Friday, March 2, 2012

GAPS Days 1 & 2: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

So yesterday we officially started GAPS, and we survived!

We are easing into the intro, since we still had some perishable non-GAPS foods to get rid of, and we are moving nice and slow so we do not overwhelm Joshua.  He is not eating a lot right now, and from what I have heard about young toddlers on GAPS, that is pretty normal, but I am a mom so of course it is a little hard for me.  We had a breakthrough, tonight, though, and I will get to that a bit later.

First, let me tell you about the few weeks before we started. This is a little long, but bear with me (especially if you have kids with food issues).

Joshua developed yet another food allergy (rice), and when we removed all the rice from his diet he started self-restricting his food. He has done this before, when we removed corn.  Basically, whenever we discover and remove an allergen, Joshua restricts what food he will eat a little more.  Some of his allergies never had the chance to cause this problem.  We knew he was allergic to dairy since before we started him on solid foods, and we knew about the eggs shortly thereafter. We never gave him anything with peanut because we know his cousins are very allergic.  And we never gave him anything with soy because it is a phyto-estrogen and therefore we follow a "no unfermented soy for our family and no soy for growing boys." policy.  But we were giving him organic grits, blue corn chips, and things like that.  He loved the blue corn chips with salsa.  At that point he would also happily eat whatever we put in front of him. He gnawed on strips of pastured pork chop or grass fed steak, and hungrily ate up bacon and sausage.  He ate a whole host of vegetables, including green beans, broccoli, carrots, summer squash, collard greens sauteed in rendered bacon fat, swiss chard cooked the same way, raw cucumbers,.  He ate all kinds of fruits, bananas, strawberries, oranges, melons of myriad varieties, apples, and pears.  We took the corn away, as well as oranges and wheat.  It was a big transition, and he responded by restricting his foods even further. He would still eat potatoes and sweet potatoes, but he stopped eating most other vegetables except for broccoli and carrots, he stopped eating all fruits except bananas and strawberries. And he was eating rice chex and veggie straws (not proud of that but they were non-allergenic snacks that traveled well), as well as occasional Enjoy Life bars and fruit squeeze pouches. 

Well, a week and a half ago we went to see the allergist for the first time.  He explained that he was not a fan of the type of machine that our pediatrician did Joshua's blood test on, and wanted to reconfirm a few of the allergens with a scratch test.  Well, that told us that some of the allergies he had actually were much stronger than the blood test showed, AND that he is allergic to rice.

We pulled the rice from his diet and suddenly Joshua only wanted to eat bananas, sausage, potatoes, and fruit squeezes.  He would not even touch broccoli (which was definitely his favorite vegetable until that point).  Other things were concerning me, namely that Joshua used to use the new words he was learning all the time.  He would look out the window and say "chicken" while pointing to the chickens.  Now he just says "da" for a lot of those same things.  He still says "Mama," "Dada," "Please," and "Detta (for shupetta)."  But a lot of his other words are being replaced with "Da."

Now it is confession time: I only read the second half of Gut and Psychology Syndrome at first.  We were only concerned with food allergies, so I only read about the food.  In the few days before the diet, I started reading the first half of the book, and I kind of went a little nuts.  I started reading about they "typical GAPS patient," and felt like I was reading about Joshua.  Suddenly limiting his food is something Dr. Campbell-McBride spent a bit of time on.  Then I was reading the blog of another GAPS mom and she talked about her child losing words and mentioned some behavioral things I had been picking up on in Joshua, too.  Beyond that, I learned that this was a long time coming.  Joshua, like many GAPS patients and like this one blogger's kid, had persistent cradle cap and a persistent yeasty diaper rash as an infant.  My whole world was spinning for a minute as I realized that Joshua is not just a kid with food allergies.  He is a GAPS patient.  But now I had something new to panic over, if he is so intent on self limiting his foods, how am I going to get him to eat the GAPS foods?

I am going through all of this here on the blog because I had no idea some of the "quirks" I was noticing in Joshua's behavior were common to other GAPS kids.  I had no idea that sudden self-restriction of foods was a sign that behaviorally a child could be headed toward the Autism Spectrum, or that the persistent cradle cap and diaper rash could have been my first clues that his gut flora was off in a way that could trigger food allergies and all the things we are dealing with now.  And right now you might be thinking that your highly allergic child is just that, and maybe a lifetime of eating around those allergies is not so bad, after all.  Especially because GAPS can be so intimidating at first glance.  But if your child is like the "typical GAPS patient," maybe it is worthwhile to pursue.  Dr. Campbell-McBride also mentions the fact that for the GAPS patient, simply removing allergens only goes so far, as the patient will likely develop other allergies if the condition is untreated.  This definitely seems the case for Joshua.  It seemed like he never reacted to at least half his allergens until he had been eating them regularly for some time.

OK, finally, tonight's breakthrough.  We tried to use the ABA method that Dr. Campbell-Mcbride talks about in the chapter "Oh No! It's Feeding Time," of GAPS.  We had limited success.  We stuck to our guns, and offered Joshua a sweet potato chip (homemade and fried in pastured lard) for every spoonful of broth he ate.  But he never willingly ate any.  We did give him some in a dropper, and gave him a chip after each time that he swallowed, but he didn't ever choose the broth.  I know it is a process, but we were not sure if we could handle more nights of screaming fits.  Tonight, we dipped the sweet potato chips in his soup puree, and it worked!  The idea is that:  as we gradually give him probiotics and feed him the GAPS approved foods, we will also decrease the quantity of the non-GAPS foods, and then he'll be fully on intro.

And our mistakes so far:  I have regularly been making kombucha, kefir, and other probiotic foods at various points over the last three years, so when she says to start with like a teaspoonful of sauerkraut juice in some cooled down broth, I scoffed.  We have all consumed a good amount of probiotic foods before, so why start so small.  Well, Joshua had horrible diarrhea and diaper rash today, and I know it is because I put a splash of kombucha in his drink not once, but 4 times.  My intentions were good: correct the gut flora imbalance and he won't crave those horrible starchy foods, but we have to start small because it is a marathon, not a sprint.  For me, I have had monstrous headaches all day long (like, I can feel my pulse in my teeth).  I also overdid it on the kombucha yesterday.  What we are experiencing is called die-off, and it is the release of toxins (and therefore, these wondrous symptoms) that occurs when the pathogenic bacteria and yeast die off.  This is why you start slow.  I backed way off today on the probiotics for both Joshua and I, and slathered his poor backside with coconut oil.  By tonight he was already looking better.

So that's it, the good, the bad, the ugly.  I think we are going to make it.  I know that this is exactly what we need, so we are going to take baby steps all the way through intro and into full GAPS.  I am glad, reading other GAPS mom's experiences, that we have at least one medical professional that is fully supportive of our endeavor (Joshua's new allergist/immunologist, who said that though he'd never heard of it before, the premise makes a lot of sense). I have a feeling that his support is going to be necessary.

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