I’m starting to realize that to those who may be unfamiliar with GAPS, hearing a Real Fooder spouting off about going on some “diet,” may sound kinda odd. So, I thought I’d explain myself.
GAPS is not a “diet” in the sense that you might think — it’s not about weight loss (that’s the last thing I need), it’s not some new fad diet avoiding the latest “bad” nutritional thing (*cough*gluten*cough*), it’s not something you’ll hear on an infomercial late at night or see celebrities endorsing.
So what is it?
The GAPS diet is all about healing your gut. Most people in our modern society have significant damage to their intestinal system, due to poor diet (including improperly-prepared, refined grains and sugar) which feeds the “bad” bacteria in the gut, antibiotics, contraceptives (and other drugs), and a lack of probiotic food, to name a few reasons.
The problem often stems from several generations back. Babies are born with a sterile gut, and the very first dose of intestinal microflora (gut bacteria) comes from the mother’s birth canal. If your mother didn’t have good gut flora, because her mother didn’t have good gut flora, then you wind up inheriting it — and your gut health deteriorates — leading to a myriad of health issues.
There are countless disorders and illnesses that are a direct result of gut damage, though they may not seem that way to most medical professionals.
However, as Hippocrates himself said, “ALL disease begins in the gut.” Straight from the Father of Medicine, people!
Even depression, schizophrenia, and autism are related to gut damage, and can be reversed with healing from GAPS (which does stand for Gut and Psychology Syndrome, though it isn’t solely related to psychological or neurological illness). More obvious connections related to digestion, such as celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and other food allergies, are reversible with GAPS as well. Autoimmune diseases, eating disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, the list goes on. Countless illnesses have been healed by using GAPS to heal the gut.
Healing with the GAPS protocol comes from three main sources:
- Diet: The GAPS diet starts your digestive system back at square one. It gives the patient only the easiest foods to digest so that the body can focus on healing the physical damage within the gut (leaky, porous holes, caused by unhealthy gut flora which release toxins into the bloodstream), rather than trying to process difficult-to-digest foods. Slowly, more and more foods are introduced, but only foods chosen to specifically nourish the healing process are allowed. Healthy fats, probiotic ferments, and very nutrient-dense foods are the cornerstones of the GAPS diet.
- Supplementation: The use of therapeutic-grade probiotics are essential in repopulating the gut with beneficial bacteria and restoring healthy intestinal flora. Vitamins A and D are also critical for the GAPS patient — these can be provided in a highly-absorbable form of cod liver oil. Sun exposure to trigger the body’s own production of vitamin D is also important.
- Detoxification: Natural and gentle detox methods such as epsom salt baths, and vegetable juicing can give a highly beneficial boost to the detoxifying effects of a healing diet such as GAPS. It’s crucial that the body rids itself of as many damaging toxins as it can during this the healing process.
I’m Failing to Thrive
Yes, that’s basically what it sounds like. I fail at life, you guys.
“Failure to Thrive” is an actual, clinical diagnosis given to me when I was a child. I weighed 35 pounds in the second grade. I was
so small that I wasn’t even registering on the growth charts, and after many tests and exams and visits to hospitals and clinics, the best the doctors could come up with was, “Welp — she fails at growing. Sorry!”
Yeah. My poor mother.
And sadly, no one was recognizing what was really going on — I had damage to my gut that was causing my inability to, well, “thrive.” Tiny holes in my intestinal walls caused by an imbalance of gut flora (“good” probiotic bacteria vs. “bad” pathogenic) were inhibiting me from effectively digesting my foods and allowing them to nourish my body. Instead, food made me feel sick. So I didn’t like it.
Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride explains on one of her sites (and in the GAPS book) how failure to thrive stems from an unhealthy gut –and usually at least one generation back at that. Because, as mentioned earlier, baby’s gut flora comes from the mother’s gut flora present in the birth canal, setting the stage for either good or bad gut health.
Failure to thrive is a common phenomenon in GAPS families. An infant with abnormal gut flora can thrive on breast milk. However, when solids are introduced the child instinctively learns that food (apart from breast milk) makes him/her ill. As the unhealthy digestive system cannot handle solids well and absorbs them partially digested, the child may experience many unpleasant symptoms: a tummy ache, muscle ache, itchy skin, headache, drop in energy, etc. So, quite rightly the infant refuses solids. It is very rare for a child older than six months to get enough nourishment just from breast milk, so without solids the child does not gain weight appropriately or starts loosing weight. The diagnoses failure to thrive usually follows.
Even as an adult, I’m still unable to gain weight appropriately, and until I began eating real food, I didn’t even like to eat, nor was I ever hungry. I’m very self-conscious about my body, and too embarrassed to divulge just how small I am these days, but suffice it to say, it’s my goal to get into the triple digits. I’m convinced that a “Failure to Thrive” diagnosis still applies to me, and that gut dysbiosis (GAPS) is the cause.
So I’m gonna fix it.
Bye-bye grains, starchy foods, and sugar.
And hello ridiculous amounts of homemade bone broth, meats and veggies, and good ol’ fashioned fat.
Yep, in a couple of weeks, once I finish gathering all my food and supplies (I’ll explain what I think you need for GAPS in a later post next week), I’m going on the first, most intense phase of GAPS — the Introduction Diet (I’ll also explain more about that later).
Pre-Hubs is doing it too, as are a couple friends. The Intro part should only last about a month, then we’ll transition into Full GAPS, which is much less intense, and much more, well… normal. Full GAPS can take around two years to fully heal an adult’s gut, but every body is different, and some people require more or less time on it, or a modified version as time goes on.
I’m really excited to share our GAPS journey with everyone and to document our progress as we go! I’m sure I’ll have lots to post about it in the coming weeks.
What do you think about the GAPS diet? Is this something you would consider to improve you or your family’s health? Or, are you already an experienced GAPSter — do you have any words of wisdom to share?
[photo credit: Like_The_Grand_Canyon on Flickr]