“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.
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 dramatically, 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 also been on the go, and if I wasn’t getting something accomplished, I was doing something wrong. 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.
A friend recommended us to a friend who practiced Nutrition Response Testing (NRT). We were familiar with this, since my brother, who is a chiropractor in Louisville, KY, also practices it. We had dabbled with it in the past, but never fully committed to it. We decided that if we were going go this route again, that we would jump in with both feet and commit. Thankfully, it made a dramatic difference. It didn’t happen overnight, but I started seeing great improvements. My energy increased and my rash was receding.
Back to Luke, we also started bringing him to be tested. We saw improvements in his health as well. He was more alert, in better moods, and began excelling more in his OT, PT, and Speech Therapy. It was an answer to prayer.
After seeing the profound effect NRT had in my own life and the life of my son, I immediately began pursuing a certification in the technique so that I could practice it and help others the way that it helped me. That was only the beginning. Ever since then, with my energy returned, my husband and I have been on a tireless pursuit to educate ourselves on holistic nutrition, the use of supplementation, and how to integrate these types therapies more into helping others in need. I 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 holistic health and nutrition and are extremely grateful for it.
We've learned that treating the body takes more than a singular approach. We are physical, emotional and spiritual beings and if one of these components aren't addressed, it may not be enough to get well. My husband began pursuing education on treating the emotional side of the body during his studies of functional neurology. This facet has been extremely influential is removing remaining obstacles in my pursuit of getting well. Our family experienced a profound emotional trauma with Luke and his first few years of life. This was something that we had an extraordinary peace with thanks only to the grace of God, but it still had an incredible impact on our limbic systems (the part of our brain that stores memories and generates emotions). The emotional work in correcting these dysfunctions that were created has been a pivotal piece in removing additional major stressors on my body.
We give God all the glory for the restoration of our health and we thank Him for the direction that He gave us. We know that there are still many trials that await us in the future with Luke and with my own lifelong autoimmune struggles. We will continue to pray for wisdom and discernment with what to do every step of the way. We encourage all our patients to do the same when they are considering any form of treatment. We tried just about everything out there in pursuit of getting well. We are thankful we found the right combination. Don’t ever accept that there isn’t any hope left, even if you’ve bounced around from specialist to specialist like many others do. Please give us a call if you have any questions regarding your health and/or nutrition.