Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Why I stayed on the GAPS diet

I've never seen dietary changes have an impact so quickly.  I expected to have to follow GAPS for six months to a year to see results.  Within days of starting my arthritis pain was gone and my energy levels were soaring.  I could stay up till 10 or 11 o'clock, and be active in the early evening.  I could get out of bed in the morning.  Within three weeks of starting I had just about dropped a pants size and my acne was almost gone.

I should describe the rather strange experience I had with my thyroid.  Just days into the GAPS diet, just after going to bed, I felt a strange popping sensation in my throat, right where the thyroid is.  After the popping sensation I felt an intense wave of pain that subsided very quickly.  That was very close to when my symptoms started going away.  This has happened three or four times since,  when I cycle through the Intro diet, always just after I go to bed.  I have no idea what's going on when this happens.  My naturopath recommended detoxification of the thyroid using special drops (which I did not do).  I wonder if in fact my thyroid is detoxifying via GAPS.

This is a timely post because I've inexplicably had symptoms come flooding back today.  I couldn't focus at work, I have severe pain in the joints of my left arm and right knee, I'm exhausted, and I'm breaking out.  I'm thinking back for the last few days, trying to figure out if I've eaten something I shouldn't.  Here are my guesses:

-too much dairy (cheese and yogurt)
-not enough probiotic (I ran out of capsules and kefir.  I've been relying on yogurt.)
-two plates of thai food last thursday (gluten, grains, bad oils...)
-no broth for awhile
-too much cheese
-ate some kidney beans on the weekend (I'm not sure if they are guess is no.)

In short, too many foods that are just ok, and not enough that will help me heal.  Now that I've reminded myself of my initial experience, it's time to cycle through the Intro again. 

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Why I started the GAPS diet

I started because I was desperate.  I had autoimmune arthritis that suddenly raged to the point where I could not walk in the morning.  For some time before that, I was continually gaining weight despite walking 10k per day and eating moderately.  I had no energy despite a whole foods diet.  I could not focus well enough to do my job.  I suspected Hashimoto's disease, as it was in my family, but I was dismissed by several doctors, one who only looked at T3 levels and one who hadn't seen bloodwork or done a physical exam.

I had been an academically and professionally ambitious runner who worked extremely hard in every area of life.   I became an obese person with no personal interests except sleep, and no professional ambition beyond getting through the day so I could sleep some more.   I was 26.

After seeing a naturopath, and trying a number of different ways to control what she agreed were Hashimoto's symptoms, there were no naturopathic options left.  I started searching the internet for ways to deal with my thyroid symptoms via diet.  (At this point I had already read about half a dozen books on hypothyroidism and had implemented all of the dietary advice I could find - to no effect.)  Then I found GAPS.

I was initially confused about why a diet for autistic children could help an adult with autoimmune issues.   After further research, I was intrigued, but unconvinced this would help me in any way.  I was already juicing, eating gluten-free, eating food in the form that nature provided, etc. etc.  This just looked like another low carb diet, and having tried those before, I knew that just going low carb would not help with weight loss for a Hashimoto's patient.  (Even though according to every doctor I saw, I was not, in fact, a Hashimoto's patient.)

The GAPS diet just seemed unnecessarily prescriptive.  Do I really need to eat squash and nut butter pancakes to be healthy?  How could drinking broth possibly help with an arthritic knee I've had since the age of two? 

I researched it on and off for about a week.  I happened upon a blog written by someone with thyroid problems and saw her weight loss pictures.  I grudgingly decided to try GAPS, thinking, even if I just loose a little weight, it will take some pressure off my joints and some stress off my thyroid. I decided I would try for a month.  I reasoned that this was one medical intervention couldn't possibly hurt me.  Furthermore, it had been developed by an M.D., who seemed genuinely intellectually curious, (an M.D. and two master's degrees!? and neither of them in business?) and genuinely interested in helping patients the world over.

So, I boiled bones, and drank ginger tea, and ate raw eggs in broth, and drank carrot juice. I experienced a little die off, but I wasn't taking probiotic foods or capsules just yet, so it was not significant.  By the time I was on part 4 of the Intro, which was only about six days into the diet, I felt like a completely different person.  I was stunned that I saw changes as quickly as I did.  Prescription thyroid medication often does not work this quickly.

More on these experiences in my next post.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Spicy food

Reading the Well Fed Homestead, one of my favorite GAPS blogs, I came across a post about how your taste buds 'grow up' on GAPS.  I can relate. 

I could never handle spicy food.  Even mild brand name salsa was often too much for me - the most abrasive thing I would have would be a little bit of black pepper on a poached egg or on a sandwich.  Very Barbara Pym.

This was not a digestive issue - at least, spicy food did not directly cause digestive discomfort - and it wasn't localized pain due to an ulcer or something.  I just couldn't handle the taste, I found it unpalatable.  This has been the case my whole life, but I seemed to get more sensitive with age.  I would have thought the opposite.

Now I am craving spicy food!  Hot sausages, curry, tom yum soup, horseradish, red pepper flakes in sauces and stews.  I'm cooking and enjoying this stuff, which would have been unheard of two months ago.  To my mind, this has to be due to GAPs.   Maybe flora changes in my mouth?  I have no idea.   But it's opened up a whole new range of flavours for me. 

Like I needed another reason to love this protocol. 

Thursday, 19 January 2012


Is. Awful.  Don't do it.

I went out for lunch at a Thai restaurant on a particularly stressful work day.  I loaded two plates full of forbidden foods...rice noodles, spring rolls, pad thai, not to mention the soy, vegetable oil, etc. etc.  And I have to say, its not that I really wanted them or was craving them (pre-GAPs this would have been the case).  I was just at lunch at a place where nothing was allowed, so I cheated.   (I can't really even call it indulging, because compared to GAPS fare this food was sadly lacking.)

I was unconvinced of the veracity of the claim that these foods produce opioid-like substances during digestion, which, for a person with a leaky gut, absorb into the blood and cause symptoms like fatigue, fuzzy thinking etc., in addition to triggering autoimmunity.  I assumed these substances were marginally opioid-like and that the effect was minimal if detectable.  Now that I'm able to compare the way I feel in relatively good health to the way I felt on these foods, I'm convinced. I mean seriously, even though this was just a lunch, the next day I felt like I'd killed a bottle of wine the night before.  

So this is the first downside to GAPS.  It becomes far more difficult to enjoy "ethnic" food from that is heavily based on carbs - Italian, Thai, Indian, etc.  This said, factoring the cost of my lunch, the damage I did with it, and how I felt the next day , I can say now with total confidence that the cheat meal was not worth it.  

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Dr. Campbell-McBride's book

Finally!  I've been waiting three months for the GAPS book from my local library.  My turn came and I rushed to the library after work to check it out.  My own issues are physiological rather than psychological, so I'm waiting for her next GAPS book to actually purchase a resource.   I would love to hear news on when her next book is coming.

My best broth yet

Broccoli stem
Sea salt
Chicken bones

It's darker and sweeter than ordinary chicken broth. It's nice for a break from the chicken/celery/carrots trifecta!

Friday, 6 January 2012

Quick intro breakfast

My goal is to spend one week per month on the Intro Diet, just for that extra bit of healing.  While I love a coconut flour muffin for breakfast the rest of the time, baked goods are not allowed on the early phases of the Intro.  And I'm not about to stand around frying up bacon, eggs, and vegetables for one as I rush off to work in the morning.  What to do?

Slow cooker applesauce.  A great GAPS blog, Well Fed Homestead, has a really good slow cooker applesauce recipe, as well as a slow cooker giveaway right now! 

My own slow cooker is old and banged up, with hairline cracks in the ceramic.  But it did come with a little mini slow cooker. I thought I would never use it.  I think it is intended for warmed dips, but it cooks up a one-bowl breakfast perfectly.  Pre-GAPS, I just threw in some steel cut oats and water before bed and woke up to lovely nutty oatmeal in the morning. 

Now, I make applesauce for one.  I combine apples, clarified butter, and honey in the desired ratio. I allow it to cook over night, give it a brisk stir with a fork in the morning, and I have a hot, Intro-friendly breakfast that takes under 2 minutes to prepare.  It has become one of my GAPS mainstays.  And, breakfast aside, waking up to the smell of baking apples is a treat in itself!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Tired of chicken broth - solutions

I'll preface this by saying that I spent several weeks in November on the Intro, and then another week at the end of December.  

I couldn't eat another spoonful of broth at this point.  Perhaps I've limited myself too much to chicken and turkey broth. But fish stock does not appeal to me.  While I love fish, the concept of miscellaneous fish parts boiling together in a pot makes me want to gag.  Beef is an option.  But at this point the notion of eating more stock does not appeal sufficiently for a trip to the horribly frigid weather.  Finally, I`ve just had it with pureed vegetable soups.

So I've come up with a few solutions to sneak stock into my meals.  Last night I made a sausage stew using cooked plum tomatoes.  As the sausage fat and tomato juice simmered in the bottom of the pan a wave of inspiration hit.  I topped off the stew with chicken broth and it made a delicious thin tomatoey sauce that had no chicken taste.  Tonight, spurred by this success, I used the rest of my tomatoes to make a chicken stock based marinara sauce which I used in a lasagne. (A zuchini noodle lasagne.) 

As for quick lunch fixes at work (all-imporant for an urban professional with unappealing leftovers...) I`m lucky enough to live in a city that has an abundance of pho places.  Pho is avietnamese soup made with various types of meat (including tendon meat!) and vegetables. Hold the rice noodles and its perfect for the GAPS protocol...but even pre-GAPS, its really about the delicious broth.  Best of all, the flavors are totally different from any of my homemade broth recipes, even my chicken/ginger/lemongrass broth. 

So in a nutshell, plain chicken broth wears out its welcome fast.  It`s worth having a few ways to hide it in your GAPS recipe arsenal.


I've been on GAPS for a few more months now, so I have a few more thoughts getting broth in when you're fed up with it.  I also thought summary bullets would be useful:

  • add to sauces, such as tomato sauce
  • use as a base for stews (kind of obvious)
  • use instead of milk to scramble eggs
  • in some cases, it could be used instead of milk for general cooking
  • use as a base for stir frys 
    • this works great for asian-style stir frys, but if your just boiling or cooking veggies and you don't mind some extra liquid, try this.
  • use in savory baking
    • I haven't experimented with this yet, but I have a theory that you could use broth in something like zuchini muffins
    • A pizza crust recipe that I snagged off another blog calls for yogurt.  I bet I could sub in a thicker broth instead
  • if you're not on GAPS, and you're consuming soaked or unsoaked grains, rice cooked in broth is delicious (too bad its not allowed)
  • Update - cook lentils in broth!