“our Story” by Abigail Vermeesch ND, BS, CHS, CNHP
Nutrition is an area of passion for our family because quite literally, it saved us.
Our son, Luke, was born with a random congenital heart defect called aortic stenosis. He had open heart surgery when he was seven days old, which gave him a chance to live. The following three months post-op were spent in the Children’s Hospital at University of Iowa. It was filled with numerous complications including a stroke, kidney failure, sepsis, an episode where he stopped breathing, gall bladder removal, and numerous additional heart catheterization procedures. Luke is only alive today by the grace of God. He wasn’t given much of a chance to live from the start, but thankfully he made it through.
Fast forward to when he was 2 years old: he was placed on the heart transplant list because of a heart that couldn’t relax (diastolic dysfunction). He was listed as a status 1B because he had always been significantly underweight and at this point was in the third percentile – he was listed as “failure to thrive”. Little Luke was also having seizures that were only getting worse and were not being successfully treated with medication. We were desperate and we did what we always do when we’re desperate: pray.
We prayed for guidance and direction. It was no coincidence that it was soon after that we discovered GAPS. GAPS stands for Gut And Psychology Syndrome and it is linked to a whole host of different symptoms and ailments including ADHD, ADD, Dyslexia, Seizures, Depression, Autism, and other psychological disorders. The idea is that problems such as dysbiosis, which is an imbalance in the proportion of good vs bad bacteria in your gut, can lead to a condition called leaky gut. Leaky gut can create a direct opening from the gut to the bloodstream for any number of pathogens and other toxins. The way this affects a person depends on the individual and thus explains the myriad of different disorders it may be contributing to. Those listed here are obviously the more extreme cases, but dysbiosis and leaky gut can also present as gas/bloating, constipation, loose stools, etc. In hindsight, there is more to healing a gut besides just diet, but this diet served as a stepping stone to where we are today and for that we are grateful.
The very short version of our experience with GAPS is (and this is all the very, very short version) that within 4 months, Luke went from the 3rd percentile in weight, to the 54th. His seizures improved dramatically. Most miraculously however, was that his heart function improved to the point where he was removed from the transplant list. He didn’t need a new heart. We thank the Lord every day for this.
Although improved from GAPS diet, Luke was still having some seizures. They were less frequent and severe but still there. He also was showing significant developmental delays from the stroke and seizures. We felt like there was more we could do. Again, we prayed.
Around the time that we started GAPS, I too was undergoing some health struggles. After years of stress in going through what we had with Luke, followed by the birth of our second child, my body was starting to struggle to keep up. It started with weeping eczema from head-to-toe and severe fatigue. I was showing all the signs of adrenal fatigue (this was later confirmed with a salivary hormone test) as well as Hashimoto's disease (an autoimmune condition of the thyroid). After GAPS, the eczema improved some, but the fatigue did not. It was only getting worse. It progressed to the point where I struggled to get out of bed. I’ve never been low energy, I’ve always been high energy and on the go and love getting things accomplished. This was a radical change for me. If I did try to just “push through it”, I worsened. My rash settled in my head and neck and was now present with a great deal of swelling. At its worse, my eyes were swollen shut. You can probably guess what we did: we prayed.
After a lot of searching and prayer we uncovered that I had mold exposure and other infections that had played a role in immune breakdown which had all been exacerbated by stress leading to autoimmune thyroid disease or what is called Hashimoto’s. This was a turning point in my health. Today I enjoy feeling better than I probably felt even as a teenager. I have been able to put my autoimmune condition into remission. Although no person is exactly the same, I have been able to help myself with the same strategies I use to address root issues with my own clients.
Since I have been well, my husband and I have been on a pursuit to educate ourselves on holistic nutrition, the use of supplementation, and how to integrate these types therapies more into helping others in need. We have created a team of other doctors we work with when other medical interventions are needed to bring the client the best care. I personally have completed a number of different educational programs including the completion of my Doctorate of Naturopathy and continue to pursue the latest information and material available. We have had the privilege of studying under some of the greatest minds in functional healthcare and are extremely grateful for this.
We give God all the glory for the restoration of our health and we thank Him for the direction that He gave us.