Disclaimer: This is my personal story. I'm not a doctor and not able to make any recommendations for what might work for you. The best advice I can give is to be an advocate for your health, inform yourself, research like crazy, seek out great health care professionals, and don't give up.
If you've been following along here at YBC for a while, you know that I follow the GAPS diet - a healing diet to repair my digestive tract after long-term antibiotic use for Lyme disease. If you're new here, here's a quick recap:
After I got off antibiotic treatment for Lyme disease, my health was a wreck. I was experiencing:
- major digestive issues (painfully distended stomach after eating almost anything)
- hair falling out in clumps
- painful cystic breakouts
- arthritic issues
After a lot of holistic research and reading the GAPS book, I have noticed improvements in the all of the following ways:
- 100% improvement in digestion, provided I stick to the diet
- hair no longer falling out except for a few strands in the shower
- clearer skin, provided I stick to the diet
- 100% relief of joint pain, provided I stick to the diet
The author of the GAPS book, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride says that we develop digestive issues due to a number of reasons including heavy antibiotic use, The Pill, SAD diet, vegetarian/vegan diets (!!!), etc. She says that these things cause leaky gut, which makes the digestive tract permeable, allowing little food particles to be released into the bloodstream. Since that's not at all where food belongs, the body flips out and deals with it in different ways. Some people react with digestive issues, with rashes, with acne, with hormonal imbalances, etc. She says that when we heal and seal the gut lining through the GAPS diet, we can go off the diet and return to a normal life. So I've been testing it out for the last year and a half.
So, I had been doing really well, but I felt like I had come to a plateau. At the one year mark, I was still dealing with joint pain after eating things like dried fruit and nuts. It was so frustrating because, hello, they were dried fruit and nuts! It wasn't like I was binging on Twinkies or something! What was I supposed to snack on?!
It actually got to a point where after I came home from my trip to Dubai I sort of hit a rock bottom just feeling really helpless and frustrated. I went HAM in Dubai eating all the delicious Lebanese food I had grown up on - tabbouleh (a grain, not on the list), hummus (legumes, not on the list), etc. Never mind not being able to have a glass of wine or eat a freaking cookies, this stupid diet was dominating my life because I'd still experience painful bloating if I cheated on the diet with something as innocent as a piece of pita bread. I couldn't just live my life! I did the best I could in Dubai. I ate at restaurants, and just tried not to worry too much, but I paid the price. In tears, I started researching more, thinking there must be some sort of puzzle piece I was missing.
And that's when I discovered HCLs and Why Stomach Acid is Good for You. I came across a podcast by Chris Kresser, who talked about low stomach acid and how many people with leaky gut - particularly vegans and vegetarians - suffer from extremely low stomach acid (because stomach acid is what breaks down proteins and amino acids). Since I had followed a vegan/vegetarian diet on and off for years, it's likely that I have low stomach acid.
The GAPS book compares the digestive system to a production line at a factory. If the first person on that production line screws up, it doesn't matter how great everyone else does behind that person - the end product is going to be messed up. Same thing with digestion. The first one in the production line of digestion is stomach acid. It prepares the body for digestion and being able to break down the protein to absorb the nutrients. If I don't have enough stomach acid, it doesn't matter what I'm feeing the body, it's going to have a tough time breaking the food down and absorbing the nutrients.
So I started supplementing with HCL at the tail-end of my time in Europe. Now that I'm back in the US, I needed to get more. I hit up my local Vitamin Shoppe to get some. Our local Vitamin Shoppe is tucked away in a little nook and it's never very busy so I was able to go in, tell the people there what I was looking for, and get exactly what I needed super quickly. I wound up with the TwinLab brand of HCLs, along with some other GAPS supplements: cod liver oil and probiotics.
Now, Chris Kresser says it's safe to take as many HCLs as you need until you feel a little warming sensation in your stomach and then you know you've got a sufficient amount of stomach acid. So I tried that once and got up to 6 pills (the recommended dose is like one or two, BTW) and it scared me so I didn't take any more. But that tells you how low my stomach acid is since at six pills I didn't feel any kind of warming sensation. He says that if it freaks you out to take that many, just take as many as you feel comfortable with because honestly every little bit will help. So I've been taking two or three before every meal.
I've been doing this since I returned from Dubai in February - so, just over a month, and I have noticed major improvements including:
- my stomach no longer freaking out if I cheat and have something off the diet
- major improvement in complexion
- And, oddly, about 90% clear up of eczema that I have had since I was a kid.
So, my next question was how long I was supposed to take HCLs for and what happens when I go off. In my research (listening to podcasts, reading interviews and studies), I learned that the "normal" person can look to go off HCLs after around three months because the body will begin to make its own stomach acid. Someone who was worse off than the normal person (i.e. me) can stay on longer and just experiment with going off of them when they're ready. I'll probably go off around the three and a half month mark and see how that works for me.
So right now I'm feeling really hopeful because here's the thing. There was a point when I was so sick with Lyme and was on my sixth doctor and still didn't know what was wrong with me and I felt so hopeless. I was bedridden, could barely walk, couldn't dress myself, couldn't sleep, and was in constant pain, and I swore to myself that if I ever got better, I wanted to do all the things I always wanted to do: travel, do meaningful work, get that yoga certification, etc. And now that I've done it, I have all these exciting trips planned to Costa Rica and Greece, etc and I want to do all these things. I want to really live my life - the life I had always envisioned for myself - and I don't want to be held back by food restrictions. So this little HCL discovery feels like such a breakthrough and such a big step in the right direction for me. Fingers crossed it's the missing puzzle piece.
The healing GAPS diet is supposed to last around two years, so in about six months I'll see where I'm at and hopefully can move forward. Thanks so much for following along!
PS- From 4/6 - 5/9 all Vitamin Shoppe brand and BodyTech items are buy one get one 50% off so it's a good time to stock up on your supplements!
This post is sponsored by FitFluential on behalf of Vitamin Shoppe.