Healing with the GAPS diet: Melanie’s story

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I am delighted to share this post with you from my friend and colleague, Melanie Christner, NTP CGP. Melanie is an incredible woman and strong advocate of the GAPS protocol, which she used to heal her family in some profound ways. To me, Melanie is the ultimate testament to “nothing is impossible”. She made enormous changes to her family’s diet and health while living on the road in an Airstream with four children (yes you read that correctly). Clearly the words “I can’t” aren’t in her vocabulary. Today Melanie shares with us a little bit about her journey and the incredible impact the GAPS protocol has had on her life. 

I was nursing my 4th child when I first heard Dr. Natasha speak in 2007. Growing and nursing four babies had taken its toll on my body, and with an ill-timed infection and another round of antibiotics, I sunk into several months of misery as I struggled to get right side up again.

By taking “one more” antibiotic, and without any probiotic help, I had unwittingly wiped out too many of my protectors (beneficial bacteria) and opportunistic microbes dominated. What did that look like? I lived with almost 5 months of excruciatingly painful nursing, due to thrush. Like suck-in-my-breath-and-bite-back-tears kind of pain every time I started nursing…for almost five months. (Call me crazy for sticking with it!)

My skin acted out with acne and rashes. Food became an enemy…I didn’t know WHAT to eat anymore, because there were so many foods that caused reactions. I was tired and didn’t feel well, and yet I had four beautiful little kids depending on me to love them and meet their needs. I knew there had to be answers for me, so I started asking questions.

Conventional medicine and topical treatments proved unhelpful for these chronic type conditions, so I turned to education in natural medicine and nutrition. I became interested in the Weston Price Foundation and their focus on traditional foods and indigenous healthy people groups.

Lightbulb moments

So when I heard there was a WAPF conference in my state, I persuaded a health conscious friend to take the weekend to attend with me, my nursing babe in tow. It turned out to be a pivotal weekend in my life. A “follow the dots” weekend if you will, with many more “dots” to follow in the 7 years since.

The conference was fascinating overall. For me, Dr. Natasha was the most intriguing speaker at the conference. She spoke on the power of food to heal and nourish, the connection of the digestion tract to the health of the rest of the body, and the body’s innate wisdom to heal…in ways that were profound and light-bulb-moment to me. It changed how I understood the connection between food and our bodies.

She spoke of what she had coined the “GAPS Protocol”, or the Gut And Psychology Syndrome, a healing protocol originally designed to heal her autistic son. Accomplishing that, she went on to find GAPS success with many of her other patients, because the protocol gave the body the nutrients it needed, the supplemental help to jumpstart the process, and the detoxification assistance that healing requires.

 

It made sense to me, that given the proper tools, the body has an innate ability to heal itself…and is in fact always striving to that end.

In the next several years, my husband and I made many changes in our lives. Not much was left unexamined…food, relationships, jobs/money, spirituality, parenting… One of our biggest changes was to sell our home at the time, as well as our business partnership, and what possessions wouldn’t fit in a small storage unit. We then set off on a year adventure with our kids. We lived in an Airstream travel trailer and explored the western half of the US, working on farms and exploring national parks.

Through the influence of the Weston Price Foundation, we had gradually shifted to nourishing traditional ways of food which helped our family’s health. However there were still health issues that weren’t addressed and I kept the GAPS Protocol in my mind as a healing diet to try when the time was right. Initially, I assumed that it would be too difficult to do GAPS on the road…cooking for GAPS in an RV kitchen?!

In a moment of realizing that life is what you make of it, we decided to stop talking about GAPS and simply start. At the time, we had the Redwood Forest as our backyard, we were close to an abundant supply of grass-fed meats and local vegetables (thank you California), we had a slow cooker and a stock pot…what better time could there be?

So I started by cataloging our collective family symptoms:

  • cavities, root canals, & dental amalgams
  • headaches & migraines (including throw-up migraines for our sons)
  • eczema
  • Candida infection
  • aches & pains
  • poor childhood growth & muscle tone
  • rashes, food intolerances
  • adrenal fatigue
  • painful menstrual cycles
  • irregular hormones
  • adult acne
  • picky eating
  • poor immune status

And then we commenced.

GAPS Intro

{Margaret’s note: The GAPS Intro is the first phase of the GAPS diet. It is the most intensive and healing part of the protocol.}

GAPS Intro was not without some definite mistakes…I did this for my family, largely on my own, without the training as a Nutritional Therapist and a GAPS Practitioner that I now have. I would have loved to have had an active support group and personal attention to help me through and give me some ideas for the days we really struggled.

Days 1 – 5 were really rough, with meltdowns, lethargy, vomiting and kids not eating. Again, it would have been easier with some GAPS professional help. But we stuck it out and had breakthroughs on Day 6. From that point on things improved dramatically, the kids started eating vegetables, meat, broth and ferments voraciously, and we came to feel so NOURISHED.

I didn’t continue to take notes after day 24, but over the next few months:

  • root canal pain went away
  • headaches & migraines disappeared
  • eczema was gone
  • Candida balanced
  • aches & pains disappeared
  • all of our children filled out with good muscle and skin tone
  • skin rashes and acne cleared up
  • sex drive increased (bonus!)
  • menstrual cycles got less painful every month
  • picky eaters ate foods they wouldn’t before
  • adrenal fatigue abated
  • immune systems became strong

I would call that success.

What are a few things I would have done differently?

I would have:

  • managed adjusting blood sugar patterns better (i.e. sips of fresh carrot juice, or honey & ghee)
  • had a bathtub for detox baths (little difficult in an RV!)
  • had an enema kit and probiotics ready. Enemas are VERY helpful for constipation, and are usually only needed a few times during Intro.
  • not gone into the Intro diet naively thinking that we wouldn’t have reactions and die-off, more gradual preparation, like doing it in reverse first
  • started Intro on a light chicken meat stock, rather than a heavy beef broth
  • moved through Stage 1 quicker, spending more time on later stages

Despite our mistakes, the protocol was still powerful. When we came out on the other side of struggling, and got to the success part of GAPS, I knew I wanted to help other families to experience healing and a new sense of really living.

I trained as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, and a GAPS Practitioner, because food changed my life.

I now offer an online GAPS Class. A class that (if it had been available) I would have jumped on, in a heartbeat, when I was starting GAPS myself.

Life is what you make it, to a large extent. If you have been thinking about the GAPS Protocol for your family, now could be a really great time. If you want to have the support of a GAPS Practitioner and a collective forum of others who are doing it alongside you, then the GAPS Class may be just what you are looking for. The support and help that my participants have received, has been everything I hoped it would be.

I would love to hear from you, now. What have been pivotal moments in your health or life? What motivates you?

Hope to see you in class 😉

Melanie NTP, CGP

Melanie Christner, NTP CGP

Melanie delights in helping you apply healing protocols to everyday life, while eating really great food…and becoming friends with your body again.

She writes at HonestBody.com. As a mom of four children herself, she works with moms and their kiddos to help them feel their best and to have all the life and energy they were meant to have.

Melanie is an NTP, Certified GAPS Practitioner, and Healing Foods Specialist in Vermont. For fun you can either find her playing in her kitchen, or Nordic skiing, or swimming in the Green Mountain rivers with her family.

Connect with her on:   Facebook        Twitter        Pinterest

Healing with the GAPS diet: Melanie's story | eatnakednow.com

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