It’s been quite a roller coaster for me diet-wise this month. The more I read, the more restrictive my diet is about to get. But perhaps only temporarily.
As of now my digestion is a wreck. There’s nothing normal or good about it, and it seems my stomach hates everything, including water. I’ve been gluten-free and dairy-free* for 2 weeks now without any improvements whatsoever. In fact, my symptoms have worsened at times. Frustrating, for sure.
I caved in and had cheese on Saturday. I know I shouldn’t have for the sake of the elimination, but I wanted it and I was frustrated. I have refrained from any form of gluten, though. Unfortunately, it seems to be that gluten and dairy are only the tip of the iceberg as far as my intolerances go. It’s just not enough. I mentioned avoiding foods high in FODMAPS foods the other day, but have abandoned that plan for now.
The problem with taking more and more foods out of your diet is that eventually you are left with very few choices and life won’t be as much fun. In fact, it might be a lifetime sentence of aggravation while obsessing over if onions or garlic or milk are in every bite you take. This would suck, to say the least.
I read about the GAPS diet at least 2 years ago but kind of shrugged it off and didn’t think I’d be interested in it very much—it sounded kind of harsh. Not as harsh as hardcore Paleo, though, once you get past the introduction and into different stages. But through various web sites about FODMAPs and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, GAPS was mentioned just as often. So at the recommendation of someone in my comments, I ordered the book Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS for short) by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride MD on Amazon and it arrived just the other day.
I set it on my desk and figured I’d get to it when I get to it because my reading queue is pretty full with all of the FODMAPs and anti-fiber books I downloaded to Kindle in the past few weeks.
Then the other day the Weston A. Price Foundation, which I follow on Facebook, posted a link to this video featuring Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. She talked in depth about food “allergies” and intolerances, and by the end of the video I was determined to heal my gut thoroughly instead of just avoiding triggers because the whole foods themselves are not the problem, the problem is that my gut flora is unbalanced and it has caused “leaky gut” and whatever other destruction to the gut lining. I may have ulcers or Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis—I don’t know. I have the symptoms of all of the above and I could spend thousands of dollars on medical testing, but then what are my options? Steroids? Surgery? Other medications that suppress symptoms but don’t actually heal the gut? Avoid certain triggers forever and hope I don’t develop new ones? Rack up autoimmune diseases one after another until my entire body and mind are so compromised that recovery may be impossible?
I came to a crossroad and decided that it doesn’t matter what I am diagnosed with because the way I see it, you have heal your gut and there’s only one way to effectively do that: Through diet modification and supplementation of probiotics and other healing herbs and oils.
But not just any diet modification. It has to be fairly scientific and reliable. Cutting out gluten and dairy and soy isn’t enough. You have to reseal the lining of your stomach, give it a chance to heal. That means a fairly restrictive GAPS introduction diet for several days, weeks, or months depending on your reactions when reintroducing “new” foods.
You see the GAPS diet protocol is not a restrictive diet to punish you and make you suffer for eating greasy pizza and chocolate chip cookies and drinking Pepsi. It’s a medicinal protocol to heal your mind and body so that one day you can eat delicious foods again. So you can one day have sourdough bread and creamy full-fat cheese and fluffy salads and crisp apples and sweet potatoes dripping with butter.
So many ailments that we attribute to genetics and aging and “unknown” causes can be linked back to our food intake, environment, and digestion. Diseases and conditions and allergies like arthritis, food intolerances, IBS, diabetes, autism, cancer, MS, Crohn’s Disease, hay fever, depression, ADD, PCOS, and more can be reversed and healed according to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. Considering 85% of the immune system is in the gut, it only makes sense that everything else in our mind and body would be compromised if our gut is.
Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s statement:
“Food “allergies” or intolerances are the result of “leaky gut” when the gut lining is damaged by abnormal micro flora. Foods do not get the chance to be digested properly before they get absorbed through this damaged wall and cause the immune system to react to them.” – Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride
What is GAPS? – This is a good place to start, then I’d recommend buying her book Gut and Psychology Syndrome and definitely watch this video. It’s worth the hour-long watch. I’ve been bouncing around in the book, skipping to the Introduction Diet and lists of foods and the progressive stages after that. I’m going to start it from the beginning and read it from cover to cover. I think this might be what my gut needs. But I’m not going to just jump into it. I plan to start on September 1st so I can read more of this book and mentally prepare myself for this. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be worth it, I believe.
The diet itself has no specific timeline as each individual is going to progress at different speeds. It’s estimated that it takes an adult about 1.5 years to fully heal their gut, children take less time. Hopefully the introduction phase will pass quickly for me and my symptoms will ease up right away so I can move on and start adding more foods. What excites me is the inclusion of dairy and lots of other yummy foods. The prospect of simply avoiding things for life and suffering when I indulge is depressing. I’d rather take the time now to fix this once and for all and then maintain a healthy gut with the wealth of knowledge and resources I have obtained through trial and error. If it should be that I have a true allergy to anything, then I will cross that bridge when I get to it. But I’m hopeful that this will be the road to health. Real health. Not just managing symptoms and crossing my fingers that episodes won’t happen ever.
Per Dr. Natasha’s suggestion I also obtained a copy of Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions cookbook. A lot of the foods will be off limits for a while until my gut gives me the OK with them, but I think this cookbook will become my BFF through the years.
There’s so much reading and research to do, it’s a bit overwhelming. Luckily I have a few years of nutrition research behind me so I’m not starting from the very bottom. What I need to master now is the permitted foods and “illegal” foods of this diet. It won’t be restrictive forever, thankfully! It will only be as long as it takes my gut to heal. Maybe my gut is as anxious as I am and I’ll be fantastic before the start of the next year, or maybe it will be 2015 before I am healed. I don’t know. Maybe this won’t work at all! But I think it’s logical and worth the chance. Worst case scenario I ate some really nutritious foods. There are much worse things in life than to whine about “boring” food, lol. Knowing myself I’ll take boring and make it exciting. You know I can’t leave well enough alone! I have to push the limits and hack the heck out of what is in rotation.
Until I am healed I’m facing life without grains, sugar, most beans, starches (NO potatoes or sweet potatoes! Gah.), processed foods, rancid seed and vegetable oils (canola, soy, etc. – no love lost there), and eating out unless I am confident that the food is up to be par and GAPS-compliant. My blog is about to get even more interesting for the next few months (years!). I’ll probably also blog about foods I make for Dustin and others. Because I’ll totally be living vicariously through Dustin’s diet for a long time. Oddly enough it’s just as satisfying at times. I love when someone enjoys foods I make! It’s very rewarding.
The Introduction phase of the diet is the hardest, and some people skip it entirely and go right to the Full GAPS diet, but it’s not recommended to do that, so I will do the introduction. Dr. Natasha said that some people only have to be on the introduction for a few days, others a few weeks. Either way that’s not so bad. I’ll probably modify the stages a bit and do a soup/broth and freshly squeezed vegetable juice combination. Carrot + apple juice is allowed down the line, and being some people skip the intro altogether, I think I can probably modify the stages a little bit to make them more bearable.
I’m not exactly tripping over myself to start this, though. I mean, soup/broth and limited everything else for who knows how long isn’t super thrilling. So I’m going to educate myself and mentally prepare myself for the next couple of weeks and then begin this journey.
I would love to meet with Dr. Natasha! But she’s in the UK.
I received my shipment of Digest Gold and Digest Gold + probiotics the other day and started taking them immediately. And I don’t know if it was a die-off reaction or what, but they have actually made my IBS-D symptoms worse! Not that the product is bad, on the contrary that actually speaks volumes for its effectiveness. The GAPS protocol says to ease into quality probiotics slowly. Which makes sense. Sometimes you can only have 1/8 of a teaspoon per day at first. And then you increase the dosage based on your reaction. So I’m going to go slower with the probiotics as I begin the introduction and follow the suggestions. I’m also adding in Betaine hydrochloride with Pepsin and whatever else the recommendations are in the book. I’ll have a run-down of my regime when I actually start. There’s lots of information to absorb.
In the meantime, I’m sticking to gluten-free. I’ll probably eat raw milk dairy cheese until I begin the intro. I don’t think it made much of a difference. Personally, I think gluten-free is a breeze. Dear LAWD there’s a wealth of resources out there these days. But the prospect of having to avoid gluten and dairy and onions and eggs and garlic and peaches and plums and sodium and on and on and on was dismal. I need to cure the problems that I can, not dance around triggers for the rest of my life.
I was even convinced that I’d need to go on a low-fat diet because high-fat meals were killing me or at least made me want to die during bad episodes. I even made a list of low-fat foods to eat like it was 1994 again. It was ridiculous. No coconut oil or butter or olive oil or nuts or bacon or sunflower seeds or avocado? Awful. And unhealthy! Dr. Natasha changed my mind about that. I already knew natural fats are crucial to good health, but feeling they aggravated my IBS, I thought I’d have to cut down indefinitely. But the GAPS diet includes tons of healthy fats that you work your way up to. Of course I can’t handle high-fat foods right now, I’m not producing enough bile. I have to correct that.
Part of me thinks that this is going to be so much fun when I get to reintroduce foods to my diet. As if they are brand new once again. And in some ways they will be. I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten to truly benefit from foods. It seems I have had symptoms all of my life, going back to infancy. Plus the GAPS diet allows nutritional yeast! YAY!
From Dr. Natasha’s web site FAQ:
Yes, I allow some species of yeast, providing that the person is not allergic to it, as some people with yeast overgrowth can be. Kefir contains yeast species (which I recommend for majority of my patients) and in many patients I recommend S. boulardii as a supplement, which is also yeast.
I look forward to the day I can bring it back in after I begin. Cheeeeeezzzzy everything!
This guide on Breaking the Vicious Cycle has all the foods that are legal/illegal on the full GAPS diet plan. I don’t know how soon I’ll be on a full GAPS diet, but I’m hoping the time flies by and I can move along quickly. And then once your symptoms are gone and you have normal digestion for at least 6 months, then you can transition off of GAPS entirely and resume “normal” eating with grains and starches but you have to avoid foods and other substances that compromise your gut for life. That means you can’t go back to a life of daily Mt. Dew and Doritos, but you can eat REAL FOOD in abundance, which is not a bad deal at all!
They were SO GOOD and super simple to make. Get the recipe here!
Dustin and I are thinking about going camping + hiking! I’ve never been (tent) camping, and now the weather is cooling down, so maybe we waited too long to give this a go this year? I was thinking October but I don’t want frostbite to tarnish my first camping experience, lol. Maybe we should just start planning for a beach vacation in a warmer climate this time of year. I think summery activities in NY are just about done this year.
I guess it works out because there’s a lot, lot, LOT of soup in my imminent future. Oh boy!
So let’s hear it… anyone on or has been on GAPS?? Success? Puking? No difference? Give me the 411, please!