I've been hearing from my fan base that I'm a lazy blogger. (Well, to be specific, from my fan. But it sounds better if I say fan base.) And the fan base is correct. I have been lazy. 39 days without writing anything is a long time. But beside being lazy, I'm also uninspired. I feel like I have nothing to blog about. When I pointed that out to the fan base, he told me that I should blog about the reason my yummy treats to make list is so thin. So I've been guilted into doing a post, and if it bores you to tears, I'll give you the email address for the fan base and you can complain to him.
The Gut And Psychology Syndrome book, commonly known as GAPS. The author, Dr. Natashya Campbell-McBride is a neurologist, specializing in the treatment of autism. In her practice she noticed that she did not see a single autistic patient who did not also have digestive disorders. Further investigation and research led her to the conclusion that the seat of many (if not almost all) psychiatric disorders spring from an unhealthy gut. And further research showed that a host of auto-immune conditions and other illnesses also had their roots in gut dysbiosis.
Our guts are inhabited by friendly, helpful, necessary bacteria. They are essential to the proper digestion of the food we eat. They also are warriors that keep the bad bacteria in check. When a gut is populated with the right amount of good bacteria (about 5 lbs in a healthy person), the bad bacteria doesn't have a chance to make us sick.
Trouble arises when that balance is upset. When we have a course of antibiotics, we can wipe out the helpful bacteria and the bad bacteria takes over. The gut is ravaged. Unchecked, they can damage the gut wall, allowing partially digested food (remember the good bacteria is essential for digesting) to leak into the bloodstream, where it can travel around the body, acting as a toxin, causing sickness.
If you have somehow, miraculously never had antibiotics, you still can't pat yourself on the back and think your guts are fine. The food that you eat affects your gut bacteria balance. Simple carbohydrates feed the bad bacteria. Eating lots of sugar, white flour, pasta, and potatoes sets up your guts for a wave of bad bacteria. Plus, processed foods are high in preservatives, nasty harmful fats, and toxic food colorings. Environmental toxins take their toll on our gut health as well. Exposure to toxic chemicals found in everyday life (new paint, carpet, air pollution) as well as antibacterial soaps wage war on your friendly bacteria.
As I read through the GAPS book, I found multiple members of my family in it's pages and I became convicted that we needed to do this diet. The purpose of the GAPS diet is to heal and seal the gut through a protocol of nourishing, easily digestible foods, that are low in carbohydrates. The bad bacteria are starved, the good bacteria are supplemented with probiotics, and the gut is soothed with bone broths and nutrient dense foods.
You need to be really convinced of the need for GAPS in your life to undertake it. It is not for the faint of heart or the dabbler. You need to commit. Depending on how damaged your gut is, the GAPS diet takes 1-1/2 to 2 years. That sounds daunting, doesn't it? But the funny thing is that the diet isn't that different from the Paleo-style of eating we've been doing. What's difficult is the Introduction Diet, which is where we are.
The Introduction Diet is in 6 stages. You start out at stage one having bone broth with every meal. You can have meats and a limited number of vegetables (squash, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, garlic, and carrots), but they all need to be boiled, preferably in broth. So, basically, it's soup for every meal. If you have places to go during the day, a thermos is your best friend.
You have to throw away the concept of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and think of Meal 1, Meal 2, and Meal 3. If you mourn over the foods you can't have, you'll be miserable and hate life. Think instead of the healing that's taking place inside you and rent a good movie. Preferably one that doesn't have restaurant scenes.
At each level you get to add in new foods. That's exciting. My family got amazingly happy when avocados came back on the menu and scrambled eggs caused a hallelujah breakdown. Have you ever seen someone moan while eating scrambled eggs? I have. Several times.
The tricky thing about the intro diet is that it's not set in concrete. My family is comprised of a bunch of OCD planners who want to put dates on the calendar. I can't tell you the number of times my son has asked me what day we get to have apples again (no fruit yet because the sugar feeds the bad bacteria). My family now knows not to ask me questions that begin with "When can we.." They know I'll shriek at them, "I don't know!! We'll get there when we get there!!!"
The reason you can't plan is that each person's physiology is unique and the damage that needs to be healed is not necessarily the same for every family member. Foods need to be introduced gradually, a tsp on the first day, watching for reactions. (Not the 1/2 an avocado some family members ate on the first day - cough cough) If there is a reaction, the food needs to be removed, then reintroduced a week or so later, to see if there's still a reaction.
If there's minimal healing that needs to take place, a person could conceivably whip through the Intro Diet in a month, then move on to the full GAPS diet. But some people stay on a particular level of the Intro diet for weeks or even months.
We are finishing up our 4th week on the Intro Diet and we are moving into Stage 4. And what progress have we seen?
The most visible change is the weight my husband and I have lost. His pants are falling off him. He got asked at work if he had cancer. Not because he looks ill, but because of the dramatic weight loss.
My son, who has always been a picky eater, continues to surprise me. Where he would formerly turn up his nose at vegetables and would prefer to go hungry than eat certain foods, he now will happily eat squash, carrot and celery juice, and soups. He even asked me if we could still have the squash and nut pancakes once we were off the diet because he loves them so much. It's amazing what a motivator hunger is, especially when there's no alternative in the refrigerator.
We were driving in the car the other day and he commented on the proliferation of fast food joints along the road. He said that when he grew up he wanted to open up a restaurant. But not something nasty like McDonalds or Taco Bell, something where you could go and get good food. Like meat and soup. Or soup and meat. I had to smile at that.
My daughter? She's tired and crabby all the time. That doesn't sound like an endorsement, does it? But it's truth. And hopefully as she heals she'll start to find more energy and feel better about life. And if not, we'll have to send her to a boarding school. (Just kidding.)
And me? Well, besides the weight loss, I found out something that makes makes my stomach churn just to think about it. It's in the TMI department, so if you're squeamish, just skip this paragraph. Still with me? Ok. I found out I have intestinal parasites. Ugh. As the low carb diet starved them, they started showing up in the waste management bin. Ok, the toilet. I was trying to be delicate about it, but there's really not a delicate way to say it. It super creeps me out. Really. Full body shudder. Sources report that there is a 1 in 3 chance of having parasites so I'm not alone. OK, poor choice of words but I never would have found that out if I hadn't been on GAPS.
If you are curious about GAPS, I highly recommend reading the book. And if that makes you seriously consider doing the GAPS diet, here are a few resources that have been helpful for me.
The Gaps Guide - This is a practical, walk-through, how to do GAPS guide. Very helpful information that makes it seem less intimidating.
The Gaps Website - loaded with helpful information. Just reading through the FAQs page takes a ton of time.
The Gaps Diet - another cache of tremendous information, as well as resources
Cooking With Gaps - DVD with clear step by step demonstrations of how to make the food recommended on the GAPS diet
30 days on the Gaps Intro Diet menu plan - This menu plan saved my bacon! (even though we can't have bacon :-( ) It does all the thinking for you - that's crucial when you're having the first week brain fog. It's worth every penny!
And a few of my favorite GAPS-friendly websites are here - (If you have one I haven't mentioned, please put a link in the comments!)
Nourished and Nurtured
Health, Home, and Happiness
Blessings on your food journey!
(and a big thank you to The Fan for the title of this post!)