It’s incredible to be able to report my results so far through my journey on the GAPS Diet after a full year! Mainly because I can’t believe it’s been over a year, but especially as one with Hashimotos Thyroiditis and the challenges that go with it. Those of us with this condition really like to hear how others are doing on their paths, especially when contemplating difficult decisions on diet, doctors, medications, etc. So, this post is going to describe some of my symptom relief as well as any that are left to this point.
To be specific, I have been on the GAPS Diet since March of 2012 but prior to that I was juicing for at least one month prior and then was on the true gluten free diet for a year prior to that point. I was getting more and more sick in many ways after I went truly gluten free but the episodes were brought on by other factors. I believe this is because I compensated and found all the “gluten free” substitutes I could to enjoy. I HAD to try them after all. I love to bake and gluten free wasn’t going to stop me from “living.” It was something new to me. But what I didn’t understand was that these foods are even less nutritious than their gluten containing counterparts! I also had some other set backs along the way too as you will see when reading my blog. That is why my post on Hashimotos Thyroiditis: It’s a Journey is so special to me. What I didn’t include in that post was the set back I had right before and after initiating the GAPS Diet which launched a detox requiring emergency removal of my dental amalgams. I ended up having to write a post about the mercury poisoning I ended up with from such an intense detox at that time. It’s very important to assess the state of your current condition before attempting such a serious detox. I was already detoxing from the gluten free diet as well as the juicing, then I started the GAPS Intro Diet. It seemed to have been just too much for my liver to filter and the mercury was causing me great symptoms I needed to address and detoxing was no longer the right option. So I had to suffer through this initial stage of the GAPS Diet with mercury poisoning and amalgam removal. However, immediately following the safe removal of my amalgams by a trained dentist, I was able to move on with my new diet. (Pictured above is the very heart of the GAPS Diet which is bone broth and lots of it to heal the gut!)
I decided to record a short video about what my kitchen tends to look like throughout the week on the GAPS Diet. Since my husband is not on GAPS but on a Paleo Diet, he can have certain foods I can’t but I have little trouble incorporating his foods into my weekly food prep. It just becomes “natural” after a while. If you are interested in embarking on this diet, perhaps this video will help you see the “flow” in the kitchen that might be of help. In this video, you will see the process of me making chicken stock, soaking almonds (if soaking nuts is a new concept for you, you might really enjoy taking the online class for Traditional Food Preparation that I took which explains the whys and hows of these traditional food prep methods), and various other tasks which help build our weekly menu. This was a very unplanned video so please excuse all the “ummms.” I won’t make that mistake in my next video.
The list of symptoms prior to the gluten free and GAPS Diet are too numerous to list so I am going to concentrate today on the symptoms that were still with me after going gluten free that first year. Here are a few but remember, some of these were magnified by the mercury poisoning although I must point out that all of them were present in some fashion over the years prior to this time.
- Brain inflammation as a result of some allergy/sensitivity I was unable to pinpoint. This would come on in the evening especially after laying down for bed and was worse when laying down or bending my head downward, lasting several hours and then lingering symptoms for 3-5 days! It was my most scary symptom and one that did not go away from the typical gluten free diet (avoiding wheat gluten only). With this symptom would come dizziness, palpitations, feeling of passing out, felt like my brain was growing inside my head, unsteady gait, and overall feeling I was dying). I did not get hives or rashes or itching during these episodes.
- Cognitive dysfunction basically after consuming gluten (even unknowingly through cross-contamination), I was still having reactions that would last a week or more after a minor (cross-contamination) exposure. The symptoms I am talking about is the inability to think through a process, form complete sentences that should be simple to form, and the feeling of having “cotton” in my head. In fact, I had my last severe reaction to an exposure through kissing my husband after he ate a gluten containing cookie. He didn’t tell me he had it on his way home from work and so I had no idea what had made me sick. After a couple days, he finally realized he must have exposed me to the gluten that way. It made him feel bad that I had taken more foods out of my already meager food list thinking I must be having sensitivities to something else I was eating! I believe this symptom is mostly from gluten exposure now as the very few times I’ve had it since, it has been after a very likely gluten exposure at a restaurant or after that kiss from my husband. I’ve only had this happen about 3 times since the GAPS Diet journey was started.
- Asthma – Severe asthma induced mostly by cat hair. I was on 3 puffs of Qvar, twice per day prior to the GAPS Diet.
- Severe digestive problems. This had been going on for years but got worse and worse. Severe acid reflux, bloating, and inability to eat most foods without reactions. By the time I started the GAPS Diet, I was unable to even put some food in my mouth without symptoms. It was terrible! This could have something to do with the mercury toxicity, but even before that, I would have trouble digesting meat especially. I remember sitting at the dinner table all ready to eat and then, before even one bite, I would flee from the table due to dizziness and overall just feeling ill. Trying to eat anything back then was miserable and I was still severely overweight! I could not lay down flat at all at night and if I tried, my head symptoms would come on which lead me to understand the connection between the gut inflammation and the brain inflammation. I knew I needed to figure this out and it became more and more clear that digestion was a trigger to the head symptoms.
- Eye pain that came in “waves”. This pain in the past was so bad I would not be able to look at lights or move my eyes from side to side. It wasn’t like the migraines I used to get years ago. It was more like a connective tissue behind the eye that would get inflamed and put pressure behind my eyes. This would last anywhere between 2-5 days after an exposure to “something” and was quite debilitating. It also was one of my most common symptoms. It seems I always had this symptom in some capacity at all times! Many, many nights, my husband helped relieve the pain by gently pushing on my eyes with the palm of his hand. That was temporarily relieve the pressure.
- Feeling like I was “coming down with something” like a flu or cold. This was the most regular symptom I would have and it would come and go a few days at a time. Now I believe it was when my antibodies were up and fighting the massive battle inside of me. But it could also be from a high TSH and food sensitivities. Regardless what it was from, it was a common symptom.
- Inconsistent blood sugar levels. I didn’t measure my blood sugar but I knew I was having these symptoms. I would get grumpy before I ate and happy after. I would feel irritated and then relieved. I would have highs and lows throughout the day and never understood this wasn’t normal!
- Insomnia! Oh the trouble I had with it.
- Weight gain and more weight gain! I ate ONE meal a day thinking this is the way to go. I didn’t count the calories because even if the meal was McDonalds, how many calories over my limit could it really go? On top of this, I couldn’t digest these meals. This was of course, pre-gluten free but even after the gluten free diet, I ate the non-gluten versions of my favorite meals thinking it was much better for me. Still couldn’t digest it. My bloating was mostly better after having gone gluten free but I was very confused when it showed up here and there. I was at least 100 pounds overweight 2 years ago.
- Thyroid antibodies well over 6,000 before going gluten free.
Okay, I think I rambled but if you are like me, the details matter when trying to identify with other people’s symptoms and stories.
Now for the “first year after GAPS” update.
- Brain inflammation – Mostly gone! (after a gluten exposure – like I said, about 2-3 times during this year, I have felt some symptoms but nothing like before, except this last time I had a flare.
- Cognitive Dysfunction – Ditto! I rarely have those days I can’t think of words – if they come, it is within the days following a gluten exposure. I still feel I have overall healing to do but I can function finally!
- Asthma – I just dropped my last puff of steroid (Qvar) as I weaned off over the last year and now I am steroid free for over a month! I am so excited. This is even while the house is closed up with the air conditioning on! That is when the cat hair is more intense in the home but honestly, there has not been ONE time in the last 4 years I have not had to have steroids for my asthma since adding cats to our home. This is HUGE!
- Digestive problems 90% or more GONE! This is another HUGE victory. I feel almost the same before and after I eat and feel good inside. It is amazing and almost unbelievable! Again, only when an accidental gluten expose or other food sensitivity do I feel any digestion problems. I am still working on finding out what minor symptoms are from what, but the severe symptoms are finally controllable!
- Eye Pain – gone! I am left with blurred vision now which I still believe is going to improve with further diet tweaks as I have not gone on the autoimmune protocol or fine tuned my diet to figure this symptom out. It is so minor compared to my debilitating symptoms, that I have put it on the back burner for now. I also have some major eye floaters I believe may be connected to the detox experience of the mercury poisoning so I have a little bit of troubleshooting on this one. But the pain is gone – in fact, I have had NO eye pain since being on the GAPS Diet. That goes for headaches too!
- Feeling like I am coming down with something – GONE! (Except the time I actually DID get the flu around Christmas!)
- Inconsistent blood sugar levels – GONE! It’s funny how going off of grains and sugar can single-handedly make you feel constant and stable throughout the day! This is the most strange part of my improved life as I have never had this feeling before. If I feel tired in the morning now, it is because I didn’t sleep on time the night before and it stays that way until I catch up on my sleep. I don’t have those mood swings throughout the day or the waves of tiredness relieved by eating like I used to. It’s wonderful to be consistent for a change!
- Insomnia – mostly gone! I was shocked to find out that there is a connection between my insomnia and gluten ingestion and food sensitivities. It’s impossible to see this unless you’re on an elimination diet and can actually observe the patterns! After a mistaken exposure, I get insomnia a couple nights after my exposure and it lasts for about 3-4 nights that week. Now I understand it is connected. I would have never known! The only other times I have insomnia now is when I have gone off of my sleep schedule or have a food sensitivity that brings it on. I make myself go to bed early now (by 9:00) and allow myself a chance to wind down in bed. I have found I need that transition. I still am not the kind who can just lay down and doze off. I have seen a great amount of progress however in how quickly I fall asleep but for someone like me, an hour or so to fall asleep is awesome compared to the 2-4 hours it used to take. I imagine this is related to the partial healing of adrenal fatigue that is still in the healing stages especially after stressful times.
- Weight gain – GONE! Now I can eat in peace and not worry about my weight as much anymore! I have lost 100 pounds and it just fell off. I didn’t concentrate at ALL on weight. But that was a wonderful by-product of getting the allergens out of my diet and beginning to heal the gut. I believe this also had a LOT to do with getting my blood sugar even throughout the day and regulating that aspect of my diet. I haven’t eaten a drop of sugar (or pretend sugar) in 15 months. I eat plenty of good fats, honey in moderation, grass-pastured beef and good sources of other protein. I feel I need to evaluate my egg consumption also to make sure I am not having any reactions from that so I am still fine tuning. I get good eggs from local farms but I know that the autoimmune protocol may take me on a journey without eggs for a while to see if my remaining symptoms are improved without them. I am now a firm believer than taking out foods that are sensitive to your body which can cause inflammation is a giant key to weight loss! I also don’t believe for one minute that eating fat has anything to do with it because my fat intake is quite high now (only good fats).
- Thyroid antibodies now down to 126 and still lowering from the thousands after 2 years gluten free. I still believe there is something in my diet that is causing these antibodies to hang on (eggs?). I will eventually figure it out but for now, I am thrilled the attack is minimized and the progress is continuing! This is a journey, so taking it slow doesn’t bother me anymore! If you are attempting to go truly gluten free, don’t miss my very detailed “Let’s Go Gluten Free Series” which goes step by step through the process of making SURE gluten is fully out of your life. If you are already gluten free, reading through this series might reveal areas you might have missed!
Below is a picture of the last pair of pants purchased just prior to the gluten free diet underneath the last pair of pants I bought after a year on the GAPS Diet. Quite a difference, huh? The reason I didn’t take the tags off of the one’s below is because they were still too SMALL for me when I bought them. I was still one full size larger than the one’s I bought which I had hoped would fit me soon enough. I lost weight so fast after the GAPS Diet Intro, that they were too BIG before I got into them! The bottom pants are a size 20W and the top are a size 10! At my biggest I was at least a size 24! I have lost 100 pounds since the gluten free and GAPS Diets. Gluten free yielded me about a 25 pound weight loss the first year, but GAPS pretty much did the rest the next year! I feel I am now within range of where my body wants to be. I have no desire to lose any more than what is healthy for me. I will include before and after pictures soon but I haven’t found any “after” pictures yet! I have had a very distracting year with the loss of my Mom so taking pictures has not been a priority. But I understand that would be a good thing to share so I will work on it soon. (Available now here.)
So, overall, I am a “new” person with a “new” body and a new lease on life! I can get up in the morning and function. Many people take this for granted but a little over a year ago, I had almost ALL bad days. Good days were very uncommon and if I was having one, it quickly deteriorated before the day was over. Now, my bad days are few and far between and if they do come, they almost always can be traced to either gluten or a disruption in my healing regimen which includes many other little factors in addition to the food choices (stress, sleep disturbances and others).
Another main necessary healing component besides the food choices I found to be absolutely necessary for me was my sleeping schedule. One night without a good sleep (this can be caused by staying up too late or having a disruption in the middle of the night, etc) causes me to have much trouble functioning the next day and losing a whole night of sleep will cause me to need 2-3 nights of good sleep to make it up. So my sleeping pattern is a huge part of healing for me. Other aspects of healing have been good fats (Omega 3 intake) and keeping my schedule as low stress as possible. Setting ourselves up for healing takes a lot of work but it sure beats trips to the emergency room and being dysfunctional!
Another exciting part of the GAPS Diet is discovering wonderful foods and alternatives to the snacks you used to eat that made you sick. One of the most exciting additions recently was my ability to make my own healthy mayonnaise with olive oil. I have so much enjoyed adding it to my salad dressings for a creamy style dressing and as a protein burger condiment. I had added this before with extra virgin olive oil but it was so strong, I just had a hard time enjoying it as a replacement for typical mayonnaise. But recently, I saw the video below by Sarah Fragoso from Everyday Paleo.com and tried it with a good light olive oil (this is a slight cheat on the GAPS Diet as far as I know but since I have been on it for a while now, I feel it is okay for me at this point) as a “treat” and I have no reaction to it. I use lemon juice instead of apple cider vinegar and ground mustard instead of the yellow for GAPS. It really opened up some great meal ideas (including egg salad, salmon salad, and chicken salad) for simple summer lunch ideas. I’ll end my little update by sharing the video with you! Have a great week!