3 Year Update

Our family went gluten free in November 2010, completely removed gluten from our lives January 1 2011, and started the GAPS Intro in February 2011. Now that we’re transitioning off GAPS, I figured it’s time for an update!

So… has it worked? Did the diet cure all that ails us? Have we perfectly stuck to it all this time? Was it worth it?

Let’s take it one family member at a time.

Kid2

Kid2 Climbing Rocks

Kid2 Climbing Rocks

I’ll start with our now-13 year old. We decided to change our diet because our son was hospitalized with joint problems we hoped could be helped. He was definitely helped!

Joint & Bone Pain

Within a few weeks of going gluten free, we discovered that if he got a bit of gluten the joint pains came back. That was the first big lesson. He has stayed 100% gluten free aside from the occasional accident ever since, and for the most part, his joint problems have stayed gone.

There have been a few episodes when his knees swelled up. A few times we could trace it back to contamination. Other times we thought he might have been getting too many nightshades. Or maybe it wasn’t something we could have controlled.

He’s not achey any more as a rule, and he can do things like Parkour, Ultimate Frisbee, and tree climbing!

IgE Allergies

When we cut out corn, and then all grains with GAPS, his long term “seasonal” allergies got MUCH better! He had tried a year of 3 shots, 3 times/week with minimal improvement. He also required mega-doses of allergy medicines that alternately included Zyrtec, Xyzal, Claritin, and Benadryl. He hadn’t needed his inhaler for a while before we changed our diet, but asthma, nebulizer treatments, and Albuterol were in his past as well. He had shiners and chronic sinusitis. Sometimes he’d wake up puking in the night because he had swallowed so much snot, and he often had bad headaches.

Shortly after changing our diet, we stopped all medications, and his allergy symptoms were sometimes gone. At their worst, they were about 5% of what they had been. GAPS is a pretty high-histamine way to eat, we have not tried a low-histamine approach, but he still improved dramatically.

When he tried school last year and was living in a new apartment when with his dad, his allergies flared again. I sometimes had to medicate him. I believe mold and dust were aggravating him past his ability to cope. We had also become more lax with the diet.

As we’ve started sometimes having off-diet foods, his allergy symptoms have come back a bit more. He says it’s worth it!

Look at him go – this was his first day at a local Parkour gym.

Dyslexia

One of the big surprises about ditching gluten and going on GAPS was that my formerly completely dyslexic boy was cured! This has stuck! If his allergies are flaring or he gets glutened, he has a much harder time concentrating and reading. But he jumped from pre-k to 5th grade reading level in about 3 months with no other intervention. He has continued to gain reading and writing skills, concentrates much better, and is definitely not dyslexic at all any more.

Growth

I posted that he had a growth spurt when we started, and he did. But he’s actually dropped some percentile lines on the charts since then. I think this is because both his biological father and I were late to puberty. The other kids are having their big growth spurts now, and he hasn’t hit his yet.

Digestive Issues

It wasn’t until we started the diet that Kid2 realized he didn’t have to have a painful tummy all the time! He doesn’t have that problem any more!

Does he like the diet?

Kid2 is sick of being “different.” He hates that so many activities revolve around food, and so many people load up on gluten, or cross contaminate stuff that would otherwise be safe. Every now and then he’ll take a chance on eating something someone makes that *should* be gluten-free but might have been contaminated. Usually this is not a problem.

As for the foods we eat, he still loves meat, and actually likes the broth in most soups. He’s not a fan of cooked veggies, and I don’t usually make him eat them any more. He likes them raw, and that seems ok. He loves fruit. When we occasionally make rice or quinoa he loads up, but it doesn’t cause him problems. Sometimes Kid2 spends his own money on candy.

The kids’ dad is no longer doing GAPS and I know he feeds them more off-diet foods than we do (in the form of treats with sugar and fresh dairy in them). He sticks pretty close, though, and seems to be careful about staying gluten-free.

Kid1

Kid1

Kid1

Kid1 didn’t have many noticeable health problems before the diet. She had lots of sensory integration issues, had Tourette’s syndrome, was small for her age, and was a very picky eater. She also dealt with a lot of anxiety.

Anxiety

Kid1 is no longer anxious. Last year she decided to start school, and she’s now a high school freshman. She loves it! She handles stress about as well as other teenagers and is happy to try new things.

Tourette’s

The tics have gone and come back and gone again, then returned… that is what tics do, anyway, though. Overall she seems to have far fewer and less frequent tics than before, but we can’t attribute that to the diet. I did have her checked out for PANDAS and that doesn’t appear to be the issue. More TV time and higher stress seem to bring out the tics.

Here she is talking about a project she worked on with her classmates last year. She doesn’t even mention that she also spoke in front of the judges!

Growth

While she’s still below the chart, as she always has been, she has been having growth spurts and is following the curve.

Picky Eating

Kid1 now likes to eat. Gone are most of the sensory integration issues that were preventing her from eating. She still isn’t a big fan of little bits of fat and will pick pieces of meat apart to remove them. But she eats lots, and eats all kinds of foods that she refused to touch before we did GAPS.

Sticking With It?

She has not had a hard time sticking to being gluten-free, though she doesn’t get noticeable symptoms if she does have gluten. She likes veggies more than her brother, and meat less. She also isn’t a big fan of soup. Given sugar or (gluten-free) grains, she’ll eat them up, but she doesn’t seem to have negative symptoms from them at this point. Those aren’t regular things around here. Moderation is working for her.

TinyHands

I’d like to let her speak for herself, but TinyHands is really busy with work. So I’ll just leave this place holder here for when she gets the time.

Mama – that’s me!

Mama & TinyHands

Mama & TinyHands


I started the diet for my kid and had a harder time adjusting than anyone else in the family. That tipped me off that something was wrong! My sugar addiction was a big part of it. About 9 months in I made the colossal mistake of trying a gluten challenge. In the process, I undid a lot of my progress. I went back to a pretty strict intro for a while to help me recover. I still don’t eat all of the GAPS approved foods regularly, most notably, beans. But I do “cheat” from time to time. I’m happy to say I’m doing really well now.

Digestive Issues

Before we went gluten-free, I didn’t think of myself as someone with digestive issues. I was used to things the way they were. I’d grown up chronically constipated, and then about 7 years ago I got very sick and after that had problems with uncontrollable diarrhea at times as well. I had a lot of gas, too.

When strictly on the GAPS intro, all these problems are completely gone. But I noticed that as I added in some of the Full GAPS foods, my digestive issues returned. I ended up getting positive test results for SIBO, and decided to do the antibiotic treatment for it last Spring. Within days I could eat whatever I wanted with no digestive problems! It was unbelievable.

With SIBO, you are supposed to pretty much keep to the diet even after the antibiotics. This is because the underlying causes of SIBO usually still remain, and you could get a new bacterial overgrowth if you aren’t careful. I am much better off and can eat more than I could before I did treatment, but I still need to stay close to GAPS for the long term.

Mental Stability

GAPS

GAPS Book

Remember back in the gluten challenge how I got a bad case of “Adolescent Brain”? I’ve also struggled with depression and mania in the past. Like all my other symptoms, the closer I stick to GAPS Intro & 100% gluten-free, the more even-keeled and rational I am. Not perfect, but better!

Herpes

I stopped getting outbreaks! I had one bad one when we first went gluten free, were traveling, and probably got exposed. I got outbreaks when I was doing my gluten challenge, too. When I am staying gluten free and am on GAPS I don’t get outbreaks. Lately we’ve added in the occasional rice, quinoa, potato, and sugar. I do great with one time indulgences, but put them together and I get outbreaks again. If I consistently “cheat” on GAPS for a week or so, I get outbreaks.

Migraine Auras & other Neurological Symptoms

Before we changed our diet, I used to get severe migraine auras with visual anomalies, loss of vision, strange sensations on half of my body, nausea, verbal aphasia, and more. I got a doozy of a migraine aura and migraine when we first went gluten-free and were traveling. I accidentally had some non-dairy coffee creamer and was seriously messed up for the day.

All my neuro type issues are gone when I am doing GAPS. When I fall off the wagon, the first thing to come back is the verbal aphasia. I’ve only had two mild migraine auras in the past 3 years. I used to get them much more severely and at least once per month.

Hypoglycemia

I used to come close to passing out regularly. To control it, I learned to eat every two hours and always have snacks around just in case. I would also wake up in the night with random parts of my body falling asleep. (I discovered this was hypoglycemia by eating sugary stuff before bed.) Not so any more!

I can go long periods between meals now. I don’t wake up due to hypoglycemia at night. I’m no longer prone to head rushes or passing out.

Body Odor & Bad Breath

Before GAPS, I thought this was just how I was made. It was something I had to live with. A few months in, these symptoms went completely away! Now they come back if I eat the wrong kind of cheese or too much starch. This is one of my favorite improvements!

Joints

I used to wake up with stiff joints. My hands would lose strength and not be able to make a fist. This came back when I did my gluten challenge. I do not have this problem any more.

Sticking With It?

I’m still strict about the gluten. My challenge made it clear the stuff is really bad for me. But it turns out I have a pretty big need to continue to stay away from starch, to help prevent my SIBO from coming back. This is harder, as we’ve tried to pad our meals (and budget) by adding in a bit of rice, quinoa, potatoes, lentils, and beans (these legumes are GAPS legal, just not great for me). Dairy is also something I still have to be careful about. Having stuff in the house that the rest of the family can eat but which doesn’t agree with me is not my best thing. We very occasionally eat out, and I usually find it wasn’t worth it. So I struggle a bit.

Would We Do It Again?

Absolutely! Going through a strict GAPS intro and being militant about getting away from gluten has worked wonders for our health. Sometimes we choose to eat things that are less than perfect. When we do, we try to enjoy them and not worry too much about it. As time goes on, those “cheats” affect us less. We just have to remember not to do too many of them all at once. When we start feeling bad, we just add soup! Soup makes everything better.

Related posts:

5 comments to 3 Year Update!

  • Tawnya

    With bone broth and gelatin having high levels of Arginie, wouldn’t that cause an outbreak of herpes?

    • That was my biggest fear about starting GAPS. It was my best excuse… broth, meat, almonds… L-Arginine!

      Before GAPS, those kinds of things did trigger outbreaks.

      But astoundingly, once I kicked the grains and started GAPS, I no longer was susceptible to the L-Arginine foods triggering the outbreaks. I don’t even take L-Lysine and do not take an suppressive medications.

      When I start screwing up GAPS or gluten-free, outbreaks are easily triggered by just about anything.

  • Tawnya

    I so do not want to go on the GAPS diet, but I think I need to. I’m pretty much grain free, but sometimes I’ll eat rice , almond, or quinoa crackers and cookies and on rare occasion potato ships and sure enough i’ll get an outbreak of cold sores.Oh and milk chocolate I eat way to much of that. I do still take gelatin and make broth all the time, I just really need to stop the sugar. thanks for posting this article. It is wonderful that your family has improved in their health. wishing you and yours the best. πŸ™‚

  • Kylie

    Dear Mama and family,

    thank you for sharing so much of your lives and recipes on this blog. My family has had slightly different issues (anxiety, stomach troubles, development issues, fatigue and depression are the big ones), and most of us have decided to do Gaps. It is always encouraging to hear how others on Gaps are doing, and I am so happy for you that although you find it hard, it is helping you enormously. Thank you for your honesty. We also find it hard, and my husband does not believe a lot of the claims, but slowly (18 months in for me and A, and 6 months in for the rest of the kids) I think it is bringing our family to a better place.

    It was really good to read your 3 year update and find that you thought it was worth it. At the end of the day, these are the things that keep me going too.

    Kylie

Leave a Reply

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Berkey Water Filter