Well, friends, I thought I had written my last GAPS post, but I find that my healing journey did not end with deciding to “quit GAPS”. Shucks.
After writing that last post in October, I did some serious thinking about what I needed from a diet. My 6 months on GAPS had certainly taught me that food is more than physical nourishment. It is also emotional bonding, and spiritual union. I can sit down with my family or my friends at the same time and eat “together”, but if we are not dipping from the same pot then I find very little togetherness in the act. I can’t explain it, I’m sure it’s difficult to understand if you haven’t been there, and I’m sure there are some folks who don’t experience food that way at all. So perhaps you just have to trust me on this one when I say that GAPS, for me, was depressing and very isolating.
I decided that my first priority in my diet was the ability to share food, especially with my family. Second, since my emotional health was suffering and I had started an anti-depressant, I decided my next priority should be to find some joy in eating again. And my third priority was simply to reduce my pain level as much as possible, keeping the first two priorities in place.
Finally, while I wouldn’t call it a “priority”, there was the very real limitation of our household finances. I have a family of six to feed on an income that, according to national statistics, has frequently bordered on Poverty (I take issue with this label on a number of levels, but that’s a soapbox for another time….) I had ordered my priorities, but wasn’t quite sure that they could be achieved on our budget.
And so I embarked–we embarked–on a grand experiment. I dropped the parts of GAPS that felt rigid and legalistic–culturing veggies continuously, drinking broth every day. I gave up juicing, because I suspected all that carrot juice was feeding the SIBO in my gut. I ate things that weren’t GAPS legal, but that didn’t cause me pain. And I began to eat more of the things that cause me some minor pain and discomfort–a wider range of veggies, more eggs, and nut flours–and the rest of the family ate less of the things that caused me major pain and discomfort–gluten and dairy. And most nights, we ate together. I would supplement their meals with a loaf of bread or some rice, to stretch out the main dish a little more. And occasionally I would eat rice or beans as the grocery budget dwindled at the end of the month. So we ate this diet that hovered somewhere between GAPS and Paleo but not quite entirely either one. For a long time, I felt not-too-bad. At least, I didn’t feel any worse than I had on GAPS.
And then a number of things happened at once. I had a scope to check on the status of my colitis (results: 2 years of medication and restricted diets had not impacted the inflammation one little bit). Family life got busy and I missed several weeks in a row of yoga class. The holidays came and my stress level began to climb. And towards the end of December I began to feel truly horrible again. Where as before I was getting a small amount of symptomatic relief from my colitis medication, I began to get absolutely none. I was in bed with uncontrollable symptoms at least one day out of the week. I missed 90% of our carefully hand-picked holiday engagements (the ones we decided we most wanted to do) because I wasn’t well enough to leave the house. I was feeling discouraged, and very frustrated.
An extended discussion with my GI doc (who is truly awesome) revealed medical options that I wasn’t excited about–immuno-suppressant drugs, all of them quite toxic with risks of cancer and birth defects. All of them require some level of energetic input on my part–getting myself to an infusion clinic or giving myself shots or showing up for regular blood draws. I asked my GI doc if she’d be willing to explore an alternative treatment with me before beginning the immuno-suppressants. This treatment is so off the beaten path that I’m going to name it here by its most genteel name: human probiotic infusion. I’ll leave it up to you whether or not you want to Google that and find out what it really is.
My GI doc hasn’t committed yet, but she is researching and trying to jump through some hoops and hoping to help me out. This treatment is not even an approved UC treatment in the States. There are no doctors here offering this treatment for people like me, so her approval and help would be monumental.
My other option is to try 30 days of the Paleo Diet Auto-Immune Protocol. Somehow, agreeing to 30 days on the AI Protocol in hopes of simply improving symptoms feels more doable than an undetermined amount of time spent strictly following one restricted diet in search of complete healing.
All of these treatments have gains and losses associated with them. All of them are expensive in one way or another. I don’t like any of them. But I also don’t like being in pain, or missing my daughter’s piano recital.
I think what I’m coming to realize, after years with chronic illness and diet restrictions, is that healing does not come from any one thing, or at any one time. Well, I suppose it does sometimes but I think those cases should always have an asterisk and a footnote that says “Results not typical”. Rather, I’m beginning to see it as this series of ups and downs. I have times of plunging down into a treatment, seeking deeper healing, but then inevitably have to surface again to catch my breath. After a time, I’m able to plunge the depths again, a little bit deeper this time before resurfacing again. Usually the resurfacing finds me in a different place where the waters are a little bit shallower and the distance between the depths of healing and the resurfacing is not as great. I suppose it would be a quicker journey if I could hold my breath long enough to just stay down there and not have to resurface again, but the times spent in the depths are quite dark and lonely. For me, in my journey, the times of resurfacing are important for my emotional and spiritual health, just as the times of diving deep are important for my physical health. I’m learning that I don’t mind if it takes longer to reach the destination, if it means I get to enjoy the journey.
* photos of a day of food in my current quasi-GAPS diet (this was a particularly disciplined day–sauerkraut with every meal, soup for one meal, no rice, and no legumes): Sweet Potato and Beet Latkes with a fried egg and sauerkraut; Turkey Sloppy Joe over chopped iceberg lettuce with sauerkraut; Slow Cooked Apples; Chicken and Butternut Squash Soup; Banana Mush
Turkey Sloppy Joes
The family enjoys this on hamburger buns, while I eat it over a bowl of shredded lettuce as a grain-free option. It would also be delicious over rice, for a gluten-free dinner.
Source: Erin at Plan to Eat
Course: Paleoish-Main (Chicken)
- 3 Tbs coconut oil or butter
- 1⁄2 onion minced
- 4 carrots minced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 1⁄2 pound organic ground turkey
- 2 cans whole tomatoes with juice chopped
- 6 oz tomato paste
- 3 Tbs coconut aminos or tamari
- 1⁄4 c sundried tomatoes chopped
- 2 Tbs honey
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- Melt the coconut oil in a large saute pan over med-high heat. Saute the onion, carrots, and garlic until softened. Add the ground turkey and cook until brown, chopping up the ground meat with a wooden spoon.
- In a bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Add to the saute pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until thickened, about 20-30 minutes.