I guess I should really have titled this "All You Need to Know About Ruining Your Gut Lining", because that's exactly the place my family and I had to get to in order to learn how to actually heal the intestinal lining and learn to live a healthy and vibrant life with Celiac Disease.
This post may contain affiliate links that I make a small profit from.
It's been known since Ancient Greek days that all disease or health begins in the gut, but in reality, most don't know just how important a role our intestines play in our mental and physical health. I certainly had NO idea until my health and that of my family took a serious nosedive back in 2011, fully 6 years after we had gone on a Gluten Free diet to manage our Celiac Disease diagnosed in 2005!
I'm going to tell a long story here---so hang on!
What the HECK is Wrong with My Family?!
I also should have titled this 'OUR Celiac Story' because MY Celiac could easily have gone a lifetime undiagnosed if it wasn't for my daughter who had weird and mystery illnesses and ailments from the time she was born in 1992. Until 2005, I had been what I considered a 'Health Nut' since I was a teenager. I made sure all my grains were whole, ate little to no red meat, no fast food, no milk, only cheese, only egg whites and exercised regularly and loved GREEN stuff. Oh---and butter was so sinful we only bought 'Heart Healthy' margarine. In the tub. I made sure to make at least one day a Vegetarian meal day for my family too. But my kids were ALWAYS sick!! Really. Always. As in, I started to homeschool my daughter after 3 disastrous years at the public school in which she was sick with some sort of cold from October until May, usually worse in January. She missed so much school, a note was sent home after Kindergarten warning us that she would not advance if she missed any more school. What?! The school nurse assured me this was normal. Our family physician said it was normal.
But I was still concerned because she also had regular headaches, daily stomachaches, allergies, bloody noses and what seemed to be anxiety. But again, our family physician assured me this all was also normal, but perhaps our daughter was a bit neurotic? Hmmm. OK. I was a good patient at this time and tried to believe what I was being told.
Meanwhile, I was fatigued ALL the time, my circulation was terrible and no matter how hard I worked out not only could I see no visible muscles, but I couldn't lose those last 30 lbs of babyweight no matter how hard I 'dieted' and worked out. In fact, I could only do weight workouts occasionally because when I did work out, I would be so sore for days afterwards there was not a single workout schedule I could follow as written. This all took place between 1992 and 2000 when I started homeschooling both of my children.
The fun really started after my dad had an aortic aneurysm, and survived it, and I, as the only daughter, was the main helper for my mom, who was completely unable to get her crap together and take care of her husband. So I dropped our school year that May, 2004 and we drove out to California and ended up staying for about 2 months. By the time we restarted school in October, we were all SO worn out and stressed out and so it was easy to attribute our symptoms to this stress. Heart palpitations, pulsatile tinnitus, my kids daily headaches, stomachaches, bloody noses, bone pain, 'racing' heartrates. It was a real thrill. Until I heard about something called Gluten that if removed would solve the symptoms of Celiac, which is most certainly what it looked like we had.
We Have an Answer!
So I tested the whole family in 2005, thinking it would be best to know who had it because more than likely, the whole house would go Gluten Free at once to save cooking different meals for everyone---which I truly hated the idea of. See that family picture above? It looks like everyone is healthy and happy, but the real story was that I was steadily gaining weight even though I walked and did Tae Bo EVERY day. In fact, I was struggling with how fat I felt that very day. My daughter in that pic was so skinny and was miserable most days with stomachaches and headaches. I had no idea our son was going to have any sort of diagnosis because he was actually and pretty happy and healthy little guy. My husband had horrible itchy skin, heartburn and aching joints--not to mention he also was steadily gaining weight.
Well, it turns out we got 3 confirmed Celiac and one Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitive. We removed gluten and SO many symptoms went away---heartburn, fatigue, headaches, joint pains. etc. Phew! It was good to heal and SO easy to boot! So many easy GF foods on the shelves in 2005 and label reading---I was already pro at reading labels and finding standard gluten free foods like pasta, breads and cookies.. No problems.
Or so I thought............
But then 2007 hit us with major teenage friend problems. Serious stress. Then 2008 and the real estate market crash--that immediately sent our lives into a tailspin as my husband is a Real Estate Appraiser and we had a couple of houses on the market that were supposed to have been the solution to our overextended debt at the time. Not. Basically, life as we knew it came crashing down around us and we walked away from our very own American Dream and moved back into our tiny, old house that hadn't sold in over 6 years on the market.
That was in 2009. Which is when the slow progression of health problems started. All. Over. Again. Night sweats, moodiness, allergies, low immunity, multiple food intolerances and the list goes on and on. Until that day in 2011 that my husband came out of his office and was sweating and freaked out that he was having a heart attack because of the shooting pain he had just gotten in the middle of his back. Which freaked me out because I was a hot mess of fatigue, brain fog and other problems, myself on the couch every day by 5 pm, exhausted from sitting at the kitchen table homeschooling our kids every day.
I seriously thought we were dying. And to add insult to this injury, we had NO money to not only see our family doctor, but run the battery of tests I had a feeling we needed as this seemed to be some sort of violent and mutant direction our Celiac Disease was taking. I was so confused and freaked out because I made sure that EVERYTHING was gluten free and was labeled Gluten Free. I even found a special store online that ONLY sold food labeled Certified Gluten Free. I made sure all of our soaps, toothpaste, lotions, cleaners---every item in the house stated it was free of gluten.
Until I got that call from another homeschool mom looking for a math book. That I didn't happen to have so we started chatting. We got onto the subject of our kids and she was so happy to report that her daughter, who also had been derailed by a mystery illness, was finally on track to finish college because she had started on this healing dietary protocol called GAPS-Gut and Psychology Syndrome.
OMG--I Have Hope!
As soon as I hung up the phone that day, I immediately consulted Dr. Google and planted myself in front of my computer for probably the next 2 weeks, reading and absorbing and studying all about GAPS and the miraculous healing it had given so many people with so many issues ranging from Celiac to autism. I was excited that there was something out there that didn't require thousands of dollars of medical testing. What harm could trying a different way of eating do??
So I bought a 30 Day guide online, along with the GAPS book, and jumped right in after another 2 weeks of study and preparation. Because it took a LOT of preparation just to PREAPARE to undertake this diet. Because at that time, we were living in a remote mountain town that required 2 hours of driving ONE WAY just to go to Costco. I had to order pretty much all the ingredients online except for the vegetables. Organic was NOT an option.
We had developed what is known in Holistic Health circles as Leaky Gut, something ignored in regular medical circles but now is seen as very real and very legitimate. Another name for it is Increased Intestinal Permeability. It means in simple terms that the intestinal lining is so damaged, that holes, basically, have developed in the intestinal lining and food particles that should not leak out do and wreak absolute havoc with the body.
At the time, we literally were down to about 6 foods that didn't give us a 'gluten' reaction. We were eating eggs, chicken, potatoes, cheese and maybe beef, along with lots of fresh fruits and veg. Coffee was out, along with SO much more. I remember the first week preparing the meals when I was SO sick and weak and my back hurt so badly I could barely stand in the kitchen and cook for even 15 minutes.
But I was determined to feel better. I was not ready to give up, even though the entire family was so sick with so many symptoms. But I followed EVERY step, EVERY day, including daily detox baths that rotated between Epsom Salts, baking soda, vinegar and seaweed. We all felt so good after 2 weeks it was nothing short of amazing.
By the end of 30 days, it felt like we had been given a new lease on life. Energy, clear thinking, insomnia gone as well as all the other horrible symptoms like skin rashes, joint pains, unpredictable guts when leaving the house.
Since those first 30 days in 2011, we have followed a framework of GAPS and Autoimmune Paleo in order to keep our raging Celiac Disease with continued multiple food intolerances controlled enough that we have a LIFE. A LIFE that allows us to work, work out and play in a way not possible before.
Signs of Leaky Gut:
1. Multiple Food Intolerances
2. Chronic diarrhea, constipation, gas or bloating, gut pain, gallbladder pain, IBS
3. Nutritional deficiencies caused by malabsorption
4. Poor immune system
5. Headaches, brain fog, memory loss
6. Excessive fatigue
7. Skin rashes and problems such as acne, psoriasis, eczema or rosacea
8. Craving for sugar or carbs
9. Arthritis or joint pains
10. Depression, anxiety, ADD, ADHD, Insomnia
11. Autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, celiac disease, Crohn's etc.
12. Easy Bruising, bleeding, bleeding gums.
etc, etc, etc
What causes Leaky Gut??
Dear God--so many things!
1. Medications---NSAIDS, antibitoics, aspirin--basically anything that irritates and damages the gut lining and kills off good bacteria
2. Low fiber intake---30-40 grams a day is ideal, yet the average person only gets around 18 grams per day
3. Lack of healthy gut bacteria. See Number 1 above.
4. Inflammatory foods: Sugar, grains, dairy, legumes, hydrogenated oils, polyunsaturated vegetable oils--basically anything processed and refined.
5. Chlorinated tap water
6. Continued ingestion of trace glutens from personal care products, medications, household cleaners or even labeled Gluten Free foods.
7. Excessive exercise
The quickest way to heal is to simply switch to soups made with bone broth as a base and simple to digest vegetables and meats. Basically, everything cooked and easy to digest for at least 2 weeks, 4 weeks for best results.
Since that amazing October of 2011 when I learned the motherlode of info about GAPS, healing diets and why and how leaky gut happens and ravages the body, we have had quite a few more opportunities to use this foolproof method to heal a sick body.
In 2013, we moved and found out our Select Comfort Sleep Number air mattress was FILLED with black mold, ironically as we were leaving the house we had been living in because of a serious MOLD problem. The ENTIRE summer of 2015 was been another round of GAPS in this house as we moved my daughter and her fiance out of their mold infested apartment that made them SO sick. My daughter was laid out with muscle spasms and food intolerances all summer, leaving her unable to work, let alone move. GAPS to the rescue!
They both were able to recover and finish up college and have a beautiful wedding! My son just this year did a week of GAPS because of the stress of his college studies and a few vacations where he inevitably got trace gluten eating out at restaurants. Last year I did a week of GAPS after I had no choice but to take an antibiotic for a week. The thing about healing diets, is that usually when you need it the most is when you are not only sick physically, but mentally, and so are incredibly resistant to giving up any foods or coffee in order to heal.
Like I had to tell myself and tell my adult kids: It's only a short term fix that will GIVE your life back to you! Usually once the healing has happened, you can add back in coffee or gluten free grains if your body tolerates them. But, honestly, that is another whole topic that I will cover in the future.
The BEST Probiotic--The Only One I Recommend
Before I end, I want to share the ONE product that has literally changed the life of my family and made us able to eat many foods again in the span of only a month. It is a probiotic with 50X more beneficial bacteria per dose---1/2 TRILLION per dose! It's so powerful it can take effect and make you FEEL BETTER within 3 days!!
I'll cover the special way I take this probiotic in another post, but this is it. And FREE shipping!
So I'll just say that after 5 years now, I do consider myself to be somewhat of an expert at healing the gut lining, identifying the nasty culprit causing the problems in the first place and then coming up with a maintenance plan that allows for LIVING LIFE! Because that's what it's all about. Getting well enough to Live, Love Laugh, Play. Right?
The basic Gut Healing recipe for GAPS:
Beef and Broccoli Soup
(2 quarts beef stock)
(2 cups bone broth)
1 quart water
1 Tbsp Ghee or Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Celtic Sea Salt
2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
6 large crowns of broccoli
2 pounds ground beef
1 large Butternut squash, peeled and chopped into cubes
Put all ingredients in a crockpot or large soup pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the vegetables are soft and the meat is cooked through.
This recipe is incredibly versatile! Use the broth and stock or not---you can literally just throw any meat, vegetables, butternut and fat into a crock pot or soup pot with simple salt and pepper seasoning and THIS is the magical gut healing formula you eat until your worst symptoms disappear.