Allergies, Meltdowns, and the GAPS Diet

So last post I talked about all the changes we made to our schedule, and how that’s changed since I last posted.

Today I want to tell you about some of the other challenges we’ve been facing and what we’ve been trying to do about them.

So, the biggest challenge we’ve faced from the beginning is certain health related issued among the boys, most especially food allergies and severe eczema. And while we’ve been to several dermatologists and been given lots of prescriptions for stronger and stronger steroids, I’ve never seen enough improvement on them to justify worrying about their long term side effects.

So I’ve always erred on the side of treating the skin with things that soothe the itchiness and dryness and then focused on trying to internally heal the kids with better nutrition. Sadly, this is a hard road to follow given the ubiquity of junk food at most kid-related events. But in recent months, our efforts had slackened. We had reintroduced corn into the kids’ diets, and that had reopened the door to many processed foods that they hadn’t been able to have before. It quickly got out of hand because the busyness of our schedule combined with the convenience of the foods led to them being far too large a part of our every day diet rather than an occasional treat or backup.

The problem with this was itchier skin and flareups. But even more marked was the change in behavior. The kids were irritable, touchy, quick to fly into rages or crying fits, and just generally not fun to be around. (And let’s be honest, I wasn’t coping too well with their behavior because my own diet was equally horrible.)

So, right after Thanksgiving, I decided the best plan was to put us all on a healing diet – specifically the GAPS diet. This plan was created by a doctor in an effort to treat her own autistic son. The idea is that a lot of disease is caused by so-called “Leaky gut syndrome,” where damage to the intestinal lining leads to food particles being allowed into the bloodstream that don’t belong there, resulting in health problems ranging from IBS to food allergies to ADHD to autism. But, when you eat a diet of healing foods, you can slowly repair the gut lining, allowing the body to regain its balance and even heal food allergies.

If you’ve only heard one thing about the GAPS diet, it’s probably the fact that you drink a lot of broth on it. This is true, and it’s surprisingly hard. We’ve never been much of a soup-eating family, and trying to come up with variations that everyone will eat has been really challenging. A couple of my kids will drink the broth straight from a mug. I actually enjoy this myself – I kicked my coffee habit by switching it out for broth in the mornings.

But really, it’s hard to figure out a cycle where I can make the broth and have it available to drink without either running out or not having any pots left to cook in, or not having any room in the refrigerator for anything else because of the large containers of broth in it. Sometimes I had all three problems at once! And it did feel like I was perpetually either cooking, washing dishes or looking for new recipes.

Still, we’ve kinda-sorta stuck to it for more than two months now – and this despite what feels like a million colds and other viruses that have hit us since Christmas. And I am seeing noticeable improvements in the children’s mood and behavior (and my own, honestly). We’re eating a diet with so many more vegetables in it. They snack on peppers and cucumbers, and I cannot keep up with the demand for fruit! And their skin is better too, although there’s so much existing damage that it’s hard to tell how long it might be before the improvement is noticeable to other people.

I’m still hoping to start implementing the other parts of the protocol that we haven’t yet – mainly fermented foods and vegetable juices. Perhaps I will plan on introducing those after Easter, when the additional struggle of having to abstain from meat once a week is lifted. Fridays are hard!

I’m hopeful that this diet and related efforts will finally result in real sustained better health for all of us, and so I’m willing to continue making the sacrifices that it is forcing us to make. I’ll probably talk about our progress intermittently as the year goes on.

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