Friday, February 3, 2012

Celebrating a gluten free year- and moving on to the next step!

It's hard to believe, but it's been a whole year since I've gone gluten free! A whole year without deep dish pizza, brownies, or regular bread. And you know what? I honestly don't really even miss those things. There are so many delicious foods that are naturally gluten free, that I really don't even think about the gluten containing foods very often. And when I do, there are decent GF substitutes for most of them. Except deep dish pizza. Haven't found a gluten free substitute for that yet. Thad came home with a deep dish pizza from BJs tonight. I'm not going to lie- I was totally drooling over it. I wouldn't cheat though- last time I accidentally ingested gluten I felt like I was digesting glass for the next 12 hours or so. Totally not fun.

So it's clear that I have some sort of gluten allergy, or an intolerance at the least. My digestive issues have improved since giving up gluten (and like I said- I get a pretty bad reaction if I have just a tiny bit). But I'm still not seeing the results I'd like to. I'm still struggling with chronic diarrhea. I'm still struggling with occasional gas and stomach pain. Things have improved since I cut out gluten(I was having blood in my stool- and trust me, that's pretty freaky), but it's obvious that I still have some underlying digestive issues. So I've decided to take the next step! I've decided to implement the GAPS diet.

The GAPS diet is a very intensive, very restrictive, but also very effective, gut healing diet. Not only is gluten not allowed, but no grains or starches are allowed either. Apparently grains are really hard for the body to digest, and actually aren't very good for you. Who knew?!? Processed foods and sugars of any kind(except for ripe fruit on the later stages of the diet) are also a no-no. There are several different stages, starting with the super restrictive intro and moving forward into what's called "Full GAPS", which you're recommended to stay on for at least 2 years to see full gut healing. This diet is not for the faint of heart! Since processed foods aren't allowed, you have to cook everything yourself- and not things like opening jars of spaghetti sauce either. We're talking homemade bone broth, homemade yogurt, homemade ferments. You know- all the stuff you can just pick up at the grocery store- I'm signing up to make it all myself. Apparently the pre-packaged stuff isn't good for you either. That one's kindof a no-brainer, but it can be easy to forget in this fast food world.

So why would I sign up for this? Because apparently years of what I thought was a decently healthy diet really wasn't. Years of eating out, eating processed grocery store food, hydrogenated oils, and genetically modified foods has damaged my gut- leaving me with a gluten allergy and all kinds of other issues. GAPS stands for Gut And Psychology Syndrome, which is the name of the book by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride. The first several chapters of the book explain how the digestive system works, and just how harmful eating these damaging foods can be. The wrong diet can leave you with what's called "leaky gut syndrome", which means that you literally have tiny holes in your intestines, and pieces of undigested food(particularly particles from gluten and dairy) can get through the intestinal wall and straight into your bloodstream where they don't belong, and where they're attacked as intruders. When that happens, your body develops an allergic reaction to those substances. I'm guessing this is how my gluten allergy developed, because I haven't had it my whole life. The book goes on to explain how the gut and brain are closely connected, and how leaky gut syndrome can cause all sorts of psychological, neurological, and immunological disorders. The focus of the diet then is to focus on healing the gut, because when the gut is healthy then the body is able to heal itself.

Since the diet is so involved, I've decided to take it slow so that I don't overdo things or get overwhelmed. My goal for the month of January was to read the GAPS book, which I did. I'm now slowly easing into "full GAPS". I was already gluten free, but on the first of January I cut out sugar and stopped drinking milk. Within the past week or two, I've also cut out nearly all grains/starches. I'm also starting to incorporate homemade bone broths and ferments. I'm trying to be patient with myself and give myself room to not have to be perfect right away, since this is a pretty complex process and I do struggle with perfectionism a bit. After I get the full GAPS diet down, I plan to go back into intro and progress through the other stages, and also include the recommended supplements.

I have several issues that I'm hoping to see resolved through doing GAPS:
*Digestive issues/diarrhea- I have diarrhea, every single day. Not fun.
*Depressive symptoms- I've struggled off and on with depression for several years now. The worst year was right before I gave up gluten- and now I'm starting to understand that my gluten allergy/gut issues could have played a big part in that!
*Hormone swings- I'm so, so tired of feeling like a slave to my hormones.
*Allergies- I've had "allergies" year round since I was a teenager.

The awesome news is that with just the changes I've made sofar, I'm already starting to see results!!! The very first day I started drinking bone broth my allergies improved drastically. I could breathe comfortably through my nose for the first time in a long time. Today after about a week and a half of being mostly grain free, I've also seen some big improvements in my digestive issues. Knowing that I'm seeing results even before I've even done the diet perfectly, is very encouraging! I can't wait to see how great I feel at the end of this process!!!

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