GAPS, Paleo, Primal Blueprint, Perfect Health Diet, Weston Price: There are so many different diets that are touted as being "the" answer to the question of finding health. Does following these diets lead to perfect health?
My Family's Experience With Finding Health Through Diet
Nearly 10 years ago, my husband and I embarked on our journey of finding health through diet. Prior to that time, we were following a typical Standard American Diet, with lots of processed foods, low-fat foods, and restaurant foods. While neither of us suffered from any very serious health issues, we did have some health issues since we both had cavities, we had both been prescribed inhalers for asthma, I had acne rosacea, irritable bowel syndrome, and carpal tunnel syndrome, and my husband had long-standing issues with eczema, insomnia, and sinus problems (which had not been improved even with two sinus surgeries).
I learned about Weston Price's groundbreaking research into traditional diets and jumped right in to changing our diets. We were looking forward to having children soon, and I wanted to make sure we were both very healthy before conception. We started consuming plenty of grassfed beef, pastured chicken and eggs, butter, raw milk and cheese, fish eggs, homemade chicken stock, sprouted and/or soaked whole grains, fermented foods, fruits and vegetables, and a daily dose of cod liver oil.
My husband and I both saw health improvements from these dietary changes. The frequency of illnesses decreased and we both saw some improvements in our chronic health issues. For instance, my acne rosacea and irritable bowel syndrome disappeared, and my husband had less frequent sinus flareups. We kept on following the Weston Price-based diet and making it a normal part of our lives.
Fast forward 5 years through the birth of two children and things weren't looking so rosy. Despite having consumed an excellent Weston Price-based diet her whole life, our 3-year-old daughter had poor weight gain and a pattern of recurrent illnesses. She would get sick roughly 8-10 times per year, each time running a high fever for several days, and often she had a lingering cough for 2-3 weeks after each illness. When other kids had a minor "tummy bug", she had an extreme version with vomiting for 48 hours and losing over 10% of her body weight.
My exclusively-breastfed infant son slept horribly, waking frequently every night; he had eczema and was constipated, and he cried inconsolably for 30-45 minutes several times every day. During my recent pregnancy, I had developed three new health issues that did not subside after the birth - insomnia (awake for 2-3 hours in the middle of the night every.single.night), joint pain (that made normal activities such as holding the baby very difficult), and irritability (losing my temper and being impatient with my daughter, which had never been an issue previously). My husband's sinus problems flared up and he had a sinus infection for over 6 months. My husband and I were getting sick more frequently as well.
Thinking that we would be able to fix these problems through an even stricter diet, my family started the GAPS Diet in the late summer of 2010. The GAPS Diet is similar to Paleo and Primal Diets, except that it has a specific emphasis on curing health conditions through healing the gut. The GAPS Diet is based on healthy fats (such as butter and coconut oil), meats, fruits, veggies, broth, and fermented foods. The GAPS Diet does not allow any grains or starches, and allows no sweeteners except honey.
We followed the GAPS Diet strictly for over 16 months, and completed two rounds of the Intro Diet. Initially, we had amazing results: our daughter got sick less frequently and she started gaining weight, my joint pain was gone, and my husband's 6-month-long sinus infection finally abated. We thought we had finally found the answer to our health problems.
Even though we were still strictly following GAPS, some of our old health problems started to come back. My husband's sinuses started to flare up again, and his eczema flared up and became worse than ever. I developed adrenal issues including spells of extreme low energy, and yet if I went off GAPS my joint pain came back again. Our (already low-weight) daughter stopped gaining weight and even started losing weight. A full rundown on the positive results and set-backs for each of us on GAPS can be seen in this post.
The positive benefits of GAPS had waned and we had developed new problems while on the diet. We stopped strictly following GAPS and found that we now had food sensitivities that we had not observed prior to following the GAPS Diet. And many of our previous health concerns were once again in effect.