Thursday, March 20, 2014

GAPS Month One Update

Let me tell you a few things about myself.

One - I love coffee.

Two - lately I don't feel like writing. Why? I don't know. Sometimes I think Satan is trying to to keep me from doing something that I firmly believe is a calling for me. My blogs may not show it of late, but I actually am a good writer. And I have stuff to say. But it just won't come out right, so I get frustrated.

Three - all my adult life my hair has had a weird kind of annoying, uneven wave that was neither curly nor straight.

Four - I love chickens, and I have a lot of them!

The first three things relate to this update. The fourth thing I mentioned just in case you were wondering. :)

I'm going to throw three weeks of updates at you at once... because, see #2 above. I keep putting my updates off, until here we are almost seven weeks in, and I am just now forcing myself to finish this.

So, here goes.

Week Two: Couch and Curls

My second week on GAPS was characterized by a desire to rest constantly, and I spent a good portion of the week lying on the couch. Not surprisingly, I had no desire to cook. On thing  you have to do on GAPS is cook. Some days I feel like never get out of the kitchen. At some point, maybe I'll get organized enough to do all my cooking for the week on one day. Like Mondays would be my cooking day, and I'd do all my food prep for the entire week. Who am I kidding? Nice thought, but homeschooling two kids and trying to run the beginning of a homestead, my "organizational" style is more like fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants and put-out-the-fires-in-front-of-me. Back to week two and my desire to lay on the couch... we ate lots of eggs. I was still making bone broth, and would boil it with onions and mushrooms and eat that twice a day. I ate almond butter with raw honey mixed together in a bowl, lots of avocado, mini hamburgers, and chicken from making the broth.

At some point during the week I began to think seriously about getting a juicer. The book says it's not a necessity, but I was already buying processed apple juice for my son to mix his probiotic powder into. He'd have about 2 ounces in the morning, so not a lot. But it just didn't sit well with me that it was processed and not fresh. For those who don't know, juice starts to oxidize and lose its nutritional and detoxifying benefits within a very short time after processing. I also knew that straight apple juice isn't all that healthy anyway; I wanted to get carrots, celery, beets, etc. into his juice. But at the time I couldn't afford a juicer.

So here's an amazing thing that happened in week two - my hair started getting curly, and I loved it! I'd use a shampoo bar in the shower, then put a small amount of avocado oil on it after it had dried for a few minutes. Truly wash and go - no more time spent trying to blow dry or hot iron out that weird wave. I have no idea what has been suppressing my curly genetics (I'm really the only one of my siblings with straight hair), but apparently it's not happening any longer.

Also during week two my digestive problems improved dramatically, and my skin stopped itching. Praise the Lord for progress!

Week Three: Pain, Coffee, and the E word.

I turned the corner on my exhaustion. My energy levels started to increase, and I no longer wanted to lay around all day. I took my afternoon nap only three out of seven days that week. On the flip side, I had a flare up of a foot condition I have that is so painful it's debilitating, even though I have a high pain tolerance. I knew that taking ibuprofen would help, but I also knew that it would set me back in my gut healing. As a doula and childbirth educator, I am familiar with natural pain coping techniques, but this foot thing is a different (scary, vicious) animal. Both heat and cold cause more pain. I can't tolerate water on it or anything touching it. I didn't have any Arnica pills in the house, or I would have tried that first. It would have been nice to lay down and focus all my energy on mental coping techniques, but I couldn't stop my life for that. So I reached out to my Facebook friends. What can I use to control this pain? A friend suggested the Turmeric Vitality Tea that I had recently bought from her. Apparently, turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory. The tea took the edge off for a little while. But then I woke up in the middle of the night, sobbing. It was excruciating. Worse than any flare-up I've had in a long time. So I took the ibuprofen. And fifteen minutes later I was thanking God for the person who invented it. The flare-up lasted a few more days, and I took ibuprofen a couple more times. Whenever I was able to touch it, I also used this cream (recommended by my mother), which helped with the pain.

Many people thought this flare-up was a die-off reaction, and I agreed. I was also felt bloated and had a constant minor but annoying headache that week. My thought was that my body wasn't ridding itself of die-off toxins fast enough. So... I decided to go for it... the E word... a thing that is very common in eastern cultures, but westerners don't even like to think about. That is, I bought an enema kit and gave it a try. Enemas are known for having incredible detoxifying and healing capabilities, including having an almost immediate positive effect on liver function. Adding probiotics to the water also allows for a concentrated dose of good bacteria to bypass the hostile environment of the stomach. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, and, honestly, afterward I felt amazing. If you're brave enough to try for yourself, an important point here is to get a reusable enema kit and use only filtered water with no salt added.

By the end of week three, I had moved out of the introduction diet into the full GAPS diet. Things I still can't eat include high-starch vegetables, legumes, grains, and processed sugars. The book is very helpful in that it has a lists of recommended foods and those that aren't allowed. I copied these pages and stuck them in my purse in case of unexpected trips to the grocery store. I started making baked goods with almond and coconut flours, and bought an amazing cookbook - Against all Grain. It's a paleo cookbook, so some of the recipes I can't use just yet, but it's still one of the best (and most beautiful) cookbooks I've ever used.

Coffee is allowed on GAPS - one cup a day, freshly-brewed, without cream or sugar. Despite loving coffee, I hadn't added that back in because I don't like it black, so I didn't see a point. But I have a confession to make. At the end of week three, I was out running errands that took me by Starbucks. I had been thinking that a trial of eating something I wasn't allowed to have would help me see if this crazy diet was actually helping. So I decided that thing would be a Caramel Machiatto. For the purpose intellectual inquiry. Are you buying that? No? Me neither. The truth is that I saw the Starbucks and tried to come up with an excuse to get a drink. just. this. once. So I talked myself into it (which took all of about 3 seconds), and got a tall. First, after being off processed sugar for three weeks, this drink that I used to love was way too sweet. Second, I stated to pay for it almost immediately. Over the previous three weeks I had experienced a gradual lessening of symptoms related to my interstitial cystitis. Well, those came back along with stomach cramps and a headache. In the end, my "intellectual inquiry" did teach me something - my body doesn't like Starbucks.

As an aside, putting coffee in your enema has an even more powerful effect on your liver, and, I've read, can stop a migraine almost immediately. That I have not tried.

Week Four: Sauerkraut and Setbacks

Because of my profession, my mind conjures birth metaphors on a daily basis. As I finished out my first month on GAPS, I would liken it to the pushing stage of labor. Difficult. Lots of hard work. Two steps forward, one step back.

I got some 7 month old homemade sauerkraut out of the fridge and decided to give it a try (after inspection for nasty smells, slimy stuff, and mold). It was not only delicious, my body seemed like it couldn't get enough of it. I knew that I needed more probiotic foods in my diet - actually a fundamental part of GAPS healing - so I ate some sauerkraut daily. Also, the Lord blessed us unexpectedly with money to buy and Omega 8004 juicer/nutiriton center, so we started juicing every morning. Our typical just consists of carrots, apples, beets, and beet greens. Sometimes celery. The recommended ratio of "therapeutic" ingredients to "flavor" ingredients is 50:50. We are doing about 60:40.

But then I started to feel bad again. My skin started itching and my nose started getting runny and stuffed up again. I again started getting tired every afternoon.  This is the hard part about going into the full GAPS diet without introducing one food at a time (which is time consuming and annoying): when you do have a reaction to something, it's hard to know what that something is. So I was faced with this puzzle. It could be that the combined detoxing effect of juicing and the sauerkraut put me back into a die-off phase. It could be that I'm sensitive to the brassica family of vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, kale, etc.) It could be that I'm sensitive to the almond flour I was using with increasing frequency. Perhaps it was something else I was eating. Taking the advice of one of my wise younger sisters, I dropped the sauerkraut from my daily regime to see if that helped. It didn't.

So at the end of month one, I am significantly better off than what I was at the beginning. Some problems are reverting, and I have the detective job of finding out why. Life is crazy and GAPS is hard. I still crave Starbucks.

And this is still the best decision I have made on behalf of my health in a very long time.