Welcome back to my self-interview about this voodoo diet called GAPS–
Wait–why do you call it a voodoo diet? Ha! I took to calling all this alternative stuff “voodoo” because, as a conventional medical doctor, I didn’t believe in it. It seemed like tricks and magic without real, tangible evidence and results. (Snake oil. Voodoo. Quack, quack. $Ching, ching, ching. All these people seemed in cahoots together.)
The GAPS diet especially seemed like spooky voodoo because it repeatedly talks about making and drinking broth from bones–bone broth– and eating animal organs. If that ain’t “voodoo” sounding to a refined, civilized girl who eats cereal for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch…
Do you still think it’s spooky? Nah. Now I realize it’s just a traditional way to recoup the needed minerals, proteins, and vitamins that are stored in bone and the organs of animals. It’s basically just using the whole animal, as cultures historically did before us.
I mean, it seems even a generation or two before us, kids were still forced to eat their liver. Not “their” liver, but the cow liver on their plate. They didn’t all run to the store to pop some vitamin D, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin C pills. And ask the grandparents! You’ll find some of them who have an affinity for an organ they haven’t eaten in years!
My dad loves liver. My father-in-law heart. I remember eating the tongue with my own farming grandparents when I was a kid. Each meat cut and organ has its own vitamin, mineral, and amino acid profile! So by only eating white meat or steak, we are completely missing the gamut of beneficial nutrients, due to our snobbery and “advancement.” It’s a sad misuse of an animal. I’m so sorry to be perturbing my vegetarian friends’ sensibilities. I know it sounds yucky.
Well, it does sound a little gross, I have to say. Anyhow, I have read some bad things about the GAPS diet? Can you mention some of those concerns?
Yes, well, there’s the concern of lead toxicity in the daily broth requirement. If the animal is raised on a bucolic, yet lead-laden farm, then the animal can have a higher concentration of lead in its bones, seeping into your broth. I’ve read you can’t really predict which land will be high in lead levels because the lead can permeate the air, travel, and settle in a different area, remaining for years and years. Remember, we used to use lead in gas for our cars. So I’m not sure you could predict without testing, which farms will have higher lead than others. But I’m no expert. So, sure, there may be an unpredictable risk of lead.
Another concern is the effect of a sudden carbohydrate drop on the body. GAPS doesn’t have to be a low carb diet, but the introduction diet is way too easy to be almost no carbs at all! Most people just enter ketosis with uncomfortable symptoms, like headaches, fatigue, and a little nausea.
Other people, and kids are pretty sensitive, react violently to the ketosis transition, with horrible nausea and persistent vomiting. This really puts them at risk for electrolyte disturbances, which could land them up in the hospital! Most likely, and I’m not a GAPS provider or expert and you shouldn’t use my blog for medical advice, this could be avoided by making sure to eat carrots, winter squashes, pumpkin, and honey in the recommended tea. I personally think a slower transition to a low carb diet is much safer. When I transitioned, when I felt that low-carb feeling, I eased it with some cooked carrots and honey in my tea. I’m a weenie. But a safe weenie.
Food obsession is a definite concern too. The GAPS food list becomes a Bible. I remember my husband coming home when I was doing GAPS and showing me an article about orthorexia. This is an eating disorder where people obsess about eating healthy, judge themselves and others by how they eat, develop anxiety due to food choices, and basically, their whole life simply become wrapped up in food. I was glad he showed me this article. We talked about it together, decided no, that’s not where I was at, and then I proceeded with a new awareness of something that can easily afflict health-conscious people–myself included—if awareness is not high.
And then we get into raw eggs and raw milk and raw fish…
Oh, uh, yummy…by the way, what do you eat on GAPS? Well, the book has a whole list of do’s and don’ts. But, basically you eat lots of vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, carrots, squash. Meats, trying to incorporate grazing animals that roam pretty freely outside–and not just eating one cut of meat, but the whole animal, including organ meats.
Eggs, seafood. Fruits. lentils and specific beans, soaked. Nuts. Honey. Peanuts are okay, too. And then daily consumption of fermented foods for probiotics and homemade broths (using leftover scraps and bones) for the minerals and amino acid profile.
But what shocks most people is that there are no grains or potatoes allowed. Not even sweet potatoes. GAPS’ carb foods are things like carrots, squashes, lentils, honey, navy beans, fruits, peas.
Did GAPS “cure” you? No. It did improve me, though to the point that my GI symptoms were very tolerable. It also showed me that the many headaches I was getting wasn’t just my kids. (Love you, girls!) Ha! I had some sensitivities to particular foods, like eggs, which give me headaches. But I had to carefully do and re-do the introduction, elimination type part of the diet to figure that all out.
What do you mean? Sensitivities? Geesh! You had to take out MORE foods? Yes! A full GAPS diet would have been disastrous for me, but because I went through the introduction and followed the author’s suggestions on watching for food intolerances, I was able to identify problem foods I had: dairy, nuts, eggs, chicken, coconut. After 18 months on GAPS, those foods still bothered me (and still do). GAPS helped me but did not cure me.
But the GAPS diet is laden with foods that will bother many autoimmune-ish people, like dairy, nuts, eggs, and legumes. All very “healthy” foods that I think should be in a person’s diet if they are tolerated.
WAIT a minute. Are you kidding me? Some people have to take it further than GAPS or Paleo?
Well, nobody has to do anything! Right!? It’s important to remember that! This is always a choice! But, yes. Some people will find much relief in taking their diets down to whole food and then further eliminating nightshades, legumes (beans and lentils), all nuts and seeds, all dairy, eggs, all grains (wheat, soy, corn, even rice and quinoa). Also, watching out for reactions that are very individual, like avocados or shellfish or coconut, etc.
But remember, the goal is not to be a martyr or to be “cool,” the goal is to feel better, to feel like yourself. And your own diet tailoring will take you there, not somebody elses.
Are you sure this stuff, it’s not all in your head? Or those people’s heads? Could be. But my head really wants it to be okay to eat pizza. I’d love me some pizza. My head wants pizza. It’s my favorite food. But when my head starts eating pizza, my body gets mad. My head is like, “Ah, see! That wasn’t so bad, and it was delicious.” And my belly is like, “What did you just do to me?”
Would the “you now” recommend the diet to the “you back then”?
When I started this nutrition stuff, I needed an extremist to bring me to my eating knees. All my food came from a box. It all had dairy and wheat. And I didn’t really see anything wrong with that. Mostly, I’m not extremist in anything. I always thought that a really good diet (and life) allowed absolutely anything in moderation. But my gut and headaches didn’t agree, and food definitely played a role. I haven’t read a better book at explaining how to eat 100% unprocessed food than Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) book.
I mean, she taught me that even tea bags were processed and that “whole food” tea would be the loose leaf tea, or even better, the mint you grow in your garden. However, the GAPS book is not really written in a scientific manner, it is more evangelical–and maybe even fanatical?
It is written to drive things home and to allow for no exceptions. I needed Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s unique, rigid approach. There’s no looking for GAPS-legal processed foods because honestly, none exist. (Heck, even nuts are supposed to be soaked!) If I had a loophole, I would have wriggled my logic right through it.
Dr. Campbell-McBride’s GAPS diet book breaks things down in a simple, general way for pretty accurate reading–but could definitely be considered reductionisic or “fruity” by anyone with a medical or scientific background.
I would recommend to myself back then that I not be afraid of any real, whole food, and that I introduce it slowly, seeing how I do. Not just follow the GAPS list of foods. Start with those, and then not be afraid to journey forward.
Do you believe everything in the book?
No. Not as stated. But yes, I do see now with my research that the gut and its bacteria play a huge role in the body’s pathology. I see where soaking nuts and beans helps. And where eating organ meats and bone broth supplies needed nutrients.
I do not find her “allergy testing” on the skin to be useful or practical. It may even be dangerous. Someone with a severe food allergy may think, because their skin doesn’t have any changes after putting some of that food on their skin overnight, it’s okay to eat a known allergenic food.
I’m still not a fan of raw milk. Sure, if it’s my cow, I wash the teats, and I milk the animal.
Mostly, I know that one plan will NOT fit all. Ever.
Well, let’s stop talking and see if anyone wants to comment. Okay. Good. I hope people remember that this blog is a place of sounding ideas, sharing ideas, not one of guidance. Ha! “Like the blind leading the blind, shan’t they both fall in the ditch…”
Questions? Comments? Gripes? Complaints?