Everywhere I look these days, I find info on the GAPS diet. One blogger is hosting a giveaway, another is running a challenge, still another is teaching an eCourse, all with GAPS as a central part of their philosophy. All the marketing has got me interested-but do I really want to go through with it?
What is this GAPS you speak of?
The GAPS diet is based on a book by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, titled Gut and Psychology Syndrome. Dr. McBride is a British doctor whose son was diagnosed with autism, sending her on a search for a cure. The book is the result of her work, detailing her conclusion that the source of many brain disorders and autoimmune diseases is in fact the health of your intestinal tract. Healthy Gut=Healthy Brain.
Ok, so what is the Diet all about?
Dr. McBride provides what she believes is a diet designed to heal the gut, therefore healing the diseases that are plaguing you as a result of your damaged system, diseases and conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s, allergies, ADHD, autism-the list goes on. It starts with an introduction diet that is basically a cleanse. You eat mostly soups made with rich meat broths, soft-cooked eggs, and cooked non-starchy vegetables. After a week or two you start slowly adding foods back into your diet, from most easily digested and nutrient rich to least easily digested, watching for abnormal reactions to each food (such as digestive upset, abnormal stools, eczema, headaches, etc.). All the while you take probiotic supplements and eat fermented foods to support the development of healthy bacteria in the gut. This process of healing can take anywhere from two months to two years, depending on the individual and how damaged their system is to begin with.
That’s quite the process. Why do you want to go through it?
Well, I have a history of allergies, eczema, ear infections and skin infections and other ailments involving multiple rounds of antibiotics, prednisone prescriptions, abrupt weight gain and loss amid years of yo-yo dieting, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and general malaise. Allergies and eczema in particular are an inherited issue, from my mother and my grandmother and even my great-grandmother. One of the things that Dr. McBride discusses is how generations of mothers with unhealthy guts will pass on these deficiencies to their children, who pass it on to their children. And since I am thinking about trying for kids in the next year or two, getting my system healthy is a top priority, as I don’t want my kids to suffer with any of the things I struggled with as a child.
So what’s stopping you?
Well, it’s pretty drastic. It cuts out a lot of foods that make up our everyday diet: all grains (not just gluten grains) all dairy at first, all sugars and starches, including most fruit. The Intro diet is basically just soup. And while that is only for a week or two, and we will add other foods back in, it’s still a big request to make of my husband to give up his beloved breads. I also don’t believe it is a viable long-term option, as any “diet” will eventually get too onerous, as I have found through my years of trying to lose weight. Also, I believe that fundamentally, God has given us all of these natural foods to enjoy, and by properly producing (either through good animal husbandry or organic gardening) and preparing (soaking grains, using natural yeasts, preferring unrefined sugars and flours)we can have a healthy, stable, long-term diet.
So what’s the solution?
Well, here’s where I am right now: if in fact a lot of my issues are caused by a damaged intestinal system (something which I’ve read about in multiple books and articles, not just McBride’s work), then a period of time on GAPS might be beneficial not only for me and Jer, but also for our kids in the future. The healthier I am before I get pregnant, the healthier I will be during and after pregnancy, and the healthier my child. Since GAPS is not designed to be a long-term way of eating but instead a method of healing, it could be a great short-term way to bolster our health. I was listening to a podcast the other day with a blogger who was using GAPS for herself and her children, and she was able to heal her dairy allergy in two months on GAPS (something I am sensitive to) as well as her son’s eczema (my lifelong scourge). So could we sacrifice our delicious whole foods diet for a few months to heal up some long-standing ailments and set us on the path to extreme health? I think maybe so.
This fall we plan to continue our research and transition our pantry to prepare for the great GAPS experiment, hopefully beginning after the holidays. At the very least, this will be a good strategy to lose some weight and cleanse our systems, as we are all exposed to an incredible amount of toxins in our everyday lives these days. At best, I could find a level of health I have never experienced before. I won’t know unless I try.