“He needs GAPS,” the nutritionist said in June. “And so do you.”
My heart sank. I’d dreaded those words for years. GAPS. Really? Are you sure?
A Little Background
To recap in case you’re new here, my 3 year old Arthur suffered with typical modern health problems from day one. First reflux, colic, and unusually poor sleep; then eczema, an agitated nervous system, cranky temperament, and constipation appeared. All this despite a nutrient-dense real food diet, nontoxic products, and years of working holistically on my health, plus exclusive breastfeeding and no antibiotics for him ever, blah blah blah.
As my husband said yesterday morning, What does it take? It was–and still is–painful to discover that doing it all “right” doesn’t come with a guarantee.
In the earliest days I turned to our beloved chiropractor for diet and homeopathic treatment but with inconsistent results. Months later I found NAET (Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique), and that did work wonders. It turned around his temperament, sleep, and eczema. Then the constipation resolved on its own after 7 miserable months, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
But a year later, the constipation came back, worse than ever, along with two small but vicious patches of eczema. What now? We had moved from Houston, TX, to Farmington, NM, and had already exhausted many of our new healthcare options. Eventually we found a holistic nutritionist in Durango, CO, who worked with us to add and remove foods from Arthur’s diet and supplement conservatively, but while we found some new and better bandaids for his conditions, he didn’t improve.
Ready to Act
By June this year, I was done with food elimination and basic supplements. No matter how many foods we eliminated or for how long, nothing helped. (That’s always been the case with Arthur and why I chose NAET when he was younger.) Probiotics? Nothing. Enzymes? Nada. Oils? Forget it.
Now I was ready to act–to treat. This poor kid was suffering! So were we. Alternative allergy treatment worked, but obviously he needs something more to heal. No one wants to treat kids aggressively, and I understand that, but I also don’t want to live like this for 10 more years before anyone will touch him with a ten foot pole.
I told our nutritionist what I wanted and that I was willing to accept responsibility. Did he need stronger antimicrobials, herbal antivirals, anti-parasitics–what? That’s when she said he needed the GAPS diet.
What Is the GAPS Diet?
GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome and Gut and Physiology Syndrome. Long story short, a Russian neurologist, Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, cured her son’s autism by healing his gut. She then used the same protocol to help thousands of children and adults recover from diseases and symptoms like autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia, depression, severe digestive disease, eating disorders, eczema, food allergies, seasonal allergies, asthma, and so much more–by healing their small and large intestines.
Dr. Campbell-McBride based her diet on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) with a hefty dose of WAPF/traditional food principles. To that she added gentle detoxification treatments and other guidelines. All of this together is called “GAPS” or the “GAPS diet.” While the GAPS protocol has not yet been studied, anecdotal success stories are compelling, and the growing body of research linking gut health to every other system in the body supports this kind of approach.
While GAPS does involve stringent food elimination, that’s only the beginning of the protocol. It is a temporary lifestyle with the ultimate goal of true healing, so that you can eat a wide variety of healthy foods for the rest of your life, symptom free. It is also a foundation for further treatment, called “cherries on top” in the GAPS world. Some children after getting well established on the GAPS protocol then need additional help with parasites, yeast, H. Pylori, heavy metals, and more.
I’ve watched the GAPS wave online for over 5 years, first with everyone jumping on board and raving, then with more and more dissident voices saying it didn’t work for them. I wavered. While I, and now my son and daughter, have classic GAPS issues like constipation, eczema, and seasonal allergies, was it really worth it? It’s a whole lifestyle for a minimum of 2 years, and like everything else, without guarantees. On the strength of my self diagnosis, I was never ready to take the leap.
Of course, now I had an experienced healthcare practitioner telling me GAPS is what we need, and with the confidence of having witnessed firsthand the radical healing it can bring.
So I threw a temper tantrum.
Because I know what life on a restricted diet is like. I know what it’s like to take your own food to family gatherings, to order an undressed green salad while your friends order enchiladas at Chuy’s, to collapse in tears before Christmas dinner. I used to live like that, and NAET gave me my freedom. I don’t want to go back.
GAPS is more intense and longer-lasting than all of my prior experiments with healing and elimination diets were, too. It will affect every vacation, date, birthday, holiday, and social gathering for two years or more. Further, I’ve been around the health block too many times to think even GAPS is a sure thing, and I know that if I’m not mindful, there’s a huge emotional toll involved.
I prayed. I talked it over with my husband and family. I journaled. I pouted.
Pretty quickly we decided yes, this is a door we want to walk through. We want to find out what’s on the other side, and we are willing to cradle our hopes loosely in our hands. If there’s a chance that 2-3 years of hard work now can give my son and daughter a brighter, more delicious future, sign me up. If I can heal along the way too, all the better.
I also found myself grateful for the timing. Our chances of healing on GAPS are higher with 100+ NAET treatments already under our belt. Had I tried GAPS 5 years ago and then discovered NAET, I might need to consider re-doing the protocol.
Getting Started & Getting Help
Then came preparations: the ordering of books, scouring the Internet, joining Facebook groups, brainstorming vacations and dates, collecting supplies, stocking the pantry and freezer, gradually shifting our meals and snacks. Even with more than a decade of alternative health experience, I spent two months on all this! (I’ll share details in a later post.)
Around this time overwhelm struck. While I knew I could do the practical side of living GAPS, some of the treatment details confused me. There is so much available information about GAPS, even from Dr. Campbell-McBride herself, that it’s tricky to sort out. Plus, constipation as a primary symptom is far less common in the GAPS world than diarrhea.
And this is key: I want to do GAPS exactly once. I don’t want to get to the 18 month mark and find out, oh, we might have done x in the first month, and face starting all over. I know people with this story, and no ma’am, no thank you, I’m not interested.
With our nutritionist’s support evaporating, I prayed for someone else to come alongside us. I continued to walk it through, and before I knew it a functional medicine practitioner who’s been treating children and adults with GAPS for ten years practically dropped into my lap! He comes with enthusiastic recommendations and works via Skype. Praise God.
By this point we’d eased our way into the least restrictive phase of GAPS–“full GAPS”–and Arthur’s constipation was worse than ever. This was troubling for many reasons, not least of which he fought enemas tooth and nail, which are the only long-term constipation remedy recommended for kids on GAPS. I simply couldn’t figure out how to drop his non-GAPS-compliant constipation remedies. I was desperate for advice.
When I told our GAPS practitioner Arthur’s history and present reactions, the man dropped this bomb: “Arthur isn’t ready for GAPS.” Say what???
But that’s a story for another day.
Toodaloo, folks! We’re off to camp this weekend in our BRAND NEW (to us) POP UP CAMPER!!! Can you tell I’m a wee bit excited? After two weeks of rough sleep with the kids and many other challenges besides, I am so ready to leave our messy house behind and enjoy Nature for a few days. Colorado, here I come.
[This post was supposed to go up on Friday but we had Internet troubles. I am now back from camping, and it really was spectacular. Life back at home is . . . not as spectacular. Tough times around here with all this health stuff.]