Monday, January 14, 2013

The GAPS Diet - Beginning the Journey

I'm starting the GAPS diet. Not today. Not tomorrow. But the next day. The reason is, I am traveling now, and the GAPS diet is very restrictive. Let me tell you the what, why, how, when below:

What is the GAPS diet? This diet was designed by a doctor named Natasha Campbell-McBride, who made the connection between brain and emotional disorders, and gut health. She developed this diet, to heal the gut, thereby healing the symptoms popping up mentally and emotionally. The gut-brain connection is well documented nowadays, so it makes sense that a compromised gut would have an effect on thoughts, feelings, and behavior. The GAPS  (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet aims to heal the gut, restore a healthy ecology and improve nutrient assimilation. 
The GAPS diet is similar in don'ts to the Paleo diet. No grains, carbs, sugars, starches etc. Some exceptions are the GAPS diet allows some honey because of it's nutritional and healing benefits, but does not allow Sweet Potatoes for the starch. More importantly, the GAPS diet specifies certain things that you SHOULD eat to improve health. These are mineral and gelatin rich bone broths, which must be made or purchased from unique purveyors such as Three Stone Hearth which is in the East Bay in California. While fat is villianized in modern nutrition, it is actually essential for assimilating many nutrients, as is the gelatin from bone broth. These broths are also rich in minerals, which are key to reversing the acidifying affects of stress, alcohol, sugars and processed foods. Additionally, fermented and cultured foods are important for increased beneficial bacterias in the gut. 
Why am I doing this diet? I've got a long history of gut issues (IBS type symptoms such as pain and irregular bowel movements), food intolerances, depression, anxiety and insomnia. I'm a typical "GAPS patient." My doctor prescribed me 6 months on the GAPS diet. While that might seem like a long time to you to go without the afore mentioned food groups, this diet is actually recommended for 1-2 years by Dr. Campbell-McBride. While some dairy is allowed on the GAPS diet, especially yogurt, I am actually currently unable to tolerate dairy. Am I lactose intolerant? It seems not. The working theory is that my digestive lining is so compromised because my gut ecology is off, that its the casein, not the lactose that is causing a problem. The general term for my condition is "leaky gut" - un-properly digested food, such as casein, passes from my gut, into my bloodstream, where it acts as a poison. Dairy makes me dairy, foggy brained and depressed, ergo, I do not eat it as well as all the other stuff I have to gut out to heal my gut. 
That being said, it's going to be an epic 6 months. How will I know whether my gut is properly healed? I think I'll be able to feel it. Regular bowel movements, good sleep, reasonable energy and good feelings in my brain. I will also use dairy as a testing point. If I still feel symptoms from dairy after 6 months, I may continue. If I can tolerate dairy after 6 months, I may move to a less restrictive diet, such as Nourishing Traditions, which allows grains, although fermented before cooking. 
I will track this journey on this blog, keeping track of favorite recipes, my progress, strategies for dealing with a restrictive diet in a busy world, and so on. I hope that my friends will follow this blog as a way to understand, encourage and support me. I hope that my journey will inspire other people to commit to healing their own guts, and gut-brain issues! 

Thank you for reading! 

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