Tag Archives: health

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;

The Sweet Smell of…Cancer and Infertility???

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I used to smell really good.  REALLY good.  I was a big fan of smelly soaps and lotions, and expensive perfume back in the day.  Miss Dior Cherie was my favorite.  Then…a couple of years ago I began to do some reading about personal care products and chemicals.  And I got upset.  REALLY upset.  And then I got so upset that I went into my closet and filled a garbage bag.  The expensive perfume still sits on the shelf, mostly because I feel too guilty about just HOW expensive it was to throw it out.  And once in a blue moon when my natural deodorant fails me at an inopportune time, I break down and use it.  And I always feel REALLY guilty.  And here’s why:

All those beautiful smelling soaps and shampoos contain chemicals known as “phthalates”.  Phthalates are “plasticizers” as well, which allow plastics to be soft.   They can be found in baby toys, shower curtains, fabric softener and laundry soap, bathroom spray, infant feeding utensils and sippy cups, hairspray, nail polish, makeup, and so on.  They leech into our food through packaging, and into the air we breathe.  And I’m not making this up – we all have some level of them in our bodies.  These chemicals are known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, and mimic estrogens in our bodies.  For a long time, the term “endocrine disruptor” made me nervous but I didn’t really get it.  Now I do.  If you Google “phthalates + baby boys” – the results are just downright scary.   Studies show that baby boys with higher phthalate exposure were more likely to have some form of genital abnormalities such as incomplete testicular descent and hypospadias (a urethral deformity).  These same studies are showing that the phthalates are contributing to lowering of sperm counts and testicular tumors later in life.  Whether you are male or female, this group of chemicals has the capacity to totally mess with your thyroid, adrenals and any other member of the endocrine system which is really a big, huge deal.  And it is of particular importance to be mindful of this if you are pregnant…

For a while I kind of freaked out.  I didn’t know what I’d do without all my pretty smells.  And frankly, I was overwhelmed.  Now, I have reached a place where I really don’t think we can avoid them totally because they are everywhere, and I do have to leave my house every day.  But I can at least lighten our overall toxic load by controlling what is in OUR house.

The best thing you can do is learn to read labels.  Visit the Environmental Working Group’s “Skin Deep” site – they have a handy little cut out that you can place in your wallet and take to the store with you.  Because if you’re anything like me, it will take awhile to remember it all.  You can also rate your personal care products on their website which can be…very enlightening to say the least.  If it says “Fragrance” – nix it.  And don’t fool yourself, whether it is a $10 perfume or a $100 perfume, it makes no difference at all.  For awhile I tried to tell myself that…but it really wasn’t the truth.

Another thing I did was to get rid of our stinky PVC shower curtain that was certainly offgassing phthalates at a horrific rate.  I looked around and decided that the $100 hemp shower curtains, as nice as they may be, did not meet my budgetary requirements.  So I opted for the PEVA liner at Walmart for $5 and am ok with it.

When you’re looking for baby items like pacifiers, sippy cups, spoons, etc., look for ones labeled “BPA and Phthalate Free”.  If you love pretty smells, use essential oils or find candles that advertise as “phthalate free” (I believe that the Seed brand soy candles are).  Aura Cacia also makes some really nice nontoxic sprays, diffusers, etc., with essential oils.  We actually quit using bathroom spray too…and believe it or not, no one has died.  I also no longer cook with plastic or heat food in plastic.

Learn to make your own green cleaners or buy ones like Biokleen, Seventh Generation or Ecover, opt for more natural options for soaps (Dr. Bronner’s brand is wonderful), and resign yourself to smelling like…yourself.  And I cannot emphasize this enough:  LEARN TO READ LABELS.  And don’t trust things that say “Unscented” because oddly enough, if you read the label, they usually say “Fragrance”.  “Fragrance” to cover up “fragrance”?  Go figure.

And don’t despair.  There are some really good options out there (Aubrey Organics, Beauty Without Cruelty, Burt’s Bees) so you really WILL be able to shower again and bathe your kids and not offend your friends and family with your smell.  I do find that I need to shop online more, and yes, some of it costs more.  This is why I’m in a mode of DIY right now, which is the likely subject of future blog posts.

The semi-positive news is that some of the worst phthalates have been banned for use in children’s products in the U.S.  I repeat:  SOME OF THE WORST.  That does not mean that the rest is ok.  It just means that no discerning eye has decided “nope, kids shouldn’t be exposed to this.”  And folks, sometimes the discerning eye never comes.  That continues to be a source of frustration to this mom.  Other countries tend to be…shall I say…a little stronger on these things than the U.S.  If it concerns you enough, you can always contact your legislators.  I have to admit I haven’t done that yet, but I do choose to vote with my dollar and not purchase those items.  The other positive news is that studies have shown that if people reduce their exposure, their blood levels do drop accordingly, so you truly do have the capacity to affect and protect your health and your children’s health.

A really good read on phthalates and other chemical concerns in your home is the book “Slow Death by Rubber Duck” by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie.  I got it through our library but it can also be found on Amazon.com.  My only advice is to not read it before bedtime.  You won’t sleep well.

So…if you ever see me in the store quickly herding my kids through the uber-stinky laundry detergent aisle with our shirts over our noses…please don’t think we’re freaks…I just want to be a Grandma some day.