Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Can a Perfect Diet Lead to Perfect Health?

GAPS, Paleo, Primal Blueprint, Perfect Health Diet, Weston Price: There are so many different diets that are touted as being "the" answer to the question of finding health.  Does following these diets lead to perfect health?

My Family's Experience With Finding Health Through Diet

Nearly 10 years ago, my husband and I embarked on our journey of finding health through diet.  Prior to that time, we were following a typical Standard American Diet, with lots of processed foods, low-fat foods, and restaurant foods.  While neither of us suffered from any very serious health issues, we did have some health issues since we both had cavities, we had both been prescribed inhalers for asthma, I had acne rosacea, irritable bowel syndrome, and carpal tunnel syndrome, and my husband had long-standing issues with eczema, insomnia, and sinus problems (which had not been improved even with two sinus surgeries).

I learned about Weston Price's groundbreaking research into traditional diets and jumped right in to changing our diets.  We were looking forward to having children soon, and I wanted to make sure we were both very healthy before conception. We started consuming plenty of grassfed beef, pastured chicken and eggs, butter, raw milk and cheese, fish eggs, homemade chicken stock, sprouted and/or soaked whole grains, fermented foods, fruits and vegetables, and a daily dose of cod liver oil.

My husband and I both saw health improvements from these dietary changes.  The frequency of illnesses decreased and we both saw some improvements in our chronic health issues. For instance, my acne rosacea and irritable bowel syndrome disappeared, and my husband had less frequent sinus flareups. We kept on following the Weston Price-based diet and making it a normal part of our lives.

Fast forward 5 years through the birth of two children and things weren't looking so rosy. Despite having consumed an excellent Weston Price-based diet her whole life, our 3-year-old daughter had poor weight gain and a pattern of recurrent illnesses. She would get sick roughly 8-10 times per year, each time running a high fever for several days, and often she had a lingering cough for 2-3 weeks after each illness. When other kids had a minor "tummy bug", she had an extreme version with vomiting for 48 hours and losing over 10% of her body weight.

My exclusively-breastfed infant son slept horribly, waking frequently every night; he had eczema and was constipated, and he cried inconsolably for 30-45 minutes several times every day. During my recent pregnancy, I had developed three new health issues that did not subside after the birth - insomnia (awake for 2-3 hours in the middle of the night every night), joint pain (that made normal activities such as holding the baby very difficult), and irritability (losing my temper and being impatient with my daughter, which had never been an issue previously). My husband's sinus problems flared up and he had a sinus infection for over 6 months. My husband and I were getting sick more frequently as well. 

Thinking that we would be able to fix these problems through an even stricter diet, my family started the GAPS Diet in the late summer of 2010. The GAPS Diet is similar to Paleo and Primal Diets, except that it has a specific emphasis on curing health conditions through healing the gut. The GAPS Diet is based on healthy fats (such as butter and coconut oil), meats, fruits, veggies, broth, and fermented foods. The GAPS Diet does not allow any grains or starches, and allows no sweeteners except honey.

We followed the GAPS Diet strictly for over 16 months, and completed two rounds of the Intro Diet. Initially, we had amazing results: our daughter got sick less frequently and she started gaining weight, my joint pain was gone, and my husband's 6-month-long sinus infection finally abated. We thought we had finally found the answer to our health problems.

Even though we were still strictly following GAPS, some of our old health problems started to come back. My husband's sinuses started to flare up again, and his eczema flared up and became worse than ever.  I developed adrenal issues including spells of extreme low energy, and yet if I went off GAPS my joint pain came back again. Our (already low-weight) daughter stopped gaining weight and even started losing weight.  A full rundown on the positive results and set-backs for each of us on GAPS can be seen in this post.

The positive benefits of GAPS had waned and we had developed new problems while on the diet. We stopped strictly following GAPS and found that we now had food sensitivities that we had not observed prior to following the GAPS Diet. And many of our previous health concerns were once again in effect.

At this point I finally realized that diet alone was not sufficient to heal our chronic health issues. While different dietary strategies were able to give us temporary improvements, over time our old issues always came back, no matter how strictly we followed the diets.

Why Didn't Diet Heal Our Health Issues?

In the intervening three years since we stopped the GAPS Diet, I have learned a great deal about health and healing chronic health issues.Through constitutional homeopathic treatment, my family is finding health in ways that diet could never even come close to. Through my intensive search for answers, I have come to understand health in a whole new way.

Using diet to heal chronic health issues is somewhat like putting a band-aid on a cut: diet can aid in the process of healing, but it can't actually cause the healing process to occur. Just as a band-aid alone cannot heal an infected wound, diet alone cannot heal chronic health issues. Diet can certainly lead to temporary improvements, but unless the underlying imbalance is healed, the chronic issues will keep coming back again despite any dietary measures. Homeopathy works differently than dietary measures because it seeks to correct the fundamental imbalance that is leading to the symptoms in the first place.

What Is the Root Cause of Chronic Health Problems?

From a homeopathic perspective, chronic health issues are an indication of an underlying imbalance, often as a result of genetic predispositions (which are referred to as miasms in homeopathic literature).  Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, was well ahead of his time in that he developed an understanding of genetic influences on the health of subsequent generations nearly 200 years ago. Constitutional homeopathy works differently than diet (and many other healing modalities, including herbalism and conventional medicine) in that it seeks to uproot those underlying miasms and thereby remove the fundamental cause for the illness rather than just addressing the outward symptoms. 

Our Successful Path to Health 

Over the last 3 years, we have been finding answers to our health problems with homeopathy. In fact, our results have been so astonishing to me that I became a homeopath to share this healing modality with more people. A brief rundown of the benefits we have seen through homeopathy are:
  • We all get sick much less frequently now, and when we do get sick the intensity is much less than previously.
  • Our low-weight, poor appetite daughter now consistently gains weight and eats well. Her previously-poor immune system has been boosted so much that she has averaged only 1-2 minor illnesses per year over the last 2 years (as compared to her previous average of 8-10 more serious illnesses per year). Her homeopathic treatment has evened out her emotions so that she no longer cries at the drop of a hat, and also improved her focus and uncoordination (clumsiness).
  • Our son, whose sleep had degenerated over time to where he was waking every hour every night by the age of 2 years old, now sleeps 8-9 hours straight consistently. His intense temper tantrums were greatly improved and eventually stopped altogether through his homeopathic treatment. He has become much more cooperative and easy-going as well, and the correlation between these changes and his doses of homeopathic remedies is very obvious. He is the member of our family who is nearest to completing his homeopathic treatment, as evidenced by the fact that these improvements remain even while he is taking less remedy, less often.
  • My joint pain is gone, no matter whether or not I eat grains. I now very rarely have problems with low energy, and my irritability/mood is so much better! My insomnia is not completely resolved, but has improved from waking every single night for 2-3 hours to now waking about 10-15% of the time. My menstrual cycles have also normalized through my homeopathic treatment.
  • My husband, who has the most chronic health problems in our family, has seen steady improvements in his chronic health issues over the last few years on homeopathic treatment. His homeopathic treatment is turning back the clock on many of his health complaints, so that they are now better than they have been in over 12 years. His eczema is minimal, he is sleeping longer stretches of time at night (whereas previously he would wake every 1-2 hours), his weight is steady, and his sinus issues have much diminished over time.

I think it is very interesting that Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, the author of the GAPS book, recommends combining homeopathic treatment with the GAPS Diet.  Through my post-GAPS experiences, I wonder how many people who were "cured" by GAPS were actually healed through homeopathic treatment. Several of my homeopathic patients had previously tried the GAPS Diet, but are now seeing better results through homeopathic treatment than they experienced with the GAPS Diet.

Where Does Diet Fit In To Overall Health?

People are often very surprised to find out that I have serious reservations about recommending the GAPS Diet. For my family, the GAPS Diet ended up being an empty promise. Given the extreme amount of time and effort involved in following the GAPS Diet (I spent an average of 6 hours per day in the kitchen), that empty promise is not something I would recommend to others. In the end, it was not able to solve our chronic health problems, and it actually ended up creating more problems.

However, I do believe that diet is an important part of maintaining overall health. Providing the body with an abundance of nutrients, through eating nutrient-dense foods, gives the body resources to use in healing. The body does need those nutrients, just as it needs adequate sleep and physical activity. But those nutrients alone are not enough to heal underlying imbalances that lead to chronic health issues. Good nutrition is important, but it is not the solution to healing chronic health problems.  

What is your experience with healing chronic conditions through diet? Have you had any increased food sensitivities after grain-free dieting?

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Teresa said...

Hi Sarah,
I very much enjoy your blog. We followed the GAPS diet for 3.5 years. I have eleven children and GAPS worked very well for our family, for the most part. However I did have a few kids who could not come off the diet without problems. About 6 months ago I started researching the MTHFR gene mutation. We have had wonderful results with taking B12 and Folate! I personally have no problems recommending the GAPS diet. If nothing else it is a crash coarse in minimizing toxins and getting them out of your diet, lotions, cleaning supplies, etc. But for some people, no diet is going to address the genetic mutation issues. However, supplements alone will not do the trick. I believe a nutrient dense diet must be the foundation. God Bless,Teresa

Sarah Smith said...

Thanks for sharing your family's experiences, Teresa!

Susan said...

Hi Sarah- I can so relate to what you are saying. I feel like I've been along on this ride with you as I've been a reader now for a few years. I always felt our journey was so similiar as far as the diet protocols we followed and the results we had. Like you I felt I had the most improvement once I followed Matt Stone's advice and simply ate more, but no total recovery ever came. Yes, I was finally out of bed, and getting more things done around the house, but I still suffered from many issues with adrenal fatigue.

I tried everything to heal myself: ate nourishing foods, slept when I could, tried to avoid stress, bought every supplement under the sun, took bioidenticals, you name it, I've tried it. But it wasn't until I was reading about homeopathy that I realized that it may very well be the thing I need. I've been sick for 6 years now! Something is obviously keeping me blocked from real healing. So in January I met with a homeopath.

I haven't seen any amazing results yet, BUT, it has been explained to me that the chronic, chronic stress I've been under the past few years may make my healing a bit slower. Plus, my homeopath is moving very slowly so I don't upset or overload my adrenals. (Im so sensitive that even 1 drop of essential oils on my skin will mess me up for days). I see small glimmers of hope as perhaps a symptom or two have disappeared, but I know I will see more improvement as I am able to increase my dosage. I mean, she has me on adamas (diamonds)....who wouldn't/couldn't get better when they've got diamonds on the inside??!!

Thanks for this great post. Sometimes we WAPFers can be so holier-than-thou believing if we just ate real food that every medical malady would be cured, and I am in total agreement with you that this isn't always the case. Sometimes we just need a little bit more from nature, and homeopathy very well may be the missing link for many people.

Anonymous said...

I too have been helped by homeopathy more than by any other therapeutic protocol. I have read that with some people it can be 8 years before the body can totally get balanced and free from underlying miasms.

I have been treated for 2 years now. There were many times when I felt like giving up on the remedies but this inner voice told me to keep going and I am so thankful I did. I have had eczema, stomach issues, emotional issues, hot flashes, bladder infections, sleep waking and so many other little issues helped. I still have a ways to go but I am 56 and I think it takes longer to fix the chronic issues the older you are.

The healing with homeopathy is so subtle and natural that I think people fail to recognize the results. We are use to quick and dramatic results with drugs(some not so good). Because of drugs we also do not observe ourselves or our children or others like we do when thinking homeopathically. We just say "oh, sore throat...get antibiotics. Instead we need to think about the type of soreness, what makes it better or worse, what happened recently, etc.etc.

I am so thankful to have found others like you Sarah who have literally stumbled onto this buried treasure. And you are very fortunate to be able to help your children from little ones to overcome these inherent problems. I am just trying to help my grandchildren now as much as the parents will let me. I think sometimes they get tired of my many questions so I know what remedy to pursue but they are learning to observe their children better. They don't really mind because I am not pushy. I just pray and leave it in God's hands because timing is really important.
Many blessings and peace,

Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah! I'm very intrigued by your article. I was just telling a friend the other day, it seems like any given diet (vegan, WAPF, GAPS, etc.) tends to balance out the extreme dysfunctions caused by the SAD. But at some point, the balance then starts to tip the other way! I'm really striving for balance. I have never done GAPS nor the full WAPF due to lactose intolerance and having to be gluten free, as I try to get my Hashimoto's thyroiditis antibodies down. It has been five years of trying so hard!
Can you tell me if homeopathy would help with those low morning temperatures, as you had described trying to raise them with Matt Stone's protocol? I would love to not be cold when it is 70 degrees in the house!


Sarah Smith said...

Hi Susan,
Thanks for sharing your experience. It is always nice to know there are others who are treading the same paths. :)

I wish you healing and success with your homeopathic treatment!

Sarah Smith said...

Hi Laurie,
Yes, it definitely takes longer to heal the older we are and the more suppressions we have had (such as through conventional treatments like cortisone cream, antibiotics, etc). In my homeopathic practice, as a general rule, the younger, the faster the process is taken to completion. I've had a few "one dose cures", where a person has only one dose of the homeopathic remedy and is then set on a path of healing that lasts for many months. Those have all been very young children. And in general, children progress much quicker than adults and finish their treatments quicker.

Like you said, though, it can be a more lengthy process. Adult constitutionals can easily take a year or more, but it is amazing to see the improvements that homeopathy can work when people are willing to stick with it.

Timing is definitely important when it comes to treating friends and family. I find it works best to let them come to it on their own; otherwise they are unlikely to follow through with actually reporting back to me frequently enough for me to keep the progress building. I think it is amazing to look back on our journey and see that some of the most difficult things (such as having my daughter be sick so often) have led me to right where I needed to be to become a homeopath. I would never have searched so long and so deep if I hadn't had such a compelling reason. Everything worked out just as it was meant to.

Sarah Smith said...

Hi Kathy,
Homeopathy treats the whole person, rather than just one specific symptom. That being said, I have seen long-standing issues with chilliness be addressed through constitutional treatments in people (along with many of their other complaints at the same time). A general rule with homeopathy is that symptoms tend to be healed in reverse order of their appearance; in other words, symptoms that have appeared most recently will usually disappear first, whereas symptoms that have been part of the chronic state for a long time will usually be among the last to go.

As noted in the comments above, constitutional treatments for adults can (and generally do) take a year or longer to finally get everything addressed. Nonetheless, it is so gratifying to see that over time the state of health keeps increasing more and more with homeopathy, whereas with dietary changes the state of health seems to keep reverting back. Let me know if you have any more questions!

Erica said...

I love this. Your journey is SO similar to ours. I was so exhausted, mentally, physically, emotionally, financially, etc. We did it all too, Weston Price, Paleo, GAPS, etc., but in the end when I had our youngest, they offered no answers for him. He did not have something nutrition could heal and his life and development were at risk. I had to look elsewhere. I went back and recounted every time through my life that I had real, lasting, permanent, success in the area of natural health. That's when I realized the key. The key was homeopathy. Every. Time. It has been revolutionary. Thank you for posting this. I don't get to read all your posts, but I love keeping up with another lover of homeopathy :)

Sarah Smith said...

Thanks for sharing this, Erica! It is great to hear that so many of us have had such similar experiences and come to the same conclusion.

carrie s said...

I think my post was deleted due to not allowing scripts . . . so I'm keeping it shorter. Coming off of GAPS now and RRARFing via Matt Stone. Can you please tell me how and where you trained to become a homeopath? I might be ready to try again (took a class years ago, but my diet was horrendous then, and the remedies never worked).

Sarah Smith said...

Hi Carrie,
My training to be a homeopath has been largely self-led. I started devouring books on homeopathy about 3&1/2 years ago. I didn't start learning about it with any intention of becoming a homeopath; I just wanted to find answers to my family's health problems. I attended two 16-hour training courses, but the vast majority of my homeopathic education has been through reading and studying many, many books.

I started out just treating acute illnesses in my family. Eventually, friends and family allowed me start treating them homeopathically. Then I started treating others who were referred by word-of-mouth for free as well for about a year; that allowed me to put into practice all I was reading and learn through first-hand experience.

It was also extremely beneficial to me in the first couple years to be consulting with a homeopath who was managing constitutional care for my family. Although that homeopath had been practicing for over 25 years, my family was on the verge of his experience because we are all hypersensitive. This led me to keep seeking for answers, because many of the commonly-used homeopathic methods did not work with our hypersensitivities. My searching for answers eventually led to me being the one sharing information with our homeopath and taking over management of our own constitutional treatments.

At the encouragement of our homeopath, I started charging people for acute treatments after I had been studying and using homeopathy for about 1&1/2 years; and eventually I started charging for constitutional treatments as well once I had gained some proficiency in treating people for chronic conditions.

Does this answer your question? Let me know if you want more information.

Rebecca said...

Wow, that's what I'm finding too... that diet just can't address every health issue. I have used homeopathy in the past for the flu (oscillococcinum) and it really worked! Perhaps homeopathy would help with hot flashes and digestive issues as well. I have been reading about hair tissue mineral analysis and wondered if addressing vitamin and mineral imbalances would help. Have you ever looked into that?

Sarah Smith said...

I have not looked into that. Homeopathy has been so effective for us that I haven't needed to. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, I was wondering if you would do an update on your daughters jaw expansion treatment and whether it has worked and if you are still happy with it etc, as I am thinking of doing this for my own daughter.

Sarah Smith said...

Yes, I will be posting an update on her jaw expansion in May, when it will have been one year since she started using her orthodontic appliance. In the meantime, I can tell you that we are very pleased with the results thus far. Her jaw is continuing to expand, and right now she even has space between her two front teeth (which are now the larger adult teeth). She is continuing to lose her baby teeth, so still has more growth to do to accommodate all of the larger teeth that will be coming in.

Anonymous said...

Awesome. I look forwards to reading the update when it comes :)

Eileen said...

I read this the day you posted this article, and found it fascinating. I've been reading more about homeopathy all week!

Our whole family went on GAPS 3 1/2 years ago. Most are off now, and we've seen definite improvement, but my one son who is more allergy prone, and I, are both struggling with a bit of eczema. (Well, actually, if I eat broth every day, and take s. boulaardii every day, my eczema goes away. But if I stop, it returns.) He is more prone to getting sick than my other 5, and gets worse symptoms than the rest of us. He wants the two of us to go back on GAPS intro again after his birthday next month, but I'm hoping I can find another way to improve our health. Full GAPS is not a bad way to eat, but I feel like a yo-yo, I have been on Intro twice a year since we started, it always helps to a degree, but then after going back on full GAPS, I regress...

We have used homeopathy for acute issues successfully in the past. This was the first time I read of constitutional homeopathy.

Which books on homeopathy do you recommend most?

Sarah Smith said...

Hello Eileen,
Thanks for sharing your experiences with GAPS.

Constitutional homeopathy is definitely not a do-it-yourself healing modality. It is as much an art as a science, and it requires a very large knowledge base to work successfully. Inept constitutional care can actually make things worse over time, especially in hypersensitive people (which it sounds like would apply to you and your son who is allergy prone).

It took me 2 years of intensive study (as in, studying almost every single day for two years) before I was ready to even start dabbling with constitutional treatments (and thankfully I had a couple friends who were willing to take the leap with me and let me get some first-hand experience). Managing my family's own constitutional care is difficult because of the lack of objectivity, and I didn't even start managing our care until I had been successfully treating others constitutionally for over a year.

All of that being said, if you want to get started in learning more about constitutional care, I would recommend the following books.

Books that deal with the overall philosophy and methodology of constitutional homeopathic treatments:
The Science of Homeopathy by George Vithoulkas
Organon of the Medical Art by Samuel Hahnemann, the version that is translated and edited by Wenda O'Reilly
Hahnemann Revisited by Luc de Schepper

Materia Medica and Repertories, which are used to better understand the specific remedies and what symptoms they produce (and thereby what symptoms they can help with); it is essential to have quite a few different references, and these are some of the ones that I reference the most (but I also use many others as well):
Kent's Repertorium Generale by Kunzli
Homeopathic Drug Pictures by Tyler
Homeopathic Psychology by Bailey
Portraits of Homeopathic Medicines, Volumes 1-3, by Coulter
Lectures on Homeopathic Materia Medica by Kent
The Homeopathic Treatment of Children by Herscu

I hope this helps; please let me know if you need any more information.

Matt said...

Hi, I have a 3 year old son with multiple food allergies. We have debated trying the GAPS Diet but I have seen many of your articles detailing greater success with homeopathic options. I am interested to start in that direction, but am unsure on how to locate a good homeopath. Are there any websites you'd recommend to search for local homeopaths (we live in Nebraska)? I noticed you talked in other comments about working with Alan Saxon mainly via telephone. Is he seeing new patients, or are there other practioners you'd recommend contacting?

I appreciate your help. Our sons excema and allergies seem to be getting worse, so we are desperate to try any recommended solutions.


Sarah Smith said...

Hi Matt,
Finding a good homeopath can be difficult, as there are many pseudo-homeopaths who use homeopathic remedies in a more casual fashion that is not likely to lead to long-term improvements. At a minimum, a good homeopath usually is someone that uses homeopathy as their primary healing modality (rather than, for instance, a chiropractor who also happens to use homeopathic remedies), someone who charges a constitutional rate rather than charging for every appointment, and someone that uses LM potencies as well as C potencies (many homeopaths use only C potencies, but LM potencies have much more adaptability and can be better tailored to each patient). There is a good article here about selecting a homeopath:

Inept constitutional care can actually make things more difficult over time, especially in hypersensitive people (such as my family). It sounds like your son is likely hypersensitive as well. So it becomes even more important to make sure that the homeopath is a good one with hypersensitive patients.

We started out consulting with Alan Saxon, and he was my initially homeopathic mentor. He had a lot of valuable knowledge to share with me in the beginning phases of my homeopathic training. However, we reached the point where his understanding was not sufficient for treating my very hypersensitive family. He was mostly a C potency homeopath for many years of using homeopathy (using dry doses and long waiting periods between doses), and had only recently moved into using wet solutions and LM potencies (which are much more appropriate for hypersensitive people). The way Alan was using LM potencies was much too strong for my family, and we had lots of aggravations and roadblocks in our treatment. He was also rather busy, since he had a chiropractic practice as well.

I kept searching for answers and, through incorporating the work of great modern homeopaths who have a thorough understanding of the development of LM potencies/wet solutions, I have been able to take our own constitutional cases much further. I also treat others constitutionally by phone. If you want to know more about consulting with me, please email me at nourishedandnurtured[at]gmail[dot]com. Unfortunately, I don't know of any other homeopaths to recommend, but I am sure they are out there.

I hope this helps, and let me know if you have any more questions.

julz said...

THANK YOU, for replying back to me. You are a breath of fresh air.
After reading this blog and all the comments, I figured Id post here instead of the other place I wrote (under pear and ginger muffins). Sarah, how much do you charge to speak to you? How does that normally work? Is it a one time thing or recurring? I feel like I need help and I don't know if I have time reading all those books you suggested. I will probably start reading them but it will take me a while... please let me know.. On top of all my allergies, muscle cramps, thyroid, I have hep c ever since I was 2 months old because of blood transfusion. I mention that because I am not sure if you are aware of that disease and know much about it as it can be a reason for some of my problems. Thanks a bunch!!!

Sarah Smith said...

Hello Julz,
Please send me an email at nourishedandnurtured[at]gmail[dot]com so I can send you a file that describes the types of treatments and my rates for homeopathic care. Just so you know, though, my schedule for new chronic patients is currently full through October.

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Esther said...

Great article. I am on an endless quest for a diet that will heal my gut. Homeopathy definitely works and it helped me with other issues. My kids never took antibiotics, their illnesses were cured with remedies.
But homeopathy didn't touch my gut despite going to several homeopaths. I love homeopathy but I think it is a pity they don't deal with diet as what you put into your body is very important. I am trying GAPS at the moment and we will see how it goes.