Using GAPS to Heal from the Inside Out
by Deanna Wilson, HB Assistant, Certified GAPS™ Coach
This is my story of how I used GAPS to heal from the inside out. As a new mother, I had all the normal difficulties with diapering, breastfeeding, and very little sleep at night. But I was struggling with something else too. After a C-Section, I had a severe postpartum infection which put me in the hospital on IV nutrition and antibiotics (if you are pregnant, please don’t worry- this is very unlikely to happen to you!). After two weeks, what should have been a happy homecoming was shadowed by more stress and pain. We had beaten the infection, but I still struggled with abnormal fatigue that required me to nap 2-3 hours every day. I had postpartum trauma, depression, and anxiety. And on top of that, I had severe abdominal pain, with alternating constipation and diarrhea. My OB-GYN prescribed Zantac and a Gastroenterologist.
I realized I had gotten to the end of what conventional medicine could do. They had saved my life, but they didn’t know how to help me heal.
I tried a host of dietary interventions recommended by different natural health practitioners, starting with a bland diet of rice, potatoes, oatmeal, and applesauce, then smoothies, the Blood Type Diet, an ayurvedic approach, a juice fast, Dr. Aviva Romm’s 28-Day Gut Reset Plan… For two years. Nothing resolved the pain I was having, though I did do a bit better over time.
Enter the GAPS™ Diet
Finally, I found a Naturopath who knew what had happened to me. He believed me when I told him “I think it’s the vegetables that are making me sick.” Not the usual suspects of dairy and gluten. Fiber is a problem for people with gut damage, and I would have sustained severe gut damage after what I had been through. He showed me the “yellow book” and I immediately bought it. I could not believe what I was reading! Problems I had suffered from in childhood, such as chronic throat and ear infections and low immune function, were explained. I realized my gut issues had begun much earlier in life and this last round of antibiotics was simply the last straw.
I saw a future where my son and his children would continue the legacy of disease and disorder linked to gut damage if I did not stop this now.
The GAPS™ diet is a way to actually heal the body, not just control symptoms. But it goes beyond that. The GAPS diet is really a new lifestyle. It has given me so much more control and confidence. I can make my son’s eczema or cold disappear, my sore throat or fatigue vanish. Though there are never any guarantees, I am as confident as any mother can be that I have the knowledge and skills to guard my family’s health, no matter what virus or bacteria is out there. For more about GAPS see this article.
Using GAPS to Heal from the Inside Out
You may be wondering what it will be like if you start on this GAPS journey. Healing is change. And change can be scary. I’ll admit, our first few days of the GAPS Introduction diet were scary too. I was so worried about our symptoms of low blood sugar, strep throat, earache, and flu that I made an emergency appointment with my Naturopath.
I wondered if I was making things worse or doing something dangerous. Symptoms I hadn’t had since childhood were returning. The feeling of being sick and bed-bound brought back terrible memories of being in the hospital.
His helpful response: “If it isn’t any better in 2 or 3 days, call me.”
When I look back on this time, I laugh. For one thing, it didn’t have to be quite so bad. (If only I had had a little help from a GAPS Coach or GAPS Practitioner!) I remember the difficulties with joy because now I am on the other side. All that work and discomfort was a small price to pay for what my son and I have now.
A couple of days later, my blood sugar had stabilized, I had no more abdominal pain, and the sore throat and ear pain were gone. My elimination had stopped, but I simply did enemas every 36 hours until that resolved a few weeks later. I was still fatigued, but it was a good kind of tired. There was a feeling of peace, nourishment, healing, and wholeness.
In my GAPS coaching practice, my clients have many of the same fears and symptoms. I often tell my clients when they are having strange symptoms, “This is good!” It means that the body has begun the work of healing. If nothing changed, then I would be worried.
The crisis of healing
The body remembers and holds emotions, patterns, and pieces of our past. When the work of sloughing off the old, detoxifying, and renewal occurs physically, there is a parallel process occurring in the mind, in the heart, and in the spirit. This is called a “healing crisis.”
A crisis is a decisive moment. There is a reason we use the same word “heal,” for all our wounds, no matter where they were inflicted. The word comes from proto-Germanic roots and meant literally “to make whole.” We cannot be whole without our emotions, our minds, and our spirit. They are meant to be one integrated whole.
Do you believe in the power and beauty of your own body’s design?
Each of us has a unique journey. Trauma, anxiety, depression, limiting patterns of thinking need to be healed. We need to face those scary memories, fears, and emotions. We must stop believing the lies about ourselves that say we are unworthy, that we don’t deserve healing, that we can’t ask for help. Our bodies were designed in a marvelous way, and we can support them in doing what they were made to do — heal.
So, how can you use GAPS to heal from the inside out?
While there is no silver bullet that works for everyone, here are some tried and true ways to support your healing. I recommend picking one or two and trying them consistently for 1-2 weeks, rather than overwhelm yourself by trying to do them all! Slow and steady is usually more effective for long-term change. Use your gut to intuit what you are needing at this time.
Some psychological theories believe that insight in itself is enough to cause change. Bringing awareness to the process and having a framework for understanding what is happening is an intervention in itself. This article is meant to help with that. Here are some other ways to bring awareness to your process:
- Prayer- brings our attention to something bigger than ourselves. Bring your honest concerns, feelings, needs, and gratitudes to expression.
- Meditation- helps us to feel our feelings, observe our thoughts, and connect with our bodies. I recommend this 4 elements meditation exercise which is used in an effective trauma therapy technique called EMDR.
- Journaling- is a way to create and record processes in our lives. You may accept things the way they are, see progress, or notice patterns. You can do this with food and link it to symptoms (physical, emotional, and mental). If you feel stuck you can list each option, what the perceived obstacles are, and then examine them to see if they are really grounded in reality or in your fears. Gratitude journaling each day can be very helpful in redirecting a brain fixated on problems.
Knowing what we can expect from the healing process helps us to plan effectively, and gives us the conviction that we are doing the right thing even when it’s hard. I recommend doing some research before starting the GAPS diet, especially the Intro diet.
- Read either Gut and Psychology Syndrome or Gut and Physiology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbel-McBride
- Decide if you will DIY GAPS, or if you will get the help of a Practitioner.
- Ask your health care practitioner questions that come up as you are learning.
- Check out our free prep guide: The First Five Days of GAPS Intro.
Experience gives us both knowledge and confidence, as well as a felt sense of something.
- Try making some basic GAPS recipes before taking on the diet, such as fermented veggies, meat stock, and yogurt.
- Done GAPS before? “Failed?” Take what you have learned with you. Many of us have done the GAPS Intro diet a few times! And you know, I have never done it “perfectly.” Try to reframe your previous work as a stepping stone to where you are now. Who knows what would have happened if you had not done that work, even if it was done “imperfectly.”
Social connection is incredibly important for humans. In-person connections are best for promoting mental health.
- Make time for friends, family, church, or spiritual gatherings.
- Have a regularly scheduled “Date Night” – My son and I have found ‘date nights’ (every Saturday at 5) are a wonderful way to reconnect after a crazy week. Connections that are regularly scheduled can help you feel more secure in your relationships and give you something to look forward to.
- See a Counselor or Therapist- if you are struggling with depression, anxiety, unresolved trauma, relationship problems, or other mental health concerns, consider seeing someone. There are ways to improve these symptoms, you don’t have to “go it alone.”
Realize that you are going through a difficult process, have compassion for yourself during this time.
- Sleep- is incredibly important for healing. Do all you can to support sleep. It is very normal to be exhausted when doing GAPS Intro. Dr. Natasha encourages daily naps. Take some time off work if at all possible during the Intro diet.
- Detox, detox, detox- is an important and often overlooked reason for irritability, fatigue, and feelings of depression or anxiety. Support your body’s detox pathways with detox baths, gentle walks, juicing, plenty of liquids, and enemas (1-2x per 48 hr period) when constipation is a problem.
Make time and space for something to care for yourself, especially during healing crises. It is OK to take time off, it is OK to rest, it is OK to have needs.
When you think about it, doing GAPS is radical work.
It wasn’t just my gut that was healed during my GAPS journey. Five years later, I am healed not just physically but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. God used this trial to bring both me and my son closer to Him. By honoring the design of our bodies we are honoring our creator, and showing gratitude for the amazing gift of life.
When you do the GAPS diet, you are going against everything the mainstream culture is telling us about our bodies, food, the nature of disease, and sustainability in food production. You are going against what everyone else is doing.
But your body tells the truth. Your body is honest. You are not alone. You can do this, you can use GAPS to heal from the inside out. We are cheering you on!
Have your own GAPS story? Share in the comments!
What has worked to support your healing from the inside out? Let us know in the comments!