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."