An Update: 3 Months In

The past three weeks have been glorious for little man. A couple of days after my last post (Today, I feel frustrated.), James was back to his happy, fun-loving self. His functional medicine doctor asked us to increase his dose of EnteraGam, which is a medical food treatment that binds to toxic substances in the gut to prevent them from penetrating through the intestinal lining. When we started to increase his dose, he wasn’t feeling so hot, hence, my last post. But his body has now adjusted to it, and it seems to be doing its job.

We haven’t given him any broth the past few weeks since the suspect histamine issue came to light (broth is very high in histamine). He’s been eating lots of shredded chicken and steak, as long as it’s cooked in ghee. And my amazing sister brought to my attention two-ingredient pancakes, which consist of bananas and eggs. They are YUMMY. The kid is nuts over them, and he’s now regularly eating eggs. He still hasn’t touched any cooked vegetables recently, but we’ve been able to sneak some cauliflower, spaghetti squash, zucchini, and butternut squash into his smoothies regularly. Thank God for smoothies.

And the more fun behavior/overall temperament/language update. He has been so much more affectionate and personable. I’ll hear him say, “Where’s Mommy?” while he’s in another room and then walk up to me and want to sit on my lap. We hear lots of “big hug” requests all day long. Though he would readily receive affection, it used to be a rare occasion when he would initiate it. He’s also started saying, “silly goose,” when something is funny, which is just the cutest thing I ever did hear. “I want ____” statements are happening much more readily now, and the other day, he got up from breakfast and clearly said, “I want to go play.” Hooray for five word sentences!

We are still working on more reciprocal conversation. He loves to say good morning and ask how everyone is doing but has a hard time answering the question himself. A lot of his language has a bit of a rote feel to it, which makes me smile. For example, when he’s upset, you might hear him say, “It’s okay, buddy,” something he has heard quite a bit. 🙂 My personal favorite is when he’s given something, and he shows his gratitude by saying, “thank you, welcome.” Just wants to make sure both giver and receiver are covered.

We also had a great Halloween and hope you did, too! James still gets a little confused as to why we ring someone’s doorbell and then leave right away. He tried to walk into every house to visit, so we only made it to a few 😉 Our incredibly kind neighbors made him feel special by making sure there were non-food treats set aside for him.

Pictures for cuteness.


Thank you for following his journey!





Today, I feel frustrated.

Today, I feel frustrated.


I’m frustrated as I watch James slipping… his beautiful spirit going inside of himself instead of shining for all to see.


I’m frustrated, because I know he’s uncomfortable, and he can’t tell me.


I’m frustrated, because I don’t know why.


I’m frustrated, because he was fully present with us not long ago.


I’m frustrated, because the game keeps changing.


I’m frustrated that the three gallons of raw, grass fed milk that I make into yogurt each week could be doing him or my husband harm.


I’m frustrated, because I have no idea what to feed them.


I’m frustrated, because James asks for good things to eat, and I can’t let him have them.


I’m frustrated, because when a new food or supplement doesn’t go well, he pays for it for a week.


I’m frustrated, because we have to pack a cooler everywhere we go.


I’m frustrated, because we can’t do anything social that involves food without making someone uncomfortable.


I’m frustrated, because it’s not easy to make every blessed thing from scratch when you feel like it’s not helping,


But I know it is helping.


So I block out reality for a bit by plugging in the vacuum…he’s always found the sound of it soothing. And I find cleaning soothing…and maybe he’s onto something with the sound.


And I let him stim away and chew on a spoon he’s carefully held onto after lunch. And try not to panic or Google what kinds of metals are in the spoon and if they’ll do him harm.


And I smile when I see the goofy grin on his face each time the vacuum comes close.


And I smile when I see his sister’s goofy grin, too. Because if something brings James joy, it brings her joy.


And I smile when I unplug it and hear James try to continue its whirring sound.


So I’m frustrated.


But that doesn’t mean I’m not grateful for how much we’ve learned.


And it doesn’t mean I’m not grateful for how far my boys have come.


Or how grateful I am to have easy access to grass fed meat, raw milk, and organic produce.


Or that we are able to stretch the budget, even when it hurts, to get what we need to restore health.


Or how I get to strike up a conversation with my favorite employee at the health food store.


Or how many amazing people we have met on this journey.


Or how James now asks me to read book after book after a year of refusal.


Or that a bad day now would have been a good day two years ago.


Or how grateful I am to watch him embrace more people and allow them to embrace him, too.


So, today he’s slipping, and maybe when he slips, I do, too.


He is, after all, my heart.


We’ll come back.

James smiling. frustrated blog


But today, I’ll be frustrated.








Weeks 5-7 on GAPS (kind of)

Can we talk about how confusing nutrition is? It’s like advice on getting a baby to sleep times a million. It’s challenging to obtain solid, well-accepted data on nutrition since it’s hard to do a randomized controlled trial with people and the food that they eat. Add picky kids to the equation, and it is virtually impossible. So what one expert says will heal everything, another says will put you in harm’s way. Roll the dice 😉


My envy of plants with their diet of water, sunlight, and some good ol’ CO2 continues.

Lucky roses


Fortunately, it seems we’re learning more and more about the human microbiome and epigenetics. So while the experts are making sense of these things, we do our best to hook onto really smart health practitioners who are constantly obsessing over all of this information, scour the Internet, listen to other families and parents who have experience with similar situations, and listen to our bodies. In James’ case, we watch like a hawk for any physical or behavioral changes and do our best to limit the variables that could explain any changes. And most importantly, pray for guidance.

James monk
James prays for all of us!


Shortly after my last post (finishing up week 4 on modified GAPS), James seemed to be going through a regression period. His eczema and overall demeanor were still worlds improved from what they had been, but an eczema flare showed that something was going on, and so did his irritability, less adaptability, and increased stimming. He also randomly threw up after a couple of meals.


So we began the guessing game. Is the zucchini we tried bothering him? I made the broth more concentrated this last round thinking it would help him. Was that too much? He’s eating way too many bananas…that definitely could be it. Was he exposed to mold somewhere or some other toxin? Or is it just kid stuff? Maybe he’s tired. Maybe he’s over scheduled. Maybe not scheduled enough. Maybe his little sister is pestering him too much.


I often observe his cheeks while he eats meals to see if there’s a difference in redness or bumps after he finishes. After we included daily avocados and made the broth more concentrated than it used to be, we started noticing he would rub his cheeks during meals. After the broth, especially, they seemed to become red pretty quickly. Which, I guess, is strange for eczema to worsen so fast, since it can often take 24-72 hours to show up after a trigger.


So that brings us back to the histamine sensitivity hypothesis his physician suggested after he vomited during first couple of days on GAPS. Histamine issues can come along with gut dysbiosis. When you look up histamine foods, they’re pretty much all of the foods that James eats—broth, avocados, fermented foods (like his beloved homemade yogurt), bananas. He also seemed to have more trouble when I was daring and added a splash of the fermented sauerkraut juice in his broth. GAPS is high on the fermented foods, which are also high in histamine.


I guess that means we need to regroup again. We can’t remove all of those high histamine foods, since he would be left with chicken, ghee, blueberries, supplements, and the tiny pieces of vegetables we are able to hide in his food and smoothies.

Avocado squash
Spot the zucchini!



But we’re going to try to limit them to see if histamine is indeed a problem. And we can do things like adjust the broth cooking time so it has less histamine. We can avoid serving him leftovers as well, as the histamine levels increase the longer foods stay in the refrigerator. And figure out how to get some other foods in James in the meanwhile 😛


We’re also trying a new prescription called low dose naltrexone, which blocks opioid receptors and is supposed to generally boost the immune system and calm down inflammation. Let’s see what happens!


Though it’s a little frustrating when we have to reassess, the progress continues. It goes in waves, but the general direction is still forward. When we visited friends who hadn’t seen him since January, they were floored at how he had grown. He had much more interest in interacting and communicating and had a much faster warm up time. Since you can easily lose sight of that in the day to day, it was really nice and affirming to hear.


When it’s obvious he’s feeling well, he is THE most delightful person to be around. Sunshine radiates from those beautiful eyes and smile. We work every day to allow him to feel like his best self.


James pumpkins


And for Thomas who continues to stick to GAPS religiously (he’s on stage 4/6 of the intro now!), he is still gaining weight and tolerating new foods as he slowly introduces them. Depending on how he feels, he might jump to an earlier stage of GAPS to let things settle before jumping to the next food. For the past two years, he has lost weight, plateaued, and then lost some more, no matter how much he ate. It is so exciting to see things move in the right direction for him!


Onward and upward.






GAPS- Weeks 3 and 4

These last two weeks have left us very hopeful.


Thomas is generally feeling better, and he’s eating a ton, including foods that have caused reactions in the past year or two.


These include- eggs, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, and ghee! A drop of ghee made him sick for two weeks a few months ago. Now he eats it on and in everything with no issues.


James has also continued to improve! It took a little bit of time to recover from the plethora of new things we shouldn’t have given him all at once, but after a bit of a reset, he came back stronger than ever.


His cheeks are still just about clear of eczema (yay!) and the other patches on his arms and back are decreasing a little bit each day. He has also been eating much more than usual, which is so gratifying. Still limited foods on his modified GAPS diet (meat stock, chicken with ghee, avocados, homemade yogurt, bananas, blueberries), but we have nothing but time. Also can we talk about how much chicken he is eating?? He’s always refused meat, but cooking the already boiled chicken in ghee (so much ghee) has just made a world of difference for him.


So much chicken!

The next new food is going to be a tiny bit of squash blended into the soup to see if his body can tolerate it. If it does, then we’ll see if he will accept small pieces of it that we don’t hide. 🙂


Look at those clear, itch-free cheeks!!


Also, a lot has happened these past two weeks in terms of behavior and progress!


  1. Outbursts—reduced dramatically. I would estimate about 75% reduction, especially in the last few days. And I’m guessing that many of the outbursts that he did have were because he was hungry, and we hadn’t figured out yet that he needed much more food than in the past. Transitions have been easier, he’s more flexible, and he’s more willing to try new activities. We have been lucky that he usually saves the more vocal protests for at home. He’s pretty good at holding it together in public. But I can’t tell you how life-changing it is to not always be on edge waiting for the next outburst.


  1. Mouthing- once again, significantly reduced. Maybe by half. In the past year or so, his mouthing has been out of control. We would walk out of a room and back in two minutes later to find him chewing on books, toys, furniture, just about anything. These past two weeks, I have barely given him his sensory necklace.


  1. School progress- After three weeks of vacation, James returned to school last week and had the best first day back ever. His physical therapist reported that he was understanding and following directions in school so much better. At one point, they asked him to sit in the red chair, and he responded, “no, green chair” and walked over to the green chair where a friend was sitting. They were so excited, they had the poor friend move to a different chair. So..maybe putting his own spin on the directions. But understanding and then interpreting them to his liking, for sure.


All smiles after his first day back at school


  1. Communication- We’ve heard more unprompted sentences these past couple of weeks, and so have his teachers! He has also been making more attempts at conversation both with us and with people outside of his family, which just warms my heart. It is my favorite.


  1. Gross motor- For the first time, when we were in the front yard, James took off independently and walked down the sidewalk, shouting, “let’s go!” He made it all the way to the corner. We joke that, “c’mon James!” is probably one of the most used phrases in our house. He needed no coaxing that day.
Independently going for a stroll in the neighborhood



I remember one of his very wise therapists telling me when he was a few weeks old that we had to remember this was a marathon and not a sprint. My naïve, eager self half-listened at the time, but obviously remembered those words. I never thought the marathon would involve food and overall health, but thinking of it in those terms has helped a naturally impatient person to grow the patience muscle a bit more. And it has been and will continue to be worth it. God knows what we need to work on, for sure.

So grateful.





GAPS- First two weeks

It’s been a chock-full two plus weeks! It seems we have experienced all of the emotions and physical symptoms we’ve had in the past two years in these past 16 days.


In preparation for GAPS, I read a lot about other people’s experiences, and I can totally see how many people have had to start and restart this multiple times. It. Is. Intense.


The first couple of days, the kids reluctantly ate their soups for meals. And we realized how quickly we would go through soups and the homemade yogurt. Though we were technically allowed to add vegetables from day one, we tried to give everyone a day or two of just plain broth and meat with salt in case anything else would aggravate the very reactive gut linings. Georgia was cool with the chicken broth, but on the second round of plain beef soup, she made it known that she was done. I couldn’t blame her.


James was never happy to see soup, but we’ve been working with him to eat broth for about four months in preparation for this. Though James ate foods with all kinds of tastes and textures as a baby, he started to become picky around 15 months, and when the gut issues became more pronounced, so did the pickiness. Unfortunately, we usually have to play kid music videos to get him to eat the soup. This drives me bonkers. I can feel generations past and present and any childhood expert shaking their heads at me. But I tell myself that most of them probably don’t have a malnourished child who is reactive to a million foods and has sensory issues with foods on top of it. So youtube it is-for now.


On the second and third day, James refused to eat soup at dinner and then vomited. The third day, it was projectile vomit. (Fun fact- it was also directly on my MacBook. He’s an excellent shot.)


That third day dinner, he then refused to eat any yogurt, and he was extremely lethargic. When I took his temperature, it had actually dropped significantly, which scared me enough to find the contraband Cheerios and force feed them to him until he started to get his energy back, all while I stress ate raw honey.


GAPS pantry
This was what we did to our pantry before we started GAPS. Thankfully, there were still just a few Cheerios that hadn’t been thrown away!


We spoke with his doctor the next day, and she wondered if it was a histamine reaction since broth could be a high histamine food. His skin had actually completely cleared from any eczema, and when we did some blood work shortly after, his histamine levels were within normal range, so we weren’t sure if that was the case. Obviously it’s a bit hard to tell after the fact.


Dr. Natasha Campbell, the creator of GAPS, had mentioned on her FAQs that vomiting can be a sign of hypoglycemia when a patient’s carb intake is significantly cut. Though James was already gluten free, his limited diet still consisted mainly of carbs with Cheerios, quinoa pasta, and bananas. So in consulting with his doctor, we moved him to a modified ketogenic diet, which is essentially the same thing as the full GAPS diet, just without the more intense intro stages. It’s still completely grain free, all whole foods, and avoiding certain inflammatory foods. This made us feel a little defeated, as the introduction stages of GAPS are set up for more intense healing of the gut lining. But maybe we can go back to the intro once his body starts to adapt to low carb ways and he becomes less picky, God-willing!


After making this change, James was much better. His skin was still clear, he was happier, more verbal, singing more songs than usual in their entirety, more aware of his surroundings and more interested in the activities of the people around him.


He even tried a couple of new foods!! We’ve read about this happening for kids who are picky eaters. We tend to be attracted to the foods that our bodies don’t process well. When we take them out, we become more open to other things.

James eating “pancakes!”

James pancakes

“Pancakes”- Four eggs and a cooked chicken breast blended in the food processor. Fry up the batter in ghee like pancakes! Recipe courtesy of Julie Matthews




The kids were nuts about these things. Fry little shreds of chicken in ghee until they get crispy like chips. Thomas came up with name and method- reminiscent of the crispy pieces of chicken his mom used to make for him.


James eating mixed vegetables??

James eating vegetables


This was the most beautiful and bizarre sight. These were made by my very talented mother-in-law in one of the soups. They were in Georgia’s plate, and he just went for them. And ate the whole plate.


So of course we got excited and also gave him a birthday cupcake for Georgia’s 2nd birthday….twice. It was a GAPS-approved recipe with all healthy ingredients, but definitely not something his body was ready for. The eczema started to come back. So did the edginess. And so did the pickiness.

Georgia's gaps cupcakes
Though we were silly to give this to James, I’m obsessed with this recipe for strawberry coconut flour cupcakes! So yummy!


He hasn’t touched a cooked vegetable since then, and the “pancakes” are now licked (still some serious progress!), but he never takes a bite. We are going back to plain broth, homemade yogurt, avocados, blueberries, and bananas for a few days to get his body back to where it was.


Thomas had a rough couple of weeks. Headaches, nausea, fatigue, insomnia, shortness of breath, all of the fun symptoms you can imagine. The second day, he actually broke out in a fever and chills! Apparently this can happen from bacteria die off. He hid the scale the first two weeks, so he wouldn’t be able to see how much weight he lost.


Some people try to start this diet during time off from work or an easy period of time. Being the sacrificial father that he is, he started it when he had a million things going on at work so James could start it during a school break. Somehow the man survived.


During the second week, his mom came to help us cook and take care of the kids. Though I am generally a good recipe follower, I don’t know food well enough to know what herbs, etc, work together well. So she made our soups into gourmet soups, which helped a ton. Thomas’ weight loss has seemed to hit a plateau, so hopefully regaining it soon follows.


He’s sticking out the introduction stages of GAPS and is currently on stage two! And the past couple of days, he’s started to feel much better. Just really tired. Making progress.


Georgia and I moved with James to the full GAPS diet. She was much happier to see blueberries, eggs, mangos, and avocados back in her life. She’s also been asking for birthday cake for a couple of months, so she was thrilled when her own birthday cupcake came. Her digestion has been a little off, but hoping that’s just because she had probably more sweet things than recommended for her family birthday party (Though we managed to make it almost all completely GAPS recipes! Thanks, Internet!)

Georgia's bday
Georgia and her much anticipated birthday cupcake ❤
Georgia's gaps bday
Almost completely GAPS-approved! We threw feta into one of the dishes. And cacao powder in the chocolate avocado pudding is okay in moderation. 🙂

And for me- I actually feel great physically. The first couple of days, I had a headache and felt really weak in the morning until I ate. But my body has adapted to the grain-free lifestyle, and I definitely have more energy than I normally would on not a lot of sleep. I’m hoping the boys follow soon.


So, some first two week reflections:


Lessons that were/are hard to learn for us—


  1. Don’t rush foods when you have food sensitivities. Just don’t. Even if it’s a sibling’s birthday party, and the parent guilt starts to take over. Give the body a chance to adapt and heal with each new food introduction.
  2. Nothing is going to be perfect. Really appreciate and be grateful for those wins when you get them.
  3. Time. So much time in the kitchen and away from the not super independent little children. It’s not their favorite or mine. I’m hoping we become more efficient as time goes on. We try to make things in big quantities, but we also seem to eat them in large quantities? Working on a better plan.
  4. Social situations- navigating these is pretty tricky. James is generally used to eating separate food, but Georgia is not. We try to bring along snacks that they both love, so they don’t get too much snack envy.


Big positives—

  1. James trying three new foods in a week?? Though we had a bit of regression these past few days, we can’t forget that. That’s pretty much a year’s progress, considering his history.
  2. Even though it’s so much time, I love cooking like this. I love feeding my family whole, organic foods and nothing processed. It’s been an intimidating goal for us for a long time, so in many ways, it’s a blessing that the issue was forced on us.
  3. The bit of progress we’ve seen in these past two weeks is so very promising. Makes it all worth it!
  4. We are so, so, SO blessed to have so many supportive, loving friends and family. There were so many encouraging messages. And we could feel all of the prayers lifting us up!


Thank you for following. Here’s to the next couple of weeks!

Our Story

On February 22, 2013, a beautiful baby boy completely rocked our world.


He was our perfect little angel face who brought us so much joy. We had read and heard the stories of many others who had children who had Down syndrome, and we were ready to embrace this journey, both with its challenges and its innumerable blessings.

James newborn

During his first year and a half of life, we had moments, like all parents, when we wondered if he was progressing as expected, not necessarily compared to his typical peers, but compared to his peers who had Down syndrome. He used to cry through entire sessions of physical therapy, and we found this wasn’t everyone else’s experience in Down syndrome groups. He seemed to struggle more with gross motor skills than most babies who had Down syndrome. As the months went on, he started to blow raspberries while staring at his hands for prolonged periods of time and shake burp cloths and socks back and forth in front of his face. These were his early self-stimulatory behaviors.


He also was very sensitive to loud, sudden noises, not uncommon to children who had Down syndrome or just children in general. Nevertheless, I found myself looking up signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and worrying off and on if this was an additional challenge he might face. He was making progress with communication and in all of his therapies, so I tried my best to ignore the stress of an additional concern. The occurrence of ASD with Down syndrome seemed to be something that the medical community was trying to understand, and it was confusing since some symptoms of autism could be found in children who had Down syndrome but not necessarily ASD.


During these times of worry, his natural charm and uniqueness would ease any fears. We were so thankful that he was ours.




At around a year and a half, he started developing eczema on his cheeks, which we were never able to fully heal. We tried prescription creams given by his pediatrician and dermatologist (one we saw had a side effect of increased risk of skin cancer with sun exposure, so we quickly stopped that one), homeopathic remedies, and any over-the-counter creams we could get our hands on. We looked up all of our household products and switched to safer and milder soaps and detergents. Nothing seemed to work consistently. Thankfully, it didn’t seem to bother him, and he carried on in his usual happy, calm, and content way.

The beginning of the eczema
Big flare ups, which had spread to arms, legs, and back


Six months later, we were in the process of moving homes, and I was pregnant with our second child. During all of the fun, my husband, Thomas, became sick with the flu, which resulted in two infections and two courses of antibiotics. He always had a bit of a sensitive stomach, but all of a sudden, things had departed greatly from the norm. He was having trouble sleeping, trouble with digestion, and almost any food you could think of started becoming a trigger food to make him sick. This often resulted in an increased heart rate, abdominal pains, indigestion, and weeks of being sick to his stomach. Things were definitely off. He began losing weight without trying.


Six more months later, we had a new beautiful baby girl named Georgia, and life was very different for all of us, including big brother.


James was also starting school for the first time and was exposed all of the various germs that come along with that. One of the viruses he caught turned into an ear infection and then later a sinus infection, which we fixed with two rounds of antibiotics only about a month apart. Around the time he first became sick, things started changing for James. He started having more outbursts when Georgia first came home, understandably, but they really picked up steam after he became sick.


All of a sudden, we couldn’t finish songs that he enjoyed or favorite parts of books- two of his most favorite activities- without screaming and shutting the books as fast as possible. Stimming behaviors went way up. Any excessive noise, especially from Georgia, would put him over the edge. And on bad days, he could become mildly aggressive toward me and do some self-injurious behaviors. On top of the newborn stress, we were beside ourselves with what had happened to our sweet boy.

James dressed as his hero for Halloween, 2015


We did our best each day to adjust to our new normal, and we also decided with the school transition, it would be a good idea to get him an aide. I took him to an agency to sit down with a psychiatrist and see if he qualified for the aide service. During the visit, I spoke with the psychiatrist, and James gave a great babbling monologue that only he understood while turning a block from side to side to look at its reflections.


With insurance changes, we found out later we were unable to go with that agency, but we did receive a report in the mail about a month later.


I read through the report with interest and disdain, as my own words seemed to be turned against my son. Most anyone who has a child with special needs understands the pain of reading about your child and perceived challenges in black and white and feeling like whoever wrote the report completely missed the point and has no idea who your child actually is. Then at the bottom of the report, I saw that the psychiatrist had assigned him a new diagnosis- moderate autism spectrum disorder.


My world stopped a bit, as I felt the stabbing pain in my chest. How could he so freely just assign that to James? He didn’t know him. Hadn’t even interacted with him for more than three seconds. If he had actually gotten on the floor and tried to play with him, he would have heard the words he’d worked so hard to have, see his ear-to-ear grin, and witness his comedic personality.


In speaking to the people who knew James the best, they were in disbelief with the additional diagnosis. It had never crossed their minds. With ASD given out more frequently, especially when trying to get more services, we decided to ignore the report.


I actually physically ripped it up, but it obviously didn’t leave my head and my heart. More and more I saw the symptoms that I wanted to ignore. Though he interacted with adults and older children, he didn’t seem to care where his peers were or what they were doing, he didn’t play with toys appropriately for his age, he had lots of sensory sensitivities, and he never pointed to things he was interested in. All of these things were magnified with his new heightened emotional state. Yet I did my best to put it all in the back of my mind and write it off to a new sibling, his age, or all of the recent changes.


I couldn’t keep it in the back of my mind for too long, as he needed to be evaluated for his transition from at-home therapies to integrated preschool.


After he was observed in his preschool setting, the evaluator wanted to speak with me. She was concerned. James had inconsistencies. Why was he fine sitting on his teacher’s lap but then crawling away from her and every other adult in the room? He wasn’t participating the way she would have expected someone with Down syndrome to. He couldn’t stand up for himself or ask for help when a peer took away each of the toy cars he had carefully collected. She didn’t say ASD, but we both knew what she meant.


That conversation was a turning point for me. When James was first diagnosed with Down syndrome, we at first thought of the challenges that he might face. But instead we learned of stories of the inherent joy and the social and emotional intelligence many of these children had. We heard stories of people who had Down syndrome comforting those in need and easily connecting with people. The things many told us would be so great with Down syndrome might now be challenges for James. Our world had just been flipped upside down. I sobbed the rest of that day.


That was the start of our dark days. I probably cried just about every day for the next few months. I missed my calm, happy boy and every scream he gave took away a piece of me. To make things worse, my sweet baby girl had an infection that put her in the hospital with heavy-duty antibiotics for nine days and prophylactic antibiotics for a few months after. (Thankfully, at that time, we at least knew to pump her up with probiotics!)


My husband couldn’t eat anything and was dropping weight like crazy. My son was an emotional wreck. I was an emotional wreck. We had no idea how we got here.


Putting the pieces together

Around James’ third birthday, his stools became awful every single day. A few times, I wondered if I should keep him home from school in case he had a virus. But they persisted way past the course of a typical virus. We started wondering about the eczema, the stools, and if James’ situation was anything like Thomas’. Maybe he wasn’t tolerating a lot of the foods he was eating. After a lot of Internet searching and speaking with others who had battled eczema, we decided to implement some diet changes, starting with eliminating dairy.


That same week of no dairy, his teachers told me he wasn’t crawling away from them. He was more willing to try the activities at school and was more focused and receptive. WHOA. Just from dairy? This was the first real sign to us that showed how much of an impact food can have.


We had him tested for all of the typical allergies, but nothing popped up. This was a bit frustrating, as it would have been great to have a definitive answer. We did some more testing through an integrative health dietician and found that he had an extreme case of leaky gut. Leaky gut is basically when food permeates through damaged intestinal lining and gets into the blood stream, which causes an immune reaction in your body. This helped to explain the eczema, terrible stools, and extreme irritability. We did a food sensitivity test for him, and just about everything under the sun proved to be problematic. No wonder he was so miserable. Thomas was the same.


Food sensitivity test


We went through a long stage of eliminating just about every food, literally only giving him six or seven foods that he could tolerate. This is probably the worse thing you can do for someone with leaky gut, since the safe foods can turn into problematic foods. However, the fear of the reactions to problematic foods (eczema flare ups, bad stools, more outbursts) outweighed the promise of a long-term plan.



Somewhere during this process, God guided us toward the wonderful world of functional medicine and its potential for healing. Each practitioner in this world had their own story of how they landed there, and we were hopeful that we could really get to the root cause of why these boys were struggling. We drove to Florida to see a renowned physician for Thomas, and we found a brilliant, caring physician in New Jersey for James.


If you have to drive to Florida to see the doc, you might as well see Mickey, too!


We’ve started to learn about genetics, toxins, and how it’s possible to control gene expression with a healthy diet and environment. We’ve experimented with all kinds of supplements and foods, had a lot of failure, and had some pretty amazing successes.


For James, every time we’ve had a breakthrough in supplements or diet changes, we were reminded of his natural calm and joyful self, and without fail, his teachers couldn’t get over the unbelievable progress he was making at school. We realized that our number one therapy was his food. When his nutrition was appropriate, and he wasn’t rejecting specific foods, everything worked better.


Next steps-

The past couple of years have been extremely humbling and enlightening. In many ways, we are thankful to be on this journey, as it has allowed us to see and begin to understand more clearly the health struggles of others. Thomas started to see a pattern in his own physical therapy patients through this journey. Many of his patients unable to heal from chronic pain were also dealing with GI issues. All of this has prompted him to pursue further education in nutrition to better his own skills as a practitioner.


For our personal journey thus far, any past breakthroughs never seem to go the distance in terms of healing. And diets are still extremely limited and unsustainable for the long haul.


So with encouragement from some families who have gone before us and a whole lot of faith, we have decided to start the GAPS (Gut and Psychology syndrome) diet as a family, which is a gut-healing protocol. It’s completely grain free, and you start with only meat stock and certain veggies, yogurt/kefir, and sauerkraut juice, all homemade, to starve out bad bacteria and work to rebuild the intestinal lining. Slowly, you add additional foods, as you are able to tolerate them, and work up to the full diet (still completely grain free).


Dr. Natasha Campbell, a neurologist and neurosurgeon who moved into the world of nutrition when her son was diagnosed with autism, created this diet and moved her son off of the spectrum. She has since helped many others significantly reduce symptoms of IBS, autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and other conditions, and for some, essentially eliminate symptoms.

Gaps book


The primary reason we are doing this diet is to heal the boys’ (and girls’!) guts, but with the established gut-brain connection, we are super curious about what happens with everything else.


We’re going to document the fun and the crazy, so follow along if you would like 🙂

Let’s get this party started!