In case you were wondering, here’s a little update on our month of grain-free eating. As you may recall, our family undertook an experiment to eliminate grains, dairy and sugars from our diets in an attempt to heal our guts and eliminate negative symptoms – mainly Little Handsome’s eczema. When we started out, we gave ourselves one month as a time frame. The month we chose was February.
I can’t say enough about how amazing Little Handsome was through the entire month. I was afraid we’d be walking around on eggshells, trying not to mention certain foods and avoiding places where they are sold. But it was unnecessary.
For example, when we would go to the corner store where we used to pick up bread and milk, my amazing son wouldn’t ask for either. On one trip to said store, he told me that when his eczema was all better he could buy a small container of M&Ms. Then he went to the cooler and handled the yogurt. He said, “We don’t have yogurt at our house anymore.” I confirmed his statement and reminded him of why, and he simply walked away from it. The next day, we were in the park and some kids were eating popcorn. He said to me matter-of-factly, “Popcorn is not allowed for me,” and continued riding his bike around the kids and their snack. Wow. Where did this wonder child come from?
So, here we are almost at the end of March. Are we eczema-free? No, we are not. While on the diet, there were no big flare-ups despite sand storms and the stress of daddy leaving for a business trip (both of which we believe are triggers). His knees got a little red, but it was nothing a little coconut oil couldn’t manage.
So, are we still avoiding all sugars, dairy and grains? No, we are not. This has been a very tough decision for me. I do think something good was happening in Little Handsome’s body while on the diet. This thought has been confirmed to me by the need to break out the medicated cream for the outbreak of eczema that has come since we’ve come off the diet.
So, why in the world am I letting my son eat foods that I think hurt him? Well, there are a number of reasons:
- I feel uneasy with experimental diets (especially drastic diets) when other people (especially growing people) are involved. I’m much more comfortable with the idea of crowding out than eliminating. I want to fill up on vegetables so there is no room left for bread. I want to create a family culture of making wise decisions rather than following strict rules. I know, lofty goals. But these are the things that I think about, when I’m not worrying that I’m making the wrong decision or doing some sort of long-term damage to my son and his relationship with food. Long story short, I need to be completely convinced that I’m doing the right thing when I mess with a child’s nutrition – and I had begun to doubt.
- Little children have fantastic memories. Little Handsome remembered me using phrases like, “after your birthday” (Feb. 28) and “when Grannie goes home” (March 2) interchangeably with “when your eczema is better.” I could have explained to him that I was wrong and that we needed more time, blah blah blah, but my own doubts had already been flooding in (see point 1). When he made the realization that the set time was up and he was now “allowed” to have other foods again, we were at a friend’s birthday party and they were serving the cake. He looked at me, with a big twinkle in his eye and said, “I can have some!” I melted and let him eat icing off of daddy’s piece of cake. He savoured every bite (see point 2).
Although I was considering trying to get Little Handsome to comply with the diet for longer, I’m glad things have taken the turn they have. I long for balance in all areas of my life. Eliminating 2 food groups (grains and dairy) doesn’t feel like balance. The GAPS diet is meant to be short-term (of course, short term can mean up 2 or 3 years) – a chance for the gut to heal and then the return to a normal diet. In 4 weeks our guts haven’t healed completely, but the process has been started.
So, was grain-free February a failure? Not at all! In fact, I might even say it was a roaring success.
Aside from any possible benefits at the gut-level, we are healthier. Our eating habits have changed permanently. Even with the return of many “old” foods to our diet, Little Handsome’s breakfast still includes grain-free granola and green juice, and lunch and dinner still include a bowl of bone broth. His apple juice continues to be spiked with kefir water, and he continues to eat a minimum of 3 pieces of fresh fruit a day. What a far cry from the (recent) days of bread with cream cheese for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with nutri-grain bars and goldfish crackers for snacks.
We gave our digestive systems a break from grains, we got ourselves out of our dietary ruts, and we avoided major flare-ups. I’d call that a success. There is much more I want to learn about gut health and much more I want to learn about eczema. I foresee multiple tweaks to the way we eat and the food we serve our son. I wouldn’t be surprised if we took an extended period of time to really try out the GAPS protocol someday. But not without proper preparation and family buy-in…we’ve all got to be on the same page.
Health and nutrition are very personal things. Some people thrive on raw diets, others on diets rich in whole grains, and others need lots of animal protein to sustain themselves. And even for individuals, this will change depending on the season in their lives. My task is to find our healthy balance, and this month it includes moderate amounts of grains. And judging from my boy’s reaction to his first plate of rice in a month, I’d say this is the right decision for us for now.