It’s been a week since we officially ended our grain-free trial (by consuming a wonderful meal of sushi and tempura, oh yum) and I am just now starting to recover. The wave of detox and die-off symptoms that were instigated by our experiment have been frustrating to say the least, but I have definitely learned a lot that will inform our future ventures into GAPS territory. If you are thinking about trying GAPS, SCD, or any other detox program, here are a few things we’ve learned:
1. Just one change can make a huge impact
We weren’t doing full GAPS, just cutting out grains. Not hard, I thought. We still ate lots of nutrient dense foods, fairly limited amounts of sugar, and probiotic-rich foods. But just that one thing of eliminating grains was enough to cause a HUGE reaction, as it took away one of the primary food sources for toxic bacteria in the gut, causing a lot of die-off. And what happens when bad bacteria die? They leave behind their toxic corpses for the body to flush out, overwhelming the natural systems that would usually handle those toxins. And where do excess toxins show up? Why, in the skin and lymphatic tissues, as the body tries to get rid of them any which way it can. And that means excema, flu symptoms, and headaches. Fun times.
2. For goodness’ sake, GO SLOWLY
When the books and experts tell you to go slowly, believe them. You can’t eliminate grains and sugars and dose your body with a bunch of probiotics all at once. Because I didn’t think I was going to cause such a change, I didn’t reduce my probiotic supplements or the amount of probiotics foods I was eating. All those things, while good, cause the war in your intestines to rage even fiercer, and accelerate the die-off, to the point where the healing is actually more damaging to you than the toxins. If you go on a detox, carefully evaluate the foods and supplements that you are taking and reduce the amount of probiotics until after you have tried the diet for a few days and you feel like you can handle the detox.
3. And speaking of supplements…
Know what is in them! I had stopped taking my probiotics but was still experiencing a lot of die-off symptoms, and was confused as to why they were not abating. Then this week I discovered that my multivitamin has a full dose of probiotics already built in! So I was still intensifying the die-off without even knowing it. Stop as many supplements as you can and focus on eating good foods, then slowly add supplements back in, testing for reactions.
You can’t expect your body to go through this hard work of cleaning out toxins and expect to have a lot of energy. Getting a minimum of 8 hours of sleep and keeping your stress levels down is essential. Our modern fast-paced society already has a problem with adrenal fatigue, and we should all try to get more sleep and less caffeine, but it is even more crucial when your body is trying to heal. If you had the flu or a sinus infection, you would stay home and rest and drink lots of homemade chicken soup, right? Well, I hope so, because that’s what would help you get better, and that’s what will help you on GAPS, SCD, or any detoxing program. Not only did I not get any extra rest, but we had busy weekends and long workweeks that just made things worse.
5. Just because you eat healthy now, doesn’t mean you are healthy
Part of the reason I didn’t expect such a huge reaction is because we have changed our diet so much this year already. We’ve reduced our grain consumption overall and mostly eat sourdough or sprouted grains. We eat pastured eggs, grass-fed beef, and organic produce. I make most of our food from scratch and eat homemade fermented veggies to provide nutrients and probiotics. In general, my health had improved greatly. But a few months of good eating is not enough to undo decades of antibiotics, steroids, bad diets, and environmental toxins. Toxins are generally stored in your fat tissues, and when you lose seven pounds in two weeks, you flood your system with a lot of bad stuff that it has been hanging on to for years. You have to be prepared to deal with that.
All in all, despite the struggles, I feel that this was a good learning experience and will pave the way for future excursions into the GAPS diet which will ultimately lead to further healing in my life. Next time I’ll be smarter with it, starting with the Intro Diet and progressing very slowly. I’ll also be sure to have some calendula salve on hand to help the eczema! One thing I do know, however, is that I don’t want to continue to walk around with all these toxins in my body. It might take a long time, and be a hard road, but I want to be healthy.
There are a lot of resources out there to help with the process, and if you are considering GAPS, I highly recommend you check out the support groups on Yahoo (just go to yahoo groups and search for GAPS) as well as the bloggers that are going through GAPS themselves or have found good results from it. Here’s a few for you to check out:
Here’s to your health, and creating a legacy of health in your family.