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GAPS Diet Basics & Getting Started

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Looking for GAPS resources as a way to improve your health?

started the GAPS diet in May of 2011 as a way to eliminate symptoms of panic, anxiety, and insomnia. I’ve read and heard many, many testimonials from people who have healed on GAPS.

I’ve been health coaching for almost 3 years with an emphasis in GAPS by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride and related protocols. I have also provided GAPS workshops in my local community and educating people about how beneficial the basic foods that are used in GAPS are for lifetime health.

For these reasons, I thought it would be a good idea to put together a basic reference page for GAPS fundamentals and resources.

It’s been profound to learn about the healing power of traditional foods – the very same foods that Dr. Weston A. Price discovered in his world travels to isolated cultures who were consuming nutrient-rich foods that contained up to TEN times the amount of fat-soluble vitamins that we currently consume in our modern diets – A, D, E, and K2.

My health problems were chronic and spanned for over 2 decades of time. Things only got worse the older I got, with panic and anxiety like symptoms that I was told were connected to gallbladder problems (I had my gallbladder removed in 2001), and also thyroid (hormonal issues).

It wasn’t until I started GAPS that I saw an abrupt ending come to these symptoms I’d suffered through for at least half my life: racing heart, jitteryness, chronic fatigue, digestive problems of varying kinds, general feelings of doom and negativity, muscle weakness, nausea, and general malaise. I also experienced frequent colds and flus – especially in the winter time.

What is the GAPS diet?

Dr. McBride developed the protocol out of a lack of resources and need to resolve her own son’s issues who was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. Through both trial and error and diligent research, she discovered that many diseases including autism happen due to digestive breakdown which leads to nutritional deficiencies throughout the body.

Starches, grains, and sugar all contribute to breaking down lining in the gut and generate pathogenic bacteria. The gut lining becomes permeable due to poor dietary and lifestyle habits – processed foods, stress, use of antibiotics, steroids, NSAIDs, and birth control, lack of adequate rest, exposure to environmental toxins, etc.

When undigested foods and other substances penetrate the intestinal lining and go into the bloodstream. This causes an auto-immune response. Undigested substances that reach the blood-brain barrier cause additional issues:

These deficiencies are responsible for a variety of health issues including autism, hyperactivity, ADD, eczema, depression, dyspraxia, and many others that may be seemingly unrelated.

The common link in all of these disorders is breakdown of the mucosal lining in the intestinal tract from poor lifestyle and dietary choices – stress, environmental toxins, processed foods, and a lack of essential nutrients which are necessary to maintaining overall health and well-being.

Not only do nutritional deficiencies cause a wide array of symptoms which point to various health problems, many of these problems are the same in many people yet manifest themselves in unique ways.

Symptoms include:

  • Asthma
  • Eczema
  • Thyroid and hormonal problems
  • Depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • ADD/ADHD
  • Dyspraxia (motor movement issues)
  • Autism
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Diabetes and insulin- resistance
  • Digestive disorders such a colitis, Crohn’s Disease, IBS
  • Chronic diarrhea or constipation (or both)
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent infections
  • Joint stiffness or pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chemical sensitivities
  • Food sensitivities

For example, a child with autism or hyperactivity could have the same basic physiological problems and experience symptoms of autism or hyperactivity, while an adult with similar issues might exhibit symptoms of chronic panic or anxiety. An elderly person could experience symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease – a condition that is linked to the presence of heavy metals in the body and nutritional deficiencies – especially of minerals since heavy metals displace minerals in the body. All conditions are exacerbated by heavy metal toxicity and not enough minerals in the body.

Although GAPS is an extremely beneficial and healing protocol that can help a variety of health issues, it is not a cure-all or guaranteed way to improve your health. If you have tried GAPS and aren’t healing or improving the way you need, check out these resources:

If GAPS hasn’t worked for you or yours, read this – Nourishing Our Children.

The GAP in GAPS? What you need to know – Nourishing Hope, Julie Matthews

General resource links

GAPS is based on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) created by Elaine Gottschall. Here is her book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet.

What can I eat on the GAPS diet?  Printable sheet reference guide showing what you can eat on the GAPS diet to hang in your kitchen or keep in a place where you have easy access

FAQ GAPS diet questions - from the Gut and Psychology Syndrome site

GAPS Diet Journey – testimonials, interviews, resources, and links

Gut and Psychology Syndrome/GAPS Diet Facebook page – great resource and forum for those getting started and for those looking for a place to interact and ask questions.

Explanation of GAPS dietary protocol including the Intro stages – additional information to supplement the book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, for the Intro part of the GAPS diet, 6 stages

5 most common mistakes made on GAPS – Healthy Home Economist

10 reasons GAPS is better than gluten-free – Well Fed Homestead

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Is GAPS safe during breastfeeding? - Health, Home, Happiness

Recipes

Internal Bliss - GAPS Cookbook

9 reasons to make bone broth  - health benefits and recipe for broth

GAPS-friendly recipes – The Liberated Kitchen

GAPS-friendly recipes – GAPS Diet Journey

GAPS recipes – MyGutsy

Recipes and ideas for what to eat on the GAPS Introduction Diet – Keeper of the Home

GAPS-friendly, grain-free pancakes w/vanilla, cinnamon, and raw honey

Cookbooks, guides, & cooking e-courses

Grain-free meal plans (menu mailers) – Health, Home, Happiness

GAPS Freezer Cooking Guide – Health, Home, Happiness

What Can I Eat Now? 30 Days on the GAPS Diet – Cara Comini, Health, Home, Happiness

Beyond Grain & Dairy Cookbook - Starlene Stewart, GAPS Diet Journey

Go Grain-Free Online Class – Real Food Forager

Guide to Grain-Free, Dairy Free Baking, Sweets and Treats – Nourished Kitchen

Get Cultured Cooking Class – Nourished Kitchen (How to create fermented foods)

Interviews and related

Dr. Mercola interviews Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride

My GAPS experience for panic disorder and GAPS radio interview

My interview on GAPS Diet Journey – Empowered Sustenance

GAPS Diet Journey Radio Interview – Loving Our Guts

 

Guest Posts Healthy Living

How Stress Impacts Digestion

Most of us think of digestion in terms of the food we eat. And while the quality of our food certainly affects our digestive health, the impact of stress on digestion cannot be ignored. All the raw foods, enzymes and herbal bitters in the world can’t help you if your digestive difficulties are caused by stress.

How Stress Impacts Digestion

When you become stressed, stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol are released into the body. This typically causes our pulse to quicken and our breathing to become more rapid. What many people don’t realize is that these stress hormones also cause changes in the digestion system, such as:

- decreased blood flow to digestive tissues
- reduced production of stomach acid and digestive enzymes
- heartburn and acid reflux
- nausea
- stomach pains
- lack of appetite

Chronic stress can produce inflammation throughout the entire digestive system. This can greatly impair your ability to fully digest your food and assimilate vital nutrients. Over the long term, stress can eventually cause chronic digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Stress and Digestion: What You Can Do

Try some relaxation exercises. These simple routines can help reduce the impact of stress on your body and your life. You’d be surprised how refreshed you’ll feel after just a few minutes of practicing relaxation techniques. Try one of these at least once per day:

- Lie down in a quiet place and slowly release the tension in your body. Start by relaxing your face, head and neck. Then move on to relax the shoulders, back, chest, arms, hands, abdomen, hips, legs and feet. Relax one part of your body at a time, and make sure it is fully relaxed before moving on to the next.

- Sit or lie down in a quiet place, close your eyes and practice deep breathing exercises. Simply spend a few minutes breathing slowly and deeply, concentrating on the rhythm of your breath. This is incredibly relaxing and will have you feeling recharged in no time.

Relax before eating. When you sit down for a meal, instead of digging right in, perform a little relaxation ritual first:

- Before you even pick up your fork, take a slow, deep breath and try to release any tension in your muscles.

- Eat slowly and enjoy your food, chewing it thoroughly and focusing on the nutrients and energy your meal is providing you.

- Try not to let yourself dwell on stressful thoughts or situations during your meal. Simply enjoy your mealtime and allow your body to utilize the nourishment it needs.

Reduce and manage your stress. We are often in more control of our daily stressors than we realize. We can’t always change situations that are causing us to feel stressed (although sometimes we can), but we can always choose to deal with them in a way that doesn’t damage our health. This takes great practice (especially if you are a naturally impatient or anxious person like myself), but over time, learning to take things in stride can greatly reduce your overall stress levels.

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About the Author: Elizabeth Walling is an independent health researcher and freelance writer. She enjoys thinking outside of the box and challenging common myths about health and wellness on her blog The Nourished Life.

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday hosted by A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa.