Friday, January 14, 2011

Spilling My Guts

Now I'm going to tell you all about something really, really interesting - the history of my gut and the current plan of attack on its evil residents. Aren't you excited!! Then let's get started!
(Or feel free to ignore me for the present.)
When I went to college (for one whole semester), I became severely lactose intolerant. So I stopped eating and drinking things with lactose. That would include soft cheeses, ice cream, and regular milk from the store. I learned that there were dairy products I could eat and ways to cheat. Aged cheeses like cheddar, colby, mozzarella, etc. don't have lactose; it breaks down during the aging process. There's "lactose free" milk at the store. This has the enzyme lactase added to the milk to break down the lactose. It's also ultra-pasteurized and tastes weird, but you get used to it. And there are little lactase pills you can take before eating ice cream. So it didn't turn out to be such a horrible thing as I expected.
Fast forward to about three years ago. Rohan was just born, and I started grinding our own grain for bread. I couldn't handle that bread. In fact, I started having trouble with any bread or cereal. Stomach cramps, diarrhea - it felt just like when I became lactose intolerant. This time, the culprit was gluten. Great. Do you know how many things have gluten? It wasn't just a matter of avoiding bread, cereal, crackers, pizza, muffins, doughnuts, bagels, pasta - you know, the things which obviously are made of flour. All kinds of other products sneak flour or straight gluten in. Things like soy sauce, most sauces for that matter, lunch meats, the list goes on and on. It seems like everything is breaded. Eating out meant eating a salad. But I made the necessary changes and went on with life. Cooking became more difficult. I didn't want to make my family eat gluten-free. That homemade bread from fresh-ground grain was good for them. Special gluten-free foods were either really expensive or nasty. So I kept cooking for them like regular. I made rice bread or rice crackers for myself occasionally, but it was too much to cook all their food and all my separate food. So I pretty much ate the food I could that I was already making for the rest of the family. I ate fruits, veggies, and meat. But I also ate a lot of rice, potatoes, and corn products. And I always had a cup of hot chocolate (with lactose-free, ultra-pasteurized milk of course.) I love hot chocolate. It's my ultimate comfort drink. But it started becoming more than that. It became a quick substitute for making myself an actual meal or preparing a healthy snack.
Oh yes, and add on top of that the fact that I'm hypoglycemic. I have to eat about every two hours, and I know that protein sustains me much better than junk food. And I was fairly good about not eating a lot of sugar, which, after an initial high, would send my blood sugar plummeting. Except for that hot chocolate. And occasional (with increasing frequency) handfuls of chocolate chips. Obviously, I had a chocolate addiction that was not helping matters.
A couple years ago, a friend introduced me to raw milk. This was a step in the right direction. No more ultra-pasteurized, yucky-tasting "milk." I truly felt that I was nourishing my body, and it tasted SO good. Because of the naturally occurring good bacteria in the raw milk, which broke down the lactose, my stomach was as happy as my mouth.
So now we're up to about a year ago. I started having stomach problems again, cramping and diarrhea. What now?! I was getting worried that either there wouldn't be anything left for me to eat in the world or I would develop something serious, like Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Crohn's Disease or something like that. I also started having weird food-related crying episodes. I would eat a whole, good-sized meal and then start crying. I just felt that I could never get enough to eat. I felt like I had to eat constantly in order to not fall apart. I went to church one Sunday morning, and after taking the kids to their Sunday School classes, suddenly started crying in the hallway. A friend told me to go to the store and get something to eat. And all I ever really wanted to do was go to bed. I remember one day being at the top of the steps. Rohan was at the bottom crying about something, and the thought of walking down the steps to comfort him and walking back up was so overwhelming that I ended up crying right along with him. This was getting ridiculous!
This past summer, I discovered Nourishing Traditions. I read the whole thing and was convinced. So much of what we ate was not even food, was not helping my body, but was actually damaging it. The old ways of preparing foods that enhanced or preserved the nutritional value of food has been replaced with packaged products with no nutritional value that are being passed off as "food" for the sake of convenience and monetary gain. I highly, highly recommend this book to everybody. Everybody, whether you have health issues or not, should read this book. The introduction is the main part to read. Then in the margins of the cookbook part are lots of quotes supporting the eating of real, traditional foods. Here, also, is an accompanying website where much can be learned. While I'm at it, check out these blogs related to real, whole, slow foods:
Keeper of the Home
Kelly the Kitchen Kop
Naturally Knocked Up
Passionate Homemaking
Sustainable Eats

Then I considered reading about the GAPS diet. This involves eliminating starchy foods, including all grains and potatoes, as well as sugar and most dairy. It also involves drinking lots of bone broth, taking probiotics and cod liver oil, and eating fermented foods. I had heard of it some time before, but it sounded too crazy for me. Now, with my innards acting up again, I thought I should at least check it out. I ordered the book, and it sounded like exactly what I needed, the ticket for turning around this downward spiral of my health.
The premise of the diet is that "all diseases begin in the gut." All diseases - physical as well as mental, whether you have stomach problems or not. Healing the gut targets the primary disease instead of going after all the symptoms. I can't explain all this as well as Dr. Campbell-Mcbride. "Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride holds a degree in Medicine and Postgraduate degrees in both Neurology and Human Nutrition. In her clinic in Cambridge she specializes in nutrition for children and adults with behavioral and learning disabilities, and adults with digestive and immune system disorders." (Taken from her website.) So obviously, she's going to explain all this better than me. But I learned the reason I felt so hungry all the time and why I keep having stomach issues - a damaged gut can't process food and make it usable to the body and it also allows harmful things to cross into the blood stream more easily. We have, in our intestines, bacteria that is supposed to be there. Good bacteria and bad bacteria. We're only supposed to have a little of the bad and a lot of the good. The problem is that our SAD (Standard American Diet) of processed foods and refined flour and lots of sugar is exactly what the bad bacteria thrive on. On top of that, the use of antibiotics kills not only the harmful bad bacteria but the helpful good bacteria also. So we're left with a terrible imbalance in our systems. This can manifest itself in many different kinds of health problems. Think of it like this: if we're sick, we take medicine by mouth. It goes into our digestive system and then into our blood. It makes its way to our various organs, including the brain. Everything you put in your mouth does the same thing. That's how food or junk really effects your whole body, including your mental status. Dr. Campbell-McBride treats those with gut issues and mental issues - especially autism - successfully.
So I read the book, I read the GAPS Guide book, I started reading success stories in the yahoo support group. And I started.

(Fish head and bones for broth. Can you believe our local market gave me this for free?! Ha! I'm sure they were wondering what in the world I was going to do with this.)

I started with the intro diet, a detox diet. It was hard. I knew from reading that it would be hard, and wow - it really was. You start out drinking broth and gradually build up to the full GAPS diet. The broth helps with detox, but you've also cut out all the junk, so it hits hard. I was sick for a couple weeks on it. And I was sick of broth. With a family to take care of and cook for, a house to clean, and homeschool to teach, being sick for two weeks is rough on everybody. I needed my mommy to take care of me! But she lives in another state, and I was the one that needed to do the caring of everyone else. So I decided to go on into the full GAPS diet.

(In my fridge: beef bone broth, ghee (from a sweet friend), kefir, and kale. P.S. All that fat is a good thing.)

Then things started getting better. After being on full GAPS, I started feeling better. I had more energy - and this was significant. My stomach was feeling better. I didn't feel the need to eat all the time.

(Fermenting on top of my cupboards: sauerkraut and kefir.)

Still, it's been hard. I still need to cook separate foods for me and my family. Not that all my foods are separate, but for instance, I make broth and sauerkraut for myself and bread and potatoes for my family. It does increase the work load. I can't eat out at all, which means going anywhere requires planning and preparation. For Thanksgiving and Christmas, we traveled to Kentucky. I had to prepare all my food beforehand and take it up in a cooler. Fun. I can't eat out anywhere. Sure, I could probably have a plain lettuce salad, but what's the point? The hardest part is not eating my little frozen meal while everybody else feasts or missing out on all the yummy Christmas treats. It's not the preparing or not getting to go out to eat. The hardest part is telling people I can't eat their food. I hate that this diet has the potential to hurt other people's feelings. And nobody really understands no matter how I explain. They just keep offering me food, and I have to keep politely turning it down. I feel terrible about it, because I know some of these people are really trying to come up with food they can share with me. But I've stuck it out for four months so far. And here's why - I feel good. I mean, I really feel good! I get tempted to quit sometimes, but then I think, "What will I be going back to?" I'll still be lactose- and gluten-intolerant, which means I'll still have to turn down quite a bit of people's food. I'll go back to crying at random times because of food. I'll go back to being tired and generally down-in-the-dumps. And oh yeah! How about those stomach cramps that made me feel like I was literally going to die? Those were always fun.
So I'm going to stick with it. According to the book, two years is a good estimate for complete healing of the gut. Then, I should be able to eat a more regular diet. Not a SAD diet, mind you. I'm not planning to damage my gut again, but more of a Nourishing Traditions diet. But that means bread! And deserts even! And maybe the occasional junk for the sake of fellowship.
I pray to God that He will heal me through this diet. I know that all my efforts apart from Him will be worthless. He is the only true Healer. So if my gut is healed, I will thank Dr. Campbell-McBride, but I will give God all the glory.


  1. I have the Nourishing Traditions Cookbook and I love it. I am going to have to read up on the GAPS diet - I may benefit from it. Have you looked into taking a probiotic yogurt type pill? We take them especially when someone gets the stomach flu. They can really help the gut.

  2. I'm taking a probiotic. I'm slowly building up the dosage. I can't take a whole pill yet.

  3. Sarah, I'm so glad you finally found something that is really making a difference! How do you feel mentally? Do you notice much of a change in the way stuff affects you? I don't have gut problems like you did, but I do notice the more typical American type foods I eat the worse I feel emotionally, and the harder it becomes to stay calm in the face of every day annoyances...

  4. Yes, mentally I do feel better. I wanted to be in bed all the time, that was mostly because I felt so physically drained but I was pretty down emotionally too. I felt constantly irritated. I'm feeling more positive now about life in general and specifically about my kids. I'm finding it somewhat difficult to always have enough of the foods I can eat prepared, so I do get hungry, and then I snap so easily. But if I stay on top of the cooking, which is becoming easier, I can also stay on top of my emotions. I'm not cranky all the time.
    P.S. You NEED meat and the naturally accompanying fat - even if you can only mix a little into your vegetarian meal.

  5. It is nice to see how many of the women on the blogs I follow are making dietary changes for the better. We still eat too much garbage here, but with six kids, and most of them picky--not to mention a husband who sabotages my efforts on occasion--it is slow going. But at least we have raw milk, butter and cream, good yogurt, grass-fed beef, organic pork and eggs from pastured chickens. I need to work on getting back into bread baking, (I can't afford a grinder, though I'd love one!), but we go through a loaf in one sitting, and it is hard to keep up with!

    I recently had a real gut episode that got me worried, as my sister has ulcerative colitis. It took nearly 3 weeks to pass.

    I love Nourishing Traditions, although she has a pork bias based on only one study!

  6. Nadja, I feel like I'm in a similar situation with the food thing. NT takes a lot of work, and my hubby likes to bring home chips, hot dogs, cereal, frozen pizzas, etc. He's improving though, I think. One step at a time.
    On her website,, Sally Fallon says the reason pork was left out of the cookbook was for Mary Enig's sake, who is Jewish, and she has quite a bit about eating pork on there. Dr. Mercola, though, is dead set against pork. He has several articles why it's bad. I'm torn. I think God told the Jews not to eat pork for a reason, but the Bible also gives us freedom to eat all things with thanks. We just choose to eat it sparingly for now.

  7. It must be a husband thing. I'm at home making cheese and homemade yogurt and here he comes with Little Debbie Snack Cakes. LOL

  8. I love this post! I do have a question. My two year old son is lactose intolerant and I was wondering do you think if I made it the kefir would be something he would drink? I have heard a lot of really good things about it and would be willing to put in the effort to get the ingredients if my picky little guy would drink it.

  9. Being lactose-intolerant myself, I can drink kefir and eat yogurt. The good bacteria in yogurt and kefir breaks down the lactose. There are two ways to make kefir: with the grains and with the powdered starter. The powder is good if that's all you can find, but the grains are even better for you, plus you don't have to keep buying the powder. Before i knew anybody with kefir grains to share, I ordered some off ebay. They worked just fine. Kefir has a strong flavor all by itself. We always make smoothies out of ours with plenty of honey and fruit. Have you tried raw milk for him? This website will help you find it in your area:

  10. Hi Sarah, I love Nancy Fallons book Nourishing Traditions. We are fortunate to have our own raw dairy, creme fraiche, yogurt, raw creme all aids in beneficial flora. Eating most food raw and of course the FERMENTED foods are the best. Did you know there are different types of cows to get milk from,, some can cause problems do google it.. supposed to get milk from one group of cows only. I believe if anything lives on the shelf of a supermarket for longer than two weeks it's not of any good for our health. I never buy frozen, processed or junk food. Another great book I read was by Daniel Reid, Chinese health and healing and they mention how it's very bad to mix protein with starch. There is also the nightshade group of food that is supposedly upsetting to the stomach, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and another I forget. Never to drink with meals, or to drink anything cold. I used to feel drained like you did, I began taking liquid mineral drops which have been amazing, including vitamin D drops... many many people are deficient in vit. d and don't know it, even I that live in the tropics because I'm always trying to protect myself from being in the sun. Since then I've had so much energy. I highly recommend taking phosphatidylcholine.
    I will order the book you recommend. Good luck with your diet!
    Oh another thing, my husband's grandmother is in her 90's and still walks the street in her sneakers full of energy, she goes to the markets to buy her fresh food every day. She always said it was from eating mostly raw cheeses,cream, red wine, and lots of fat and rare meat! She looks amazing and has never had any ailments.

  11. Someone in your comments speaks of Pork,, when I was in India all the pigs are left by toilets to eat the human feces, they would always be ready and waiting until I was done in the open restroom. Here in DR they also live in filthy conditions,, they live in their own feces, infested with worms,, ..but then again I do love the smell of bacon :)

  12. Wow - thank you for that post. I know that must have taken a lot of time and thought to put together and I just wanted you to know the effort is appreciated! I have a question - were you able to pin down the foods that made you cry? Here I've been thinking that it's been dehydration. I find myself crying about some silly thing I've been mulling over and I think, "drink, Val, drink!" It never even occurred to me that it might be something I'm eating.

  13. earthboys, thanks for the links. I love creme fraiche. We only get two gallons of raw milk a week, and I hate taking the cream off the kids' milk. I hope we can get more milk soon. Our milk comes from a milking shorthorn and a jersey - wonderful stuff!

    Valerie - It wasn't that a specific food was causing me to cry. It was more due to the hypoglycemia and inability to absorb nutrients. I would eat a meal and feel like I hadn't really eaten. I think the starchy foods, like rice and potatoes, were causing the most problems because they are the hardest to digest. Those are the foods that you have to stay away from on GAPS.

  14. Where do you get raw milk in the Loudon county

  15. anonymous, you can email me at slj4981 at g mail dot com

  16. Sarah I LOVED this post (though I'm not sure about the fish head photo!)...partly because I love the Nourishing Traditions book too!

    I think people are just so confused by all the conflicting nutritional advice these days. One lady even told me that she doesn't eat nuts because they make people fat!

    I'm glad that your dietary adjustments are leaving you feeling better. I hope all continues to go well for you!

  17. And ye shall serve the LORD your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.

    I believe this is God's promise to you and that he is a keeper of his promises. I know it is not his plan for you to have to struggle with this. Blessings and peace to you, and God's speedy recovery down to the very midst of you!