I’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…