2 years on GAPS: Part 3
I am doing a series of blog posts on our first 2 years on GAPS. There is one for each of us. This is part 3. It is the story of my youngest. She was our impetus for starting GAPS when we did but since her story is more complicated I have saved it till now to tell. To read part 1 about my older daughter go here and part 2 about me go here.
This ended up being a very long post so I have broken it down into two. Check back tomorrow for the rest of the story.
To tell J’s story I have to go back to her newborn days. With both children my midwife discovered that I had a yeast infection while doing an internal within a day or two of labor starting. Both times I was unable to treat it effectively and both times my children were born overgrown with yeast. My second daughter luckily did not have antibiotics at birth (unlike her big sister) and despite a white tongue seemed pretty content. I however knew how bad yeast overgrowth can be thanks to my experience with her sister and was very aggressive from the start. When the normal measures didn’t work we did gentian violet and that seemed to do the trick, or so we thought.
From the start her personality was so different from her sister’s. She liked to sleep in her own space and would even reach for her bed at times asking to be put down to fall asleep. She would play contentedly in her stroller while I talked with friends and always seemed happy. We began solids a bit before 6 months. She was clearly ready and reaching for the food. I had waited with her sister till 7.5 months and still wasn’t sure she was ready but J was clearly ready sooner. I don’t remember just what I started her on but thanks to the Weston A Price Foundation (WAPF) recommendations and her sisters allergies I didn’t give her any grains. I was determined to hold off on grains till she had her 2 year molars in the hopes that this would prevent her having the same allergy issues that her sister had. About a month after we began solids I got some dental work done on myself that I had been putting off. I had a tooth that hurt and my holistic dentist had told me that it had a cavity under my amalgam filling and that needed to be replaced. He warned me that if I waited too long I ran the risk of getting an infection in my tooth and that would be far worse for my baby than me having my filling replaced. I put it off till she was 6 months old and then, despite my strong misgivings, I got the work done. He did everything “right” to protect me from the mercury that is released with the removal of an amalgam filling but within 48 hours my content little baby was a different child. Suddenly she was up screaming at night. She had developed painful reflux. We figured out some of the triggers for it pretty quickly (dairy, egg and soy). Eliminating those made it better but still she slept poorly and was unhappy much of the time. I admitted that I couldn’t control this myself and took her to the Dr who put her on one medication and then another. Finally we began taking her to a GI. The GI suspected EE (Eosinophilic Esophagitis
) and gave us a plan for trying to figure out the causes without doing a scope. I eliminated more foods from my diet and hers. We saw a pediatric allergist and identified even more foods. We talked about doing patch testing. (you put the allergens on the skin and leave them there for several days with trips to the allergist every couple of days to check on them) but never did do that. The reflux medications had an unfortunate side effect. When she was on a medication for her reflux it allowed yeast to proliferate all over her body. She would be covered head to toe with an itchy candida rash. This is a common side effect of eliminating your stomach acid. If you have read my Digestion
post you know that stomach acid is an early line of defense against pathogenic microbes that enter the body. Without adequate stomach acid my daughter couldn’t keep the yeast in check and it covered her body with a painful rash. So we put her on diflucan to control the yeast. Those who know me know how difficult it was to start her on the drugs to control her reflux in the first place. (I really wanted to cure this, not bandaid it, but she was in so much pain and I wasn’t finding answers.) Having to give her another drug to cope with the side effects of the first drug was just too much. I took her off both drugs but then she was in pain again from her reflux.
Eventually the GI decided that she had nothing else to offer without knowing what was going on for sure so we scheduled a scope to check for EE. If she was found to have EE the recommendation at this point would be to pull all foods from her diet and put her on an elemental formula for all of her nutrition. She was 21 months at the time. I decided that I really did not want that recommendation to be made and I was going to do whatever I could to prevent it so the very day that we scheduled the scope we began the GAPS diet. I didn’t even have the book yet but I had read online and had done SCD previously with her sister so I knew the basics. It was really crazy. To make things even more crazy we were going out of town for 10 days, starting 5 days after I put us on GAPS. Thankfully it was to my parent’s house and they were confused and overwhelmed but supportive.
I don’t recommend starting GAPS like this but my deadline of that scope scheduled 3 weeks out make me feel like I had no choice. In the end she scoped clean and our GI kind of washed her hands of her. I didn’t want the drugs anymore and she had nothing else to offer her so we moved on. Thankfully GAPS had already begun to work.
J had been on an elimination diet and hadn’t ever eaten grains so GAPS really wasn’t a big change for her. The biggest change came when I realized that I needed to eliminate all fruit and higher carb veggies from her diet long term. We did start the diet with intro so there wasn’t any fruit at first, but when we tried to reintroduce it I realized that any fruit caused her candida to flare up again. Her reflux still wasn’t controlled and so in desperation I tried HCL with her. Thankfully we quickly figured out her dose and she did well on it. After about 5 weeks she easily weaned off of it since she was making enough stomach acid on her own. This was very early on in the diet.
At about 3 months in we did the family treatment with Vermox that is suggested in the GAPS Guide. The first dose seemed to go ok but we were all getting a cold 2 weeks later when it was time for the second dose. That second dose seemed to increase our sickness and J became the sickest I have ever seen her. She ran a fever and was having trouble breathing. I held her listening to her breathe all night long worried that she was going to stop breathing and worried that we would be treated badly at the hospital (or that I was over reacting and fearful for nothing). I hadn’t ever had to consider if I needed to take an ill child to the hospital before that night. I didn’t get a wink of sleep. In the morning we called my Dr and he was absolutely amazing with her. He can be a bit gruff at times but this day he was so tender. He is a homeopath and he spent a long time figuring out just the right homeopathic remedy for her. He also sent me home with a script for a rescue inhaler so that we had a treatment for her if she didn’t get better. His diagnosis was viral asthma. Thankfully the remedy worked right away and she was much better that day. Interestingly enough the homeopathic remedy that fixed her is commonly used for treating parasites. It was a treatment for parasites that seemed to have triggered this illness.
Once she recovered we simply coasted along for months with the diet waiting for healing. At some point I was able to introduce dairy and she did ok with it. Eggs also. I’m sorry that at this point I just can’t remember how long it took. We all did intro again about 9 months into the diet and suddenly she developed constipation. It took a long time (and lots of enemas) to figure out that her constipation was usually triggered by cucumbers. It is one of the early raw vegetables that is suggested so I never suspected that was causing all of her problems. We removed them from her diet and she became regular again.
One frustrating thing was that her bowel movements were always mushy, full of undigested foods and very foul smelling. I knew something wasn’t right in her gut but finding answers wasn’t easy. At about 9 months after we started GAPS I did a stool test on her through Metametrix. This revealed an unknown parasite. This wasn’t a big shock after her response to the vermox and the homeopathic. We tried various approaches with herbs, and probiotics to fix her digestion and finally after more than a year on GAPS I put her on BioKult. To my surprise (and delight) her bowel movements improved right away. They smelled better, they looked better. I was amazed. We had been using other probiotics and none had that kind of impact on her. Biokult doesn’t seem to be helpful for my DH or my other DD so they take other probiotics. It does benefit me but not nearly so profoundly as it benefited her. She now has very normal bowel movements, for the most part, and doesn’t take biokult much anymore.
I’m pretty sure she still has a parasite problem. We have treated it with herbs and diotomaceous earth but she continues to have a round bloated belly that points toward an unresolved parasite issue. She is better than she was. For a long time she was skinny all over except for her belly that was distended all the time. Now she has been able to put on some weight on her arms and legs and looks healthier than she did but just tonight I was noticing her round distended belly. It is like a pregnant woman’s belly. It comes and goes. She was very ill last week and ate very little and I noticed how flat her stomach was but now that she is eating again it is distended again. It can be hard to unravel what is really going on inside of a 4 year old. I asked her to describe her tummy pain while she was ill and she couldn’t come up with any words for me other than that it hurts.
Come back tomorrow to read the rest of her story.