Reading the GAPS book, I feel validated. There have been so many times over the years when I have felt something (sometimes physical, sometimes behavioral) wasn’t “normal” with Jonas. And while at times I do wonder, am I just being overly sensitive, I believe that I can generally trust my intuition when it comes to my kids and their well-being. This book has shown me that my concerns over Jonas are legitimate and there is something causing the physical and behavioral challenges we have faced over the years. I feel so hopeful and excited about the improvements I believe we will see in Jonas’ life. He is such a great kid and I am really proud of how far he has come in the last few years. It is exciting to think that implementing the GAPS diet will not only positively affect his physical self, but will also help him deal more easily with his impulses and emotions.
Here are some of the things common to GAPS children that pertains to Jonas:
- Food intolerances
Dairy has been a problem through much of his life, and I have lately begun to suspect wheat as well. Jonas has also always been sensitive to artificial ingredients in food, particularly color. While food affects him physically, the chemicals in processed food affect him behaviorally, often causing aggression and frustration. Fortunately, he has grown up on a whole foods diet, so he has seldom had to deal with the effects of toxins in processed food.
We dealt with reflux the first year of Jonas’ life. Interestingly, though he hasn’t had a problem with reflux for several years, there were a couple times last month that he complained of it, which coincides with some other symptoms getting worse.
- Picky eating
“The second year of life is the time when many GAPS children start developing fussy eating habits, refusing a whole lot of foodstuffs and limiting their diet to a handful of foods.” (p.9)
“It is typical for a child with abnormal gut flora to start limiting their diet to starchy and sweet foods, refusing all savoury meals.” (p. 86)
Fortunately, Jonas does not go so far as to refuse all savoury meals, but he certainly is a picky eater. For the first year or so, Jonas ate most foods presented to him. It was sometime in his second year that he started becoming picky about taste, texture and even temperature. He began rejecting many things that he previously ate and became skeptical of new foods. When he was a little guy, I alternated scrambled eggs and soaked oatmeal for breakfast most every morning. He enjoyed both. It has now been several years since he has eaten scrambled eggs (that is, until a couple weeks ago – I will have to share a great recipe soon), though oatmeal is still one of his favorites, provided it has enough honey. Jonas gravitates toward grains (especially bread) and fruit. He is rather particular about meat and there are only a couple vegetables he will eat. I am thankful that at least he is used to eating whole foods, so when we start the diet, we won’t have as much of a battle as some families who have been on the Standard American Diet. He knows he needs help to fix his tummy, and while I know this will sometimes be hard for all of us, he is often good about accepting change when it is explained to him, and I hope that will make the transition more bearable. With the exception of a hot dog bun, he has been off of wheat for a full week. (And he hasn’t had a single accident in that time. Well, actually he had a bit of one before bed last night – the day after he had the bun. Coincidence? Perhaps. But interesting to note). The fact that he hasn’t said a word about a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in that week astounds me! Fortunately, I have almond flour, so I am able to provide him with some baked goods. I just hope that as we implement the diet, he will become more open to the meats and vegetables that are so essential to his body.
- Incontenence issues, loose stools, bed wetting
Yep, yep, and yep. Ben wakes Jonas up at 2 a.m. every night to go to the bathroom, so he will stay dry through the night. Without this late night trip to the bathroom, it would be very difficult for him to make it through the night, and he does not wake up on his own. As far as incontinence, I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard, “I didn’t know I needed to go,” and how often I have been grateful for that extra change of clothes I stuffed in my bag when out of the house, just in case.
- Behavioral Problems
I mentioned above that Jonas tends to act out when he consumes artificial ingredients. He has also struggled with behavioral problems independent of food. Yes, I know that children aren’t perfect. I know they will act out and make bad choices on their way to maturity. I fully accept that. The things we have dealt with in Jonas however, are, in my opinion, more extreme than typical childhood immaturity and disobedience. The worst of it was between the ages of three and four. I won’t go into all the details right now, but will say that the phrase I would use to describe him at that point of life is out of control. It was the worst time of my life. I was just so grieved to see my sweet baby acting out in such anger and aggression, such frustration and agitation. And I was so worried about my precious baby girl growing up in a home where she had to worry about being hit or yelled at. (My heart swells so big today, to see that these two children are now inseparable, best friends – to see that our gentleness and diligence in showing and teaching them love and kindness has shaped and changed their relationship so profoundly. God has been so very good to us). Our teaching and instruction seemed to make little difference in his life at that time, and I remember often feeling hopeless. It took a lot of time to see fruit, but I look at him today and I am so grateful for the way God has worked to bring him out of a lot of the behaviors that made life so difficult for our family. At age six, I think he is still more emotionally immature than his peers. He’s more prone to whining, shows of frustration and the occasional tantrum, but he has come so far.
While Jonas does not have epilepsy, he did have a seizure almost two years ago. He has also experienced the following conditions that “may look like seizures but are not considered “true” epilepsy” (p.77): reflux in infancy, night terrors, head banging (This would happen in conjunction with behavior issues. He would seem very vacant when it occurred. It has seldom happened in the last couple years, but there were two occasions in the last several weeks, during the same time we were seeing a rise in physical symptoms), and possibly benign myoclonus of early infancy. At six months he had an EEG because his arms often jerked involuntarily – similar to the newborn startle reflex. The EEG came back normal, as is the case with benign myoclonus, and the issue resolved itself within a couple months of the test.
So, that’s a bit about Jonas’ history and what has brought us to this point. I am thankful that we do not have to deal with the psychological component (ADD/ADHD, autism, bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, etc) so common in GAPS people. (Though for some time I did wonder if he had SPD, but I think it is more likely his personality, as he is very structured, particular and sensitive). When I began looking into GAPS, I had doubts whether this was for us because he doesn’t deal with psychological issues, and then I started realizing that perhaps he is as well off as he is because he has eaten a mostly organic, whole foods diet his entire life and he has not been vaccinated. I think he has fared so well because he has not been exposed to the additional toxins in food and vaccines. It is a bit frightening to think about the detrimental effect those things could have had on his struggling body. I am just thankful.