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.
At this point I finally realized that diet alone was not sufficient to heal our chronic health issues. While different dietary strategies were able to give us temporary improvements, over time our old issues always came back, no matter how strictly we followed the diets.
Why Didn't Diet Heal Our Health Issues?
In the intervening three years since we stopped the GAPS Diet, I have learned a great deal about health and healing chronic health issues.Through constitutional homeopathic treatment, my family is finding health in ways that diet could never even come close to. Through my intensive search for answers, I have come to understand health in a whole new way.
Using diet to heal chronic health issues is somewhat like putting a band-aid on a cut: diet can aid in the process of healing, but it can't actually cause the healing process to occur. Just as a band-aid alone cannot heal an infected wound, diet alone cannot heal chronic health issues. Diet can certainly lead to temporary improvements, but unless the underlying imbalance is healed, the chronic issues will keep coming back again despite any dietary measures. Homeopathy works differently than dietary measures because it seeks to correct the fundamental imbalance that is leading to the symptoms in the first place.
What Is the Root Cause of Chronic Health Problems?
From a homeopathic perspective, chronic health issues are an indication of an underlying imbalance, often as a result of genetic predispositions (which are referred to as miasms in homeopathic literature). Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, was well ahead of his time in that he developed an understanding of genetic influences on the health of subsequent generations nearly 200 years ago. Constitutional homeopathy works differently than diet (and many other healing modalities, including herbalism and conventional medicine) in that it seeks to uproot those underlying miasms and thereby remove the fundamental cause for the illness rather than just addressing the outward symptoms.
Our Successful Path to Health
Over the last 3 years, we have been finding answers to our health problems with homeopathy. In fact, our results have been so astonishing to me that I became a homeopath to share this healing modality with more people. A brief rundown of the benefits we have seen through homeopathy are:
We all get sick much less frequently now, and when we do get sick the intensity is much less than previously.
Our low-weight, poor appetite daughter now consistently gains weight and eats well. Her previously-poor immune system has been boosted so much that she has averaged only 1-2 minor illnesses per year over the last 2 years (as compared to her previous average of 8-10 more serious illnesses per year). Her homeopathic treatment has evened out her emotions so that she no longer cries at the drop of a hat, and also improved her focus and uncoordination (clumsiness).
Our son, whose sleep had degenerated over time to where he was waking every hour every night by the age of 2 years old, now sleeps 8-9 hours straight consistently. His intense temper tantrums were greatly improved and eventually stopped altogether through his homeopathic treatment. He has become much more cooperative and easy-going as well, and the correlation between these changes and his doses of homeopathic remedies is very obvious. He is the member of our family who is nearest to completing his homeopathic treatment, as evidenced by the fact that these improvements remain even while he is taking less remedy, less often.
My joint pain is gone, no matter whether or not I eat grains. I now very rarely have problems with low energy, and my irritability/mood is so much better! My insomnia is not completely resolved, but has improved from waking every.single.night for 2-3 hours to now waking about 10-15% of the time. My menstrual cycles have also normalized through my homeopathic treatment.
My husband, who has the most chronic health problems in our family, has seen steady improvements in his chronic health issues over the last few years on homeopathic treatment. His homeopathic treatment is turning back the clock on many of his health complaints, so that they are now better than they have been in over 12 years. His eczema is minimal, he is sleeping longer stretches of time at night (whereas previously he would wake every 1-2 hours), his weight is steady, and his sinus issues have much diminished over time.
I think it is very interesting that Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, the author of the GAPS book, recommends combining homeopathic treatment with the GAPS Diet. Through my post-GAPS experiences, I wonder how many people who were "cured" by GAPS were actually healed through homeopathic treatment. Several of my homeopathic clients had previously tried the GAPS Diet, but are now seeing better results through homeopathic treatment than they experienced with the GAPS Diet.
Where Does Diet Fit In To Overall Health?
People are often very surprised to find out that I have serious reservations about recommending the GAPS Diet. For my family, the GAPS Diet ended up being an empty promise. Given the extreme amount of time and effort involved in following the GAPS Diet (I spent an average of 6 hours per day in the kitchen), that empty promise is not something I would recommend to others. In the end, it was not able to solve our chronic health problems, and it actually ended up creating more problems.
However, I do believe that diet is an important part of maintaining overall health. Providing the body with an abundance of nutrients, through eating nutrient-dense foods, gives the body resources to use in healing. The body does need those nutrients, just as it needs adequate sleep and physical activity. But those nutrients alone are not enough to heal underlying imbalances that lead to chronic health issues. Good nutrition is important, but it is not the solution to healing chronic health problems.
What is your experience with healing chronic conditions through diet? Have you had any increased food sensitivities after grain-free dieting?
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