A Journey to Digestive Health: The GAPS Diet

avocado pancake

Hello Clearpoint Center readers, health and nutrition enthusiasts! I’m Emma Broadhurst and I’m presently working with Steve and Shannon to help reignite the ClearPoint Center blog, website and generally assist in advocating all the magnificent things they have to offer. I do some writing, discussion on nutrition and health as well as recipe development over here if you’d like to learn more about me and what I love to cook and eat.

The GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet, created by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, grew from her work with learning and behaviorally disabled adults and children. She advocates the necessity of probiotics and bone broths that are typically lacking in the American diet that help stimulate the natural production of stomach acid and bile for effective digestion and elimination of toxicity in our bodies. This diet aims to “heal and seal the gut” by means of repairing the damaged stomach wall and restoring the balance of digestive flora. The diet begins with an introductory phase that is crucial to follow for those suffering from digestive distress in the forms of IBS, constipation, diarrhea, or bloating as well as those with allergies and food intolerances. This beginning phase is gentle on the system and encourages consumption of meat and fish stock, homemade soups and stews as well as probiotic foods.

According to the individual’s response, new foods are added slowly and in stages. The best foods to eat are ones that are fresh & unprocessed, meaning eggs, fresh meats, nuts, seeds, and fruit. It’s crucial to have raw vegetables as well as fresh as they contain important live enzymes to aid in the digestion of meats. The consumption of healthy oil and fats such as cold pressed olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, butter, and animal fats is encouraged. The diet encourages drinking bone broths and meat/fish stocks as well as consuming fermented foods as these will restore normal stomach acid production over time. It can be intimidating to see what one must eliminate from the diet in order to reap the benefits of the GAPS, but it is important to reflect on all the beautifully fresh and health supportive foods you can eat and enjoy. Click this link for a summary of the diet and for more information on GAPS.

From getting to know Steve and Shannon, it is evident that they are hugely involved in a community of health conscious individuals who are at the forefront of new health information. They reminisced on all the diets they’ve done in the past, including water fasting, green juices, the master cleanse and many others that never really focused on healthy gut flora or the “healing and sealing” of the gut. Steve said that something new seen in the GAPS was “a therapeutic diet with restoration of digestive health as the primary focus. At 36, my uncle died of a heart attack. His cholesterol was assumed to be high and I had high cholesterol even with a vegetarian diet. I became afraid of saturated fats and pushed it out of my diet for a long period of time. I now experience much more satisfaction on this lifestyle; the way we eat now is more satisfying on a number of experiential levels, all senses are involved.” Shannon agreed and commented in our discussion on cholesterol that, “It also seems to me that the problems with our arterial health are more along the lines of consumption of refined carbohydrates, and sugars. The perspective is going to vary depending on who you talk to, but when you look at those populations who do include large quantities of fats in their diet with low sugar intake, they don’t seem to be suffering from the same modern disease that we do.”

Steve mentions that “most fascination has been in the Weston Price theory of eliminating processed vegetable fats, sugars and refined flour from the diet as well as within the raw foods world meaning all vegan, and no animal products whatsoever. These two polar opposites seem to be merging together; people who we have followed the raw food world are now incorporating animal products into their diet.” Shannon adds that, “Now, the connotation of what a living food is defined as is changing-we are looking at the connotation of those foods being those with actual live cultures inside, beaming with life.” This is what the GAPS diet proposes, that the incorporation of more living foods and fermented foods with such magnificent profiles of thriving microorganisms beneficial for our gut will eventually heal our ailments over time.

Steve told me that he has been a long time sufferer of allergies, asthma, and skin conditions and a whole foods diet was always his fix. He references an eczema issue he had on his foot for months that was alleviated by the GAPS diet within 10 days. Prior to the GAPS diet, Steve indicates that he was indulging in sugars and bread on occasion and eating well about 80% of the time. Steve says, “The GAPS diet was particularly intriguing for me as my mother experienced weak digestion and constitution that he believes contributed to her cancer and declining health. I believe disease starts in the colon so in order to prevent such disease, maintaining a healthy gut balance and flora is a primary focus for me.”

Similarly to Steve, Shannon had a significant personal motivation for seeking out the healing process that the GAPS diet would facilitate; “During pregnancy, I worked diligently on having a lot of fermented foods and have good gut flora and ate very little sweets. After the birth and surgery I took painkillers for two weeks. Then for first two months of being a new mom I mostly ate food from the store- more packaged foods than usual and all of this resulted in difficult digestion and eczema. To try to clear it up I did a lot of green smoothies but this didn’t really prove to have an effect and Leo started to show some skin issues as well.” Shannon told me that in learning about imbalanced flora and the consequences of her surgery she realized a baby beginning its life with a compromised flora was not what she wanted. Through breast feeding she sought to give her child the best start possible. Diet for both herself and Leo could be a preemptive means to preventing complications that could ensue due to a compromised immune and digestive system.

Steve stresses the importance of total commitment to this diet change, saying that “the kitchen is the center of our universe-if we’re eating well, we’re generally more productive, in harmony with one another and getting along better. The whole idea of doing it as a family unit is crucial; one person can’t follow the diet in the home and expect the same benefits.” I wondered about whether or not the notion of having to have the whole family unit on board for change would be off-putting for some, but Steve explained that for those that turn to the GAPS diet, it’s often a result of desperation and necessary healing and a plan for change is necessary and everyone being in it together makes it much easier. The power of the whole environment impacts the diet’s effectiveness; we all agreed that in order to commit to the diet without casual indulgences a cleaned out kitchen filled with all the healthful foods you need is crucial. The commitment may seem intimidating but Steve affirmed that if this diet change wasn’t something that proved to be nourishing and satisfying, then he wouldn’t follow it. Below is an image of a meal Steve sat down to the other day-some of his favorites, including sauerkraut, onions, sausage, mashed rutabaga and beef broth gravy (created by blending the carrots, onions, and other vegetables  with the broth he slow cooked his beef bones in).

kraut

This diet automatically requires you to slow down, enjoy the process of fermenting your foods at home, and encourages getting back into the kitchen and enjoying the whole experience of preparing your meal. The suggested menu for this diet is literally warm and inviting from the ingestion of soups and stocks as well as visually inviting when you look at some of the examples the spread of vibrant foods one can eat (which we will be showing in a later post!). Having sampled some of Steve’s beef broth with the vegetables it was slow cooked with and some of Shannon’s amazing hazelnut bread and seeing her fermented foods, I can completely appreciate that. To take a peek at my take on her recipe, click here!

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Shannon shared some of her hazelnut bread with me, topped with strawberries and avocado. 

We talked about how a lot of the types of foods we eat that we find “exciting” are ones that are inflammatory, such as ice-cream, cake, bread and the like. On the contrary, this diet follows a nourishing, calming, anti-inflammatory approach. The importance of a nourishing meal, one that connects you to the experience of cooking it and savoring it versus the rush of an exciting, junky food is revitalizing. When you know you are eating something beneficial to your health that you truly enjoy and savor it, the meal has a completely different impact on the body. The GAPS diet is revolutionary yet simple in prescription and encourages a total mind and body approach. Steve and Shannon are loving experimenting with this diet as it substantiates their love and belief in one’s universe extending from the kitchen: a place to nourish on all levels.

2 Responses to A Journey to Digestive Health: The GAPS Diet

  1. I have just started looking into the GAPS diet and would be interested if you started a group. Please keep me informed….thanks!

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