GAPS Diet & Nutrition,  Gluten Free,  The GAPS Diet

Life Before GAPS (Why we went gluten free, then on GAPS)

I just found a journal entry from January 1, 2009. Actually, there is a collection of letters from that date–to God, to my husband, to my kids. I thought I was going to die. Let me explain.

As of January 1, 2009, my entire chin had been numb for 2 straight months. I was getting testing done, and was about to have an MRI to check for jaw cancer. My jaw (right side, where I have a “screw loose” from a previous surgery) was in INCREDIBLE pain. That, along with the numbness that would not go away, were scary signs. Jaw cancer is fast, and there isn’t a lot of hope. Once you’re diagnosed, you don’t have long to live. I was SCARED. I stayed up many, many nights in a row, crying, praying, “why, God? But my kids are so young. They NEED their Mommy. My husband needs me..” I trusted Him, too, though–whatever His plan was, I’d roll with it–I’d have to, He’s ultimately in control…

I am a relentless researcher. I don’t give up until I find answers. It could be jaw cancer, but what else could it be? The other interesting thing is that I’d gone numb before–not for 2 months, and not in my chin, but I’d had numbness. Once I was in the ER for having a numb left arm for 11 hours straight. It happened many other times after that trip to the ER, but I didn’t go in to the hospital, because I thought it was a waste of time–they didn’t have answers for me, why go?

So I started researching numbness. And guess what I found? There were a TON of people talking about random numbness going away once they stopped eating gluten. I read The Gluten Connection.

In the midst of my research, Farm Boy 1, who has always been underweight (and was a 1 lb 12 oz preemie), started crying at the dinner table one night. He asked why all of the kids on his soccer team had been bigger than him. He said, “I eat SO much, how come I don’t grow??” 

That was it for me. My health issues and his desire to grow–that was it. We were doing it. We fully embraced gluten free living, just shortly before I wrote those letters/journal entries in January 2009. We saw my numbness go away, as well as my arthritis and acid reflux. I had pain in my joints and never could have typed as much as I type now (let alone fix my little girls’ hair, ever attempt to knit or crochet, etc.) because my hands hurt so badly. This started when I was in *high school*. I had planned to major in architecture at The University of Oregon, my entire 4 years in high school. My senior year, I spent most of my day in the CAD lab, using the computer to generate drawings of houses (I even got paid for a few projects! That was fun!). That year, I gave up the dream of pursing architecture because of the pain I had in my right hand from using the mouse. It hurt so badly to work in the CAD lab all day, so I did not think that it would be a viable career option for me to continue using CAD or computers in the future. That was my introduction to arthritis….

Going gluten free made that arthritis go away! And my acid reflux. I started having acid reflux not long after I got married. I was prescribed proton pump inhibitors, but I never felt right about those kinds of meds. They’re offered like bandaids and Tylenol now days, with little explanation of the risks involved. When I was pregnant, I lived on berry flavored Malox tablets. A neighbor introduced me to papaya tablets, and then that’s what I took from then on. After pregnancy, and until I went gluten free, I had to take 4 papaya tablets every night and prop up 2 pillows in order to sleep. Ouch. 

Our son (Farm Boy 1) also had severe acid reflux–to the point of vomiting. His GI doctor said that he potentially had Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome. He took proton pump inhibitors that did not seem to help him at all. He had a feeding tube down his nose for a while (an NG tube) and he would often vomit it up….And then we’d have to put it right back in. He vomited so often that we stopped canceling things because of it–it was just his way of life, he didn’t have a flu. Multiple doctors were pressuring us to get a Nissen fundoplication surgery done on him (he would never be able to vomit again). It just did not feel right to us, and now we are so glad we pushed back!!

He also had compacted stools. Meaning, he could not go to the bathroom without a suppository or some kind of med making it happen for him, from birth until GAPS. He was in a lot of pain when he would go, and his little face lit up like Rudolph’s nose. Poor kid! One doctor prescribed mineral oil in his bottles, and we did it–looking back, I wonder WHAT WAS SHE THINKING??? What was I thinking to go along with that? A coating of mineral oil would cause NOTHING to be absorbed in the gut. He vomited so easily, and aspirated mineral oil KILLS. He could have died. I can’t believe we trusted that advice.

So we went gluten free–for a year. It’s hard work. It’s expensive. I’d go to Bob’s Red Mill and spend $50 on 1 or 2 paper bags full of various flours every month. Organizing them all was a chore. But I embraced it! I love baking, so I was going to learn! We were not going to miss out on anything that we might be able to have if we were eating gluten! We were still cooking with sugar, but not corn syrup or so-called “vegetable oil”.

My numbness went away. My acid reflux went away and I have not purchased any papaya tablets since. My arthritis was gone. Farm Boy 1 stopped vomiting and started growing a little, though not as much as we hoped. 

We still had issues though. I lacked energy. I felt fatigued most of the time. I was getting tested for autoimmune diseases like Lupus. They found high ANA and high thyroid antibodies. My doctor considered Grave’s or Hashimoto’s, but said I was too young to go on any of the meds. No hope. No answers. I caught everyone’s colds and sore throats. I had at least 2 or 3 per month. The Farmer was taking off too much work to stay home with me, and my kids and I had way too many Little House on the Prairie days (when I laid on the couch and we watched the many episodes we own, and they got their own lunch on the table because Mommy was just OUT of it). It’s hard to keep cooking a special diet when you feel awful the majority of the time.

This whole time, we were dreaming of someday adopting more kids and owning a farm, but had no clue how we could do that…

My digestion was not right, and neither was Farm Boy 1’s. He was still constipated. I fluctuated between constipation and diarrhea, sometimes both in 1 day. Usually at least 5 stools per day, which, by definition, is diarrhea. 

I started thinking, like most gluten-free eaters do, that maybe something had been gluten contaminated, and maybe THAT was why I felt so gross. I was extremely cautious about what I ate, but I was still eating the sugar.

I had half of a Starbucks java chip frappuccino one day, not realizing that the chips contained gluten (and who knows what else is in that drink!!) and I was on the couch, SICK, for 3 days straight. I thought it was all about the gluten. (I’m wiser now ;))

Rewind–when Farm Boy 1 was not quite 2 (2003), he was clinically diagnosed with a disease called Myotonic Dystrophy. It’s a genetic disease, and they (2 doctors, including the “BEST” genetics doctor in Portland) said that I had it too. He was not walking, and they said that he never would. They said that he would be in a wheelchair and would eventually be on a ventilator. They said that I would eventually be in a wheelchair also. They tested my muscles, and his muscles, and they took in family history. We had our blood drawn, and we had elders from our church pray over us. The blood work came back normal! Praise God! The doctors wanted to see me again, because they knew I had SOMETHING. My muscles were very weak, and I had muscle cramping often. They did more tests on me, and concluded that something was wrong with my muscles, but they didn’t know what.

So…On gluten free, the muscle issues were still going on. I had cramping in my legs that woke me up in the middle of the night because it was so painful. I would often feel “like a rag doll,” I would say–like my muscles were just too weak to hold myself up. 

I had heart palpitations and had to wear a monitor to watch my heart for a few days. An ultrasound of my heart found Mitral Valve Regurgitation. 

I also had migraines. Every time we went to my family’s favorite Mexican restaurant–every time–I got them, as well as other random times. (I also had explosive diarrhea from Mexican food, not fun AT ALL!).  I didn’t know what it was that was causing my migraines. I got migraines after eating, as well as any time I did not wear my glasses or contacts (and my prescription was not that strong).

My right ear hurt often & was very waxy. Our pediatrician mentioned several times that our kids had extremely waxy ears.

I gained weight on the gluten free diet. I was getting pudgy. I didn’t like being pudgy.

Gluten free wasn’t curing everything for me, so I looked for what to do NEXT. What else was there? There had to be something else! 

That’s when I found GAPS. For the last year and a half, we have been whole-heartedly following the GAPS Diet, and every single one of my symptoms is gone. I no longer have:

Muscle cramping

Numbness

Acid Reflux

Arthritis

Weakness

Weak Immune System (getting sick all of the time)

Digestive issues

Heart palpitations OR Mitral Valve Regurgitation (my last ultrasound was GOOD!!!!)

Migraines

Pain in my jaw from the loose screw

Extra weight

It’s all GONE! And Farm Boy 1 has grown–at his last appointment, his doctor was PLEASED at how much he had jumped up on the growth chart!! He now has normal, consistent stools (daily after lunch, Farm Boy 1 will be hogging the bathroom…I say that in humor, but it’s really amazing, since he would often go 3 to 5 days without passing a stool before!!). He has more energy than EVER in his life! And SO do I!!! 

As a side note, I’ve been boycotting my glasses for the last year and a half, also–2 years ago, all contacts started irritating my eyes. I don’t like wearing glasses, and my eyes aren’t THAT bad, so I thought I should be ok. I don’t wear glasses or contacts anymore, and I don’t get migraines from it. I read, write, drive, and function daily with no vision aids anymore, and I didn’t even need surgery. 🙂

We have had little bits of non-GAPS food and I have seen symptoms flood back. Going out to eat with my husband (and who knows what’s really in everything) back at the end of June caused me to wake up with muscle cramping for 3 days. My husband ate a single tiny chocolate on our church camping trip in July & he woke up with muscle cramps. It isn’t something that he remembers dealing with like I did, but he was amazed at the PAIN that one single piece of candy caused for him. We all ate ice cream at a restaurant a year ago on his birthday, and we all felt like we were going to vomit, and I got a migraine. I left Easter dinner with a severe migraine this year & ended up falling asleep while my husband got all of the kids to bed and put everything away (he is a trooper!!!), and then I was sick for a couple of days after that. I don’t know what it was that I had then–I tried to be careful, but I can’t know what is in everything.

This part may be discouraging to some of you–you mean you have to eat GAPS forever to feel ok? Well, Dr. Natasha says that your gut can heal. It takes at least 2 years for adults. I’ve only been on this journey for a year and a half, and I haven’t followed it like a “fanatic” like Elaine Gottschall said everyone should, about the SCD diet (which is similar to GAPS, but I think GAPS is better ;)). For a couple of months, I had raw milk in my tea every day–not GAPS legal–and I noticed my ear pain come back (which had gone away with GAPS). Ear pain like that is caused by yeast, and the milk was feeding it. 

I am considering a re-set on GAPS. I am thinking about starting the Intro again in the fall, just to make sure that all of the yeast is cleared out of me. I would love to be able to drink tea with raw milk every now and then and not have ear pain.

I will probably eat GAPS-style for life. Eating this way has made such a dramatic impact on my life, why would I go back? And as I have learned about ingredients, and what is in many “foods,” I have zero desire to eat most of what is out there. My goal is to heal my gut enough to be able to eat at church potluck–and still pick out foods that look “safe”–but not get sick if they’re not totally “safe.” But at home, I will always eat GAPS. I feel so good, I don’t really think I’m missing out! (I was missing out when I was on the couch for 3 days straight because of eating junk! I was missing out on LIFE! Now I’m LIVING IT!!!).

And now, we’re living our dreams: we’re running a farm. We’re slowly building it up, but The Farmer has energy to move chickens and pigs, lift heavy bags of feed, etc. This is AMAZING! I also have energy to help him, and to garden, and to walk up and down our property without feeling weak! YAY! Praise GOD! AND!! We have 3 extra kiddos in our home–they are foster kids, whom we hope to adopt–we NEVER would have had the energy for them before. I never would have been approved as a foster mom, being sick so often. But now I’m healthy! Again, Praise GOD!

The moral of the story? Western Medicine didn’t give me any answers or any hope. I researched and God lead me to GAPS, and I am HEALTHY now. I LOVE the GAPS Diet!! 🙂 🙂

(And know that this is only a portion of the story! We have seen health improvements in The Farmer, Farm Boy 2, Farm Boy 3, Farm Princess, and all of our foster kids too. We believe that God used the GAPS Diet to HEAL US!!). 🙂

This post was shared at Real Food Wednesday.

14 Comments

  • Jaime

    This has been an inspiration to me! I am on intro, got extremely sick after 6 days, and wanted to quit. Your story has given me the resolve I needed to keep going. God led me to GAPS and I need to do what it takes to get to where I can also say “I am healthy now. I love the GAPS diet!” Thank you! ~Jaime

    • brenda

      Jaime, I am so glad that my story inspired you!! It’s common for people to feel sick on the intro–your body is getting used to good food and getting rid of the toxins that have built up over time from bad foods. Press on! You can do it! Praying for your strength & good health! 🙂

  • Denise

    I *needed* to read this today! I’m the one who asked the questions on the FB group about doing GAPS with nut allergies. Aside from my kids’ many issues, I have, among other things, arthritis, terrible muscle weakness, numbness, and persistent leg cramps!

    • brenda

      Denise, It sounds like you need GAPS! 🙂 I will pray that you can heal so that you can have the energy you need to parent your children! It’s hard having health issues–it’s even harder when you’re a mom and there are little ones to take care of!

  • Leigh Ann

    Thanks so much for sharing! This brought tears to my eyes. I have been researching, researching, researching for 12 years now regarding all of my undiagnosed symptoms. Through all of that God led me to GAPS as well a few years ago. I have slowly been implementing new habits over the last few years. I went full GAPS for a few weeks, but could not keep up with it as I am a student finishing my midwifery training. I am encouraged to keep on keepin’ on. I need to write my whole journey out and share it with others too. Thanks! Leigh Ann

    • brenda

      Leigh Ann, I’m sorry about your health issues & not being able to find answers! Going through that is HARD! I will pray that you can stay strong & continue on GAPS, and that God will use it to heal you!

  • Melissa @ Dyno-mom

    I saw your comment over at Nourished and Nutured and had to come over and take a peak. I have ten kids and I could not imagine doing GAPS, I though we would have to raid the retirement account! We switched milks and this seems to have solved the problem. I am seriously impressed by you!

    • brenda

      Melissa, thank you! We are currently doing GAPS with 7 kids in our home, and yes, it is expensive! I’m hoping, soon, to do some posts (or maybe videos? 🙂 about how much it costs to eat on GAPS with a big family. Be watching for that! 🙂

  • Pamela

    What an informative article. Have you heard anything about it being good for fibromyalgia? The thought of this diet seems overwhelming but would love to try it, and you’ve given me the courage to do so.

  • Vanessa

    How amazing! Thank you for your inspirational story! I have 2 autoimmune syndromes (hashimoto’s and sjogrens syndrome) and have been having heart palps lately. I sturggle with my weight and I have a 7 year old son with behavioural issues and psoriosis. Gluten free has helped- but is not enough. I feel I have been led to GAPS also- we are starting it soon! (the 30 day challenge on Jan 15th)

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