December 16, 2013
Hey guys! So, I regularly receive emails with questions about digestion, diet, going gluten free, and gut health.. which I love. (Add in Jesus, husbands and wives, babies, homelife, etc, and you guys know practically all my favorite subjects!) By the emails, it's apparent that these topics are weighing heavily on a lot of our minds lately. And we all just love to talk to someone who will get it; someone who's been there, done that, right? I thought a new series of posts with some of the food-related FAQ's I've received might be a good idea. Hopefully this will help start beneficial conversations, spread some answers around, and share the digestive love. Thanks for even considering me as someone to ask about these things, because I know I'm just learning along with you guys. 

A bit of my history and some gut groundwork before we hit the questions--- The biggest food changes in my life happened in the first year after Hadley was born, when I was helping my own body heal from antibiotics, birth, and the toll of growing and nourishing another human being. I didn't feel like myself for months after Hadley was born, and I could tell that Hadley had some digestive issues. So, I started reading. And not caring how weird my food got. I was desperate to feel better and help my baby, and I feel like in our culture, that's what it takes. It takes really feeling bad or really being concerned about your baby to embrace the gravity of gut health and make any real sacrifices/changes when it comes to food.

Basically, to squeeze a whole lot of research into one tiny nutshell, here's what I learned and what guides my thinking today: Gut health = Whole health.  Once I understood the concept of the gut being the "second brain" of the body, everything made so much sense. The gut (the 25 feet of intestinal tract inside you) plays a gigantic role in your overall well being. The 3 main jobs of your gut are: a) digestion of foods and conversion into vitamins b) absorption of nutrients and c) prevention of toxins from entering the bloodstream. The gut is at the heart of whole health and, as Hippocrates (Greek scientist and father of Western medicine) said, "all disease begins in the gut." Knowing that, here's how I approach the pursuit of gut health:
1. Eating real, whole, nutrient-dense foods, prepared in a way that your body can digest them.
2. Healing any damage in the lining of the gut to prevent toxic substances from leaking out into the blood stream, and also to enable your body to absorb and use nutrients properly.
3. Establishing and then maintaining a good balance of bacteria in the gut, which enables proper digestion and allows your body's immune system to function correctly.

Now on to some email questions from readers and friends.

1. What is the GAPS diet? GAPS stands for "Gut and Psychology Syndrome" and it is a temporary healing protocol that you can follow anywhere from a couple months to 2 years in order to heal chronic disease, severe allergies, mental illness, digestive problems, yeast overgrowth, depression, constipation, eczema, bloating, and countless other symptoms and disorders. The diet is free of grains, starches, and refined sugars, and rich in healing bone broth, fermented foods/drinks, healthy fats, proteins, veggies, and fruit.*
*fruit- some of you may remember reading that for a few months I didn't eat any fruit. I'll explain why in the next post in this series!

2. When did you start the GAPS diet? I didn't start GAPS until after Hadley was born. She was a couple months old when I started cutting out dairy, gluten, sugar, and other yeast-feeding foods. Then, about a month into eating that way, I read about the GAPS diet and decided that was what I needed. The idea of taking stress off my body by way of what I eat and healing it with real, nourishing food was immediately appealing to me. I was breastfeeding, so I completely skipped the Intro Diet. I found a helpful, simple list of recommended foods and foods to avoid while on the Full GAPS diet, and basically just jumped on board and based all of my meals around that.

3. Did you have a particular health issue that motivated you to try GAPS or was it simply to get healthy? I was motivated to do the GAPS diet because after Hadley was born I took an antibiotic and I could tell that it had thrown my body out of whack. I was not recovering well and struggling with all sorts of symptoms related to a yeast overgrowth. So, a yeast imbalance was one of the main reasons, as well as Hadley's digestion issues (gas, colic, thrush, cradle cap). Also, bloating and constipation were both an underlying, lingering thing for me for years. I knew my gut needed repleinshing with good bacteria and healing as well. And yes, I did see major success by changing my diet! There were huge improvements (practically immediately) for both Hadley and myself.

4. Did either you or Grant do the Intro Diet? I did not, because it's not recommended while nursing. The limitations of the Intro diet make it difficult to take in enough calories for you and a growing baby. Grant did his own modified version of the Intro Diet, I would say. He really focused on lots and lots of healing bone broth. But his situation was such that there were many things that, according to the GAPS protocol, were "OK" for him to start incorporating, but in reality they didn't sit well with him at all. So he experimented on his own to find foods that worked for his system and continued to tailor things as needed. The nice thing about the GAPS diet is that it encourages you to pay attention to your own symptoms and modify things to suit your own body- and you can still see results even if you don't follow it legalistically. 

5. I'm about to order the book, but before I do, do you think it is absolutely essential to read the book, with so much info available on the internet? The book. Great question! For me, the book wasn't essential. I'm sure I could have followed the diet protocol more accurately and precisely with the book by my side, and I know I would enjoy learning all that it has to offer, but at that time in my life (nursing a newborn and feeling completely overwhelmed), I had no time or energy to read a book. I felt like I was barely hanging on, and I was desperate to just start making changes. I started looking around for helpful blogs and googling tons of stuff, and was able to (in my opinion) glean enough to go on. :) I'm sure I did things "wrong" all along the way, but the basic principles made sense to me and I felt like I could follow the idea of Full GAPS diet to the best of my ability without reading the book, and I wanted to see where that got me. The outcome was that I was seeing results, feeling better overall, feeling great about what I was eating, and I had peace that the Lord would bring insight to me as I needed it. If you are interested in seeing some of the blogs that were (super, super) helpful to me, here are 4 of my favorites! 

These sites have a lot of grain-free and GAPS-friendly recipes, as well as many informative posts on GAPS issues and other digestive topics. Love them all so much! This page was especially invaluable to me when I was just getting started- just a whole archive of great GAPS recipes! 

----at least 20 more questions + answers to come soon! 

Anyone interested in these foodie topics like me? Yay! I thought so. And some people are understandably skeptical. I get that, too. Are you thinking this whole gluten-free thing is a trend? Or you're wondering why everyone claims to have food allergies today? For a really, really awesome read, you should check out Chrystal's Love Your Guts post. Her family's story is incredible (and so is she). I love what she says right here:

"When you consider how connected our gut is to the function of every part of our body, it makes sense that you’d want it to be in tip top shape. And trading in some of our comfort foods for less inflammatory, more nutrient-dense versions seems like a small price to pay for a lifetime of feeling WELL."


A Wife and her Carpenter said...

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! I so needed this post Summer. I want desperately to start the GAPS diet, I just have no idea where to even begin. Thank you for an intro into all things GAPS!

Lindsay King said...

I love this, and I'm following! Reading your story is like reading about myself and my daughter Adleigh (said just like Hadley, minus the "H"). I've been reading up on GAPS stuff and feeling a little overwhelmed and unsure of where to start bc I'm still nursing, so this is super helpful! Thanks!

Chrystal Smith said...

Oh girl, how I wish we could meet for coffee dates and talk about guts and stuff!! You totally 'get it' and it is so very refreshing. Such a great and encouraging post! And I'm totally humbled to be mentioned in it ;)

twinsontherun said...

Yes! I love all things food + gut related! I fall into the group that got interested when my babies were born and I relearned about everything I THOUGHT I knew about food. It feels so good to nourish your body (and loved ones bodies) properly. I haven't done GAPS because (very thankfully) we haven't had a particular need to. But adding fermented foods and really nourishing food...I've been all about it :)

Ang said...

Such a great post, Summer. I recently started incorporating paleo principles into my diet for many of the same reasons, and in my research, I'm running into more and more information about GAPS and was wondering if it would be a good fit. I've totally discovered first hand how drastically cutting back on gluten and sugar, while eating more vegetables, high quality protein and healthy fats instead has made a WORLD of a difference in my wellness! Also, my girls had really bad cradle cap and a horrible run with thrush - I had no idea all our "issues" were related, and now in hindsight it makes so much sense!

Super encouraged by your post and really looking forward to looking through all the resources you linked to! Thanks for making it so much easier for perma-overwhelmed moms like me to get our hands on such great information. :)

Meg said...

Thanks so much for writing about this. I've had some strange symptoms for years and have been wondering if I have yeast overgrowth or leaky gut stuff going on. I'm in remission for cancer and did chemo and took major steroids during that time. I'm so blessed and grateful to have made it through cancer, but I think that all of those drugs did a huge number on my body. I can't wait to hear what else you talk about with this. I too am feeling overwhelmed as to where to start. But I want to feel great and healthy again! Thanks again!

Laken said...

Oh so glad you're doing these posts. Excited to read more!

I so value your opinion, and can't wait to learn more for, you!

Laken said...

ha... that was supposed to say 'from you'



about this blog

Hello, I'm Summer. A people-loving introvert whose hope and life is in Jesus. His promises are my passion and my ministry is homelife. This blog is a place for me to write about everyday things. Especially food. My favorite thing to do is sit around a table, lingering over a long meal with good conversation. I live with my husband and our 2 littles. We like blizzards, thrifting, grammar, guacamole, cheerful hearts, nice manners, good movies, and making simple, real, nutrient-dense food.

"If Christ be anything, He must be everything."
-C.H. Spurgeon

old posts