The first month of the GAPS Diet, I can honestly say, was one of the hardest months of my life. It was a huge rollercoaster for me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I do want to say that I am not a practitioner or any kind of specialist, all of this is based off of personal experience and research. Also, unlike me, I do recommend anyone who wants to follow this diet to see a health care provider first. There are a lot of factors that can play into your digestive health(such as SIBO, candida, ulcers, h. pylori, or parasites) and getting the right tests done can relieve you of some time and distress! So basically do what I didn’t and go see a doctor to at least know if you have any bacteria or what not in you 🙂
For me when I opened the GAPS book by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride MD, I was so overwhelmed. I cried and told my roommate I couldn’t do this, especially when it said you would need to follow it for a year and a half to two years for complete recovery. Luckily, thank you God, my roommate had the book already and had some knowledge about it all. Pretty sure that’s what kept me sane. This healing diet has a intro phase, full diet, and coming off diet phase. The intro phase has 6 stages that are very specific on what you can eat and can last different amounts of time for different people. Most people say 4-6 weeks for the whole intro phase-I am on week 5 and am still in it. You can move onto the next phase when YOUR stomach is ready. It can be easy to look at others progress and rush, or to think about what other food tastes like and want to rush. But this healing diet not only heals your stomach, but also the impatient mind (talking to myself haha). This intro phase has been lots of one step forward, two steps back over the last five weeks. And as frustrating as that may seem (and believe me at times it is), it’s also a blessing to be able to watch your body heal and grow more mentally strong.
The first stage consists of making your own meat stock, which if you don’t know what that is (I didn’t), you buy a whole chicken and boil it for a few hours, drain the broth and walla! Meat stock. Then you can put the cooked chicken and veggies in it. This broth is very healing to your stomach. However, if you are like me even this will upset your stomach (yay me!). I was still bloated and had cramps up and down my abdomen after the first 3 days of just eating this. Tip: Always have soup ready…I got very hangry sometimes and with all of the other stuff going on you don’t need your blood sugar to drop anymore than it already has, so do you and all others around you a favor and be prepared 🙂 Another part of the first stage is to add fermented food into your diet as a probiotic to increase the good bacteria in the gut. I started by adding 1tsp of sauerkraut juice into each of my bowls of soups. Despite me not feeling any better, except for not having the urgency to use the bathroom anymore, I decided to move onto the second stage of the intro anyways (mistake number one for not questioning why I didn’t feel good). I started to add in raw egg yolk to my soups (you can raise your eyebrows now…I never said this diet was normal), ghee (it’s basically butter but it doesn’t usually affect people with dairy issues-like me who was lactose intolerant), and fresh herbs. I also started to increase my sauerkraut juice as told. This is when I started feeling bad, and I mean really really bad. I was VERY fatigued, had terrible cramps and bloating (seemed worse than before), and basically felt sick. I read about something called “die-off” which means that the bad bacteria in you are dying off and so your body had all these symptoms. Even though that sounds good, it usually means you are progressing too fast and need to back off the fermented food some. So I stopped mine for a few days and started feeling somewhat better energy wise. This is when I decided to stop taking my Claritin that I had been taking every day for a year and a half because I wanted to not be putting anything in my body that could potentially make things worse. WOW, did this cause a whole nother door to open up. Within one day not only did my itchy throat come back (read my other post “allergies? digestive issues? Join the Club”), but I felt like I had the flu but without a fever. I had no energy to move, my body couldn’t regulate temperature (I remember I changed between pants and shorts about 8 times that day), my bones hurt, and my throat was swollen. That is when I researched and found something called histamine intolerance. I have to admit when I found this I was fascinated. I remember thinking I wonder how many people have this but don’t even know!
Okay, so histamine intolerance. As you can tell by the name…you are unable to handle high amounts of histamine. This can be genetic, or it can be caused by things such as leaky gut. Different foods have different levels of histamine in them. Just some examples of high histamine foods: eggplant, tomatoes, MEAT STOCK/BONE BROTH, LEFTOVERS, FERMENTED FOOD. I caps those because literally that was all I was consuming and it has HIGH levels of histamine. Those who are histamine intolerant are unable to break down the histamine in their digestive tract due to a deficiency in an enzyme called DAO. There are many different reasons one can be deficient in this. Anyhow, if you have leaky gut and histamine built up, the histamine can leak through the gut into the bloodstream causing reactions such as the ones I was having. Basically you have an allergic reaction anytime your “histamine bucket” overflows. It can be hard to realize you have histamine intolerance because you don’t have reactions every time you eat a food with histamine. It could happen at any time when your “bucket” overflows. My body had a full blown reaction when I stopped my antihistamine medicine because antihistamines block the receptors that make your body have the allergic response. So once I stopped taking them, my body reacted like it would have the last year and a half without the medication blocking my body’s response. Moving forward in the diet I decided to start freezing my meat stock and meat once it was done cooking because the longer food sits out, the more histamine builds up in it which is why leftovers have high levels. So figuring out how to fit all this stuff in my freezer was a lot of fun (sorry roomie :)). But it worked out and it’s still working for me! I also stopped taking any sauerkraut juice for the time being because it’s so high in histamine.
Ok, moving forwarddddd. Just a side note, by now I had had about a million breakdowns, and a million prayers, and a million times God picked me right back up and gave me hope and joy. Leaky gut and histamine intolerance not only messes with your gut but also have side effects like anxiety, depression, adrenal fatigue. And truthfully I feel like I felt all of it SO, I know that without God and without the support of my friends and family I would not have been as positive as I have been through all of this. Praise. Ok so within the next week I started taking Vitamin C and Quercetin to help degrade the histamine in my body. But my body still didn’t feel right and it seemed to be different than the allergic reactions from the histamine intolerance, so I decided to try a FODMAPS diet for just two weeks. This diet avoids the food that could potentially feed bacteria, in things such as SIBO(small intestine bacterial overgrowth). With everything going on I was very selected with the foods I could eat in those 2 weeks. Again this is why I recommend you see a health care provider before doing any of this (sorry I’m a terrible example of this). I also started paying very close attention to where my abdomen was hurting, and when it was hurting because in those two weeks my upper and lower abdomen were still hurting. I noticed I had all of the symptoms of ulcers-of course I can’t definitely say I had/have them because I haven’t been looked at but one thing that really pointed towards them was that I was unable to supplement with any kind of stomach acid or digestive enzymes (that had any acid in them) as the GAPS book recommends. I had immense burning pain whenever I did. But I can say that when the two weeks were up (yesterday), my upper abdomen was free of any abnormality after eating even though my lower abdomen/small intestine area still felt some achiness. So not sure if the vitamin C and Quercetin helped some of that, or the FODMAPS, or just time BUT I’m happy about it.
So where does that leave me? I started taking a probiotic yesterday that had bacteria that was found to help degrade histamine, and fight H. Pylori/ulcers. I am also taking the Vit C and Quercetin and fish oil. I started introducing other vegetables back into my diet today that weren’t allowed before with the FODMAPS. Technically I am still on stage 2 of the GAPS intro diet after five weeks, but I am happy with how it has run its course. Why? Because I have learned SO much knowledge about all of this, I have grown closer to the Lord, and it has given me time to learn what resting means and how to give control up to the One who holds the whole world in his hands. I know I have still have so much to go, and I will do it with as much patience and joy as possible. One thing I have learned is to not miss the blessings you have no matter the ones that are missing…and hey for all I know this is a blessing in disguise♡