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.