Life

Going with my gut: is GAPS the answer?

I cannot believe it is still March. How are we still in this month?  

We’ve been sick three times this month. Three. Times. We’ve had one good week of homeschooling and three weeks of attempting to get some work done despite all being sick and miserable. We’ve missed out on so many activities in which we wanted to participate. We need to get healthy! 

The one silver lining about all of this sickness is that I’ve had time to read and think. 

I’m going to attempt to share a bit here on the blog while still maintaining some privacy, so hang in there with me if some of this is too vague! 

Both of our boys are adopted. Both of them have special needs. 

My oldest has been helped immensely by “Western Medicine.” For example, his cleft palate surgeries were absolutely life changing. I’m so grateful for what modern medicine has done for him, time and time again.

My husband is an ER/Trauma nurse currently going back to school to become a Family Nurse Practitioner. So obviously we have a great deal of respect for the advances of modern medicine! My husband has devoted his whole life to it.

But modern medicine, thus far, has failed both me and my youngest son.

My problem is my immune system (obviously). I’ve had the chicken pox twice. On top of shingles, also twice. On top of all sorts of other random viruses. I catch everything I’m exposed to.

My bloodwork and vitals are always perfect, I don’t have any diagnoses or underlying diseases, and I live a healthy lifestyle. Yet my body can’t fight off anything. It’s frustrating, beyond belief.

As far as my son goes, we’ve worked with a lot of professionals on his needs, and not one of them has been able to help him sustain any type of measurable improvement in quality of life. This is not for lack of trying! The physician we worked with in Ohio was phenomenal. He would often spend two hours in the office with us during appointments! He was incredibly thorough, thought outside the box, and worked with us to try multiple approaches to helping our son.

But it seems no matter what we try, he battles constant GI issues, sleep issues, sensory issues, seemingly random medical issues, and behavioral issues. 

The thing is, I know that we can achieve better for him. I know it because I’ve seen it! We’ve had several periods where we achieved an almost complete reduction in symptoms for him. One such period lasted for about two months. It was incredible. It was like I was meeting my child for the first time. His GI issues were gone, his sleep was normal, he was happy and engaged in life, he made friends, he was able to participate in activities that weren’t possible for him before. It was everything I had ever hoped for him. Then, after 8 weeks, he regressed back to where he was before. It was heartbreaking. 

That period began we when eliminated dairy from his diet. It was truly life changing, at least for those two months. We had similar, albeit smaller/shorter, improvements when we temporarily went gluten free, and the two times we tried out a “Paleoish” diet.. None of those changes were made specifically for him, but he always had drastic improvements when beginning them. The only problem was that the improvements didn’t last, even if the dietary changes did. We kept him dairy free for 8 months, but all of his symptoms returned after the first 2.  

Conversely, we have also always noticed a severe increase in symptoms after eating out. Restaurant food makes him become extremely hyperactive, dysregulated and sensory seeking, along with causing additional GI distress. 

So I spent a few days contemplating this and discussing it with Brandon and my mom. My mom asked me if I had heard of the GAPS diet. GAPS stands for “Gut and Psychology Syndrome.” I had heard about it, but was not super familiar with it. I googled it and was instantly turned off by how restrictive and over the top it seems. But I was intrigued enough to keep reading. 

And reading. And reading. 

I read about GAPS. I read blogs from people who have used it both successfully and unsuccessfully. I read research articles on the links between gut health and various diagnoses. I read medical reviews of the diet. I read. . . and read. . . and read.

And it was like reading about my son. For countless reasons that would take way too long to go into, I read with my jaw on the floor.

It provided an explanation for so many of the seemingly random medical issues with which he struggles.

It provided an explanation for his behaviors and learning difficulties.

It provided a possible explanation for why a certain medication worked at first but then made things even worse (this particular medication has been proven to negatively impact the gut biome over time).

It seriously touched on every single thing we have sought treatment for since he became ours.

Every. Single. Thing.

Is this the answer for him? I don’t know. I’m honestly afraid to get my hopes up.

But I am now fully convinced of the link between gut health and, well, everything else. It seems so obvious now, as I think back to how my son’s GI issues always clear up at the same time that his other symptoms improve. 

I’ve also found myself thinking about my immune system, and how frequently we are all getting sick right now. Research shows that gut health and immune function are strongly connected. Could a gut-healing protocol be the answer I’ve been looking for as well?

So I’m putting my focus on gut health now. This does NOT mean that we’re doing the GAPS diet. My own (bad) experience with strict Paleo makes me hesitant to do something so restrictive. I do not want to put my son on a super restrictive and possibly traumatic diet unless it is absolutely medically necessary. 

But because dietary changes are the only thing that have really mitigated his symptoms, ever, I’m willing to give this a real try. We’re simply going to take a more gentle approach to it right now, while listening to our bodies and keeping an open mind for the future.

What we’re doing is this:

  • Eliminating gluten
  • Eliminating dairy 
  • Eliminating corn 
  • Limiting soy
  • Severely limiting refined sugar (but allowing raw honey)
  • Adding in lacto-fermented foods like sauerkraut and Bubbie’s pickles
  • Adding in probiotics
  • Daily magnesium supplements
  • Regular epson salt soaks
  • Daily herbal teas and green tea
  • Emphasizing as many anti-inflammatory vegetables, herbs, and spices as possible
  • Incorporating lots of homemade bone broth

We’ve always eaten a fairy healthy diet, so I’m not expecting this to be very dramatic. But probiotics and lacto-fermented foods are new for us, and both of my kids have really embraced their herbal teas this week. We’re on day 4 and there have been some interesting and unexpected changes. So we’ll see! I don’t want to get my hopes up, and I don’t want to convince myself that something is helping if it isn’t. But so far I’m cautiously optimistic.

Wish us luck!

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