Addressing the GAPS in Your Health, Part 2
* This is the second part of a two part series, you can find the first article at “Addressing the GAPS in Your Health”
Part 1 of this article (Winter 2011) explained the reality that health problems are not necessarily genetic but can be related to diet and particularly to digestive health. Our “second brain,” the gut determines much of our mental, emotional, and physical health. The Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Diet restores a dysfunctional gut and allows people to enjoy a wider range of foods.
Sometimes I envy people who don’t like to cook. They open a can, zap a box, or bring home fast food. Meal prep is fast, and their kitchens stay clean. But often, especially as those people age, a hefty collection of medicines occupies the bathroom cabinet.
The kitchen at my house is rarely caught up. Over-sized stock pots of bones simmer on the stove. Gallon jars of fermenting kombucha, and water and dairy kefirs line the counter. Homemade butter and lacto-fermented sauerkraut keep the food processor whirring—and constantly in need of cleaning. What’s more, for truly healthy eating, there’s no such thing as grabbing fast food, which means always thinking ahead to the next meal, especially if we have to be away from home during meal time.
In her Nourishing Traditions cookbook, Sally Fallon says if you can’t take the time and trouble to cook nutrient-dense, properly prepared foods for your family, you should drop other activities so you can. That sounds harsh, but it is truly the best gift you can give your loved ones, particularly if they have health issues the GAPS Diet can help.
Filling in the GAPS
Friends regularly ask me about various health problems, because they know how much I like to research alternative treatments. My family now jokes that my standard answer has become: “Do the GAPS Diet!” When they hear my suggestion, some folks object that they don’t have any digestive issues, so gut-healing is irrelevant. That’s a misconception, however. Because it is so beneficial to health in general, GAPS does help!
Another major objection I hear is from those who don’t want to give up grains and potatoes. They get side-tracked by just going gluten-free, which is something of a fad these days. Although gluten is often the culprit that starts leaky gut problems, it is not the only source of the problem.
Gluten-free crackers, cookies, mixes, and such simply replace gluten flours with other starchy grains like brown rice. Those starches continue to feed the out-of-control bad bacteria responsible for a leaky gut. Plus, other grains are rarely prepared properly to deliver the benefits they can offer. Most should be soaked and/or fermented. Without that step, they still contain phytates and other digestive inhibitors which keep the body from assimilating vitamins and minerals in food and supplements.
Even celiac patients will benefit from the GAPS Diet, and they may find that eventually they will be able to tolerate some gluten-containing grains.
Supplementing the GAPS
Although the GAPS diet brings a lot of healing on its own, it is greatly enhanced by the use of a few supplements. I’ve explained below (in order of importance) the four most crucial ones.
1) A quality probiotic to boost the population of good bacteria in the intestines. Probiotics are good strains of bacteria. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, creator of the GAPS Diet, offers an excellent probiotic which does not contain any starches, although many find the cost of her product beyond their budget.
Using a cheap-o version from the drugstore, however, is not the answer. You’ll likely be wasting even the lesser amount of money you do spend. Bargain varieties often contain dead bacteria because of improper, less expensive processing methods and shelf storage.
Fortunately, Beeyoutiful’s Tummy Tune-Up represents a happy medium. It contains eight viable strains of the most vital bacteria, and remembering to take it is easy because it doesn’t require refrigeration. That means you can leave it in plain sight. While Tummy Tune Up contains a miniscule amount of starches, it is an excellent, budget-friendly alternative. (By contrast, Beeyoutiful’s Ultimate Defense is not a good companion to a strict GAPS diet because it contains fermented grains.)
2) Cod liver oil. Although everyone should be taking this supplement regularly, it is especially important for those on the GAPS Diet. We believe that Rosita Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil is the very best available, but it, too, is costly.
As a fine alternative at a much lower price, I highly recommend Beeyoutiful’s cod liver oil gelcaps. They’re not fermented, but the oil is processed without the high heat or chemicals often used to produce drugstore brands.
3) Essential fatty acids, while needful for everyone, are vital for GAPS patients, especially if autism spectrum issues are involved. Beeyoutiful’s Omega Balance 3-6-9 is a cost effective blend of borage, flax, and fish oils that wonderfully fill this need.
4) Digestive enzymes. Because the GAPS Diet focuses on treating the digestive tract so as to heal the body of other ills, digestive enzymes should be taken at the start of every meal, especially when meats and fats are included. Beeyoutiful’s Digestive Enzymes are a good choice.
Two Steps to Cross the GAPS
An effective GAPS Diet is implemented in two stages: The Introduction, which has six distinct but relatively brief phases, and the Full Diet, which usually is best followed carefully for at least two years before slowly moving back into the entire spectrum of healthy foods, including some grains and starchy vegetables.
Many people find a good way to help their families switch gears from SAD (Standard American Diet) to GAPS is to jump into step two, the Full GAPS Diet, for awhile first. This is what our family did. Even at this level, I immediately started losing weight and feeling spunkier and more “with it,” largely due to the elimination of grains.
However, after we “practiced” with the Full Diet for almost six months, we then moved our family’s “critical care patients” into the GAPS Intro Diet. That’s when we started to see calmer behaviors and improvements in attention span.
These steps and the foods permitted for each are outlined in detail in the book Gut and Psychology Syndrome (available at www.gapsdiet.com). A cookbook and a quick guide to the diet are also available at the GAPS website. In addition, you’ll find a helpful yahoo support group, plus testimonials.
There are some common mistakes GAPS dieters make that can negatively affect the outcome of this healing protocol. These include overdoing no-grain flours (like nut or coconut), not eating bone broth every day (see recipe in Winter 2011 catalog), and giving up too soon. Our family plans to do GAPS again, because we made some of these mistakes and saw the negative results particularly in family members who most needed the help. In addition, we re-introduced dairy products too quickly, another common deterrent to steady healing.
I encourage you to try GAPS now if there are any health issues in your family. Some of my older children need this diet, but I did not know about it yet when they were still living at home, eating our food. Unless an older teen or young adult is very convinced of the benefits, he or she will find it difficult to pass up pizza and chips with friends. If you can do GAPS while your children are young, their little bodies will heal much faster than older bodies with accumulated damage from a leaky gut—and you can have total control over their diet.
Worth the Effort
Those who have tried this eating lifestyle in earnest testify to its benefits. A once skeptical, fifteen-year-old friend with severe eczema is now so excited about her rash-free skin and weight loss from GAPS that she’s using babysitting money to buy her own probiotics!
Another friend’s six-year-old, fidgety, impulsive daughter with a blinking tic calmed down and focused better within five days of starting GAPS, while her father reported that his foggy-headedness decreased and his physical endurance increased within the same period.
A homeschooling friend in Chicago watched her violent twelve-year-old son with Asperger’s become a thoughtful student and advance from second grade level work to sixth grade within a year of starting GAPS. Testimonies like this abound.
The GAPS diet is highly recommended by The Weston A. Price Foundation. WAPF recognizes that many modern people have compromised digestive systems due to bad diet, antibiotics, chemicals, and more. Once the diet has had time to improve the body’s inner workings, using WAPF guidelines for nutrient-dense cooking is likely the best way to add a wider variety of foods to your menu.
One thing GAPS will not do, however, is shorten your cooking and cleaning time in the kitchen. In truth, the effect may well be the opposite. But it will help your children focus and control themselves so they are better able to help you—and eventually do much of the kitchen jobs themselves. What you put into your kitchen now may get you out of it later!
Nancy Webster is one of Beeyoutiful’s regular researchers and writers, a homeschool mother of eight, and leader of the Southern Middle Tennessee chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation. She is the moderator of Beeyoutiful’s health forum, www.MerryHeartMedicine.com, where you can ask questions and learn from others about this topic and many more. Nancy lives with her family on their “partially working” farm in Tennessee.
Products Mentioned in this Article: