I thought I'd do a GAPS update because I'm now nine months into the healing diet and I've learned a lot about what works and what doesn't for me, and have seen a tremendous amount of improvement.
Why I started the GAPS diet
-extreme bloating after eating basically anything
-hair falling out
-major joint pain
The idea behind the diet is that our stomach lining needs gets porous due to poor diet or constant medication. The tiny holes let food particles pass into the bloodstream which then irritate our bodies and can ignite endless symptoms from acne to food sensitivity to anxiety and depression to joint pain to stomach issues, etc. The idea is that once you heal and seal the gut lining with nourishing foods, the symptoms should disappear because the body is then able to properly absorb the food without letting particles escape into the bloodstream. This is a healing diet (maximum 2 years) and once the stomach has six months of proper digestion, you can then begin to incorporate foods off the list because the body will be in good health to break them down and absorb the nutrients.
Starting the GAPS diet
Starting wasn't easy, but I was sick of being sick and sick of taking medicine that I personally felt was a bandaid to cover up symptoms, rather than an actual solution to the problem. I bought the GAPS book and read it cover to cover (and then read it again because a lot of the stuff in there contradicted pretty much everything I thought I knew about health and nutrition (like did you know it's important for us to eat fat like ghee and butter and coconut oil?).
The GAPS diet is sort of like the Paleo diet in that you eliminate all processed foods and gluten, but it takes it a step further to also remove other foods like oatmeal and quinoa until the stomach is able to handle them. It also has an emphasis on probiotic foods to populate the gut with healthy bacteria, so it calls for fermented foods with every meal. It also has an emphasis on homemade bone broths because the gelatin is excellent for the gut, and it calls for fish oil, cod liver oil and an omega 3-6 oil, as well as a therapeutic grade probiotic.
First Few Months on GAPS
You can tell from my five month GAPS update that things were improving. I had seen a complete improvement with my stomach issues. I still felt extremely bloated if I ate one little thing off the diet, so that was disappointing, but it just meant I had to be strict and stick to what was working. All my other symptoms cleared up and, totally random, I had seen an improvement in the texture of my nails. Not that they were flaking or anything before, but they were just super strong and smooth.
Four Months Later
So now I'm at the nine month mark and I feel excellent. My digestive problems are nonexistent, but I am pretty strict on the diet.
Because we're in LA, where there are so many fantastic options for organic, locally sourced food, we've been eating out more. My go-to meal at restaurants is a salad with some sort of grilled meat and lemon wedges in place of a dressing, but I noticed I would break out immediately. I want to preface this by saying that I can deal with a zit or two due to hormonal issues or whatever. But it's not normal to break out after eating a salad and to me, it wasn't about the breakout so much as it was a red flag that my stomach wasn't healthy enough to break down the ingredients in the salad. So I started to think about what could be in a simple salad that would trigger a breakout, and concluded it must be the meat. Upon asking how the meat was prepared at one restaurant, I was told that the meat was marinated in canola oil and fresh herbs. Canola oil isn't on the list of things I can eat, so that must've have been the cause. Now I ask how the meat is prepared so I can avoid the canola oil if possible.
The other thing I noticed is that my joint pain worsened when I would drink too many fresh fruit juices in a week (sugar content) and eat too many nuts or cacao powder. Such a bummer because I am ca-razy for this embarrassing dessert of coconut oil, raw honey, and cacao powder. I cut out the fruit juices and in my green juices just have a small apple and a lemon for fruit. I cut out the nuts completely and cacao powder completely and within two or three days, my joint pain improved tremendously.
The only symptom I have left is the joint pain which has improved considerably, and sometimes isn't even there at all. But most days, on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being an inflamed hot mess, my hands linger around a 1. This time around, the pain is confined to my hands and for that I'm grateful because it used to be my knees, my toes, my shoulders... so a couple joints in the hands I feel like I can do no problem, but of course my goal is to be completely healthy one day and pain-free.
What I've learned on GAPS
-It's important to eat more than you think you need to. When I followed the diet and cut out the starchy carbs like rice, I found I would be starving just a few hours later. It was important to eat every few hours in order to maintain my energy level.
-Replace starchy carbs with carbs you can eat. It is important for me to incorporate starches I can eat like pumpkin and squashes so that I can maintain my energy level and take in enough food.
-Find what works to make the diet as convenient as possible. One of the biggest things that's helped is the ISO bag (read my ISO bag review) we bought at the beginning of the summer. Strict diets are such a pain in the ass, I'm not gonna lie, but when you're doing it because the alternative is to feel sick and have physical reactions to food off the diet, it's vital to be as strict as you can. The ISO bag gave me the convenience of being able to just grab a meal and go because they give you a bunch of containers that fit perfectly in the cooler bag.
-It's all related. The diet alone wasn't what helped me. It was a huge part of it, I think, but once I started taking a look at my sleeping patterns and trying to get a solid 8-9 hours of sleep a night, I really started to see a big improvement. Also, when I go too long without a massage (they're great for the lymphatic system) and a magnesium bath (apparently we absorb magnesium best through the skin), I start to feel it. Same goes for the amount of sunshine I get. The biggest thing I've noticed is that my joint pain corresponds to my stress level. I make a conscious effort to try to stay as stress-free as possible. It's not easy, especially when I move twice a year, but it's an opportunity to take the yoga off the mat and try to incorporate it into my daily life because I know my health depends on it. Stress raises cortisol in the body, which sets the stage for inflammation, so keeping that stress level down is super important to me.
I'm going to continue on this diet and evaluate as I go. I would like to get to a point where my joint pain goes away completely, so I'll stick with it and see if that happens for me. If you're interested in the diet, I'd suggest getting the book because it talks about how the body functions, how each piece of the diet works for us, and of course, explains what's on the diet. Also, if you sign up for the YBC newsletter below, you'll automatically receive a link to my eBook with a number of different GAPS friendly recipes.