Although now I eat very well and have a very healthy lifestyle, my gut health has been compromised many times over my life. My diet as a child was great, a very wholesome and traditional diet. It was largely meat and three vegetables, and no takeaways. All treats were homemade, so no preservatives and additives, but still lots of sugar and white flour. I never missed a day of school, never had to take medicine, and was generally very robust.
The first major assault on my gut health was when I was a teenager. I developed acne and was put on antibiotics by my local GP. These were broad spectrum antibiotics and I was on them for years. Not only did they not fix the acne, but they wiped out my gut flora, leaving me even more susceptible to bacteria which cause acne. I often wonder why my doctor kept me on them, when they were clearly not working.
The next catastrophe for my gut health is actually a pretty extreme event, not the typical scenario. While I was at university, I was did a Master’s Degree in Food Microbiology. I was investigating the effect of high pressure processing on E. Coli bacteria. As with all bacteria, there are good E. Coli and very, very bad E. Coli. My project was intended to look as a non-pathogenic strain of E. Coli, one that can’t make you sick. So I was happily working away in the microbiology lab, taking minimal precautions. Unfortunately, I had accidently been given a pathogenic strain of E. Coli, called E. Coli O157. That’s the one that kills people. So began the stomach cramps and diarrhoea, which then progresses to bloody diarrhoea. E. Coli O157 is called “enterohaemorrhagic”. That means it haemorrhages you from the inside out. So over the course of the next week or so, in isolation in hospital, my entire gut lining went down the toilet. The hospital bacteriologist came to see me to discuss antibiotics. As I had been studying the bacteria, I knew that antibiotics would actually make me sicker, as they would split open the bacteria and release toxins into my bloodstream. So I advocated for my own health and declined the antibiotics. He later came back to see me, to tell me he had done his research and I was right!
Knowing what I know now, I should have started an intense period of gut healing, with fermented foods, broth and probiotics. But the 21 year old me went to meet her boyfriend in Tenerife for a week of holidays instead J.
About a year later, I developed an auto-immune condition in my eye, called uvetitis. I researched and realised that this was probably as a result of my illness.
A few years after that, I took Roaccutane, for my skin that still had acne. No surprises that acne was still an issue, as acne is so related to gut health. This is a really strong medication that would have continued me on a downward health spiral.
Through all this, my health was actually really great, other than having regular severe migraines.
About 10 years ago, I developed a bit of a rash on my scalp, which the doctor said was psoriasis. It was only when I was studying health myself that I found out the sunlight is very helpful for psoriasis. My scalp got significantly worse in the sun. So I went for a biopsy which indicated I actually had something called Discoid Lupus, also an autoimmune disease. I now have a crater and a bald spot on my scalp for ever. This really shocked me and forced me to get even more serious about my health, and I haven’t had gluten since.
Since doing GAPS, I don’t get migraines any more. Healing and sealing my gut has stopped my body being so sensitive to hormones and foods. Sometimes being gluten-free isn’t enough. You need to remove all grains, as GAPS does.
My daughter’s health
My middle child has congenital heart disease. When she was born, she was greeted by a roomful of medical staff, who whisked her off to intensive care. By the time I got to see her she had lots of tubes poking out everywhere. Over the course of the next few weeks, she had 9 general anaesthetics, diuretics, antibiotics, morphine, paralysis drugs and probably more. For the first week she was fed via a central line into her neck with total parenteral nutrition. All this had a very negative impact on her gut health. Luckily, I breastfed her from about day 16 onwards which would have helped, but a lot of damage was already done. On the plus side, she was alive, and without all that medical intervention, she wouldn’t have survived.
I recently did a poo test on her which showed the diversity of bacteria species in her gut was poor. She was also lacking some of the bacteria which are really important for regulating emotions and controlling anxiety. Her gut was crying out for healing. When we started on the GAPS introduction diet, she was doing a wee every 20 minutes or so as her kidneys desperately tried to flush out the toxins that were being released into her bloodstream.
Nearly dying by inhaling a pathogenic E. Coli and having congenital heart disease are quite dramatic examples of why you might need gut healing. For most people, the stories are much more subtle. Caesarean births and recurrent ear infections are the scenarios that crop up more regularly. The consequences on gut health can still be devastating, and the need for gut healing just as strong.