Friday, January 20, 2012

Living a healthier lifestyle – where to begin?

Our family’s journey to healthier living began one year ago. Right after Christmas, our daughter broke out head to toe in hives. We took her to the doctor and he suspected strep, but they were unable to get a culture, so there was no official diagnosis. He prescribed a very strong antibiotic, which we promptly picked up and gave her. Within seconds of swallowing it, she vomited violently. We didn’t know what to make of it, so we waited until her next dose was due and gave her the 2nd dose. She did the same thing. We decided the antibiotic was not the right for her and began exploring other possibilities. 

Our research led us to having allergy testing done and we discovered she was allergic to wheat and gluten. We then embarked on the gluten free journey. We fell into many of the marketing gimmicks in an effort to maintain “normalcy” for our daughter. We purchased items that simply amounted to organic junk food. We bought lots of gluten free snacks and cereals, only to later discover that the ingredients used; potato starch, tapioca flour, tapioca starch, etc., aren't very good for you. All that starch just turns to sugar in the body and isn't healthy either. 

We decided there had to be a better way and began going deeper down the rabbit hole. Our research led us to the “real foodie lifestyle”, cooking from the Nourishing Traditions cookbook and ultimately the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet. We began drinking farm fresh, non-pasteurized milk, buying grass-fed meats, and organic produce. We significantly cut down on the amount of grains we were consuming and began soaking those we did eat. My husband lost 35 pounds in just a couple months’ time. We had already stopped eating fast food several months prior, but we began to stop eating out altogether. We all had more energy, and when we cut the grains, the weight seemed to just fall off of us. Weight loss wasn’t a goal, just a byproduct. This fall we began to implement the Introduction phase of the GAPS diet. You can learn more about it here.

This isn’t so much of a diet in terms of weight loss as it is a lifestyle change with the intention of helping our bodies heal. The thought behind it is that all sickness, disease, etc. originates from a bacteria or flora imbalance in the gut. If your body can’t properly digest the food you’re giving it, the  undigested particles of food become toxic in your body and you can develop allergies, behavior issues, sickness, disease, auto immune disorders, etc. 

We have four children and two were showing some of the GAPS patient symptoms. Our daughter that was diagnosed with the wheat allergy had been born 6 weeks early with heart troubles and spent a month in the NICU. Her bill for her medications alone was $75,000. That’s a lot of drugs! We’re very thankful that she survived her ordeal with medical intervention; however we couldn’t overlook the toll it took on her body. We believe this is where her issues originated. Our fourth child also had some digestive issues, where things were coming out completely undigested. We knew something had to change. She had been exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months, and continued breastfeeding until she was 21 months. Seems like she should be healthy right? Well, I had antibiotics in labor and that is where we believe her troubles originated. Her gut flora was compromised from birth. 

We decided to forge ahead with the whole family and begin the Intro diet. We were just a few weeks into it,  and what a change! My older daughter who was previously showing the beginning of ADD/ADHD symptoms was so calm and thoughtful. It was like she had done a 180 degree turn. My son who is 4, used to bounce off the walls being “all boy” but he would now sit quietly through church with a paper and crayons with no squirming or complaint. Our youngest daughter’s language began to explode, her expressions just came alive. My husband and I have collectively lost 100 pounds, and have so much more energy and just generally FEEL better. We still have a long way to go and will continue this lifestyle change, but it’s been so encouraging to see results so quickly. When people start noticing and commenting that your kids are so much better behaved, so sweet, so calm, etc. it’s very encouraging. Teachers, friends, family, babysitters, so many people have commented we can’t help but admit real results. Our kids weren’t considered “bad” before either. They were polite, respectful and kind, just very busy. I had a friend comment to me, “It’s not just the weight loss that I notice. You all LOOK healthier, you have better color, the kids seem so different, and you just seem so much more healthy.” 

The biggest proof in the pudding though, has been the fact that at the end of my first trimester with baby #5, I barely feel pregnant! With each of my previous pregnancies, I was nauseous practically from conception to week 20. With my last baby, I spent almost a whole month barely moving from the couch I was so sick. With this one, I was almost 7 weeks before I even realized I was pregnant! With each of the other kids I knew by about 4.5 weeks. I know I’m so much healthier with this pregnancy because I can feel it. We’re eating better, are more educated about nutrition and the way our body uses it, and for me what exactly a pregnant women needs for optimum pregnancy health. 

We’re looking forward to continuing this journey, learning more and watching the difference it will continue to make in our family’s life. If you want to learn more about the diet and the doctor who developed it you can click here.
To find a GAPS practitioner in your area click here.
To buy the book and begin researching for yourself click here.

~Beth Joramo

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