Monday, February 3, 2014

Starting the GAPS diet; Part 1 - Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures.

You'll see I've taken a long sabbatical from updating my blogs - in part because of my health challenges. The problem with wanting to write about living with chronic illness is that the thing I want to write about is the very thing stealing the energy and mental clarity I need to write. But I think this next journey I'm taking is worth sharing... even if that means some rambling, unedited posts. 

We moved six months ago from a small city lot in Maryland to a 5 acre plot in rural Virginia. And we got chickens and we built fences, and we ordered fruit trees. Now we "go to town" for things instead of "run out" for things. And my health and vitality and brain function have ridden the roller coaster with all the changes. 

Before we moved, I had been getting IV iron infusions periodically to treat persistent anemia that didn't respond to oral iron supplements. So I found a new hematologist in VA. And he, like every single doctor I have seen in the past 15 years, asked me if I'd been tested for autoimmune diseases. I'm not exaggerating when I say every single doctor. They've all thought my clinical presentation was that of a body fighting against itself, but not one of them can put a name to my condition. 

I keep coming back to the conclusion that modern medicine has nothing to offer me. 

Enter Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride and GAPS: Gut and Psychology Syndrome. She is an MD who holds a Master of Medical Science in Neurology and a Master of Medical Science in nutrition. I had been hearing about the GAPS diet from various health and nutrition bloggers and friends with undiagnosed medical problems. But it is intense, and I didn't want to admit I was there yet. 

What is Gut and Psychology Syndrome? Here's a concise explanation, from this website: 

Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAP Syndrome or GAPS) is a condition which establishes a connection between the functions of the digestive system and the brain. This term was created by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD MMedSci (neurology), MMedSci (human nutrition) in 2004 after working with hundreds of children and adults with neurological and psychiatric conditions, such as autistic spectrun disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD/ADD), schizophrenia, dyslexia, dyspraxia, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bi-polar disorder and other neuro-psychological and psychiatric problems. 

The principle behind using GAPS to treat other conditions - like autoimmune conditions - is that all disease starts in the gut. And people have been using the gut-healing GAPS protocol to treat many other conditions including, very successfully, autoimmune conditions. Shortly before we moved, I borrowed the GAPS book from a friend, skimmed through it, and gave it back. Like I said, I didn't think I was there yet. 

Then we moved. Months went by. After awhile I realized that in many way moving to the country had been good for me (fresh air, quiet, and the requisite slow down), but my overall physical condition continued to worsen. So I started to think maybe I am in the desperate times-desperate measures place. I bought my own copy of the book, began to read it, then came across this paragraph (emphasis mine):

Most people with abnormal gut flora have various stages of anemia. It is not surprising. They not only can't absorb essential-for-blood vitamins and minerals from food, but their own production of these vitamins is damaged. On top of that, people with damaged gut flora often having a particular group of pathogenic bacteria growing in their gut, which are iron-loving bacteria. ... They consume whatever iron the person gets from the diet, leaving that person deficient in iron. Unfortunately, supplementing iron makes these bacteria grow stronger and does not remedy anemia.

Dr. Campbell-McBride was the first doctor to offer an explanation as to why, despite taking high-dose iron supplements along with an iron-rich diet, my anemia continued to worsen.  And that was the moment when I knew I had to do it.

My anemia is only a small part of the disaster that is my health. Pretty much every major system in my body is functioning improperly. Part 2 will be about these health issues and what my expectations are. I actually start the diet tomorrow, and will be detailing my experiences here on my blog.  

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