Monday, January 16, 2012

My Illness: GAPS - A Self Diagnosis

Hey guys, this is my attempt at a mass explanation of my current health situation. I have had SO many people question me about my illness, how I got sick, what is happening in my body, how I am trying to get better, etc. Therefore, I am going to to try to answer all of those questions in this post. Wish me luck. I am going to try to explain to the best of my ability. If I go into too much detail, forgive me.

First of all, let me tell you a little bit about the journey. It seems like most of my life I have had allergies; to trees, grasses, molds, animals, dust, and foods. But, if you were to ask my mom if I had food allergies as a baby, she would say no. I seemed to tolerate most foods just fine. But somehow (I will actually explain how later on) along the way, I developed quite a few allergies. As a younger child, my environmental allergies were the worst of my problems. I first got tested when I was 10 years old and found out I was allergic to many environmental allergens, and a few types of foods; those being corn, milk, soy, peanuts, and walnuts. I ignored my food allergies for about a year or two, before I started noticing the intense eczema and rashes I would get on certain places of my body. I started caring about my appearance and was ashamed and embarrassed by the "gross" rashes on my face and arms, and at this point (age 12 probably) decided to try to avoid the foods I was allergic to. I was never able to avoid corn and soy completely though, perhaps because of my lack of maturity and my larger family (my food allergy "needs" were not catered to), so I dealt with these rashes all through out teen-hood, high school, and until now. Fortunately it used to be very manageable, and was not devastating enough to make me sick or incapable of enjoying my childhood and all of the things a young person could do growing up. I had a wonderful childhood full of adventure, good food (well, actually quite bad for me, but I didn't know this at the time), and lots of activity. I played outside almost 24/7, ate absurd amounts of bread, pastas, cookies, and at holidays as many dinner rolls as I could get away with.  I loved to eat chips, crackers, and when my mom wasn't looking I would eat plenty of cookies. I didn't notice any harmful effects from these foods. I was very active! I played sports, raised chickens, enjoyed school, 4-H and all of the competitions that were a part of it. Besides my occasional rashes and sneezy eye-rubbing springs, I had a totally normal childhood. My mom called me the "starch queen", and discouraged me from eating too much starchy foods because she believed it was bad for me. I thought she was crazy. I wish I had listened to her.
Here I am; age 17, body covered in a some what bad rash, and itching a lot. At this point I have discovered kissing, alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, staying out all night, the feeling and stress of disappointing my parents, and a few other things, not necessarily in that order. Mom took me to a doctor, and then to the allergist, and I was tested again. This time, the list of food allergies had grown impressively. Corn, milk, soy, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, rice, oats, celery, carrots, green beans, pears, apples, peas, hopps, and more. I was astonished. How could this be? Oh well! Life continued on some what normally. I tried to avoid these foods. However, at this point in my life I seemed to get sick at least once a month with some sort of bacterial throat infection. I also had strep and mono at the same time, and couldn't get better from the mono for about a whole year. I had no energy, school began to get difficult, and I was no longer excelling. I wondered if I had some sort of auto-immune disorder.
Here I am; age 20, body covered in atopic dermatitis that was more severe than it had ever been. "Not again!", I thought. At this point in life I had been to Africa, started college, frequented McDonalds and other fast food joints multiple times a week, lived in an apartment by myself, and ate ice cream and rolls of delicious, fresh baked bread multiple times a day. To say the least, I had not been treating my body to good, nutritious food it needed. Over the years I had been to countless dermatologists, allergists, M.D.s, and had not been very impressed or helped by them. By this time I had started frequenting a more holistic doctor. I went to the see him again, and found out that now I was allergic to wheat as well. I was devastated. I sobbed. I felt like I was allergic to everything! Bread to me was everything. It was an important part of my diet; my favorite thing to eat. I eventually got over it. Thanksgiving day of 2010 was my first day without bread. That holiday, I didn't consume a single dinner roll. This was a tragedy for me, but I knew it was worth it. My body was not doing well, and I had to make an effort. By Christmas it became evident that I would also have to cut out all dairy.  
Here I am; age 21. By summer of 2011, I was developing food allergies weekly. By fall, I was reacting to literally everything I ate. I had been to many doctors. They all said, "Well, you appear to be having some serious problems with food allergies. Here are some steroids to calm down the inflammation of your skin." One doctor I went to was actually an amazing help. Unfortunately he was expensive, insurance didn't cover him, and he wasn't able to stop my body from developing allergies. He helped me in many ways though (diagnosing me with digestion/gut illness, figuring out I had heavy metal poisoning, parasites, yeast infection, etc), so that was a huge encouragement to know that it was possible to find help and have hope in healing. He was an alternative medicine doctor, so from there on out I have pretty much only sought help from practitioners who are more holistic and alternative.
Here I am; almost at age 22, still very sick, with a self-diagnosis of a syndrome called GAPS. Here is where I get to explain to you what that is, and what is happening in my body. GAPS stands for gut and psychology syndrome and gut and physiology syndrome. Simply put, a GAPS patient has what Dr. Natasha Campbell would call "abnormal flora". This means there is an incorrect balance of good and bad bacteria living in the gut. There needs to be more good bacteria than bad, but in my case and the case of other GAPsters, for one reason or another (there are many possible situations that can cause this abnormal flora count to occur), there are more bad bacteria. The bad bacteria cause havoc. In my body, the mucus lining/gut lining of my gut walls has been attacked, and has worn down. Now, my gut lining is porous. It has little holes in it, so now when I eat, undigested food particles will leak into my blood stream through the little holes in my gut lining, and my body attacks the food particles by creating antibodies to them, therefore creating an "allergy". So every time I ate food, I was having allergic reactions. I also was getting extremely bloated after eating, had abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux, and other symptoms.
Now - The goal is to heal my body from the inside out. I'm trying to heal my gut, so that it will start accepting the goods I am eating, absorbing nutrients, etc. I'm attempting this with the GAPS diet. Check it out! I would encourage anyone with any sort of digestive problems, autism, auto-immune disorder, or any "incurable" disease to at least try this diet for a few months.

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