To understand the end...you must understand the beginning! My other passion is health and healing! Our family has also been greatly blessed over the past several years with healing through natural health and diet (generally Paleo/grain free). I love sharing this information with other people, and helping folks in their healing journeys. That being said...I am not a doctor...so I'm not responsible for any decisions you may make in regards to your own health. Other stuff: I am married to a wonderful man who I have had the privilege of having three beautiful children with. We have been married for over sixteen years. I work full time, but have the blessing of working from my home, and I homeschool my oldest child. We enjoy homesteading...and while we live in a small, rural town...we have worked hard to develop our yard into a "little bit of country in town"...complete with our "farm dog," Buddy, and five chickens. Thanks for checking out my blog!

22 responses »

  1. Thankfully that doens’t sound like my children (though I am trying to figure out what to do with exzema with one of mine) but I am very impressed with what you are doing and I think that is super cool that you have been able to figure things out.

    • Thanks! Good luck with the eczema – we have been through that with all three kids (and my husband) – it does really seem to be related to what we eat in an allergy sense… If you haven’t had your child do food allergy testing, it might be worth it. We found that gluten really made it worse with our little girl, although I’ve also heard that dairy is a big offender related to eczema. Thanks for reading my blog 🙂 and have a great week!

  2. Glad to hear you’re having success on GAPS with your daughter! It can be challenging at times, for sure. And I haven’t experienced doing GAPS with a child, it’s just me on it. : )

    Thanks for sharing this at Fill Those Jars Friday!

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  4. What a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing your journey with your daughter so honestly; I know so many people will find it encouraging. So much is connected with what we put in our bodies; how we eat really does make a huge difference to our health.

  5. We have a lot of food intolerances and allergies going on in our house, so I do know how finding the right diet can positively change your health. It exciting that you have found sucess with GAPS for your daughter. I am sure your story will help others.

    • Thanks! I hope so! That was one of the main reasons I started this blog…I wish more people knew that there is such healing possible! Hopefully I can help spread the word. 🙂 Heather

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  8. I know this was long ago for you but my journey is just starting. The gaps intro starts tomorrow for my two year old who has eczema (moderate, sometimes worse) and digestion issues. My concern is him not eating which have heard is normal. I don’t think he’ll take to bribes but i’ll definitely try that. It really is just hell for a few days then magically they dig in? Any words of encouragement would be much appreciated. Thanks for the stories!

    • I hope things are going well for you! We found that yes, it was awful the first 4-5 days and then she ate the food happily. Hang in there if he’s not loving it. 🙂 We did prizes, although it took that to get a few bites in her and not much more those first few days. Good luck to you-

      • Thanks for the reply! We are on day seven now and it actually went much smoother than anticipated – he eats really well! His attitude, sleep and eczema are horrible tho and his digestion has changed but its not good by any means. I was so hoping to see some results by now but I haven’t and I’m looking faith. Hes been having healing reactions since we started but I’m not sure if that is why his eczema is so bad now. How long was it before you really thought “this is working!”?

      • I have to say I’m not sure although my daughter’s eczema was HORRIBLE and I want to say it was at least a few months before it was gone. Possibly a month until we saw improvement. My son who was 9 was a little quicker, he had some weeping eczema on his legs and that took about a month or two to be gone. In all honesty, anything cognitive and sleep took longer. I’d say in our case tics and sensory stuff took 6 months but when we saw it, we really saw it improve. Be encouraged that he’s eating well, that is much of the battle. Hang in there. My doctor once told me that we spend a lifetime making ourselves sick and it won’t reverse overnight. In the same conversation he commented that it came take up to 6 months to see major improvements and I’d have to say he’s right. With anything, if you see things getting worse or seeing unpleasant things pop up that are diferent or worse and not likely detox reactions, I’d reevaluate. And I’m no doctor, but that’s what I would do. Sleep continues to be an issue for us on and off, although it goes in spurts. Again, I’m not a doctor but we have been doing the Natural Calm magnesium – so that might be something you want to research on your own. Try not to be discouraged though, and please let me know if you have other questions about this. Take care-

      • Thanks again for all your responses. Things are worse but this started when we started eliminating foods about a month and a half ago. I know it was a while back now for you but when you say a month to see improvements you mean any change? Did it ever get worse? My sons is not horrible but can be pretty severe sometimes. If there was no change or it was getting worse how did you know what’s foods were good or bad? Its hard to tell since its always bad with no improvement if its healing or a food reaction. How long were you guys on the intro portion for? Did you transition to full before they were healed completely? Thanks again!

      • My little girl had food allergy testing done so we generally avoided those things for awhile. A few months? I feel a bit silly saying this, but we did intro several times to tweak things. I work full time, and she was at daycare and it was very difficult to do it for any extent of time. I suppose we’d be on intro a month at most? And yes, we were on full GAPS for awhile before we saw healing. We saw the most healing on intro, and she would have set backs (usually too many sweets, even GAPS legal seemed to trigger it) so when things got tough we’d go back on. She’s off GAPS now and has been since May. I just started intro again last weekend because I clearly don’t do well with grain, and have some issues of my own that I need to address. She is still gluten free though. Maybe doesn’t need to be but after all this, we are in no hurry. We were not perfect with GAPS, but with life we did not find it possible to be in our own case. Hope that helps-

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