Saturday marked the end of my fifteenth month on GAPS. I thought this would be an excellent time to reflect back on my GAPS experience so far. Part 1 will detail how I found real foods, since finding real foods is really what led me to GAPS. (Originally finding real foods and finding GAPS was all one post, but it got so long that I split it into two parts.) In subsequent posts I will discuss the progress I’ve seen on GAPS and the lessons that I’ve learned along the way.
In the summer of 2009 I got a blood test to determine if I had any food sensitivities. My main motivation for getting the test was to try to discover the cause of my facial acne. I had struggled with acne since my teenage years. During college I started using ProActiv, a topical acne treatment system, which succeeded in keeping my acne at a fairy low level. It was still noticeable but it didn’t bother me too much. By 2009, however, I was 23, well past my teenage years, and starting to feel really frustrated that my skin had yet to clear up. I wondered whether unknown food sensitivities might be causing my breakouts.
When the blood test results came back they revealed that I was reacting to more than 20 foods. Really common foods like gluten and dairy as well as minor things like peppers and pineapple. The nutritionist who’d ordered the test put me on a strict two month-long elimination diet, the theory being that avoiding the offending foods for a period of time would give my body time to heal enough that the foods would no longer cause reactions. For two months I didn’t eat any of my reactive foods. It was a bit of a grim time, as having to avoid more than 20 foods altered my diet quite a bit from what Jesse and I were used to eating.
To cope with the food restrictions, I started looking for allergen-friendly recipes online. A search for dairy-free ice cream led me to the Nourishing Gourmet. From there I gradually discovered other real food blogs. Their ideas were completely foreign to me (raw milk and grass-fed butter?) but I was intrigued and continued to explore.
Meanwhile, I finished my elimination diet and slowly started adding foods back into my diet. Except for a couple of foods that I continued to avoid because of nebulous reactions, I didn’t notice any difference when adding foods back in. Yet the elimination diet had done nothing for my skin. In fact, my skin was progressively getting worse. As I’d begun to read about real foods I’d come to terms with the fact that the chemical-laden ProActiv that I was slathering on my face every day was probably doing a lot of damage to the rest of my body. Resignedly I ditched the ProActiv. It soon became obvious just how much the ProActiv had been suppressing my acne, for as the weeks went on my skin went from harboring a handful of breakouts to spotting several dozen disfiguring blemishes.
I was fast becoming desperate to fix my face. I was so embarrassed about the way I looked that I preferred to avoid seeing people whenever possible. I was also realizing that acne is by no means just a topical problem. On the contrary, the fact that I was struggling with my skin so much was a clear sign that my body was not healthy internally.
All the while I was continuing to read more about real foods. At the time our diet was what I suppose you would describe as a relatively healthy version of SAD: mostly home-cooked meals (because we didn’t have money to spend on eating out), with plenty of convenience items like mayonnaise, salad dressing and store-bought tortillas. We ate a lot of sugar. We did not meticulously adhere to the USDA low-fat guidelines but we tried to keep our fat intake low. This diet, however, had never really resonated with me. What I was reading about traditional foods just made so much sense. So many people are unhealthy today. Of course we should go back to eating the way our ancestors had eaten! I started experimenting with traditional foods, first buying some coconut oil and then some pastured chicken. By the early months of 2010 we were eating mostly real food.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on the rest of my journey to GAPS!
How did you find real food? I’d love to hear your story!
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