A Status Update: Improvements in acid reflux, blood pressure, anxiety, weight, and sugar cravings

A status update: Improvements in acid reflux, blood pressure, anxiety, weight, and sugar cravings.

We’ve been following the GAPS diet, with a handful of off-plan meals, for about 48 days. I started us by doing the Intro diet, but after a couple of weeks decided it was too much for us, even though we were transitioning from a mostly paleo diet. I wanted to get a better, more consistent base down before I figured out how to incorporate probiotic foods, and more broth and soups. Eliminating even paleo and gluten-free starches was more of an uphill battle than I had expected.

The first change, and the most impressive because it was totally unexpected, is that my youngest daughter stopped having acid reflux within the first week or two. She has always had a powerful gag reflex, and would talk about “throwing up a little in her throat” from time to time, but it never seemed like an issue to investigate, and it didn’t bother her, so I didn’t pursue it. In fact, I didn’t really realize that she was having acid reflux until she told me that it stopped (reluctantly: “Mom, I’ll probably regret telling you this, but since we started this diet I haven’t been throwing up a little in my throat. There, I told you.” Knowing the potential for long term damage to the esophagus, I was a little shocked when I figured it out, and relieved.

A second change, this time much more expected, was that my husband was able to stop taking his blood pressure medication. In truth, he only had borderline-high blood pressure, but he was took a pill every morning, as instructed by his doctor, regardless. Within the first couple weeks, he was suffering the effects of low blood pressure, and had to step down to first taking a half a pill, then dropping them altogether. Although since his work is incredibly stressful right now, he occasionally takes one when he feels he needs to. He eats what we eat when he is at home, although at work he makes his own choices. Overall he tries to eat less wheat, less grain, less sugar, and when he does choose to eat things like pizza, as he did last week, he usually finds it reinforces his better eating decisions. He tends to make changes more slowly but more permanently than I do. He also prefers to make his own decisions, but responds well to information and education (when given very sparingly and with a light hand).

I found that I lost between five and ten pounds (I don’t keep close tabs, since checking my weight is disruptive for my well-being), and reduced my taste for sugar. If it’s available I will still eat it obsessively and without stopping: it’s still a food with no brakes for me. But when I do, I’m much more aware of how terribly sweet it is. I taste sugar more in processed foods as well, or at least the few I’ve eaten. Yesterday we had cookies after a music recital, and since my youngest made meringues to take with us, we had those in the house as well (and we had fewer to take than we would have, since I kept having ‘just this one’.) It was a quiet relief to sit down to chicken and Cesar salad for dinner last night, and not be eating sugar. The kids also appreciated having a real meal after all the sugar.

Unfortunately for my oldest, the cookies followed on the heels of the dinner we had at our favorite Mexican restaurant the night before. We avoided the beans and rice that are usually served on the side and we didn’t get horchata (a highly-sweetened rice drink), but we did eat freely from the basket of chips. We also had tortilla-based meals—my oldest had nachos supreme. By that night, her anxiety and overwhelm had returned.

She was the reason we were following GAPS: always a bit quirky and definitely ADD/ADHD, she began having increasing difficulty with anxiety and being easily overwhelmed within the last year. It became crippling, to the point where she could not make progress in her schoolwork because she simply crumpled under the stress of trying to learn something new. We have learned that she tends to be sensitive to diet, and realized that we had slid quite far from paleo: a change was required.

Within a few weeks of starting the GAPS diet her anxiety decreased, and for the last two or three weeks, she has been able to progress normally through her schoolwork. She remains highly sensitive to deviations in her diet, though, and eating off-plan shows up in her mood. Our Mexican dinner was a good trial, even if the results were difficult for her, because it illustrated that even just eating corn is enough to throw her out of whack.

Previously, I had treated (processed) corn as a relatively safe food, because it is gluten-free and I had never seen a good argument about its effects. One book, after spending pages and pages discussing the harmful effects of wheat and gluten, said corn probably had similar effects and should be avoided. I clearly need to do more research to figure this out. It could be that just the high carbohydrate content is stimulating the more opportunistic gut bacteria, or it could be something specific within the corn. I don’t know right now.

Overall, though, the GAPS diet has had a positive impact on all of our health, and for my oldest, has been life-changing. We’re still incorporating all aspects of it, but this is obviously the direction that we need to be going.