We are eight months into our GAPS journey now. Eight months is a really long time, and yet, I can’t believe we’ve been doing this for eight months because it doesn’t seem like it could possibly be that long. It’s like that saying, “the days are long but the years are short.” The days certainly are painfully long, some are anyway, and we will be at a full year likely before we know it. I will say I did not expect we’d still be on the Intro GAPS diet for this long. Raleigh has proven over and again how much he has needed a slower approach to his healing. Remaining on the intro diet has been difficult in the sense that he is limited in what he can eat, and we spend a lot of time rotating foods to help him not get tired of the same things, while at the same time there is a simplicity and ease about it as I have so many recipes memorized and can crank food out much quicker than before. I do long for the day, or perhaps it’s more a hope, when he can eat a wider variety of foods. The natural pessimist that lives inside of me thinks he’ll never eat eggs, fermented foods or fermented cod liver oil; three things that, if he could tolerate them, could add so much to his diet and his overall health. I do hope and pray the healing of his gut will allow him to digest and absorb more foods, and that he will have a wide variety of things to eat on a more regular basis. Where we sit now, however, is a very limited diet, and we take very small steps forward in trying less challenging foods. I got overly zealous in the last couple of months and tried turkey and black olives, both which backfired, and since, have been extremely hesitant to try anything new. Currently, he is attempting apple again, in small amounts, and, after that, we will likely continue to build up a few more fruits or vegetables to his repertoire.
A couple of weeks ago I spoke with Raleigh’s GAPS practitioner for an update. She was surprised by my continued tenacity for this task and told me she has never had a client as diligent as I am. I’m a bit intense when I go “all in” on something I believe in, but it surprised me to hear that most people drop off this track before they even make it to the six-month mark. I’m certain I’ve said it in post’s before and likely I’ll say it again, but this is the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. Nothing about this has been easy, and if it weren’t for all the collagen I consume on a regular basis, I’m convinced I’d have a lot more wrinkles at this point. Not only is it physically challenging in ways I couldn’t have imagined, but it is emotionally and mentally challenging. But isn’t it typically this way? The most rewarding things in life are often the most challenging.
To update you on Raleigh: He has been off of benadryl, the compounded version that was dye-free and sugar-free and had to have tasted like death, for over a month now. I can’t express to you how exciting that is because we have been so dependent on benadryl for so many years now to finally have him free of it is an answer to prayer. However, we’ve had some challenging nights coming off of it, but I’m happy to say he is now officially off all pharmaceutical drugs! That is a huge blessing and been a long time coming for us. Our GAPS practitioner believes we may see some escalated healing since he is off of the benadryl because all drugs affect the mucosal barrier. This may allow for some healing to move a bit faster. Of course I watch him like a hawk and am quick to fly off in my mind when I notice anything good or bad in how his skin or body responds to things, so I am constantly reminding myself to CALM DOWN and breathe; I’m not great at either thing. Being that we live in a dry climate and we’re currently in the dead of winter, even a mild winter, we can’t tell how much of his itching is related to the eczema that still persists or how much itching is coming strictly from his dry skin. There is quite a lot of clear and clearer skin we are seeing, especially when he wakes first thing, but he is always itching and “muddying” the waters, so as the day presses on, his skin tone and look is ever changing.
The itch is real. The emotions are real. Raleigh has been dealing with some anxiety at night, and we’ve been attempting to make his days calmer regarding his skin care to help ease us into the nights. It seems to be helping some, but we’re still dealing with some night waking that is hard for everyone. If you’re praying for us please pray for this specifically.
For a while now, I have been spending some time researching histamine intolerance. I believe Raleigh has a histamine intolerance and a dirty DAO and brought this up to our GAPS practitioner when we last spoke. This strong possibility has led us down another new and challenging path. Many foods contain histamines, and I have done my best to remove all histamine foods, there were only a couple like avocado and saurkraut, both which made me cringe to remove considering they are both so good for your body. But the biggest change has been in how I make his food. I was cooking fairly large batches of hamburgers, meatballs and chicken, so I could easily warm up food and have food to go places. I quickly learned that leftover meat starts to develop histamines. The longer meat sits in the fridge the more histamine develops. So eating freshly cooked meat is the best option for a low-histamine diet. So, I went from making big batches of meats to making each meal fresh. I know what you’re thinking right now. You’re glad this isn’t your life, and you’re now wondering really just how much time do I spend in my kitchen. I know. I know. But it’s funny what can become normal and how quickly we can adjust to things, and this has become normal because it became necessary. And yes, I live in my kitchen. In fact, I’m staring at it right now wondering where the little woodland creatures are to come clean the mess up.
Since removing saurkraut and other histamine foods we have seen Raleigh’s eczema change. The largest mass of eczema has been his torso and lower back. The eczema on his front belly area was thick and like a mass of red, angry eczema. The color has dulled significantly, and the eczema is no longer a thick mass; it is broken up and different all together, in fact some of it looks more like dry, raw skin. I have also noticed that even though Raleigh is constantly itching various places on his body the amount of cuts he is sustaining are significantly less and less. His lower back, for instance, was riddled with cuts and thick-skinned eczema. As of last night and this morning, there are absolutely no cuts and the skin is dry and smooth. Through this journey, I’ve become a detective of sorts, and all of these clues lead me to believe part of the “itch” is a habit now, or second nature. I sort of think sometimes, in certain areas of his body, there really isn’t an itch, but the muscle-memory is sending his hand to his back to scratch.
One of the questions our GAPS practitioner asked me during our conversation was about Raleigh’s emotional health. I don’t think Sam and I are lying to ourselves when we answer that by saying we feel like he’s well adjusted, happy, and enjoying life like a 4-year old boy should. But we’d be doing him a huge disservice for the remainder of his life if we weren’t taking the time to walk him through the vast array of emotions he is dealing with on a daily basis. It would certainly be easier to shove it all under the rug and tell him that he’s fine and all this is fine and not to worry, but we don’t do that. We spend a lot of time talking about how hard this journey is for him, for our entire family, how we are different, but also how God has a purpose in the hard things, and God has a purpose for his life. God wants to make us stronger; God wants to use our story to help other people find healing, and we want Raleigh to know that all this pain he is in every single day is not for naught. We let Raleigh feel the heaviness of his circumstance. We validate the moments when he breaks down and says, “Adam and Eve shouldn’t have eaten that apple because I’m itchy!” or “I shouldn’t have got this skin. I want skin like you and daddy and mo.” Raleigh is feeling the heaviness of a broken world as a four-year-old kid. He is walking down a path most will never see at such a tender age, and I often ask the Lord, why? Why was this our path? Why is this our hardship? It would be easy to just stay there and be mad about all of it. But, really, at the end of the day, I don’t feel anger. Mostly, I feel exhaustion, but really, I feel gratitude because this trial has given us a purpose. This trial has given our entire family a purpose and a direction and that is a beautiful thing and something most people search for their entire lives. We would not have happened upon this had this not happened to us. God wants to use the difficult things to bring Glory to His name, to change our hearts towards His and to help other people; and that is what we’re trying to teach our children as we walk down this lonely and difficult path of healing. We’re not going to do it perfectly, in fact most days I feel like I’m failing, but God keeps giving me another day to keep persevering and, as Anne Shirley said, “Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it.” I like to believe that’s about right.