What's for breakfast?
GAPS is a sharp right-about, a 180 degree turn heading to a complete opposite direction of what I was doing in the past two years. In the previous five year I was consciously reducing my meat consumption, and in the last two years I was eating a heavily grain based vegan meal plan 85 to 95% (the 5 to 15% was eating out vegetarian). Now this GAPS popped into my life and almost paralyzed me. What on Earth are we going to eat for breakfast?? This surely is going to kill us! These were my first thoughts. So I started reading and digging and after five weeks well into this dietary approach I am no longer panicking about what to cook.
So what is GAPS? GAPS stands for Gut And Psychology Syndrome designed by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, emphasizing the brain gut (belly) connection. The GAPS Diet is based on the principles of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), developed by Dr Sidney Valentine Haas as a dietary treatment for coeliac disease, and further investigated by Elaine Gottschall as treatment and cure for all sorts of gastrointestinal disorders like ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome, cystic fibrosis, chronic diarrhoea. SCD is a strict grain-, sugar-, and starch-free dietary regimen, where only specifically selected carbohydrates, requiring minimal digestion are allowed.
The damaged gut is not capable of digesting complex carbohydrates, thus undigested carbohydrates remain in the intestinal tract. It is a great feeding-ground for microbes, their number gets growing, their strength gets increasing, and you end up with a bunch of bad guys who you cannot control, rather they are going to control you. They release toxins as by-product poisoning your body, they mess up your enzymes to further sabotage the carbohydrate digestion, and they mess with your brain to make you crave more carbohydrates. When the intestinal tract is attacked by these toxins and acids it switches to protect-mode by releasing excess mucus to coat itself against the irritation. This leads to further decline in digestion, leaving more incompletely digested and unabsorbed carbohydrates for the little savages to feast on, and malabsorption leads to malnourishment for you. This cycle really is vicious.
Intestinal microbes require carbohydrates for energy. The SCD is severely limiting the availability of carbohydrates to these untamed creatures. The specifically selected carbohydrates are well absorbed leaving virtually nothing for the intestinal microbes to feed on, so they decrease in numbers due to the lack of food. Their harmful by-products also diminish. Less toxins create less irritation, and the mucus producing cells stop producing excessive mucus and carbohydrate digestion starts to improve. The idea behind the SCD is to starve out the bad buys while repopulating the gut with the good ones, and also to strengthen them so they will able to keep the ugly ones under control.
Our outside is the reflection of our inside. If we feed the bad guys it will show signs like eczema, asthma, food intolerances and allergies, autoimmune diseases, arthritis, depression, migraines, epilepsy, etc. which are all manifestations of the same thing, imbalanced gut flora. Our modern diet is loaded with refined carbohydrates. Refined carbs are stripped off their original nutrients and won't feed you (overfed and undernourished, remember?), only the trouble makers in your own little microWorld. Our immune system is in our gut, and all systems of the body are directly linked to the immune system. If the gut is in bad shape how can we expect it to work and protect us.
How does the gut get damaged? In our modern world the threat is everywhere: damaged gut flora passed from mother to child at birth, or lack of intestinal flora when delivered via C-section, lack of breastfeeding, dependence on baby formulas and jarred baby foods, poor diet, antibiotic abuse, environmental factors like chlorine and fluoride toxins in the drinking water, toxic food, etc. So the cycle begins and it is difficult to brake.
Dr Campbell-McBride followed this thinking curve and designed the GAPS Nutritional Program, which is grain-free, starch-free, lactose-free, sugar-free, and unprocessed, based on foods that reduce inflammation of the intestinal lining and re-establish the healthy balance of the intestinal flora (the balance of the Good, The Bad and the Ugly). These foods are easy to digest, they allow you to heal from the inside out, bringing you back to health through diet. This is a heal and seal dietary regimen, starting off with the Introduction Diet, that has six stages with a limited food choices, adding new foods in with each progressive stage, and then following the Full GAPS Diet for a good while. This elimination diet requires discipline, time and effort.
Unfortunately the symptom-oriented medical care does not acknowledge the role diet can play, so it will stuff us with drugs until we choke only to manage our symptoms not to free us. Perhaps it will change in time, and we can only hope for sooner than later. Meanwhile we have to hang on and take our health into our hands with dietary approaches.
For the full picture in details please read:
• Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet by Elaine Gloria Gottschall
• Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, ADD/ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Depression, Schizophrenia Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride
[i] For GAPS recipe ideas please visit my GAPS recipes selection.