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Welcome to another thinking out loud about my health post….

Since my most recent post about my struggle to feel well, I have been thinking and thinking about my next step. My cousin Kara commented on that post, directing me to something that Kimi at The Nourishing Gourmet wrote about her GAPS diet experience. I have to say a big thank you to Kara because I think that is the direction I need to be thinking right now. The B12 injections may be what my body needs and perhaps it is just going to take longer than I expected to noticeably feel the positive effects, but in the meantime, I am really beginning to wonder – again – if the GAPS diet is the cause of some of my current struggles.

I wholeheartedly believe in this diet, but I also believe that it may not be for everyone. It has done miracles for so many suffering from terrible digestive issues like IBS and Crohn’s as well as for kids with autism and other such challenges. Though we don’t have it all figured out with Jonas yet, it has done wonders for him both physically and emotionally.

But for me? I am not sure. I wish I could see what is going on inside me. I wish I knew the state of my gut. I believe that the half a year I’ve spent on GAPS has done some good. I am just not seeing the results externally. I never would have thought of doing GAPS for myself. I ended up here because of my son’s need. Reading the book however, I became convinced that it would be good for me as well. There are a few reasons for this.

  1. I’ve never thought of myself as someone with digestive issues or food sensitivities. The only challenge I’ve experienced in this regard is that my system tends to be slow. Being on a whole foods, traditional diet with properly prepared grains (soaked or sprouted), largely remedies this for me, but I can certainly tell when I have not been eating 100% as I should. My body is sensitive. So, I figured that GAPS couldn’t hurt and could greatly improve my health in this respect. (Ironically, GAPS made me really constipated, and my doctor prescribed buffered ascorbic acid as a remedy. It would be interesting to see if getting back on a traditional WAPF diet would resolve this problem).
  2. The book makes it clear, and it makes a lot of sense, that all disease starts in the gut. I have long believed that I have thyroid problems and this last year I’ve started wondering about my adrenals as well. I thought perhaps improving my gut would help support my metabolism.
  3. Mothers pass their gut flora on to their children as the babies make their way down the birth canal. Before that, babies’ guts are sterile. Having a child with fairly severe digestive issues forces me to consider what kind of bacteria I passed on to him. (There are additional considerations that I do believe contributed to his current problems, most important is the fact that, as an infant, we had Jonas on Zantac and later Prilosec for his reflux because we couldn’t find a natural remedy that worked. In hindsight I would not make that choice again. It didn’t do enough good and further damaged his gut, I’m sure. You can read here if you are interested in the reason reflux medications are a problem). Another consideration in this mother-child connection is that my mom has had health struggles much of her life, and she had a couple strikes against her gut health early on in life because she was formula fed and (if I remember) had several rounds of antibiotics as a teenager. So, I may have received sub-optimal gut flora from her.

These things considered, I still would not have set off on GAPS for my own sake. It is a rather drastic protocol and while I don’t know for certain, I don’t think I am so unhealthy as to need GAPS; that’s not to say I can’t benefit from it. Most certainly.

But now I am at a point of wondering whether I need to change course. I have assumed for a while that a B12 deficiency is causing my extreme fatigue and host of other problems, but now I am seriously considering, could it be that the diet has pushed me to this place. Reading Kimi’s post about her experience, I really identified with what she said. Particularly:

I stood at the bottom of my flight of stairs and stared upwards. In the 4 weeks I had been on the diet, I had gained weight (although I felt like I was starving all of the time and had been at my perfect weight before the diet), lost energy, and it seemed like the diet was stressful on my adrenals and thyroid. Despite all of the protein I consumed, I often suffered from low blood sugar on the diet. But not all was negative. It felt like it was helping both my digestive system as well as my daughters. But as I stared up those stairs, I realized I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t walk up those stairs. I didn’t feel tired in the sense of wanting to go to sleep, but the type of tired that made you feel life was blah.

Kimi was on the intro diet which is much more intense than the full GAPS diet that we have been on. I completely identify with that exhaustion. I. just. can’t. climb. those. stairs. For a while I’ve been concerned about the stress that the diet potentially puts on the thyroid and adrenals as I believe my metabolism is my main source of health trouble. Many enthusiastic proponents of the diet say this isn’t the case and that the diet can even heal these problems, yet I have heard this warning from various articles and blog posts. A few months ago, I became concerned about this as I started experiencing some problems, and I considered then whether I should stay on the diet. I decided to increase my carb intake by keeping a pot of lentils in the fridge. I eat at least a cup a day, usually at breakfast with lots of raw sour cream (fat is good for adrenals) and a couple over easy eggs. I eat fruit, honey, baked goods (though I’m not sure how many carbs are in coconut flour), squash. So, I am not low carb, but I think my body may need more. My husband pointed out an interesting fact the other night: I really started going downhill shortly after (2-3 weeks, maybe?) I went off of raw milk in June. (I misunderstood something in the book and didn’t realize I shouldn’t be drinking any milk, raw or not, at this point). I don’t know if it is the sugar in the milk or some of the nutrients or both, but perhaps that loss has really affected me. I do drink kefir, but I don’t know that the nutritional profile is similar enough. The sugar has been fermented out. I don’t think the vitamins and minerals would change, but I don’t know much about any of that. I would drink 16-24 ounces of milk most days, but with kefir, I don’t drink it plain, just in smoothies or blended with some berries, so I only get a cup or so a day. Some days not at all. Anyway, all this rambling to say: I think I need more carbs. I need to take my own advice:

I am going to be careful to listen to my body rather than blindly following a protocol just because so many others have found greater health and healing. If I discover after any given time that GAPS is not what I need, I will modify my diet so my body gets everything needed to thrive.

I am still trying to decide exactly how this is going to look, but I officially broke the diet yesterday. We went out to the farm to get milk. After some initial feelings of conflict – do I really want to introduce food that might undo some of the work I’ve done over the last months? – I drank a big pint of milk. Another glass of milk upon waking today.

I think for now I will continue to eat GAPS-like – lots of broth and ferments, no sugar, keep eating the lentils, etc. but add in milk, quinoa, sweet potatoes and maybe rice. See how I am feeling.

I have no idea if a change in diet will improve the state of my health, but I need to do something while I wait to see if the B12 is going to help. While everything I am experiencing can be explained by B12 deficiency, most of it could also be attributed to metabolism problems. I wasn’t sure about the neurological problems, but after a brief search I find that even this can be accounted for by adrenal fatigue!

I read a fantastic e-book a few months ago, The Nourished Metabolism, and I did put some of Elizabeth’s advice into practice. I am going to revisit it and make a plan for going forward.

Writing really helps me think, so thanks for listening to my long ramble. If you have any insights or suggestions, I welcome them!