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We’re in the thick of the Introducing: Real Food series. I’ve been doing lots of posts on things like how to make crispy nuts, or how to properly soak beans, and even whether grains are good or bad. This is all practical and awesome. But it’s not all there is.
A lot of you are saying, “Okay, I get you, but, I need some help. My situation’s kind of unique and I don’t know where to start.” I promised to feature three “real food makeover” stories as a part of this series, where I’ll show you a reader’s actual story, and give some advice specific to that reader’s situation — and follow up with general advice for those of you who may be in similar situations.
Today I’m featuring the first of these real food makeovers! Are you ready?
“I am 31, I have never had any health issues or any food allergy symptoms (that I knew of) in my life up until about 4 months ago. I’ve always eaten whatever I wanted and never really thought much about it, I have always been health conscious while also giving in to whatever cravings I may have wanted at the time…so this is overwhelming for me to say the least.
“I have an almost 3 year old and an almost 7 month old. I have noticed looking back that I have been off and on “nauseous” and have mentioned that quite a bit but nothing that would have made me question it. I also was having a lot of serious skin issues like hidradenitis suppurativa, which has been pretty brutal but could be worse, for about 10 years and running. So what lead me to get tested for food allergies was my sister.
“My 25 year old sister had been sick for at least a year whenever she ate, went to tons of doctors. Long story short, she worked in a bakery in NYC, apparently had an underlying gluten allergy and it blew up on her and basically she became allergic to everything she ate. I decided on a whim to just go get tested, just in case….
“I found out 3 weeks after I got here, to Romania, that I was seriously, severely, allergic to gluten/wheat, eggs, dairy, tomatoes and garlic. Since the day I found out I haven’t eaten a single one of those things…all the rashes and hidradenitis suppurativa were gone almost within a few days.
“I’m trying to do GAPS diet with no eggs or yogurt, in Romania. I can barely find coconut supplies and when I do from the organic store it’s 3 times the price and in small supply. “I have lost 30 lbs since I started cutting stuff out in June. My mom just sent me some probiotics to take and I really don’t know much about them, I’ve never taken them and it freaks me out to take stuff when I’m breastfeeding but maybe it’s something that would be beneficial to both of us? I understand I need it I just don’t know how it would affect her…
“My toddler, I don’t know if he has allergiesor how I’m supposed to know and or how I’m supposed to feed him to make sure he doesn’t.”
Jayme’s situation isn’t that uncommon, actually — believing that you are healthy and have no issues or allergies, except for a few seemingly unrelated things (like her skin issue). But then suddenly you discover that these things are related to your health, and bam, everything changes overnight. I would encourage anyone who is suffering from any unexplained symptoms — even if they are minor annoyances and not serious — to get checked for food allergies, in case this is an issue that you have.
What compounds this problem, of course, is trying to heal while in Romania, where supplies and foods are limited. Obviously most of my readers aren’t in Romania! But some of you live in areas where access to real food is minimal, and it’s a struggle to find good foods.
First, I would refer Jayme to a post I wrote on discovering food allergies in babies. She needs to check and see if her toddler is displaying any of the symptoms on this list. If he doesn’t have any food allergies, getting him onto the GAPS diet for “solidarity” is a good idea, though he may not need to be as strict (no need to do intro; full GAPS is fine). You may discover that he has some minor sensitivities as you go through this process.
Second, I would encourage Jayme to take the probiotics. They are not a drug, they are natural and needed and they won’t hurt a nursing baby. In fact, they’ll be good for both of you! In my opinion, moms who have disturbed gut flora should continue to breastfeed exclusively while they go on GAPS, and not introduce solids until they are at least a few months in and have done some healing. This will enable the baby to benefit from the new probiotics and changes in gut flora, while still getting the protective IgA from breastmilk. When babies do start solids, they should avoid grains for a couple of years, especially if there’s a history of gut damage.
When you don’t have easy access to real food, things can be tough. The best solution is to look for online sources and order. Places like Tropical Traditions and Amazon have a lot of options, and Amazon should ship to just about anywhere.
In many areas, it’s also worth it often times to simply take a walk and see if you can find any small farms. In more rural areas (for me, even within 10 minutes of the city), there are often a lot of families that have backyard chickens or who raise a couple animals to make a little money on the side. Look for hand-written signs and knock on a few doors and see what you can find! It’s a little awkward, but it could lead to some good options. There are also a lot of butchers around in many areas. I didn’t know it until recently, but there are at least three fairly close to me. Go visit the butchers directly and ask if they sell things like feet, organ meat, and bones. These things should be cheap, because most of the time customers don’t want them. These sorts of places will be a much better bet than a standard organic or health food store, and cheaper too.
Doing GAPS when you are allergic to so many things is hard, but definitely possible. There is a Yahoo group that is all about GAPS and I would encourage anyone doing GAPS to join. You can post questions and a lot of knowledgeable people will jump in.
Focus on soups when on GAPS, especially if you are allergic to eggs. You won’t be able to bake much without them (not with coconut flour). Baking with nut flours is possible, though. Other sources of probiotic foods (that are not dairy-based) include kombucha, pickles, sauerkraut, and water kefir. You can buy starters for these from Cultures for Health and make them yourself. Probiotic foods are very key to healing on GAPS.
If you go through the intro stages, which are primarily these foods anyway, you may find you are able to tolerate eggs, and after awhile, dairy. Always try to introduce ghee first when you are trialing dairy, since it doesn’t have any milk proteins in it. If that goes okay, then it will be possible to try yogurt and milk kefir. Some people who were originally very dairy-sensitive ultimately found that after intro, these dairy-based probiotic foods made a huge difference. These are the steps I would take in this case:
- Find your sources — Order foods from online stores and/or look around locally for hole-in-the-wall or family-farm places from which to buy bones and other basic supplies, and stock up on the things that you need.
- Make soups — Make large pots of soup and keep some in the fridge and some in the freezer so that you always have something on hand when you’re hungry.
- Get started with probiotics — Take the supplements, and look into making things like kombucha or water kefir or sauerkraut for additional probiotics. These should be consumed with every meal (this is true even if you are not on GAPS)
- Eliminate grains for the whole family — Babies and toddlers don’t need them anyway. (I’m writing a book about how to feed babies and toddlers, which should come out in March.)
- After intro, try new foods — You may be able to tolerate eggs at this point, which opens up a lot of new options with GAPS.
Hopefully, this will work for you! And I hope this helps someone!