27: So, What Exactly is GAPS Diet?

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In my dietary research, I continually came across references and blogs from people using GAPS Diet to get their AS into remission. I hadn’t felt interested in it because it basically suggested… “Hey, instead of merely removing every imaginable form of starch and lactose from your diet, why not remove a few of the remaining things as well? Doesn’t that sound swell?” And I was like…um…no actually. But the grand design of GAPS is to put your autoimmune condition (whichever one it may be) into remission by correcting it at its very most fundamental root cause: your flawed gut.

By now I was getting flustered by the plethora of different types of foods I was living without, coupled with my ever increasing sensitivity to any slight accidental starch-contamination. Combine this with the fact that many Ankylosing Spondylitis patients report they’ve achieved remission simply by removing “most” dietary starch and that, furthermore, some are in total remission and adding their favorite starches back into their diets by the six month mark…while I was almost four months in and showing no sign that my AS would ever allow me to have so much as a cup of ginger tea again, much less to indulge in a stack of hot, buttery pancakes with syrup oozing down the sides. Although my quality of life had improved exponentially, I also knew I wouldn’t be a happy camper like this forever.

So I may have reluctantly stumbled in the direction of GAPS Diet, but after learning about its philosophy that disease states start in the gut and can only be ‘cured’ by healing the gut and then indefinitely treating it with care, I was right on board. In fact ‘leaky gut’ had suddenly become a common term, and I’d been hearing about all sorts of gut-focused seminars and diets cropping up. Nature was obviously pushing this one under my nose and saying… “Hey you, pay attention to this.” So I immediately began the diet based upon online instructions, before my copy of Gut and Psychology Syndrome, the official GAPS Diet book, had even arrived in the mail.

GAPS begins with a 5 stage intro diet, stage 1 consisting of very few food items, and each stage adding on a few more items until you reach the Full GAPS menu. You move from one stage to the next once you are no longer presenting ‘flared’ symptoms. Since I’d already been some months without starch, I was prepped for the sensory deprivation of such a diet. But there is no way to really predict or even describe what this is like, if you’ve never done it before.

In my 20’s I’d eaten an almost exclusive diet of fish, broccoli, sweet potatoes, occasional lamb, small amounts of cheese and fruit, and my protein shakes, in order to revive my glands and minimize IBD attacks. But I had ‘cheats’ on the weekends. I still baked the family birthday cakes, homemade bread, holiday pies…I still sat down to a couple pints of ice cream once in a while. And I went out for Thai or Indian food on the weekends. I knew things would have to be different this time.

GAPS is a serious healing regime that can only be hindered by deviations, and I was in need of serious healing. Stage 1, GAPS Diet: Consists of literally no more than soft boiled meats in copious quantities of the full fat bone broth you’ve boiled them in, sea salt (thank God), whole peppercorns (to be removed from the finished soup), soft boiled vegetables from the acceptable vegetable list, fresh ginger tea, small amounts of raw honey, and homemade whey or sauerkraut juice.

Although GAPS is a low starch diet, my major issue with the beginning stages was that I had almost no source of carbohydrates since I couldn’t eat even the allowed starchy vegetables. Therefore the ginger tea was also out, and my (earlier discovered) extreme aversion to probiotics prevented any intake of whey or kraut. In essence I was on a highly restricted version of a highly restrictive diet.

This is the ongoing story of my experience with a crippling autoimmune disease, Ankylosing Spondylitis, that I’m putting in remission with diet and stem cells!