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.


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.

What’s the Big Deal?- Food Allergies and Sensitivities

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A lot of people are suddenly claiming to have food allergies or sensitivities. Do you ever wonder why?

I work in public school. Every year the list of students with life threatening food allergies grows bigger! When I was a kid, I knew only two people with food allergies the entire time I was growing up.  (Some studies confirming the increase in food allergies, here and here.)

There are some theories on what’s behind the increase:

1. The introduction of GMO’s into our food-These non-foods could be causing our bodies to treat them as foreign invaders, triggering an overreaction of the immune system.

2. Poor digestion and leaky gut-  If our digestive system doesn’t break down our food properly, some makes it into our bloodstream undigested. Our bodies don’t recognize these larger particles as food! Once again, our bodies treat the food as a foreign substance and the immune system overreacts. (See What Does My Belly Have to Do with My Brain?)

3.  Improper preparation of foods- People in traditional cultures ate real, whole foods. They also prepared their foods in ways that made them more digestible, and neutralized anti nutrients. The food we’re eating today can deplete the body of nutrients and aggravate the digestive system. (Ancestral preparation of foods: fermented foods, traditionally prepared sourdough, soaked grains)

4. Pesticides and chemicals in food- Maybe we’re having reactions to the non-food substances in the food?

I think all of these theories have some truth to them. But whatever the reason, what’s the big deal about eating foods that your body is having a reaction to? Beyond the obvious hives and anaphylactic reactions that some people have.

When you expose yourself to the foods you react to, this is what happens:

1. The continuous inflammatory response to the foods causes your adrenals to produce cortisol in response to the inflammation. This will cause your adrenals to be depleted. If you have adrenal fatigue, it’s likely that you’re reacting to a food (or multiple foods).

2. It causes too many immune responses that could be avoided. This means you will have constant inflammation in your body. Some inflammation is appropriate and necessary, but too much has dire consequences. Too much inflammation is related to a LONG list of diseases. Depression, Bipolar disorder, autism, dementia, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, IBS, and autoimmune disorders are a few of the diseases that are associated with chronic inflammation.  That’s huge!

Removing foods that you’re sensitive to is essential to the health of your whole body. (I also recommend improving digestion and detoxification.)

You can find out which foods you react to in a few different ways. None of the ways are perfect, but you have to start somewhere 🙂

1. Elimination diet- Remove common allergens from your diet and add them back in one at a time. Pay close attention when you add them back in! The most common food allergens are dairy, gluten containing grains,  eggs, soy, corn,  tree nuts, peanuts,  and shellfish. I know this is a pain, but it can be life changing. It’s also the most reliable way to find out what’s making you sick.

2. Blood tests that test for IgE, IgG, and IgA- IgE is the immediate immune response that everyone recognizes: hives, rashes, swelling, or respiratory problems. IgG and IgA can have a delayed reaction. These tests aren’t perfect. You may end up showing that you don’t react to things you obviously react to. Or they may say you have a whole bunch of reactions because your immune and digestive systems are over reacting.

3. The Coca Pulse Test- This one is practiced only in alternative medicine circles. But it’s free :). You take your pulse after eating a meal to narrow down what your body may be reacting to. Then, when you suspect a certain food may be raising your heart rate, you take your pulse using only that food. This is an indicator of a food reaction because when you eat something that inflames your body, your adrenals will produce hormones to reduce the inflammation. The adrenal hormones also raise your heart rate. Using this test, I accidentally found out I had a reaction to green beans. Weird! But I felt better when I stopped eating them.

Here’s an article on Coca Pulse Testing to explain it further.

I hope this helps people to understand that the whole food sensitivity thing is a big deal!

And remember, if you discover food sensitivities, it’s not as big a deal to eliminate them as you think it is. A lot of people are eating this way. Google is your best friend :).

This post was shared on Healing with Food Friday.