(This week I have a guest blog from Amy Mihaly. Amy is sharing her story of recovery. Like most healing journeys, Amy’s path took some turns here and there. Join along on this inspiring story and get hope for your own journey.)
As I look at my health before and after following the GAPS protocol, the difference is immense. While I have told my story many times and in different ways, today I want to share with you my health journey as seen through a rear-view mirror.
Way back in the distance is my childhood. While I had no health crisis then, I did not feel well. I had frequent sinus pressure and infections, my stomach would often be upset and I was embarrassed by smelly flatulence. I had dark circles under my eyes and struggled with ADD, depression, and suicidal thoughts. While there were things I did that were enjoyable, I did not enjoy life. Looking back, I also believe that I was not able to feel loved, or form proper attachments. I grew up (and knew it) in a loving family with caring parents, but that was only head knowledge, I never felt it in my heart. I never felt loved, even into adulthood. My faith in God was my anchor, even from an early age, and without that I am quite convinced I would not have made it through without taking my own life.
Come a little closer to when I was in my late teens. At age eighteen my health had come to a tipping point. I had headaches almost every day and migraines at least once a week. I was performing well in school, although some abstract concepts were very difficult for me to grasp. I was depressed, hopeless, and often wished suicide was an option for me (it wasn’t, thankfully). I was anxious in certain social situations, especially if asked to do spontaneous and unplanned things. My wardrobe and hairstyles were limited because wearing my hair up, or having on certain cuts of clothing, would often trigger a migraine. It was during this time that I first found a connection between what I ate and how I felt. I stopped eating dairy products and my migraines cut almost in half. A couple years later I joined a Crossfit gym and began eating Paleo. Cutting out gluten, corn, and sugar all had a positive effect on my health. I experienced a depression-free year, which was the first time in my life I remember having gone more than a few days without symptoms of depression. I was excited to have found something that worked, and because of the difference in how I felt, I was willing to eat that way for the rest of my life!
But it did not last. Less than two years after I started feeling better, I started getting worse. I became extremely sensitive to any contamination of dairy or gluten, which would cause migraines, gas and diarrhea in minutes. I could no longer tolerate the occasional corn, and sugar would cause quick and sometimes frightening changes in my mood, particularly irritation or anger. My memory became awful, and I “word-searched” worse than my grandmother. I became very chemically sensitive, especially to smells, and my eyes were weak and easily irritated by sunlight. I also suffered a type of narcolepsy and would fall asleep in public on a regular basis. Staying awake while driving was difficult. The depression returned, possibly even worse than before, and I did not feel like there was anything to look forward to in the future. I had lost my hope. I have a couple theories about why this happened (you can ask me about them), but the bottom line is that an elimination diet is not healing. If there is any significant amount of damage in the body, simply removing offending foods is not enough. My body was depleted of nutrients, out of energy, and my detox pathways and digestive system were not functioning properly.
I was scared. I personally knew people who started down this path of worsening symptoms, and I did not want to go where they ended up. So I read a lot, and talked to people who were interested in traditional diets and nutrition. One of them told me about GAPS. I bought Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, and even before I finished it I knew it was what I needed to do. You see, the GAPS protocol has what an elimination diet lacks—a purposeful protocol with an emphasis on eating foods that contain large amounts of the nutrients (building blocks) that the body uses to heal damage and detoxify itself. I had done enough reading and study to understand that the principles laid down in the GAPS protocol should work, but there remained the question of whether or not it really would. I was hopeful (and desperate), so I prepared to put myself on the GAPS protocol. This preparation took several months, and included moving back in with my parents, learning how to prepare new recipes and foods, taking classes from Monica Corrado (a GAPS teaching chef) and referencing the GAPS book over and over. Then one day I began GAPS Intro Stage One. I did not do everything perfectly (I highly recommend working with a Certified GAPS Practitioner), but I learned from my mistakes, corrected my technique along the way, and stuck with it.
Within a week of starting I wrote in my journal “I now understand why people want to be alive…” My depression had physically lifted and was replaced by a hope that I had never experienced before. I experienced what I believe all of us were created to feel—a desire to live and be alive and work and produce and love and enjoy life. And that was just the beginning of the change. My symptoms improved (GI symptoms first), I started tolerating new foods (starting with butter and sour cream), my toxic load slowly reduced, and as my ability to digest and absorb food increased. As in any healing process, there are many (and I mean many) ups and downs. I could not count the number of times I have been convinced that I would never get better, or that I was actually getting worse (temporarily, I was experiencing worse symptoms). But my healing trajectory has always been upward and forward. Now, three years after starting the GAPS protocol, many of my symptoms are completely gone, or only rarely surface. My body feels strong and clean. I feel as if I have energy in reserve, and many stimuli or situations that used to trigger symptoms (sleep deprivation, travel, certain foods, smells, clothes, hairstyles, bright sunlight… the list goes on), rarely have any negative effect. I can eat a wide variety of foods including almost all dairy products, sourdough bread, potatoes, natural sugars, and can even tolerate eating out at a restaurant again. My memory loss reversed, and my brain has returned to (what I feel is) fully functional again. As my body has gotten stronger physically, my mental and emotional health have improved as well. I feel the love of people who love me, and have started forming proper attachments. I have been able to deal with emotions from past situations and time periods; emotions I was unable to process at the time they occurred because I was overwhelmed and under-functional. This emotional freedom has allowed me to move past many of my hurts and coping mechanisms, become more emotionally mature, and feel freedom and lightness in spirit that further feeds my energy and joy for life. My health is not perfect, and I don’t expect it to ever be. But I am no longer oppressed by my health—I am free to live the life I was created to live!
Are there things in my story that spark a desire in you? Have you lost hope in your situation, or even in life altogether? Do you (or a loved one) have similar symptoms to some of mine? I share my story because each of us have a story, and your story is important. Your life is important, and your health is important. Your body wants to heal—and what you feed it largely determines your ability to heal. That is why the GAPS protocol is helpful for many people, with many symptoms and diseases. I encourage you to look into it. Read books, follow good blogs (mine is here), and start paying attention to what your body is already telling you.
Even if you don’t feel like you can do the full GAPS protocol right now, start with making even just a little change. I wrote a book, Notes From a GAPS Practitioner: Using Diet to Unlock the Body’s Healing Secrets, that I think would be helpful to you. It explains how the body heals, how food helps in that process, and how you can know what your body most needs for support. Start with one small step then, when you are ready, take another one. Every good choice you make will have a positive effect in your body. Don’t miss out on some benefit because you can’t do it all perfectly. None of us ever do it perfectly. Start with what you can do then go forward from there.
Health, like everything in life, is a journey. I wish you well on yours.
Amy Mihaly, FNP, Certified GAPS Practitioner
Amy Mihaly is a Certified GAPS Practitioner, and a Family Nurse Practitioner in the state of Colorado. She has always believed there should be a natural way to eat, live and treat disease. After healing herself with the GAPS protocol, she now shares these healing principles with everyone who will listen. She is an author, educator, and runs Be Well Clinic. For more visit www.bewellclinic.net.