Wednesday, January 16, 2013

GAPS Diet 6 months in!

1/8 of a grass fed cow in our freezer- my, how things have changed!
Guess what gluten-free friends? There is a next level to this game, and it is called grain free! It's certainly not easy, but in my quest to get over my food allergies and gut problems, I have come around to something beyond cleanses and elimination diets, beyond quitting sugar and alcohol. The particular form of this I'm following is called the GAPS diet, but you may recognize most of it if you've ever looked at the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, going Paleo, Auto-immune Paleo, ever read or owned Nourishing Traditions, had Crohns, IBS, Graves, Hashimoto's, and/or a whole host of other problems that may arise out of or go in tandem with having a compromised gut.

The GAPS diet is based on the work of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. She discovered the SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) and took it a step further by describing the gut-brain connection in the book Gut and Psychology Syndrome.

Some Background

OK, let's rewind. I think about this all starting for me around the time I buckled over in the worst pain in life one night while at work on a video shoot in the middle of nowhere a couple of hours North of Seattle. Sparing the incredibly gory details, I turned out to be suddenly and inexplicably severely allergic to chicken. I had been taking medication for MS, which was a misdiagnosis. I was told that this medication could be rough on the gut, and then told I should avoid meat. I blindly followed this advice and became a vegetarian. Later, I would find out that I was also extremely intolerant of eggs. But, not until after I was taking Imodium on a daily basis for a year. I was in a state of chronic inflammation, constant body pain, had vision problems, sleep problems, vertigo that lasted for more than 2 months at a time and more. With the help of a very insightful, brilliant hippie Doctor, I was able to start down the path to health. After elimination diets, cleanses, tests, and more, I was able to start to live a normal life, provided I avoid eggs and chicken and really pay attention to what things in my life affect my health. I also started to see and take group classes from a fantastic fitness trainer to help me rebuild my strength. I recognize how fortunate I am to be able to access these resources, and how fortunate I am to live in a city where resources like these are affordable, often covered by insurance or sliding scale fees, and abundant in choices. And now, almost six years after first visiting Dr. Nigh, I feel ready to level up and start exploring how I can really truly reverse the damage done- move beyond the food and seasonal allergies where possible, gain more energy and fitness, and simply feel even better. His advice I am taking- give the GAPS diet a try.

Starting Out

I'm going to write a separate post about my thoughts on getting started with GAPS in more detail. I started by rising to these challenges:
  • Eliminate grains from my diet. (Yes all grains including and not limited to amaranth, corn, rice, barley, wheat, etc. etc. etc.)
  • Eliminate sugars and fake sugars. (Sugars are really hard on the gut and help nasty bacteria proliferate.)
  • Start making and drinking/using bone broth.
  • Add more fermented foods to my diet- pickles, kraut, kimchee and yogurt.
After about a month, not only had I not noticed much of a health improvement, but I had gained ten pounds and had a constant, severe pain and swelling in my lower gut! It was horrible, and I was PISSED OFF!

But, I had learned a few things during that time, like how to make broth and pickle things quickly and efficiently. I also ate my first egg yolk in seven years! Well, intentionally and without a horrible reaction, that is! So, I circled back around and decided to go for it and do the full intro, which I will get to later- it's complicated. Luckily, it doesn't last too long!

Six Months Later

I am the first to say that for the amount of work this requires, I have not had a simply amazing, magical, transformational experience the way many people seem to have. I haven't shed 50 pounds and starting doing cartwheels and become a 9th level yoga wizard master. But, I have:
  • stopped wanting to go to bed the minute I get home from work
  • started doing circuit training classes and yoga very regularly several times a week
  • started cleaning my house and picking up after myself all of the time (a first in life, really!)
  • started feeling better physically
  • lost 12 pounds very gradually
  • started eating more than the FDA recommended servings of veggies every day
  • stopped having severe gut pain
  • started seeking out more adventures!


Going Forward

It was such an arduous task to come at this new diet and make meaningful changes. I'd like to move forward through it, but also see that it takes recommitting to the basic ideas over and over. Sometimes I forget to drink broth or eat fermented foods for days. For some reason, the elimination aspects are easier for me. I'll be developing more recipes and exploring more ways to do this in a way that is the best for my body and health. I'm thrilled to have the support and camaraderie of my friends who are going down the same path. We have a pinterest board to share ideas and recipes from around the web:

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