It took me quite a long time to get the courage to show these 'before' pictures of my daughter. There aren't actually many pictures like this. In most she is wearing long sleeves and footsie pajamas...even in the middle of summer. I didn't want her, when she was older, to have to see pictures of her skin looking like that. I didn't want others to see them either and besides if she wasn't fully clothed she would sit down or hide in a corner and start clawing at her arms and legs until they bled. Early on she learned the words 'itch' and 'scratch' and 'ouchie'.
Her eczema started when she was around five months old. Just a little in the crooks of her elbows and behind her knees. Then she got it on the tops of her feet. Then her chest. Then it covered her arms and legs. Then tiny patches on her face. Where is this coming from? Why is this happening? She was in the fourth percentile for weight, had huge bags under her eyes, and looked frail compared to other kids her age. We just couldn't understand it.
Doctors couldn't understand it either. When the eczema started they wrote a prescription for a steroid and that was that. Basically no one knows why people get eczema and there is nothing you can do about it. It will just go away or it won't. Her weight concerned them though, so they did test after test. Our pediatrician actually first misdiagnosed her with SCIDS- Severe Combined Immune Deficiency Syndrome (read about that ordeal here). Then they pushed GMO formulas on us and told me that perhaps I should stop breastfeeding. They told me she was spending so much energy scratching that it was probably making her lose weight.
None of this made sense to me. I cut out every possible trigger food from my diet to see if this would help. She looked so frail that, desperate, I even stopped breastfeeding for awhile and tried their formula. Nothing worked and I just watched her eczema get worse and worse. I spent every night typing the word "eczema" into my computer searching for an answer. Finally I came across articles on gut health and they led me to The GAPS Diet.
The GAPS Diet is a healing protocol developed by Natasha Campbell-McBride. She is a neurologist and nutritionist who specializes in healing issues like autism spectrum disorders, ADD/ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia, and schizophrenia. The root cause of many of these disorders (and many many others) is compromised gut health. She first published her book in 1988, but only recently have I heard anything about gut bacteria in the news. Little did I know (or any of us for that matter), that birth control pills, antibiotic use, even a simple over the counter pain killer can compromise beneficial gut flora. That is why over 50 million Americans now suffer from an autoimmune disease. Hippocrates said, "All disease begins in the gut". Ugh, if only we had listened. Thankfully it is finally becoming a mainstream topic.
Worst of all the damage of our modern diet and lifestyle is being passed on to our children. It's not our fault of course, as this has never been talked about...but something that we need to change.
"Well-functioning gut flora is the major regulator and housekeeper of our immune system. Allergies like eczema and asthma are the result of a malfunctioning immune system" (McBride). But how could my daughter's gut flora not be well-functioning? I breastfed, I actually had a vaginal birth this time (Doctors believe that babies get their mother's gut flora as they pass through the birth canal, but recent research suggests that the placenta is also involved), and my two daughters who were born by c-section don't have eczema?!? If gut flora is not being built back up it only becomes worse over time. Birth control pills, antibiotics, and stress can affect it...and I had all of those in my life in the six years between my second and third child. But now here is the kicker...during my pregnancy my doc said I had a UTI so yup that equals antibiotics. Then there is the Strep B Test. I did not test positive during my first two pregnancies, but this time I did. Strep B is a bacteria that many woman have present in their bodies. If you test positive during pregnancy they give you an antibiotic drip during delivery to protect the baby. (Read more about that here.) I believe the antibiotics during pregnancy and the antibiotic drip wiped out any good gut bacteria I had left, and didn't allow me to pass on good gut flora to my daughter.
Thankfully I learned about The GAPS Diet before her immune system broke down further and she acquired other problems. Failure to thrive is a common phenomenon in GAPS children. She was doing great on breast milk, but when I introduced the doctor recommended rice cereal all of this started. Her abnormal gut flora could not handle it. Once we got on GAPS, we cleaned up and healed up her digestive tract, and removed the toxicity already stored in her tissues. Healing foods like bone broth and bone marrow sealed her gut, and then probiotic foods like homemade yogurt, raw milk, sauerkraut, and beet kvass filled her gut up with good bacteria. We starved the bad bacteria by avoiding sugars, grains, and starchy foods so the good bacteria could thrive. And now she is thriving too.
I felt like it was finally time to share our story. I remember looking at other before and after pictures of children with eczema on the internet and it gave me hope. So I wanted to give someone else hope. It is not an easy road and you will have some setbacks (for example tomatoes do not agree with our baby and we learned that the hard way), but it will happen. The GAPS Diet DOES Work. We saw slight improvement right away, but it didn't all come together until the 8th month of strict GAPS. She still has a bit on her legs, but her arms are smooth and eczema free and her legs look like they are healing everyday. So have hope, stick with it, and don't get discouraged. Your little one will thank you for it.
Seeing my happy little chubby GAPS Girl is enough proof for me!
If you have questions or want to share your own story, please send me an email or tell us your story below.
Get The GAPS Book here: