Over the last year I’ve been on the GAPS protocol created by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride. GAPS is a healing protocol developed to correct digestive compromise and nutritional deficiencies in the body as a result of poor lifestyle and dietary habits. Last January, I started experiencing terrible panic-like symptoms that were keeping me awake at night.
This went on for over 3 months, and I was a complete wreck. I tried everything I could think of to stop these symptoms from happening which included a racing heart, constant jitters or feeling of internal shaking, extreme fatigue, and pretty constant thoughts of doom and sadness, diarrhea, chills, and difficulty breathing.
Throughout my life I’ve had chronic insomnia and panic disorder symptoms, which I later learned were signs of my overall health issues. I spent many years going to doctors and being told nothing was wrong and advised to to go on anti-anxiety medication. I was always terrified to take prescriptions given to me because I worried about becoming dependent on them, side effects…and of course, my biggest fear was that my problem wouldn’t be resolved.
Last year, I consulted with many different people and practitioners, and got a lot of different opinions. One person told me I was suffering from heavy metal issues, another from thyroid problems. I also had some conversations long-distance and online with a few friends to whom I am forever grateful for their balanced advice and suggestions. My level of sanity during those months was very much on the edge and I appreciate those who reached out to help me during that time. I am especially grateful to those who reinforced what I already knew – that I should be using food to heal myself and cut way back on supplements. It was difficult at best for me to think clearly during this time. My body was so frazzled and I was so stressed out, I couldn’t reason and rationalize things normally.
I thought my diet was healthy because I wasn’t eating processed foods and was eating traditional, real foods every day. What I didn’t take into account was that our family has been under enormous stress over the last 3 years, which had a profoundly negative effect on my health. In 2009, my husband was laid off from his programming job and we decided to take our retirement money to open a solar business. The business was my husband’s dream, and we both really wanted it to succeed.
Unfortunately, with the economy being what it has for the last 5 years and the poor climate for renewable energy in our state ( ID), life had other ideas for us. As a result, we closed our business down last year. This caused me to be in an almost constant state of stress and worry. That’s no way to live, but we were constantly having to watch every penny we spent, and the debt we were trying to pay down looked like it would never get there. Looking back I can see this has had an enormous impact on my health and ability to retain nutrients from the nourishing foods I’ve eaten over the last 7+ years when I initially changed my diet.
What GAPS did for me
Within 5 days of starting GAPS, I was getting more sleep than I had in months. Within about 6 weeks, I was sleeping through the night again, without interruption. I’ve never had such noticeable and dramatic results with anything else I’ve ever done.
It has become very clear to me that the answer for health problems is not in supplements – and certainly not medications – but in a real food diet, stress management, getting out in the sunshine and adequate rest. Nothing is ever caused by just one factor, it’s always from many different things going on around us.
It’s also true that since most people have digestive issues, this is really the root of most health problems. Because most people can’t digest the food they eat – even if it is healthy – this presents a challenge in trying to overcome health problems for almost everyone.
Do supplements work?
I took a lot of supplements for many years. Supplements are not always accepted by the body, and are often hard to absorb. They also contain many fillers and extra ingredients that can be toxic. I’m not saying all supplements are harmful, but if you use them, you should be very certain that you are eating the healthiest diet possible. Sometimes even with a healthy diet, because of soil depletion and chemicals in the environment and our food, even this might not solve the problem.
Deep down I knew nutrients are made bio-available in the GAPS protocol. And I knew I was depleted in many different aspects, and thought that by mega-dosing on high quality supplements I’d be doing myself a favor. After all, I did this some years ago and it seemed to help tremendously.
The supplements I was taking didn’t do the job this time. As it turned out, I wasn’t even absorbing the fermented cod liver oil I had been taking for over a year. My digestion was not in good enough shape to accomplish this. Dr. McBride talks about taking supplements in liquid form as one of the best choices, and I agree. I took a liquid multi-vitamin supplement about 6 5 years ago for over a year, and I do think it made a difference in my health. Liquid nutrients from real food can be highly absorbed, and some products are highly concentrated enough to provide what you need if you are depleted.
You should definitely be careful about what you take, if anything. Many products claim to be potent, safe, easy to absorb, and high quality. From my experience, taking a lot of supplements can cause liver toxicity and can be too much for the body, and won’t solve your deficiency problem on its own. I have learned that liquid supplements are some of the most effective because they absorb well.
One of the best products I’ve ever used is called Eniva, a concentrated, whole-food liquid supplement that is non-GMO, not pasteurized, irradiated, nor treated with any chemicals or pesticides. I’m only recommending this because I took it for over a year’s time and it did make a big difference in my health (during 2007-2008), and because it’s comprised only of real food. If you need something extra and you haven’t had luck with juicing (as recommended by Dr. Natasha’s protocol in her book), give this product a try. There is Eniva Vibe for adults and Eniva Vibe Kids.
This is why GAPS is important and why it works. It provides the necessary nutrients needed by the body, and in the most digestible format possible: through broths, cultured and fermented foods and beverages, juicing, healthy fats, and well-cooked vegetables and meats.
My GAPS/Weston A. Price interview
Earlier this year I was asked to do an interview with my friend Kim Metez who runs a weekly show on Radio Boise, a local, independent radio station, called Chew On This. Kim and I have really connected over local food and healing with real foods, and I’m tickled that Kim has started this show to raise awareness about important issues in food, farming, and sustainability.
Our interview focuses on the importance of real food with an emphasis on how the work of Dr. Weston A. Price revealed the nature of the traditional diets eaten by isolated pockets of people all over the world, as well as the GAPS diet.
Here are parts I and II of our interviews:
I can say with absolute certainty that GAPS is effective for more than just digestive issues, food allergies, chronic infections, skin problems, and fatigue. Just as the name implies – Gut and Psychology Syndrome – this protocol really can get to the root of many so-called “psychological”, “anxiety”, and “emotional” issues.
Dr. McBride talks in depth about how the GAPS syndrome encompasses conditions such as depression, hyperactivity, ADD, and even schizophrenia. From the amazing experience I’ve had, it makes perfect sense that it would be useful for those suffering with anxiety, panic, and other related issues. It’s done a world of good for me.
Reducing symptoms of ADD/ADHD through dietary changes - how dietary changes can make a difference for children and adults experiencing the symptoms of ADD/ADHD and related issues
So, what do you eat? - Our Nourishing Journey describes a day in the life of eating for her autistic son and the benefit it has given him
Recipes and ideas for what to eat on the GAPS Introduction diet – Keeper of the Home
Online GAPS resources – Nourished and Nurtured