We started with a small patch of eczema on Scarlett’s bottom, a stubborn little rash that would invariably go away for a few days only to flare up again. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we are family that suffer with childhood eczema so I imagined it would heal with time. I tried steroid cream once or twice but as the eczema came back after a couple of weeks I knew this wasnt healing the root cause. The eczema spread to the back of her knees and eventually her back, as you can see pictured in the before shot. Then came the food intolerances, she would eat a tomato or a red pepper and her face would flare up red and blotchy and when she was eating with her hands she would say her fingers were stinging. This is where my research for healing began.
For years reading nutrition books, I’ve been fascinated by tribal cultures where these modern diseases and skin issues don’t exist. I’ve endeavoured to adapt my diet over the years to emulate as close to a whole-food diet as possible. I find it intriguing that in nearly every primitive culture, they will use food in its natural state i.e. milk that is raw (not pasteurised) or eating every part of the animal (organs, liver, tongue, bones) probably without realising this is key to health. I was therefore not surprised to learn that the culprit was the modern diet and environment that we live in today and the place we needed to start.
GAPS – Gut and Psychology Syndrome
One day I was listening to the pod casts from The Gluten Summit, the first of its kind pulling together the top Doctors specialising in food and health from all over the world. I was listening to an interview with Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, she has a degree in medicine and a postgraduate degree in Neurology and Human Nutrition. She talked passionately about her own experience curing her son of severe autism with nutrition aged 3 and allowing him to lead a normal life. She has dedicated the last decade to helping other children with psychological disorders all over the world. Her work is well-known and respected in the nutrition field but many parents are sadly yet to know of this important work that takes place. Dr Campbell- McBride established that children afflicted with autism, dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, schizophrenia, dyspraxia, allergies, eczema and asthma will also suffer with digestive issues. She writes about the connection of the gut (also heralded the second brain) and the brain and how the link to improving psychological disorders (and skin disorders) stem from improving the gut flora. Her book is called GAPS – Gut and Psychology Syndrome and for anyone suffering with one the aforementioned conditions it is a must read that I can highly recommend.
90% of all our genetic material is made up of our gut flora so the rest of our body makes up only 10%. Our gut flora contains millions of bacteria so the key to being healthy is having enough beneficial or probiotic species of microbes to keep the pathogenic bacteria at bay. Beneficial bacteria are wiped out in our modern world by processed food, antibiotics, environmental toxins and man-made chemicals.
Life without Bread
I’ve alluded to this already but as a family we no longer eat gluten, the sticky protein used to bind processed carbohydrates such as pasta and bread but also now used as a cheap and addictive filler in nearly every item of food purchased was the first food group to go. Most people’s reaction when I say we don’t eat gluten is, “I can’t possibly imagine life without a sandwich or a bowl of pasta” but when you start to learn what this protein is doing to your gut and also your brain you might want to re-evaluate. As humans, we have lived for 99.9% of the time on the planet avoiding grains. It wasn’t until the period of industrialisation that grains were used as a cheap commodity and our health has suffered ever since. No human can digest gluten and the damage it does to our intestinal gut lining is hidden until it presents itself in a variety of symptoms.
I weaned Scarlett on wholemeal pitta when she was very little and I strongly believe this was the start of the problem. By the age of 1, Scarlett was 90% gluten-free, she never ate it with me but she had free rein at parties and school. I tried to continue like this and start implementing some of the steps of the GAPS protocol but this didn’t work for us. I had to get everyone on board and eliminate grains and further food groups in order to start seeing results.
The White Stuff – Sugar
It’s pretty difficult not to be aware of the health concerns with refined sugar. When trying to allow the probiotic or beneficial bacteria to rebalance within the gut it’s really important to ensure you provide the right sustenance with food. Sugar feeds the bad bacteria so on GAPS, that small biscuit Scarlett would eat at school would affect her moods (horrendous tantrums) and her eczema.
In my experience it has to be 100% no sugar and no gluten! There is no cheating this path if you want the results but by adhering to the protocol these results were accomplished in only 3 months.
Lastly, I also eliminated dairy a known trigger for eczema. This was a temporary measure and I have since been able to introduce certain dairy products back into her diet. The pasteurised dairy sold to us in the supermarket is very different to the raw dairy you can buy from a local farm. Pasteurisation is used to prolong the shelf life but consequently kills all the naturel probiotics that exist in raw milk. One of the probiotics I have used, raw milk kefir, a cultured home-made yoghurt made with kefir grains, is the elixir of life to my family.
For generations our Grandparents or Great Grandparents have been making soup stocks with meat bones. Not only was this thrifty, it was nutritious and was given to people frequently when they were ill. Well, it turns out this bone broth has some pretty magical powers, it heals the gut lining and allows the probiotic to take effect. It’s actually pretty tasty so it turns out the professional chefs who never really stopped using bone broth were on to something too. It’s now pretty rare for me to make a meal without a ladle full of bone broth, I’ve been known to drink it by the mug-full although I’m still yet to convince Scarlett!
Probiotics and Fermented Foods
To replenish and restore your gut flora you need to introduce probiotics, you have 2 choices you can either use supplements or make your own. Don’t be fooled by the probiotics available in the supermarket, most do not contain a therapeutic level and will often have many additives added. Your plain naturel yoghurt with live cultures is a start but really you want to move on quickly to the stronger options. There are plenty of probiotics you can purchase but the ones with enough beneficial bacteria are expensive, I chose the most naturel and inexpensive option which is to ferment food.
I started with the simplest, sauerkraut (cultured cabbage) but you can pretty much ferment any kind of food – meat, fish, vegetables, fruit. I’ve since moved onto to Kefir a very delicious nourishing home-made probiotic yoghurt which is very simple to make and I can’t imagine not having now.
Please note: I need to caveat this advise, do not rush fermented foods. These are naturel but they are extremely powerful and you need to minimise a “die-off” reaction of the pathogens in your gut so start with 1/2 a teaspoon of sauerkraut juice.
These are Scarlett’s legs, the transformation I’m sure you’ll agree is pretty amazing. Her worst eczema was on her bottom but I’m not sure Scarlett will forgive me in years to come if I photograph her bottom for the web but that has healed now too. I have re-introduced some dairy although only fermented and raw. Much to her delight she can now go swimming again and with time I know the food intolerances will improve too.
The human body has a wonderful capacity to heal, I find it incredible that in 2 years every cell in the body (bones take 7 years) will replace itself so we have the ability to regenerate and ultimately heal ourselves too. We are designed to be happy, healthy and symptom free. I’m sure there will be some of you experiencing some pretty serious conditions but if I’ve learnt anything from this journey, keep researching until you find the answers you’re looking for. Someone, somewhere will be curing their symptoms and if they can, why can’t you.
I can’t imagine my life before these miraculous healing foods. This might seem like a lot of effort but you soon get into a routine and making soups and stews from wonderful bone broth is quick and delicious. I only have to look at my daughter’s skin and how happy she is to know that it is worth every effort.
If you want to learn more, I’ll be posting some instructions and recipes soon but for more details please contact me here.