health

Erica: A Teenager Healing with the GAPS Diet! (Guest Post)

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This post is especially exciting to me! This girl is going to change some lives :).

Erica kindly agreed to share her story. She blogs at Edible Attitudes.

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Erica’s story:

When I reflect on my childhood, I don’t remember a long period of time when I didn’t have some type of aliment. I never dealt with anything life threatening but everything was cumulative and seemly unconnected.

My first health problem was at the age of six months old when I had my first infection. Between the ages of two and three I was on continuous antibiotics because the ear infections would not go away. I began to notice environmental and food sensitivities to lactose, dust, pollen, and certain plants. In fourth grade, I began to have problems with my joints, specifically my ankles.

Seventh grade was when things began to rapidly spiral downwards. It started with my knees and ankles causing me a lot of pain. At the time I assumed it was because I am a softball catcher. But soon the joint inflammation spread and caused me to be in pain on a daily basis and everyday tasks were more difficult.

By the start of my sophomore year of high school, only 3 years later, I developed tendinitis in both knees and elbows, multiple fingers, left wrist, and right bicep.

My journey has taken a lot of work and sacrifice! I started seeing a functional medicine doctor in 2011 and was taken off gluten, dairy, corn, MSG, sugar, and soy. I took supplements that helped manage the joint inflammation. This helped a little bit but I still struggled with pain and multiple other health problems. I was frustrated and ready to change my diet again if necessary. I started the GAPS Intro Diet in November of 2012 with my mom and brother. This led to my first large and noticeable change in the joint inflammation. A few months prior I had developed a deep stabbing bone pain in my foot and within the first month of starting the GAPS Diet, it was gone. My knees also felt better and I could catch longer before having joint pain. Although GAPS was clearly helping, I still had pain, numerous other health problems, and couldn’t reintroduce foods without a flare up.

In April 2013, I was instructed by my doctor to remove salicylates from my diet because I had developed a sensitivity. My diet was limited to about 20 foods for four months.

It was hard, really hard at times, but it was totally worth it. In only a few weeks all my pain was gone. Completely gone for the first time in five years! I am 17 now and a senior in high school and am proud to say that I am free of joint inflammation. This spring and summer I played my first pain free softball seasons in five years. I no longer dread walking up and down stairs or biking or using a scissors or bending down to pick something up. Daily tasks aren’t painful anymore.

I assumed that the biggest change from modifying my diet would be physical, but it has actually been a mental transformation. I have learned to have perseverance, discipline, and self-motivation. I took responsibility for my health. It is not my parents’ responsibility to micro-manage everything I eat and do, it’s my body and I learned to step up and care for it. I have also learned life long lessons such as, people’s opinions shouldn’t matter to me. I know why I am changing my diet. I know that it works and that is enough for me.

I still have a restrictive diet because I am still working through other health problems, but I have been able to reintroduce salicylates without joint inflammation returning.

If I hadn’t been encouraged by my mom to change my diet and if I hadn’t taken responsibility, I can’t imagine how different my life would be now. Hardly anything about taking ownership of your health is easy, but it so worth it when you start to feel better and have a better quality of life.

If this sounds like you or someone you know and would like to read my whole story, you can purchase my book, A Teenager’s Perspective on Food Restrictions: A Practical Guide to Keep from Going Crazy. (Kindle version)

This post was shared on Healing with Food Friday.

The Good Guys- Probiotics

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kombucha

I’ve been a fan of bacteria for a long time. I gave probiotics to my son and they helped him recover from waaaay too many antibiotics given to him as a baby (repeated ear infections).

The bacteria that survived these antibiotics ate his little baby teeth in short order. As in “Oh, Honey, you have a little cavity, we’ll have to take you to the dentist soon.” Then, a month or two later, he had cavities down to his gums. It was not a proud mommy moment when I had to take my son to get 4 crowns when he was 4 years old.

His digestive symptoms were horrible.  And he also got a bad case of warts all over his hands and other areas of his body, including his chin!  When I gave him probiotic supplements for all of these issues, the warts went away in a few months. 80% of your immune system is actually located in your digestive tract!

So while I knew about probiotics, it never occurred to me to grow them in my own kitchen. It sounds kind of risky, doesn’t it? But then my friend gave me some kefir grains to make my own kefir.  When I was doing research about kefir, I found out that most traditional cultures prepare fermented foods.

Fermenting preserves food and helps digestion. I talked to people who weren’t raised in this country and I found out that most of them eat some sort of fermented food and swear by the health benefits. Sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, kvass, kimchi, cortido, and homemade yogurt are examples. But we “civilized” people prefer to be sanitized :).

I heard about kombucha, and I was just getting ready to try some when they pulled it off of the market.  I decided I HAD to try it to see what the big deal was, right? So as soon as it reappeared in my Fred Meyer health food section, I bought some. I was pretty sad when I tasted it. It just tasted like vinegar to me, but I had paid $3.00 for it so I decided to drink it anyway. About half way through I suddenly got this relaxed yet energized feeling. I was hooked!  I know what you’re thinking, it was NOT the teensy bit of alcohol in it. This energy and good feeling lasted for the rest of the day. So I hunted down a SCOBY on Craigslist and started brewing my own. I like it with ginger juice. Yum!

I also ferment organic vegetables like cucumbers, beets, cabbage, carrots, onion, etc. If they aren’t organic they don’t ferment well. Pesticides? Bleach?

My favorite veggie recipe is this one:

Cortido (adapted from: Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon)

  • 1 large cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 1 cup carrots, grated
  • 2 medium onions, quartered lengthwise and very finely sliced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves of pressed garlic
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt

I chop everything up and put it in mason jars to ferment for 4-7 days. I wait until it tastes “pickled”, then I put it in the refrigerator when it tastes like I want it to. Some folks use air lock jars or crocks.

If you’re interested in making your own kitchen experiments, I suggest joining the Wild Fermentation Facebook group. They ferment everything imaginable.

You see, fermented foods like kombucha and sauerkraut can repopulate your gut bacteria (and beneficial yeast). And they also have detoxifying acids that can assist your liver. These two things alone are HUGELY important in managing depression/anxiety!

There is a lot going on in our gut that scientists have discovered just in the past few years. They’ve discovered that gut bacteria manufacture most of the serotonin in the body.  GABA is manufactured in our gut, too.

Depression is also influenced by inflammatory cytokines. The inflammation is caused by things that stress the body. Heavy metals,toxins, and sub-clinical infection are a few things that can put the immune system on high alert to try to get rid of the threats to the body. Kombucha and fermented veggies contain acids to assist the liver in detoxifying these substances. Then good microbes in the foods safely shuttle the toxins out of your body.

Thanks, Detoxify Your Life, for the link love :). Go check out Karen’s blog on her experiences with brewing her own kombucha!

Happy growing!

This post was shared on Healing with Food Friday.