It has been a hot minute since I’ve updated the blog. There have been a lot of reasons for my delay. Right before we reached the 2 year mark on the GAPS diet (June 13th, 2019), Raleigh was exposed to a big toxin/allergen. We took him to horse races where he was exposed for 4 hours outside in some pretty intense wind. During those four hours he was breathing in horse dander, feces, dust, dirt, and whatever else may have been blowing. Previously, we had seen him react with hives after touching a horse. I had some hesitation about going, but eventually decided we would take him since there would be no horse petting involved. This exposure sent his body into an almost immediate flare. He even began to itch while we were still there. Leaving the horse races and watching his eczema turn into an angry, bright red mass all over his body was only the beginning. The intense itch caused him to scratch and cut up his skin. At one point he looked like Edward Scissor hands had gotten ahold of him. On a good day, Raleigh is the work of two children, but on a hard day he is easily the work of three. That exposure increased his needs 10-fold, and we began down a very dark path of emotions with the aim of helping him detox and with vain attempts at keeping him from making his skin even worse from the itching. A few days later, we hit the 2 year mark. What we felt like would be a huge milestone and big celebration was met with a lot of tears and mourning. We were in a valley of defeat, confusion and anger.
We worked hard day after day to help his body detox through baths, dry brushing (which wasn’t utilized much because of the many cuts), jumping, getting outside in the sun, and juicing. Eventually the flare came down, but his body was riddled with cuts. We continued to work hard at wet wrapping him multiple times during the day to help relieve the itch and give him a break. This was made even more difficult with the fact that summer was upon us and the heat makes everything worse.
A couple of weeks passed and we went away for a few days to a cabin. Raleigh’s cuts were still everywhere and every day we found new ones. The tricky thing with cuts is when they try to heal they itch, and when you’re six you just can’t help yourself most of the time. It was a literal up-hill battle. We got to the cabin and pretty quickly realized there was some toxin offender inside. My best bet is mold, but I can’t know for sure. Most of us felt it, some stronger than others, and on the morning of the third day Raleigh woke up saying he thought he caught a cold because he felt scratchy things in his throat. This was the second offender. Whatever we were exposed to in the cabin sent Raleigh into a second, very intense, flare which, of course, increased his itching.
It’s difficult writing this because it feels so raw. We’ve been utterly exhausted and worn down to the bone these last few months. There have been times I’ve wanted to throw in the towel and quit. But you can’t quit when your child has been wrecked by something and needs you.
The valleys of this journey have felt like the Fire Swamp. Things jumping out at you, R.O.U.S.’s trying to eat you, quicksand ready to swallow you up with one mis-step, the inability to see a way out. We’ve had a lot of valleys like this.
All in all, these last couple of months have taught us some very valuable things. Since giving up is not an option for me, it’s just not — I’m not a quitter, I’m a fighter, I have gumption — we just had to forge on. The Fire Swamp didn’t consume us but there were a great many tears shed there.
We decided in mid-July to revisit the Introduction diet. When we began GAPS back in 2017, we started with the Intro diet. If you’re not familiar, it has 6 stages. You work your way through the six stages, adding foods back in as tolerated and eventually make your way to Full GAPS once substantial healing has happened. I felt like after these two big offenses had taken place we might learn some valuable insight and help his body continue to heal and detox with a little more efficacy by returning for a brief stent. We did not want to spend more than a month, tops, which would have meant 3-5 days per stage. The main reason behind moving quickly was because we knew pulling Raleigh off of Full GAPS and back to a stricter, more restrictive diet, would cause some emotional distress. I place a lot of value on Raleigh’s emotional state in this journey. Your emotions and mental health play a large role in your body’s ability to heal. So we went back to Intro with the intent of moving him quickly; as long as we didn’t see any red flags pop up along the way that would signify needing to linger longer.
Leading a child through a healing diet like GAPS is not easy. It’s also not hard. It is hard at times, but mostly it’s tricky. You have to be a detective for symptoms. You have to decipher when to move forward or back or dodge something, which can be confusing at best. I do not claim to have figured this out by any means. But I will say I rely on my gut instincts very heavily. I also rely on the Holy Spirit to lead me. That may seem funny to some, but I believe God led us to the GAPS diet, and I felt a peace before we began that this was the path the Lord had for us and this is what He was going to use to heal Raleigh. So far, I have not been misled.
After a couple of weeks of mental prep, a few days of actual prep and bringing Raleigh into the fold so he could mourn what he would lose (mostly fresh fruit for a bit), we began Stage 1 of the Intro diet. We ended up spending 5 days on Stage 1, and Raleigh did surprisingly well. We didn’t know what to expect. The first time around on Intro Raleigh experienced a severe die-off of Candida and had flu-like symptoms, was lethargic, and miserable. I didn’t think he would experience anything quite that intense, but we still didn’t know what to expect. Thankfully, he experienced no such reaction which made us feel like he did not still have any large, overpowering imbalance in his gut.
A week before beginning Intro we started him on an HCL supplement to help his low stomach acid and about 3-4 days into Intro he began a new probiotic. These two supplements increased his die-off reactions slightly. He was experiencing somewhat of a “slow-burn” with his eczema. We have seen it pop up on the tops of his hands and feet (places it isn’t usually present) and flare a bit over his torso and lower back. We would ride the waves for a few days and then he would come down from the flare.
We ended up spending 15 days total on the Intro diet and have since moved him slowly back onto Full GAPS. We have a renewed focus as we move forward on this, hopefully, last stretch of healing. We feel we made some big mistakes early on that have slowed his healing and are working to correct those. One, we gave up on a probiotic too soon early on in our first year and were only giving him fermented foods. We are now currently working him to a therapeutic dose of his probiotic and plan to maintain that for a minimum of 6 months. We also believe he has very low stomach acid and needs a supplement at this time to help his body properly digest food. So we are working on properly digesting food and finding the correct dose of the HCL to aid his body in this. We are also having him take sips of meat stock between bites, chew longer, and working more cabbage into his diet which can naturally stimulate stomach acid production. We have removed all high-histamine foods and are keeping him on a no-to-low histamine diet so that we can distinguish between a die-off and a histamine reaction.
We are almost 2 years and 2 months into this healing journey. The cuts are nearly gone. Some do persist, but we are certainly over the worst of it. Thankfully. We’re still exhausted, but we feel a renewed sense of hope and direction as we move ahead.
One of the greatest reasons I have wanted to share Raleigh’s journey with the world is to help other people out there find healing for their children or themselves. Chasing health is expensive, confusing at times, lonely and exhausting. There are valleys and there are mountain tops. There are times when you get hit with something hard and it wrecks you. But there is also Hope. It’s about persevering. It’s about finding the pieces of the puzzle so that you can find your way out of the dark. It’s about giving life and a future to a sick child. It’s about fighting and not quitting. We haven’t done this journey perfectly. I won’t ever pretend that we have. I want to be honest about our journey, our successes, and our mistakes, if only to help just one more person find their missing pieces to healing.
So we forge forward, and we will until we see complete healing. This journey is ours. It’s full of pain and hope and redemption. I think I read this one by Tolstoy once. 😉
Thanks for reading and for following Raleigh’s journey.