Over the past couple days I’ve been writing about what I see as the pros and cons of beginning the GAPS diet – something I’ve become more interested in and excited about the more I’ve read about it.
In case you’ve been wondering just what the heck the GAPS diet is, here is a super quick and simple summary -
GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome, which is a condition that establishes a connection between the function of the digestive system and the brain, and is a term coined by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, who has worked with hundreds of children and adults with neurological and and psychiatric conditions.
The diet is essentially based on the idea that the bacteria – or flora – that populates our guts is way out of order, and needs to be healed. This gut flora is incredibly important for all kinds of things:
- Appropriate digestion and absorption of food
- Synthesis and absorption of nutrients
- Protecting the gut from invaders and toxins
Well-functioning gut flora is the right hand of our immune system. The beneficial bacteria in the gut ensure appropriate production of different immune cells, immunoglobulins and other parts of the immunity. But most importantly they keep the immune system in the right balance. ~ GAPS – What is it?
There are many ways for our gut flora to get out of balance (years of eating processed foods, anyone?) and the GAPS Diet is essentially a way to heal the delicate balance of flora in order to restore proper digestion and immunity.
Its effects are not just on the body, but on the brain – it was a diet created to assist with both mental and physical problems like autism, hyperactivity and attention deficit, dyslexia, dyspraxia, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders and more.
OK, I’m getting into a little bit more than I wanted to here, but I thought it might help to know why I’ve become so interested in this whole thing!
It is also a helpful reminder to me – to know that repairing the damage of years is definitely going to be a process. GAPS doesn’t look easy – but it seems worth it for sure, so starting early next week I’ll be starting out with the GAPS Intro Diet.
Here are some of the ways I’m preparing to embark on this journey…
Mental Preparation: I’m doing research, reading peoples’ stories, thinking about the pros and cons. I’m visualizing the good that I will get out of doing this – trying to focus on the positive while still honestly acknowledging that it will be hard to give certain things up for a time (and some forever). I’m compiling a list of resources and support options; the book is on its way in the mail, and I’m getting excited!
Cleaning the House: This sounds like a weird one, but I’m getting the house totally clean in preparation for starting this diet next week (it helps that I have company coming tomorrow – great motivation for housecleaning!). I believe there will be some mental and physical stresses from starting GAPS, particularly at the beginning, so I want to minimize it in every other area of life that I can – and the housecleaning is a big one. I’m prone to letting it all pile up and getting to it once a week or so, but I’ve been making it my goal this week to start fresh and maintain.
Create a Shopping List: I’ve got my list about halfway done and plan to have it finished in the next few days before we visit the organic butcher on Saturday morning. This is one area where I feel hugely blessed to live in a big city – I can find pretty much anything I need no matter how weird it is! Fortunately, GAPS does start off pretty simply, so there isn’t too much I need to buy right off the bat – mainly a lot of meats and vegetables. I will need to begin adding in supplements after awhile – like fermented Cod Liver Oil (I just entered this giveaway for some actually – crossing my fingers to win!), but those can be bought more gradually.
Make Ahead: This weekend is dedicated to cooking! I’ve already started some sauerkraut fermenting, and I’ll probably get some Kimchi started tomorrow (one thing the husband is excited about!). I’ll be borrowing a few more stock pots from my in-laws and pressing the crock pot into service to make all kinds of stock; I’ll also be chopping up veggies to be in easy access form to pull out for making soups and eventually eating raw. I figure the more I can get done ahead of time, the better – and as we are fortunate enough to have a big chest freezer in the garage I may as well start making more use of it!
Meal Plan: The GAPS Intro is pretty basic in the beginning, but the more I read I’m finding it’s a bit more varied than I originally thought – and it only gets better. Meal planning will be key to helping me to keep on track – I’ll be posting what I come up with on Monday once I’ve bought the meats I’ll be working with (still have to check availability/pricing).
Sleep: I’ve talked about it before – I am awful when it comes to sleeping. I always stay up too late! And it doesn’t help that Bean is still waking up several times a night to eat. So now that I’m making the commitment to doing GAPS, I’m adding in the commitment of sticking to a bed time. My goal is to be in bed between 9 and 10 every night, which is really going to suck at first because I know I will just lay up there not sleeping (insomnia – boo). But since we’re talking gut flora when it comes to the health of our bodies and brains, I’m gonna go ahead and guess that sleep could be added in there and chalked up to just as important. I can’t help Bean waking up, but I can control when I go to bed so I’m going to have to just start doing it.
So that is my plan for beginning GAPS. If you have other ideas for preparation I would love to hear them – I am really trying to do everything I can to make this successful.
We’ve changed so many things in our lives over the past 11 months for the better, which helps give me confidence, but for me diet is still one of the most difficult. Here’s hoping for the best!