Long time, no post – a 2 year update in a nutshell

Hey everyone!  I’m baaaack!

I started this blog two years ago, fully intending to track our progress with the GAPS diet.  I spent too long trying to write back story, then got caught up in the massive amount of food prep that comes with GAPS.  Thus, the ol’ blog got pushed to the back burner and eventually fell of the stove all together.

For the record, I regret not tracking our GAPS journey.  We saw amazing improvement in everyone!  I lost weight and stopped having problems with inflammation.  My husband had a major decrease in his pain levels, gained energy, and lost a little bit of weight.  CurlyGirl made great strides in communication and focus.  She also stopped getting sick all the time!  My other kiddos also had improvements in anxiety and behavior.  We all enjoyed relatively good health.  It was great.

But, here’s the thing, GAPS really burnt me out.  I got tired of cooking, tired of trying to make the same old foods look appealing, tired of being the “food nazi”.  I’m sick to death of eggs.  I can hardly eat them anymore.  My kids all groan at the word “soup”.  We wanted to eat cake at birthday parties and not let food and food fear control our lives.  In addition, GAPS eating was getting very expensive.  If you haven’t noticed, food costs are on the rise in a big way.  Feeding a family of seven without grains is very expensive, especially when you are on a fixed income with a small budget to work with.

GAPS is not meant to be a permanent diet, just a healing diet to be used for a time.  We decided it was time to try introducing grains, potatoes, and more regular foods back into our diet.  We started with soaked oats and white rice.  Those seemed to be okay so we gradually added more and more back in.

At the moment, we are mostly gluten-free and we eat grains almost every day, some days more than once.  Potatoes are back in regular rotation, as well as sweet potatoes.  Beans of all kinds are back, helping to stretch the food dollars.  Dairy is back in the form of milk kefir, cheese, butter, and sour cream.  (CurlyGirl remains mostly dairy-free, though we do allow some butter and cheese on occasion.)  We eat cake and ice cream at birthday parties and even eat out once in a very great while.  Everyone is very pleased with these new developments.

But going back hasn’t been all sunshine and roses.  There were legitimate reasons that we were on such a restrictive diet, and those things have not completely healed and gone away.  We are feeling the repercussions of our dietary changes.  RadioDad has had more pain again, CurlyGirl has been a little spacey, and I am not doing well at all.  I’ve gained 10+ pounds since we added grains back into our diet, and inflammation has again reared it’s ugly head all over my body.  Most notably, my hands feel swollen and arthritic every morning and I’m once again having pain & swelling in my SI joint.  My moods are up & down.  I frequently feel not just tired, but utterly exhausted, even though I haven’t really done anything to warrant such feelings.  My body doesn’t like the way I’ve been eating.

What we are going to do about all this remains to be seen.  I’ve read a lot of new information in my blog absence.  A lot of it makes sense, but a lot of it conflicts.  It’s difficult to figure out which direction to go.  I’ll try and detail more of that another day.  But I am going to try and keep track of whatever it is I end up doing, partly for my benefit to have a record, and partly as a way to help others through this journey.

Thanks for reading and hope to talk to you again soon!

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Stepping onto the Road

It’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no telling where you might be swept off to.      ~ Bilbo Baggins

Every decision presents a turn on the road of your life.  Sometimes you make a turn without realizing it.  But sometimes you see an intersection coming and you have to figure out which way to go.  You research and soul-search and pray and hope you turn the right way.  And then you turn.  Whichever way you turn, a new road lies before you… and there’s no telling where it might lead.  But it’s not enough to look at the road.  You have to step out onto it.

Our decision to follow the GAPS diet was a turn on the road.  Six weeks ago, when I started this blog, we were standing at the intersection, scared to step onto the road.  Scared to commit to so big a change.  We decided maybe we would ease toward it, slowly integrate the changes.  But you can’t really “ease” yourself onto a road.  It’s like walking with one foot on the pavement and one foot in the ditch.  It’s uncomfortable.  You can’t walk that way for very long.  At some point, you just have to get up on that road and walk on it.

Knowledge is a dangerous thing.  It changes you.  And armed with our newfound knowledge of the human body, thanks to Gut and Psychology Syndrome, we couldn’t walk halfway on the road.

I started out thinking I would just add a few grain-free things here and there.  Maybe start making breakfast once in awhile instead of feeding the kids cereal every day.  You know, small changes.  But I cringed every time I gave them a slice of bread, a cup of milk, a bowl of cheerios.  I knew what these foods would do in their damaged guts.  I couldn’t in good conscience continue to feed my family that way.

So both feet were on the road.  We kind of went cold turkey.  I started making every meal GAPS legal to the best of my ability.  Now, we weren’t 100% right off the bat.  Our condiments still had sugar in them.  A snack here and there would have an illegal ingredient.  But we cut out the big stuff pretty much all at once.  As we ran out of mik, cereal, bread, it wasn’t replaced.

My children did not appreciate this.  The Princess asked for macaroni & cheese almost every day, which is funny because we very rarely ate mac & cheese anyway.  The Stubborn Buffalo went on a little strike at every meal.  He went hungry a few times but now at least tries things.  Zanna Banana begged for cheerios for over a week but finally stopped asking.  Curly Girl asked for Chex the first day after we ran out, but hasn’t since then.  As long as there is something for breakfast she’s okay with it.  We have tried to explain things to them, but I’m not sure they really grasp the full reality of it yet.  We’re working on it.

Radio Dad, though completely on board, struggled with snacking.  He has a quick metabolism and has to eat every couple of hours.  He used to reach for toast with cinnamon sugar, cookies, brownies, crackers… especially Wheat Thins!  He’s a recovering Wheat Thin addict… 😉  It took awhile for him to come up with quick & easy snacks, but he has created a few favorites like walnut smoothies!  I might start calling him Blender Dad…

I started down the road with great gusto, excited to try new recipes!  I had a few uninspired days where I had no idea what I would make.  But the new routine is starting to sink in.  I am exploring how many different meals you can make with just broth and vegetables.  I am learning how different types of nuts behave in recipes.  I am discovering just how many foods my children will actually eat!  (Cauliflower?  Hard-boiled eggs?  Who knew?!)  And I am always, always planning ahead.  Meal planning has been my saving grace this past month.  I must remember to make the broth, thaw the meat, bake the muffins.  If I do, all flows smoothly.

Overall, it has been a good turn for us.  We are already seeing some results,which I will detail next time!

Why GAPS? Why now?

So, now that we have chronicled our experiences with GFCF and SCD in regards to Curly Girl, I want to focus in on why I’ve chosen the GAPS protocol.

How I found GAPS

I am, at the core of my very being, a foodie.  I love food.  More than just eating it, I love looking at pictures of food, and reading recipes, and talking about food.  As my cooking skills have matured, so has my love for food and it’s many uses.  Over the years, as we began to eat healthier, I started reading food blogs.  I mainly read blogs about gluten-free food (to help Curly Girl) and traditional food (Nourishing Traditions style).  Many times there was a crossover between the two and those were usually my favorites.

The term GAPS started showing up on my foodie blogs about 18 months ago.  I looked it up, read the food list, and said, “It’s just like SCD!  I can’t do that!  It’s too restrictive!”  Then I had to give up my foodie blog addiction for awhile while we moved, had a baby and generally had an insane life.  When I came back, GAPS was everywhere!!  And these blogs made it sound… doable.  The idea of changing our eating habits again started to nibble away at the back of my noggin.

Why Now?

In March 2011, just 2 months ago, I attended a seminar at the local health club called “Is Your Stomach Killing You?”  It was presented by a chiropractor, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I knew a lot about the gut already, but there is always more to learn.  It was free, so I went.  I did learn a few things, but what it really did was put our diet in the spotlight.  It made me think deeply about the foods we were eating and how that was affecting our health.  The speaker talked extensively about leaky gut and about how the health of the gut controlled the health of the entire body.  He had a checklist/quiz thingy, and if you scored high, you most likely had problems with a leaky gut.  Radio Dad & I both scored quite high, and I could see my children and their issues in the list as well.  I knew I needed to do something.  It was time for some drastic action.

Shortly after that seminar, this post by Health, Home & Happiness showed up on my facebook feed.  I read through it, then I read it to Radio Dad.  We were astonished!  Yes!  That description fits our families, fits us, perfectly!  We are a GAPS family!  That sealed the deal.  I started studying GAPS in earnest.

Why GAPS?

You may be thinking, Why this diet?  What is so special about this one to make it worth all this trouble?

Well, because it made sense.  As I read the book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, it just makes perfect sense.  It explains the why’s of our family’s health issues.  Why Curly Girl is the one who ended up with autism.  Why Radio Dad hurts.  Why I struggle with depression.  Why Zanna Banana can’t handle loud noises!  It seems the further I read, the more of our weirdness is explained.  It’s easy to get behind a diet change when you really understand how it works.  The author has done a phenomenal job of explaining things, right down to the molecular level!  I read the book and know making these changes will help.  I KNOW IT!  And that knowledge gives me hope for our future.

One More Thing…

There’s one more detail to explain why GAPS, why now.  I feel like the blog posts and the seminar were placed in my path on purpose, that God was leading me to this change.  I was dead-set against GAPS 18 months ago.  I remembered the frustrations of SCD and I did not want to go there again.  But over and over I was led back to the leaky gut, back to GAPS, back to our need to change.  I really feel that it was orchestrated by the Almighty.

And the timing makes sense.  Five years ago when we tried SCD, I didn’t have the cooking skills, the creativity, the knowledge of food, that I have today.  I couldn’t make it work then because I didn’t know how.  As I have learned new skills, I have been well prepared for GAPS cooking.  Once again, God’s timing is perfect.

Next time, we’ll look at how our family has started to implement GAPS and what results we’ve seen so far.  See ya then!

Introducing… Curly Girl! (Part 3)

Curly Girl, age 9

Sorry to leave you all hanging after Part 2! Life caught up with me, and you know how that goes. Where was I?

Ah yes… In our last episode, we tried replacing GFCF with the Specific Carbohydrate Diet but found it too restrictive despite the gains Curly Girl was making. We returned to GFCF and that was that.

There’s not a lot to tell in the following few years. Curly Girl continued to grow and mature, making improvements along the way. She was in a regular classroom at school, and for the most part, keeping up with her peers. She still lagged socially, but even that got better. But there was one thing… She kept getting sick.

When she was 5, 6, 7 years old, it was ear infections, one after another. Those seemed to clear up but then the UTI’s started. At the age of 8, Curly Girl started to get urinary tract infections. Every few months we are back at the doctor for more antibiotics. Every test comes back normal. There is really no good explanation. I hate to think what the antibiotics are doing to her gut. And yet, we don’t have any real options. The infections need to be treated. But, I digress.

When Curly Girl was 9, we discovered a liquid vitamin supplement made from seaweed and aloe vera. Radio Dad & I started taking it and had great results! We started giving it to Curly Girl. Within a month she was a whole different person. She interacted with us in a way that she never had before. She played with her siblings and it was almost like a normal family. It was wonderful! We’ve kept her on it since then, falling off the wagon for awhile when we moved and when the baby was born, but trying to get her back on it as much as we could. She definitely functions better when she takes it. But it hasn’t been the miracle cure we were hoping for.

Things have been rough lately. We’re blaming it on puberty & hormone changes, but I think there are a number of contributing factors. She’s been on a lot of antibiotics. Let’s face it. Every time we have to give her another round, we are causing even more damage to her gut. We’ve also had a lot of changes in our family, first moving then having a new baby, and those cause stress for her. She’s also increasing in awareness and with that awareness comes frustration. She can’t do the same thing as everyone else. She can’t even eat the same things. That would frustrate anyone.

So what role does diet play in all this? Where do we go from here?

We certainly can’t stay where we are. GFCF is only a band-aid to cover up the problem. It doesn’t heal anything. By removing gluten and casein you address part of the problem, and you can improve behaviors somewhat by avoiding them. But the real problem is the leaky gut, the damaged gut wall, the overgrowth of bad bacteria, the lack of good bacteria. As long as you continue to feed the baddies with starchy gluten-free food, you will never heal. Compound that with a constant barrage of antibiotics making things worse with each round and well… GFCF will never be enough.

We must do more. We must do better. Enter the GAPS protocol.

I’ll be back (soon!) to talk about how I discovered GAPS and why I feel like it’s the right thing at the right time. Stay tuned!

Introducing… Curly Girl! (Part 2)

Curly Girl, age 4 1/2

In our last episode, Curly Girl was diagnosed with autism and we placed her on the gluten-free, casein-free diet (GFCF).   After our confirmation that the diet was working (the couch incident) we began to see small improvements.  Therapists from Birth to 3 began working with her at this time also.  At the age of 33 months, Curly Girl made her very first stack of blocks.  Shortly after her third birthday, she started speaking.  (I cannot for the life of me remember her first word.  I really should write this stuff down.)  She started attending Early Childhood classes at the local public school, and we made slow progress.

At this point, I feel like I should mention some of the mistakes we made in the early days of GFCF.  I knew that wheat & dairy were off limits, but I figured anything else was fine.  Curly Girl ate a whole lot of potato chips, popcorn, jello, marshmallows and equally junky food.  But it didn’t have wheat or dairy!  It also had zero nutrition.  And all that sugar and starch just fed the yeast & pathogens in her gut, making her leaky gut even worse.  Couple that with a continued string of antibiotics for various illnesses… I shudder to think of what we did to her poor gut.  Still, GFCF was enough to keep her moving forward.

Curly Girl did continue to make progress.  Her speech improved, her behaviors improved, she began to draw & write.  She taught herself to read one summer by watching phonics videos!  She began to allow us into her world just a little.  But there were still some things missing. 

When she was around 5 years old, our family doctor (who is also a DAN! doc) suggested we try the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.  He said we didn’t have to, but it was an option that some families were having success with.  Well, if GFCF was hard to implement, SCD looked nearly impossible.  No sugar?  No potatoes?  No corn?  No rice?  Again I found myself asking, what will my child eat??  Still, I wanted to do the most I could for my daughter.  So we decided to try it.

Again, we saw tremendous improvement!  Curly Girl made enormous leaps and bounds during the time on SCD.  Her speech, eye contact, and ability to attend to a task all improved.  She also had improvement in bowel movements.  (Sorry it’s gross, but BM’s are a big indicator of gut health!)  On GFCF she frequently had unformed, almost diarrhea type stool, and on SCD they became nicely formed and regular.  It looked like SCD was working.

But we still had a problem.  Between the limitations of the diet and Curly Girl’s self-limiting, she was down to just a handful of foods she could/would eat, and a couple of those were “compromise” foods.  Eggs, bacon, applesauce, orange & grape juice, and hot dogs (definitely a compromise food!)  As she became more aware of others around her, she also became aware of all the food she couldn’t have.  She started asking for other foods.  At the time, I didn’t have the knowledge, the creativity or the energy to figure out how to create those foods and make them fit within her diet.  She also started to lose weight.  She was a skinny thing to begin with, so that was a big deal.

We had been on SCD for about a year.  I knew her gut had healed somewhat.  We decided to try a “regular” diet for a while and see how it went.  Not GFCF, but regular food like the rest of us ate.  That was a bad idea.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  I wanted her to be normal, and I wasn’t being realistic.  She did okay for a couple of weeks and then things got ugly.  It was obvious that we needed to go back to a special diet.  Instead of returning to SCD, we went with GFCF again.  It was less restrictive, more familiar, and GFCF food had become more accesible in our area.

Again, I need to point out some mistakes I made when implementing SCD.  For one, we never did the intro part of the diet.  I tried, but she wouldn’t eat the intro foods.  So I just let her eat anything on the allowed list.  I also failed to introduce probiotics.  This is a biggie.  SCD works by starving the bad bacteria in the gut, but you have to introduce good bacteria to take its place!  I didn’t do that, and I really should have.  Lastly, I allowed too many compromises.  To really work, one needs “fanatical adherance” to the diet.  I wasn’t able to provide that.

So, there we were… I was tired of being the food police.  Curly Girl was happy to have french fries again.  And that is how we continued forward…

(Stay tuned for Part 3!)

Introducing… Curly Girl! (Part 1)

Curly Girl, age 3

In honor of World Autism Awareness Day, I’d like to take a few moments to introduce Curly Girl.  She’s the one who started us down this road, so she gets to be first. 🙂

When I was a little girl, I dreamed of someday having a boy & a girl.  The girl I was going to have would be frilly & girly, neat & pleasant, quiet & well-mannered.  She would have tea parties and play with baby dolls.  She would wear pink lacy dresses and twirl around and around.

When I grew up, I got married, had my boy, and then, in 2001, my baby girl was born.  I dressed her in pink lacy dresses and bought her baby dolls.  But that’s where the dream ended.

Curly Girl was born in the deep of winter.  She seemed to pick up every virus that floated by.  An eye infection at 2 weeks, RSV at 2 months, pneumonia and hospitalization at 4 months, followed by a constant string of ear infections and more pneumonia.  Her babyhood seemed filled with antibiotics, steroids, breathing treatments and doctor visits.  Still, she was happy and developing right on track.

As Curly Girl grew, she started getting a bit quirky.  She was fascinated with her hands, but wouldn’t use them to clap or feed herself.  But she would clap our hands together over and over.  She didn’t play with her brother.  She didn’t really play at all.  At 15 months, we weren’t too concerned.  Maybe she was just a little behind from being sick so much.  Then things turned.  She seemed to get worse instead of better.  She seemed to be in her own little world. By 18 months I was a little concerned. 

At age 2, Curly Girl still did not talk.  She no longer responded when we talked to her.  She didn’t seem to communicate with us at all except for crying.  Our doctor was concerned about her hearing.  We had a full work-up by an audiologist & ENT.  Her hearing was perfect.

By age 2 1/2 we were all deeply concerned.  Her doctor finally asked the question that broke through to this world.  “Does she point at things?”  Simple enough question, but the answer was no.  At 30 months of age, Curly Girl did not use a distal point to communicate needs.  That was it.  The thing that tipped the scales from delayed to autism.  She was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disability-Not Otherwise Specified), a form of autism.

Our family doctor, who diagnosed her, is also a DAN! doctor.  He is specially trained to treat autism using biomedical treatments.  He referred us to Early Intervention specialists in our county, and he also recommended that we try a special diet.  We got a crash course in leaky gut.  He said we should remove gluten & casein from her diet.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and a few other grains.  Casein is a milk protein and is found in all dairy products.  At the time of Curly Girl’s diagnosis, her entire diet consisted of milk & wheat foods.  Crackers, macaroni & cheese, bread, yogurt and gallons upon gallons of milk.  Remove it all???  What would she eat?

But we were desperate parents.  We were willing to try anything.  And so we began down the road of dietary intervention.

At first, we didn’t think it was helping.  But we stayed on the diet.  After being GFCF for a few months, Curly Girl drank an entire glass of milk.  And she ran around the couch for 36 hours.  I’m not kidding.  Then she crashed and acted like she had a hangover for about 3 days.  Okay, I guess the diet is working after all!

Curly Girl has a “Leaky Gut”.  This is when the intestinal walls are damaged, causing them to become more permeable than they should be.  This damage allows the proteins gluten and casein to travel into the bloodstream undigested.  These two proteins are opioid proteins.  When they get into the bloodstream, they behave like opiate drugs.  Think morphine, opium.  You wouldn’t give a 2 year old morphine to get high, but when we gave Curly Girl milk & crackers, that’s what we were doing. 

There’s much more to Curly Girl’s story, but this post is getting very long.  I will continue her story next time, so stay tuned!

Laying the Foundation

Welcome to Family in a Bubble!  Click over here and meet the family!

I’m not new to blogging.  I had a family blog for awhile, where I talked about everyday stuff, shared life.  But when Facebook came around, that quickly became a better way to share my everyday life.  Life, however, is full of twists and turns and after a few spirals I finally have a topic to blog about.  In my first post, I’d like to lay the foundations for this blog.

My intentions here are going to be mostly focused in one direction: healing my family through dietary intervention.  I need a place to organize my ideas, to track our journey.  Something to look back on as we walk this road.

In a later post I will detail our family’s health challenges, but let me summarize for now.  My oldest daughter, Curly Girl, has autism.  My husband, RadioDad, has a neuropathy of some kind that has disabled him from working.  These challenges have changed our life. 

We’ve used some dietary intervention in the past with Curly Girl.  She’s been on a gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diet for almost 8 years now.  We know it has helped her tremendously.  But we want more.  We want her to heal.  We want RadioDad to feel better, to have less pain, to heal.  I’ve been reading and learning about the gut, about how drastically it affects the health of the whole body.  And, armed with fresh knowledge, I’m looking into the GAPS diet for our family.

This will be a huge change for us.  And I will have a lot to prepare and process.  That’s what this blog will be about.  Join us on our journey.