GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome, a condition which establishes a connection between the functions of the digestive system and the brain. [SOURCE]. If you want to know the nitty-gritty of GAPS, you’ll find a good deal of information here.
A GAPS diet is a healing diet that fixes leaky gut, a condition of increased intestinal permeability or intestinal hyperpermeability. [SOURCE] The way I understand it, when you have a leaky gut, your intestinal lining is damaged and becomes porous, which allows partially digested food particles and other toxins to escape into the bloodstream. Why is that bad? This article explains it better (and in plain English, too).
The first reaction your body has to these “foreign” bodies in your blood is to fight like hell. Initially, your Liver is called into action to work overtime and try to screen out all the particles that your intestinal lining was supposed to be taking care of. In most cases, the liver has no chance of keeping up with the constant flow of waste into your blood and all the toxins, undigested food molecules, yeast, and other pathogens start to accumulate in your body.
Now the sleeping giant wakes up (your immune system) and it is not happy. It goes into full battle mode to fight the evil intruders and get them out of the body ASAP. More often than not, the body cannot keep up with the task at hand and the majority of these foreign bodies absorb into tissues throughout the body… causing them to inflame.
Inflammation is also an immune response and causes even more stress on your system. Now that your body is focused on fighting the large war, the little battles are starting to be ignored, like filtering out the blood, calming inflamed areas of the body, fighting bacteria, regulating the gut, etc. This process flow can lead to your body fighting itself and an array of autoimmune diseases… [SOURCE]
Bottomline, a leaky gut often contributes to autoimmune diseases such as what I have – an autoimmune Thyroiditis (not yet sure if it’s Hashimoto’s or Grave’s as my endocrinologist didn’t bother to find out.) So, to cure autoimmune diseases naturally, one must first fix the leaky gut.
Why the GAPS diet?
I’ve rant about how I don’t like taking medicines for my Thyroiditis because of the ugly side-effects that I’m experiencing. And the fact that taking steroids and synthetic thyroid hormone doesn’t really get to the bottom of the disease. It only controls it – one way is by suppressing the immune system which has some really serious long-term side-effects – and NOT cure it. If I stop taking these meds, there’s a good chance that I’d feel sick again after a while.
This led me to search for alternative ways to manage my condition. Something that will have a long-term positive effect and won’t have me dependent on synthetic drugs for a lifetime. The term “leaky gut” always come up when I search for autoimmunity cures so I thought to pay attention to it. That’s how I came upon the GAPS diet.
Actually, I found this autoimmune diet first and though I thought it’s too restricting (like what else can I eat?), I decided to try it. Hence my gluten-free diet started, which I abruptly halted after just 4 days. The more I read about autoimmunity and leaky gut syndrome, the more I’m convinced that I should be doing the GAPS diet instead.
Another thing that I attracted me to the GAPS diet is the fact that it’s not a permanent regimen. You can make it part of your lifestyle, but you can also starting eating regular foods AFTER the diet. Yes, the dieting period has an end. It’s a healing diet and as such, its purpose is to heal something in the body. Once it successfully served its purpose, you can get off the boat. But of course, there’s a process to it. You can’t simply jump in and jump out anytime you want.
The fact that I can reintroduce and eat regular food again after a while appealed a lot to me. It made me feel less deprived, considering how limiting the diet is during the first stages. I like the idea that I can look forward to eating “normally” again once I’ve fixed my leaky gut and autoimmune condition. Sort of encouraging, actually.
The GAPS Diet is divided in two main sections: the Introduction Diet and the Full Diet. The Intro Diet is further subdivided into six stages and every stage has a list of food that one is allowed to eat. The higher you go, the more choices you get. But technically, there are still a lot of restrictions.
I’m now on my first stage of GAPS Intro Diet and these are what I can only eat:
- Meat or fish stock with pieces of meat/fish
- Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, onions, leeks, squash
- Sea salt, whole peppercorns
- 1-2 teaspoons dairy or vegetable probiotic (plain yogurt, sauerkraut juice, kefir, etc)
Every ingredient must be natural, certified organic if possible. Boiling is the only allowed method of cooking, so this first stage is essentially a soup diet stage. Good thing I enjoy soups a lot, especially beef soups. But the only thing I can do at this stage is to make the most delicious natural beef broth by boiling bone marrow, sea salt and whole peppercorns. Then add carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and small pieces of meat (preferably those soft tissues and fat from the bone marrow). Everything must be boiled thoroughly such that the meat and vegetables are soft enough to literally melt in your mouth. Talk about mushy!
It is a sick man’s diet – someone so sick that he can’t chew his own food! But as I said, this is not permanent so I’ll try to hang in here as long as I can, if it means I can improve my autoimmune condition and be able to eat like regular people again.