Hi, I'm Jillian! I am a certified GAPS Practitioner, a clinic Registered Nurse of 9 years, a wife to an amazing supportive husband, and a mama to three beautiful babies whom I love dearly. I am excited to share my story with you.
I always thought of myself as a healthy individual. At that time, I was 5’7” and 145 lbs and was a normal body weight. I suffered PMS & terrible menstrual cramps, which I shrugged off and attributed this to being a part of my genes. I was started on birth control at the young age of 16 to manage these symptoms. I grew up on a diet overflowing with processed and fast foods. In my mind, I thought I was in good health!
In my early twenties, things quickly changed and it felt as if my world came crumbling down. My anxiety grew to the point I was having crippling panic attacks on a daily basis. I started suffering from digestive issues that only continued to worsen. Things progressed to the point that I was fearful and reluctant to leave home because I was not sure how my stomach would behave that day and I did want to have to search for the nearest bathroom. I started losing weight... a lot of weight. At my lowest point I reached 109 pounds (a total weight loss of around 36 pounds) in a short period of time. I was not able to put on weight even if I wanted to. I looked physically sick and felt even worse inside.
I reached a breaking point and remember thinking my body was failing me. Little did I know, I was failing my body. I sought traditional medicine and got a full workup. This included: CT scans, SIBO test, blood tests, stool tests, HIDA scan, h. Pylori testing, colonoscopy & EGD, skin allergy testing, you name it. To my disappointment in finding answers, all results came back negative. Physicians labeled me as having “IBS,” suggested an elimination diet, prescribed some band-aid medications my way, and told me, “Good Luck.” Despite eliminating dairy and gluten from my diet, my symptoms and intolerances grew. I was unable to pinpoint any specific food intolerances as it seemed I was reacting to anything I ate. I felt hopeless and discouraged. My mental & physical health were in a downward spiral.
I love Jesus and I believe he has had His hand helping to guide me on this journey and he helps open doors and will lead us to paths on which we are supposed to travel. I was led to a functional medicine doctor who I started working with. The frustrating part, was that no matter what supplements I was tried on, things were still not getting better. I knew there had to be more pieces to the puzzle. After a lot of prayer and searching for answers, I was led to a GAPS Practitioner and introduced to the GAPS diet. I knew there had to be more pieces to the puzzle. I remember telling myself, I am far too young to live my life in fear and being sick. After a lot of prayer and searching for answers, I was led to a GAPS Practitioner and introduced to the GAPS nutritional protocol.
When I was introduced to the GAPS diet and learned about all of the miraculous benefits of healing & sealing the gut, I knew deep down that this was what I needed to do. After several months’ time on the introduction diet, I started to have a glimmer of hope that my body was beginning to heal. I was able to gain some weight again. My anxiety was lessening and eventually became of rare existence. I was able to slowly reintroduce food items that I could not tolerate before. I had a new found understanding and appreciation of what it meant to take care of and to nourish your body. I had more energy, my skin was more radiant, I looked healthy again, and I felt better on the inside and outside. After successfully moving into the full GAPS diet, I knew it was time for our whole family to heal.
We have 3 babies: Lydia who is 6 years old, Caleb who is 4 years old, and Gracie who just turned 10 months old. Before GAPS, our oldest, Lydia & Caleb both struggled. Lydia dealt with constipation on and off as a baby and into childhood. Her Physician wanted her on a daily dose of Miralax to maintain a regular bowel regimen. Caleb, at 6 weeks of age, started having unexplained cyanotic (blue) breath holding spells. During these episodes where he would be emotionally upset, he would hold his breath, turn blue, his body would stiffen and he would lose consciousness. We were told Caleb also had iron deficiency anemia and I was advised to start him on an oral iron supplement. As a mom, we want the best things for our babies and we will do whatever it is we need to do to keep them safe and help them flourish in life. I knew they would only benefit substantially from implementing the GAPS nutritional protocol and instilling healthy behaviors and habits they would be able to carry with them for the rest of their lives.
After several weeks of many battles, hunger strikes, and emotional regressions, we were able to successfully transition the kids onto full GAPS. It was not long before positive changes became evident. Lydia no longer needed additional support to have normal and regular bowel movements. Negative emotional behaviors improved along with quality, uninterrupted sleep. After 6 months, Caleb's bloodwork showed no evidence of iron deficiency anemia and all of his labs were with picture-perfect levels. After 1 year, Caleb had not had a single episode of cyanotic breath holding spells and has not had another one to this very day. My kids are thriving, happy, and growing (admittedly, faster than I would like)!
After a couple of years on GAPS, we found out we were expecting our 3rd baby, Gracie. I continued with Full GAPS for the entirety of my pregnancy. The pregnancy had no complications and she grew and flourished as my body provided her with wonderful nourishing and healing foods. She was born beautiful, healthy, and without fault. Although I am slightly biased, I can without a doubt tell you, she is the happiest, calmest, and most content baby I have ever seen, even to this very day at 10 months old. We have been so beyond blessed.
The GAPS diet is challenging. The work and dedication is beyond worth it when you can see and feel your body starting to heal. I am here to tell you there is hope and healing in store for you and your family. I strongly encourage you to seek the support of a GAPS Practitioner on this journey you are about to embrace. The encouragement and support of doing it alongside someone who has been there before & has the clinical knowledge to guide you, is priceless. We are living proof that the GAPS diet works and still follows the Full GAPS diet to this day.
Sincerely & in health,
Jillian Vander Ploeg
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