What GAPS/SCD has Helped (Despite What it Hasn’t)

Waiting for Dr. “L”, our allergist, to come into the room He has great toys.

Here is a laundry list of things that GAPS/SCD has helped eliminate or improve for my family!  And please note, we were/are under the care of physicians for all of these things.  (Disclaimer:  You should make sure anything you’re treating has been checked out for the “BAD” stuff before you start treating yourself!  There can be really bad stuff lurking that needs to be ruled out before you embark on alternative routes of healing!  Please, please make sure you have been examined for any problems before you “mess around.”  And if something is really bothering you, don’t allow yourself to be dismissed!  You are your own best advocate!)

Seasonal Allergies:  Every single person in my household was on Flonase (a nasal steroid).  All five of us.  Two of my children even needed Singulair and Xyzal (an antihistamine) in addition to control their allergies.  That’s NINE prescriptions.

To heal up chronic constipation in myself and my middle child, we started playing around with gluten-free/dairy-free diets (trying to avoid “gluten replacement products”).   Finally, I decided to do GAPS for myself and brought the family along with me for the most part.  Our allergies cleared up.  All allergy medicines were able to be discontinued in myself and all of my daughters as soon as we went gluten-free/dairy-free, and they continue to improve!  My husband’s allergies improved (until we tried reintroducing dairy this month).  That is a huge improvement!  I am shocked, relieved, and excited!  I no longer have to worry about unwanted and unknown effects of the medicines on my girls.  We save lots of money, too!  And they feel healthy.  When ragweed season rolled around in August, my oldest took her Xyzal about twice.  That’s it.

At our allergy check-up last week, I sheepishly told the allergist what we were doing with regards to grain (GAPS/SCD diets are grain-free).  Dr. L said, “Yeah.  I see it all of the time.  People cut out wheat and their allergies get better…I don’t eat wheat anymore.”  Well, why didn’t he say so when we first came to him a year ago?  Why don’t other doctors know about this?  Why didn’t I know about this?  I probably would have just thought he was a “wacko” doctor  and found a different one.  We all come to terms with things when we’re ready to.  But our allergies are much, much better.  I can breathe through my nose now!

Keratoconjuctivitis sicca (dry eyes):  We moved half-way across the country about a year  and a half ago.  It was a busy, stressful time, and I had put off my annual eye exams with my optometrist–my sister.  My contacts had been bothering me, but nothing I couldn’t deal with.  My eyes were itchy and dry.  But I could deal with it.  It kept getting worse until it hurt to be in bright light, and I just couldn’t see too well.  Plus, it felt like there was something always in my left eye.  Finally, my sister took a look and told me I had an early ulcer in my left eye.  And I had keratoconjuctivitis sicca.  Dry eyes.  So I had to switch to wearing my glasses all of the time.  Hate that, especially in the summer heat.  When you’re meeting new people for the first time, and you don’t like your glasses.  Or you’re trying to exercise in them.  Yuck.   She gave me a steroid drop and told me to be rechecked by an ophthalmologist in our new town.

On recheck, the ulcer was healing fine.  The ophthalmologist gave me a prescription for Restasis (another terribly expensive medicine).  That’s it.  Didn’t have too much else to say about it.  I had some Patanol also.  The Restasis and Patanol helped control the dryness to a level that allowed me to  wear my contacts max about 6 hours a day, on a good day.  And it wasn’t really comfortable.  I’m about a 12 hour a day wearer.  I was so frustrated.  My other sister who is finishing optometry school was helping us move during this time, and she got so tired of listening to me whine about why in the world I have dry eyes.  “Terri, you just have dry eyes.  Deal with it.  It’s multifactorial.  Many things cause it.”

But why?  Why would a very healthy person get dry eyes?  I’ve never had eye troubles.  I shut my mouth.  I dealt with it.  Then, as our diet changed, my dry eyes got better!  Yes, I’m now a 12-hour a day wearer again.  I don’t even mean to be!  It just gets to be nine o’clock at night, and I haven’t noticed my contacts at all!  I forgot about them!  They don’t bother me!  Using GAPS diet, I was able to determine that if I eat too many nuts, my eyes will dry out a bit, and I can’t rub them because they’re so dry.  And it takes about 48-72 hours for that effect to set in.   It’s not the same day.  But it seems to be improving with the GAPS diet so I can eat a few more every time I retrial nuts every couple of weeks or so.  Egg whites may do it, too, but I’m still sorting that out.

I have told my sisters about this food stuff.  They never would have believed it.  But I guess I must not be too histrionic because they believe me.  Or maybe it’s still the oldest sister thing.  Well, one of them is moving toward eating grain-free.  And the other is shooting for mostly gluten-free.  And they even started saying to their patients, “You know…my sister changed her diet, and her eyes got better.  Go figure.”  Small steps.  At least now, because of me, there are two optometrists who will be out in the world knowing that nutrition may cause dry eyes in some patients!

Hormonal issues–night-time hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and vaginal itching (BV):  Ever since having my first child eight years ago, I had had unexplained hot flashes at night, vaginal dryness, and vaginal itching.  In fact, the symptoms started during my first pregnancy, and the vaginal itching was exceptionally bothersome–psychologically and physically!!!!  What was wrong with me?  I didn’t have any discharge, just itching.  But itching is a sign of STDs!  Paranoia set in!

My husband was peacefully sleeping one day after being on a rough night of orthopedic surgery residency-call, and I come storming into the darkened bedroom.  I stomp around and start yelling, “You gave me an STD.  I can’t even believe this…let me look at you.  Let me see.”  He sat up in a stupor, quite shocked and dumbfounded, wondering what he had done to get this attack from out of nowhere!  What had happened to his wife?  At the time, I had been doing a rotation at a pregnancy health clinic, and we routinely saw trichomonas, gonorrhea, and chlamydia.  I was thinking, “There’s no way no man is gonna’ dupe me!”  Under the influence of my “pregnancy-overreact-can’t think” hormones, I jumped to what I thought was the only potential cause of my vaginal issues.

Well, my obstetrician reluctantly tested me, never suspecting for a moment I had an STD.   He found bacterial vaginosis (BV), which is not an STD.  Even nuns have been found to have BV.  I was prescribed some metronidazole and told to eat yogurt daily.  I couldn’t stomach yogurt so I skipped that part.  Now I know that my BV was really just a complication of how imbalanced my gut flora was, and a good yogurt was probably a great recommendation.  However, the itching, hot flashes, and dryness persisted even after the birth of my daughter.  We had moved to a new state, and I complained to my new gynecologist about them.  We played around with my birth control pills before stopping them altogether.  My thyroid was checked.  A pelvic ultrasound was checked.  Everything looked fine.  So he gave me some estrogen vaginal cream to try.  Nothing really made a difference.  In the winter, I put a fan in my window to draw in the 20 degree air.  Or 10 degree air.  Or 0 degree air.  Visitors hated the cold nights at our house!  As I started probiotics, cutting out grains, and finally embarking on GAPS, my hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and vaginal itching have all went away.  Gone.  And good riddance.  I now shiver at night and wear warm socks to bed.  Sex doesn’t make me cringe because it hurts.  And I don’t wake up my husband accusing him of any affairs anymore.

Headaches and brain fog:  Aleve is a family friend.  Well, it used to be, but it’s not for me anymore!  Now, I just poo-poo my sisters when they ask, “Do you have any Aleve?”  Occasionally, I used to get what I called tension headaches.  Aleve always took care of them, and I never thought anything about it.    They got worse after the birth of my third child.  “Great!  This is what I can expect to feel like now that I’m a mother of three.”

At about the time I got a kidney stone and made my in-laws move in with us after my father-in-law’s triple bypass and aortic valve replacement, I started getting terrible headaches.  Awful.   I told Brandon I wouldn’t live that way, and I would try even “weird” things like acupuncture if  I needed to.   I saw my family doctor and an ENT (ears, nose, throat specialist).  I was treated for sinus infections.  Head CT was normal.  Brandon said he could just look at me and see how hard it was to think and how badly I felt.  Now I know that tanking up on donuts, cookies, and spaghetti was NOT a good thing for this problem!  Eventually the headaches calmed back down to baseline.

Looking back, I didn’t even realize how those minor headaches/brain fogs interrupted my life!  I can remember trying to homeschool my oldest, and to move my head to look at her work made me kind of “spinny.”  Not being able to think made me grouchy.  But it wasn’t all of the time.  I just loaded on the coffee and a few Aleve now and then.  I thought I felt good and was normal.  Going grain free really stopped these feelings of headache and fogginess.  Sometimes, they will come back depending on the time of the month, certain food triggers (egg whites and nuts), or being too low carb.  I think of all of the patients I saw in practice, and I wish I knew then what I know now.  How many tension headaches did I see?  Tons.  Maybe I could have helped them.

Acne:  My complexion has always been clear.  I like it that way.  But over the last year and a half, I started getting acne on my chin and on my butt!  Yuck!  Why in the world?  I thought maybe it was my Mirena IUD which has a little progesterone in it.  As I started a radical change in my diet, I saw huge improvements in my acne!  Namely, it disappeared!  Nooo00owww, I distinctly remember the dermatologist I trained with saying to his patients, “Nothing you eat has anything to do with this…here, try this Retin-A.”  As I’ve joined some on-line support groups for GAPS and SCD, I have read of numerous people dealing with acne through their diet and getting good results.  I couldn’t talk my 17 year-old sister into going gluten-free/dairy-free.  She wanted the cream.  I prescribed it for her.  She also gets tummy aches, headaches, and yeast infections.  She’s not ready for the conversion, but I planted a seed.  Perhaps that’s why it doesn’t catch on.  People think it’s too hard.  But if I can do it, anyone can do it.  I was a carboholic.  Genuinely.

Early nighttime fatigue:  I used to be a night owl.  Then, my candle started burning out early.  Like at 7 pm.  And I started needing about 10 hours of sleep.  WHO GETS THAT?!!!  My husband would try to talk to me in the evenings, and I’d just have to go to bed.  I was too tired.  Forget talk.  Forget anything!  Not kidding–this diet has helped that.  Even my husband agrees.  Seems silly, but I’m grateful!

Focus:  My eight year old has some mild focus, attention, and hyperactivity issues.  Very mild.  Almost not worth mentioning.  But when she has grains, her math fact pages take forever for her to complete.  And she talks and talks and talks and talks!  One time, she was bouncing off of the walls.  We had been to a party that afternoon.  I looked at her and I said, “Do you feel a bit hyper?”  She jumped up and down and nodded her head.  “Yes!  It must have been the food we ate!”

Constipation:  My six-year-old daughter’s constipation is tremendously better.  But it seems to have more to do with dairy than anything else–but ironically, she does great with the fresh milk I pick up, pasteurize, and turn into yogurt.  My constipation, well, it’s still struggling.

Chronic cough:  My husband has this form of cough-variant type asthma that he needed to use Flovent and albuterol for.  Better.  Except when reexposed to dairy.  Who prescribed that stuff without recommending that he trial off of dairy or nuts or eggs or something?  A good doctor who just doesn’t know.

Weight loss and food addiction:  My husband has lost about 20-30 pounds.  His joints don’t hurt so much.  I have lost 13 pounds.  But more than weight, I have lost the addiction I had to cakes, cookies, and breads.  A year ago I asked a woman and her daughter over for coffee and donuts or coffee cake to get to know them better.  She said, “We’d love to come over, but we don’t eat those things.”  I responded to her,  “Oh.  I LOVE refined white flour.  LOVE it.”  And I did love it.  I was lucky that my metabolism and activity level supported my intake.  I wanted that stuff like I imagine a narcotic addict needs narcotics.  Or an alcoholic needs alcohol.  In fact, on reflection, I believe the bulimia I experienced in my second year of pharmacy school was not due to my fear of being fat–it was due to my inability to control my eating in response to a huge life stressor.  I had to eat that stuff to make me feel better.  Because I was addicted.  Chemicals in wheat and dairy do stimulate the morphine-type receptors in the body.  So, I don’t think I’ll be able to go back to my old lifestyle.  One day at a time, though.  I promised myself a year on this diet plan.

In closing, I may have left out a few things.  But you get the idea.  You can see our change in eating habits has tremendously helped our family.  It’s really unarguable.  Some of it is truly objective.  My husband is a surgeon.  He is very fact based.  Evidence.  Give him evidence.

He knew I needed to do whatever I needed to do to try to solve my chronic constipation.  And he was game to try to fix Maggie’s (our middle daughter) constipation, too.  But when he saw how Maggie started pooping every day and how all of the girls’ noses cleared up without any medicines, he was on board.  I am glad he trusted me to make these dietary changes and supported me in them.  We continue to tweak our diet here and there.  I am strictly GAPS/SCD (their food content is similar).  My kids and husband are just mostly GAPS/SCD.

It all started with looking for a constipation cure for myself…finding an Italian study eliminating dairy in chronic constipation…seeing reports online about people getting better on gluten and dairy free diets…then moving onto GAPS/SCD.  And it has taken us to much better health.  Sure wish when I’d had those headaches a few years ago one of my doctor’s would have said, “Hmmm…try giving up wheat.”  Sure wish in residency we’d had some lectures on nutrition.  I wish I could go back and do medical school and residency over again knowing what I know now.  Well, as my mom said, “If wishes were dollars…”  Now I just wish all of this would help my GI tract MOVE.

Terri

10 thoughts on “What GAPS/SCD has Helped (Despite What it Hasn’t)

  1. SCD Griddle

    Terri,
    Great post! Isn’t it amazing what eating the right foods can do?
    Wouldn’t we all love to go back and do things over again knowing what we know now? If only I knew about SCD while I was in my twenties! Although it would be very instructional for you and your medical school training, for sure.
    Theresa ~ SCD Griddle

    Reply
  2. Sarah Croy

    Your description of your 8 year old could be from a scene at our house – I can’t count how many tears and major meltdowns have taken place over math fact sheets! We’re entering our second week of GAPS (actually our 2nd run at it, I was pregnant with our 4th the first time and just couldn’t keep up), and she actually sat down and just did her mouth without a single tear. 🙂

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Oh, I am so sorry about those torture called Saxon math fact pages! :-). I feel your pain! Nice that your 8 year old picked up the slack in your fourth pregnancy! I am in my first trimester, and the sickness makes it so hard! Good luck with GAPS! I know it is hard! At least it was for us! Thank you for commenting and blessings on all!

      Reply
  3. Brittanya

    I am so excited for you and just getting to read about a Dr.s account of opening eyes to nutrition. I myself have had so many similar instances of figuring things out, but your point of views are fun with the Dr. twist. I love psyllium for constipation, I’ve tried meds without relief, psyllium powder or capsules both worked for me. I was a lab tech who now stays home and home schools. I love observing and learning also. Thanks f
    God Bless

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Thank you for your comment! Learning about this has been eye-opening!! Humbling for sure! I am glad that psyllium works for you! I had gotten off of everything in November except for as needed magnesium (maybe once a week), but then I got pregnant and relapsed. So trying to get back where I want to be. I will keep psyllium in mind (I tried it years ago but I know my GI is much more functional now than it was then…), and I am VERY glad it helps you!

      I hope homeschooling is going well and you’re loving staying home to do that! God bless you too! ~~Terri

      Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Good Morning, Sherri:

      Thanks for the question! I’d say that nearly everything improved or resolved within six weeks. Changes were definitely evident by two weeks. Some things took two months or longer. HOWEVER, part of this was realizing food intolerances and eliminating them as we followed the diet. For example, the diet eliminated my husband’s cough and daughter’s GI constipation, but any ghee would bring them back. Some things have been pretty much eliminated by the diet, and other things controlled. I followed it pretty closely for about 18 months. My GI was tremendously better, but it is not “cured.” I will have to keep looking. But my daughter’s was cured. We eat very well, but on vacations and special occasions, the children may eat “fun, regular” stuff. Some things took longer, like the hormonal issues which still continue to improve as I continue with a rich diet, not purely GAPS anymore, but with most all of the major players I can tolerate. My brain fog and headaches are just about a distant memory, which I do not forget! I never want those back! We continue to lay low on dairy and grains and strong on GAPS-type stuff, and on most things, we know when we stray too far (even my kids).

      Hope this helps–

      Terri

      Reply
  4. Nicole

    This post really helped me! When I was pregnant I got vaginal itching and found out I had BV. I was treated for it but the itching never went away. I still have it and no one knows what is causing it. Driving me nuts!! It is good to know you were able to get rid of it. What probiotics did you take?

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Hi, Nicole. Thanks for reading and commenting. I always kind of hope the lines from this post slide under the radar except for women who specifically Google for this very uncomfortable issue! LOL! 🙂

      I have taken many different probiotics in search of The Holy Grail. 🙂 When I first started, I did follow the GAPS recommendations and took Bio Kult and I know that my issue did resolve during the time I was on this. But after that ran out, I tried many others (and the problem stayed away). Many. So I don’t think it was one particular probiotic for me. I think it was a real change in my own gut flora with the change in good food and the addition of beneficial bacteria. I rarely have this problem now except maybe rarely at hormonal change times (right before a period), tight clothing, and/or when my diet goes “bad” (too much sugar, dairy, etc.). Someone told me she notices that she has this issue when she eats dairy. Intriguing thought. I haven’t taken a daily probiotic for I don’t know how long. At least 3-6 months. And this has stayed away. YAY! But I still eat foods that create a good bacterial climate for my gut.

      I found a long time ago that over the counter Extra Strength Lanacaine (It’s an older cream and seems to be fading away in stores, so I order it from Amazon.) helped when applied to the area. Just a tiny bit. Run that one by your doctor if you want to try. Some women are really sensitive and it stings them, so obviously that’s no good. But I didn’t have that problem. Even though I only have the uncomfortable itching now maybe 2-3 times a year, I keep a tube in my purse! That itching is so uncomfortable!

      And of course anyone reading MUST see their doctors to get a diagnosis! Feminine itching can be a lot of serious things that need treated! But Nicole, I see you already did this. I’m just saying it for anyone who may be reading comments.

      Reply

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