Are You Still Doing GAPS?

Chunky squash chicken soupI’ve fallen completely in love with nutrition. So I decided to do an interview with myself about the first, crazy, named diet I ever tried: GAPS. Read with a mild sense of humor at times. Please don’t use anything on my site as medical guidance. (I always say “please,” but I mean it…) Use what I write to scoff. Laugh. Plagiarize. But not as medical treatment or recommendations. Even thought I think I’m right, you should know that I’ve been known to lock myself out of my house, leave fully loaded grocery carts standing in the parking lot, and call my husband by my first real boyfriend’s name.

Are you still doing the GAPS diet?  No.

Got a longer answer than that?  Of course!

Why did you start the GAPS diet? It seems a bit loco sounding. I mean, bone broth and sauerkraut? Really? How did a legit, well-trained, seemingly-normal MD like you go off the nutritional deep-end like that?  Well, honestly, it doesn’t sound too extreme anymore. Now, it all just sounds like good, old-fashioned, traditional food minus a few things. But to answer your question, I had a severe form of a very common problem. In fact, I was told never to talk about it with people, they don’t like to talk about it and they don’t want to hear about it. I suppose I can tell you. I trust you. I started the GAPS diet because my stupid gut wouldn’t move, even with medicines, more than twice a month. Anal retentive woman, I guess.

Did you try any other more normal diets before this?

Oh, like– vegetarian-in-a-box? I’m kidding. A traditional vegetarian diet I think is actually a powerful way of eating, especially if one throws in an occasional egg and/or some fish. But so many vegetarians think a vegetarian diet is about just not eating meat–and they sacrifice their own bodies to the industrialized food package.

Well, anyhow, the standard medical repertoire and more than 4-5 doctors had finally 100% failed me, and I scoured the internet hours and hours for alternative “cures.” I started reading tons on-line and trying this supplement and/or that food, falling into the idea that “one” thing would help.  I tried a gluten-free and dairy-free diet for a couple of months while I researched.  I tried an elimination diet with only sweet potato, lamb, and white rice too.  Repeatedly, though, I kept hitting on people talking about special “healing diets.”

A healing diet? Pft. What in the heck is a healing diet? I know. I know this sounds so stupid to newbies and nutritional novices. When I first started reading about this stuff, I thought, “These people are crazy. CRAZY. WHAT do they eat? How can they think a person should cut THAT out of their diet? Oh, the gullible heap.” (I have a little judgmental problem. Life is working on it.)

And this leaky gut they keep talking about? I can’t remember which staff doctor in training told me that leaky gut wasn’t a real thing, but I know I was taught that!

To answer your question, a healing diet takes into account the fact that the condition of our gastrointestinal tracts helps determine our health—whatever part of the body we want healthy (skin, brain, intestines, joints, etc.). And food predominately determines the condition of your gut.

So, using food, a good healing diet will look to keep the immune cells of the GI tract happy. It will look to offer the nutrients the cells lining the intestines need. It will look to make sure the GI’s immune system is not barraged. It will look to make sure the mucous (Did you know mucus is the noun form and mucous the adjective? Cool, huh.) protective layer of the GI tract is regenerating. And it will nurture beneficial gut microorganisms and weed out not-so-beneficial microorganisms.

A healing diet will remove foods that commonly inflame the entire body and will provide abundance of foods which carry necessary nutrients and restorative properties. The best healing diets will also force you to address more than food, things like sleep, stress, skin care products, and so on.

Okay. I see what you mean about a healing diet now, I guess. But why GAPS?

SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) then GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) were the first “nutritional intervention” diets I kept hitting on. They seemed maybe to be the rage, fad diets of the time. I don’t know. (I later learned of others. And I’m sure there will be plenty more.)

I read all the pertinent websites and bought the books to read. I decided to set out on the GAPS diet to give diet a full attempt to prove to myself that nutrition would not change anything in my health–because I was 100% convinced that diet would change nothing.

Why GAPS?  It seemed the most radical and extreme!  (Have I made it clear enough that I seriously thought all of this was INSANE.  Detoxification?  Gut dysbiosis?  Leaky gut?  Liver support?  Adrenal fatigue?)  But if there was something I could do to avoid a colectomy later in life, I was willing to try! And GAPS seemed, at the time to me, to be one of the most stringent diets, and I wanted to cut to the chase, do the hardest first, and cross diets off my list.

I knew nothing about nutrition, and that’s how I made my choice. Brilliant, eh.

How long did you stay on GAPS?  I stayed on GAPS for about 18 months.

Eighteen months! New humans are turned out in less time than that. Did you cheat? Sometimes on accident. And  sometimes I’d choose to “cheat” and see if I could expand my diet without having any problems from it. But the GAPS diet book says it can take up to two years, so I wanted to give it its due chance. If I clearly could see I had no issues with a food, I’d eat it on special occasions, like maple syrup or a baked potato. And dozens of times I struggled with eating too many dates, honey, almond flour, and peanut butter, all “allowed.”

Why did you stop GAPS?  My constipation finally became manageable with lots of magnesium and the GAPS diet. I became enchanted with nutrition and kept reading. I stumbled across something called butyrate for gut health when I was interpreting a Metametrix stool test I had taken (I know. Weird. A stool test.) and decided to try it as a supplement for my GI tract. Its effect was magic on my gut–GAPS had gotten me part of the way and this seemed to finish it!  But butyrate is still a supplement, and I don’t like supplements.  We (well, our gut bacteria) can produce butyrate naturally from certain foods, so I next added in potato starch (Bob’s Red Mill) and began eating food sources of butyrate, like sweet potato (cold), rice (cold), green plantains, green bananas, potatoes (cold), and a few, diverse legumes.  So after about 18 months, I think you have to technically say I came off of GAPS because I was routinely adding in foods not on the diet.

I still keep a lot of the ideas that GAPS taught me in my diet:

  • Homemade broths for gelatin, calcium, magnesium.
  • Fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi.
  • Offal, such as liver, heart, tongue, and marrow.
  • Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables. (Some say GAPS doesn’t advocate carbohydrates and raw vegetables.  I don’t think that is accurate.  It is not written as a low carb plan per se. It allows a person to eat navy beans, lentils, parsnips, pumpkin, butternut squash, peanut butter certain fruit, and honey as tolerated by a person. And it only excludes raw vegetables until a person’s symptoms improve. Now, how each person will interpret and follow the diet will vary.)
  • Minimizing exposures to environmental things I can control and helping the body deal with them–such as avoiding plastics, excessive fluoride, unnecessary skin care products, etc.  Taking Epsom salts baths.
  • Well-placed supplements.
  • A never give up attitude.

I will continue this long, verbose self-interview later. My kids need food and school…

17 thoughts on “Are You Still Doing GAPS?

  1. Christine

    I did not know that about mucus and mucous, and as a word freak, I thank you. Remember when it was thought mucus was a bad thing and there were extreme diets to prevent us from having any? Our poor bodies, they *need* to be slippery on the insides and entrances/exits. They don’t call them mucous membranes for nothing. Oh, see what I did there? I used my new words correctly in a sentence! You’re a good teacher 🙂

      1. gabriella kadar

        Wow, considering I spend my working life with mucus and mucous membranes…. never knew about the spelling. Mind you I’m probably the only person who mispelled amoxicillin for 35 years. And not one pharmacist ever called me on it. Something to do with the mental confusion of Amoxyl… and well, you know.

        When I had the sigmoidoscopy there was lots of mucus for the GI doc to suction so I looked with pride at the monitor. heehehe.

        If a person has megacolon, doesn’t that permanently damage the muscles in the colon? I need to ask one of my patients who couldn’t poo if anyone was around. Shy bowels? When she had a colonscopy in her 30s the doctor said ‘you have a colon like an old lady’. oooo. I haven’t asked her recently if she’s pooing any better. She now has an en suite bathroom. But for years she was concerned about her weight and lived on raw salad. My own experience of eating raw vegetables is they don’t help with bowel movements. Only cooked stuff helps.

        With my kids, talking about bowel movements was part of the normal dinner hour conversation. Other people think this is very strange but for me, as a mother, it was very important and dinner time was when we’d all be together. Also because I had terrific constipation issues as a child, (couldn’t poop if I wasn’t at home, couldn’t poop in an outhouse or other people’s homes) I wanted to make sure my kids could crap in a hole in the ground in the woods if needs be. So they grew up without any psychological issues around the mental comfort of evacuating wherever, whenever. Now that they are in their 30s, occasionally I still get emails detailing with pride any exceptional productions. And boohoos from eating suicide hot chicken wings. Crazy kid. But that one does get constipated if she’s in multiday psychologically uncomfortable situations. Then, hilariously, she says to herself ‘what would mom do’… and then she uses a Fleet enema and manual extraction. You gotta do what you gotta do. TMI? Too bad.

        I know my colon is fine but when I was under treated for thyroid, I’d have to be absolutely meticulous about having a bowel movement everyday or else. I’d have to ensure I was consuming enough cooked vegetables every single day or it would be manual extraction time which is one of the most disgusting things a person has to do to themselves. (See I have no problem communicating about these things. I figure healthcare practitioners better not have hangups and even though I treat the other end of the digestive tract, I do ask my patients about their bowel habits.) Also before menopause, the week prior to getting my period would be constipation time. Then when I’d get my period, it would elicit a total clearout. So obviously there’s hormonal influence on bowel action. Progesterone? Now let me look at the hormonal graph of the menstrual cycle…Yup, progesterone. According to what I’ve read, the female transit time is longer than the male transit time because of progesterone. (Figures eh? I was always jealous of my brother. I don’t think he’s ever had a day of constipation in his life.)

        Right now I’m ‘doing potatoes’ because weight loss stalled (no gain, just no loss for 5 months, which is actually good seeing as how gain is the big problem). Potatoes, cooked corn, peas, green beans, green chickpeas, and psyllium. Only thing I know is this morning there was a token deposit. Seems despite all the fibre and whatnot, there just isn’t enough for daily production. As long as it’s soft, I don’t care. I think that’s the big thing: soft. Even if it’s not daily, so long as it’s soft.

        There was a woman interviewed on the radio just now who says Indian bitter gourd is da bomb. Cleans ya out (yeah, sure, if you can eat it.) So does raw Amla (I know that). Neither is available most likely in your neck of the woods. The Philippinos at the community gardens grow the bitter gourd and they even eat the leaves! Ay yay yay. Talk about bitter! Yikes. I guess it’s an acquired taste. Asians grow all sorts of different types of flavourless gourds. No nutrients really except for fibre. Maybe they are onto something.

      2. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        I always had problems spelling gentamicin. I wanted to make it gentamycin.

        If a person has megacolon from something like ong-standing, chronic constipation, it can damage the nerves to the point of no recovery. However, after reading the last four years, I feel like definitely some progress can be made such that perhaps a person wouldn’t have to have a colectomy. But I also think it will take a huge endeavor, addressing the caliber of stools so the stretch receptors can reset (an enema program), addressing any food sensitivities (an elimination diet), incorporating foods which can help with regrowth/repopulation of these cells called Interstitial Cells of Cajal and also enteric neurons (prebiotic stuff, like RS, inulin, and more; B vitamins via real food; and more), some psychological stuff like mediation/self-hypnosis/positive affirmation/voodoo-crazy-mind-stuff, addressing high adrenergic tone, activating anticholinergic tone, and so on. Particular foods may help some people. Particular foods will be detrimental to some people. Wish we could predict whose does what with what.

        Thyroid, progesterone, yes! Big players! Pregnancy and nursing can be very bad times for chronic constipation women.

        You’re right. I’ve not seen Indian bitter gourd or amla here! Holy smokes, the Indian bitter gourd/melon is strange looking!

      3. gabriella kadar

        Good thing I’ve never prescribed gentamicin. 😉 I’d probably get it wrong too.

        Optimistically, nerves can regenerate. Hear you on stretch receptors. Even a person without ‘issues’ will have problems getting soft stuff out if there’s no volume.

    1. Tim Steele

      I think that somewhere along the line, “mucus” became synonymous with “biofilm” and is considered a bad thing. Biofilms can form in the mucus, but the mucous layer protects the intestinal wall from biofilms.

  2. Tim Steele

    Great way to present this information! I can’t wait to hear the rest of the interview!
    “Did you know mucus is the noun form and mucous the adjective? Cool, huh.” I did NOT know that, and always wondered why two spellings, thanks!

  3. EmilyMaine

    Love this! Hey I was thinking of you the other day as I am sure maybe about 2+ years ago that I made a nut granola that was your recipe. Would that be right? I think you said the kids used to snack on it sometimes as is. I cannot find a recipe I like quite as much so if you still have that one please please share it with me!!! Hehe Hope all is well with you and yours. X

  4. EmilyMaine

    Oh oh oh and I was so excited to learn about mucus and mucous. I was confused by that recently as I use the “ous” spelling frequently and then thought I was wrong because of spell check. Now I know I was both right and wrong and why. Yay!


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