Starting The GAPS Diet
Most of my life I have been excessively healthy. No cavities, never sick, and with rapid healing powers so that I have no scars despite the multitude of oven burns and other disasters that being a chef generally involve (I have chopped off the tip of my left pointer finger several times–but you wouldn’t know by looking at it!). I took that amazing health for granted, assumed that it was just who I was and didn’t stop to think for a second that it might not last. Working in the fast-paced and highly demanding culinary industry stresses your body physically, the long hours and high pressure alone are quite enough to wear you down over time, but along with that for years I maintained a diet of coffee, sugar and cigarettes. In fact I generally thought it crazy to spend money on food (working in a kitchen you get some good free meals so I didn’t really have to buy food). After a couple years of this I discovered that I was highly neurotic, with blood sugar swings that left me an emotional basket case.
Over the years I have slowly cut out various food items. Processed foods, white sugar and flour being the first to go. I now no longer drink coffee or smoke cigarettes, in fact, when I did finally stop smoking once and for all, I was shocked to think back and realise that I had actually been smoking for 12 years. When I started smoking, I didn’t consciously think about it, but I guess I assumed I wouldn’t end up smoking for years on end.
I got my first copy of Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions in 2002 while living in Auckland and attended her first conference in New Zealand (2003). At that time the information she was promoting was considered highly suspicious by mainstream as well as alternative health workers. What she said rang true, and over the past 8 years much of what she advocates has moved into alternative health care (no-one used to support raw milk and saturated fats). Some of the information has actually come out in mainstream nutrition more recently, for example everyone seems to like cod liver oil and fish oils these days and trans-fats are finally recognized by everyone as being very dangerous for us to consume.
I am saying all of this because it has taken me years to be able to really get off the processed sugar and flour and chocolates and whatnot. I am finally at a point now where I actually find things like snickers bars way too sweet for me, but it does take time and determination to get to this point. I have had relapses and total breakdowns over these past few years, which have lasted months or just days, but each time I get to know my body a little better and it gets a little easier the next time I restrict my diet.
In 2005, my partner and I moved to Wellington, we were broke and desperate to find an apartment and ended up making a bad choice and moving into a mold infested apartment. When we moved in we didn’t realise how bad it was, the apartment had big windows and got lots of sunlight, but the building was poorly constructed and the cinderblocks were not properly sealed causing moisture to be sucked into the apartment. We had been tired and irritable all winter, in fact I was getting my period about every two weeks (no fun). At one point, after I had been in bed for about a day with toxic symptoms, delirium, fever and throwing up, I spotted mushrooms growing out of our carpet. We moved out of the apartment right away, but everything we read about toxic mold conditions, said that once you get a pathogenic yeast or mold in your system like that it is very hard, if not impossible to get rid of. We have found this to be the case.
We have tried various yeast-free diets and no-carb diets and whatnot, but they are difficult to maintain. I also find it very sad not to be able to eat fruit. Generally when we start eating carbohydrates again, we would end up binging and unable to control what we were eating. The GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet includes fruit and honey, which are monosaccharides and are digested with no effort to break down the molecules, because of allowing fruits and honey, muffins made from nuts and other treats are allowed on the diet, which I think will help us to achieve a balanced diet. I think the cycle of restricting carbohydrates and then suddenly overloading my system with carbohydrates in a binge, probably does more harm than I realise.
The fall of 2009, here in Vancouver BC, was very wet. We had about a month of solid rain and all of my health issues which originated from those days of mold in Wellington, NZ returned with a vengence. It took me a while to figure out that my symptoms were coming from the moldy conditions. In the meantime, I was feeling very frustrated as I work hard to prepare most of our food from scratch, we eat nourishing bone broths all the time and drink keffir and kombucha. To say that I was pissed off with myself for not healing is an understatement. As I mentioned earlier, I used to have the most amazing health, so I know the difference. My man has had allergies and asthma ever since he was a kid–for someone like that, perhaps they don’t realise that they could be a million times healthier, because they have never experienced that. Anyway I was mad and depressed and a bit frantic. I did a bowel cleansing fast, went to an acupuncturist and had a hair analysis done, all of these things helped to clear out the toxic situation growing in my gut, but only seem to relieve them temporarily.
A friend of my sister was on the GAPS diet and my sister told me to check out the Introductory diet and to try it out as it had really helped her. It is interesting to read all of the symptoms and types of problems that are cleared up by healing the intestinal tract with this diet. The main goal is to heal the gut, to stop undigested particles getting into the blood-stream causing allergies and intolerances as well as neurotic behaviours. Most people using this diet are doing so to heal their children from ADHD or autism. Since the cause of these different problems is the same–harmful micro-organisms in the digestive tract–for people who have mold or yeast infestations, whether they are candida yeast or other, from living in a moldy home, I am hoping that this diet will help to solve my health problems once and for all.
Hopefully in six months (August) I will sit down and right a blog about how miraculous this GAPS diet is and how healthy we are again. Fingers crossed! The introductory stage of the diet is the hard part and should last from 2-5 days. We must eat only bone broth and can add to the broth certain vegetables (we’re using carrots). This is the really hard part. I am really happy to say that my man has joined me in doing this diet because when you live so closely with someone, you share your micro-organisms, so by doing this together, we hope to get our beneficial flora back in control of our gut. In a couple days we will add in free-range egg yolks into the soups as well as fermented vegetables and 24 hour homemade yogurt, and see how we are doing then.
More Links and Resources
Introduction to GAPS diet
Recipes for Various Fermented Foods
Gut and Psychology Syndrome Article by Natasha Campbell-McBride
YouTube series of interviews with Natasha Campbell-McBride
Informative article about starting GAPS diet.
GAPS yahoo group
Breaking the Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall. (This book has lots of great recipes for SCD-Specific Carbohydrate Diet which is what the GAPS diet is based on)