Saturday, February 11, 2012

GAPS is NOT a "no-carb lifestyle"

Yes, I'm piggybacking on a recent Cheeseslave post regarding GAPS myths...with no intention of being unoriginal, of course!  But AnnMarie has highlighted some important misconceptions that seem to exists about the GAPS diet, and I wanted to further vocalize some important points.  In fact, it was not until I read a few of her recent posts and the resulting comments that I fully understood that such confusion exists.  A careful reading of McBride's GAPS book, as well as the GAPS website and GAPS Guide site, will reveal the following truths, so I will be brief.

Let's examine a couple key points:

GAPS is a temporary healing protocol, not a lifestyle diet or a weight-loss diet.  The GAPS protocol is designed to heal our guts by repairing and resealing the intestinal lining, detoxifying our bodies, and repopulating our beneficial flora.  The dietary protocol is the means to achieving this healing.  Because certain foods are problematic both for leaky guts and for feeding malevolent flora, those foods must be avoided while pursuing the protocol.  In addition, the protocol involves increased consumption of healing saturated fats.  This is the cornerstone of the protocol.  The fats, gelatin, marrow, etc. repair our intestinal lining.  

[Fat is crucial, not just in the GAPS protocol, but also to achieve lifelong wellness.  Fat makes your hormones.  Fat is essential to heart health, brain health, joint health, and more.  I will be posting a detailed article on the benefits and necessity of fat in the near future.]

McBride is a vocal supporter of the WAPF lifestyle, and GAPS is a "pre-Nourishing Traditions" program for the multitude of Americans who cannot digest "troublesome" foods, such as grains and dairy.  Even organic real milk and whole grains don't play nicely in a dysbiotic system.  The hope is that post-GAPS, your healed body will tolerate and thrive on NT-style foods.

It is important to understand the "temporary" nature of GAPS...temporary is subjectively defined based upon the level of dysbiosis being healed.  Some people will heal more quickly than others.  We cannot assume our journey will mimic anyone else's, and we must allow our bodies time to heal.  McBride gives two years as a general timeframe for the GAPS program, but variation will exist.

The desired result of GAPS is healing, and the goal is a healthy digestive system that will process all real foods, including properly prepared grains.  This brings us to the second key point:

GAPS is not a no-carb diet.  (It isn't even tremendously low-carb once you're on Full GAPS.)  GAPS is grain-free, but not zero carb.  The allowed foods on the GAPS protocol include myriad healthy carbs that are chosen to provide a balanced, varied diet while also preventing the feeding of pathogens.  A cursory reading of the allowed foods list will reveal numerous carbs.  These foods...including fruits, honey, squashes, carrots, lentils, peas, navy beans, coconut, beets, etc....are to be introduced slowly and methodically during the protocol, but they are allowed and recommended during the healing process.  Some of us will be more sugar sensitive than others, and may need to avoid or delay certain carbs for a period of time on the program.  But that does not mean that these foods are to be avoided FOREVER.  Again, the goal of GAPS is permanent healing and the creation of a body that can process the entire spectrum of healthy real foods.

My family daily consumes allowed carbs on the GAPS protocol, such as butternut and acorn squashes, carrots, coconut, beets, dates, raisins, peas, honey, and more.  My most sensitive child and I struggle with more severe dysbiosis, so we cannot consume these foods at the same level as the rest of the family members.  But as we continue our healing journey, I believe our bodies will accept all these foods successfully.  And I can tell you that my favorite little "pleasure" is currently dates stuffed with butter and shredded coconut...delicious!!  And I never would have experimented with this guilt-less pleasure had we not started GAPS.  Thinking outside the food box while on a healing regimen can be fun.

And that's something we all should remember.  Food is fun.  Food is life.  Food is nourishment, it is healing.  We should eat to live, and enjoy doing so, but we should not live miserably for the sake of food religion.  Committing to clean food or being a "real foodie" is not a life of misery and drudgery!  Real food is delicous!  The pleasures we desire to tickle our palates and nourish our bodies are available in the real food realm.  We need to relearn food wisdom and apply that knowledge to the way we eat and live.  We should choose wisely, and we should know when we need to tackle a more "drastic" healing regimen so that we can live the rest of our lives enjoying the full bounty of real food.  That is how I see is a fully nourishing protocol designed to bring systemic healing to our compromised bodies.  When we have achieved healing, we will enjoy exploring foods that we heretofore could not consume without pain or trouble.

The enemy is not real food, it is the "scientific" manipulation, the adulteration and pollution of our once-pure food supply.  The enemy is industrial food, pharma, and environmental toxins.  The solution is simple, even if it requires time and energy to achieve the desired healing.  Grains are not evil, they just need to be understood; and we need to lay the proper foundation in our guts so we can enjoy traditional grains.  Personally, I'm looking forward to once again consuming one of my family's favorite staple foods...sweet potatoes.  Knowing that the "bad buggies," as my little ones call them, are dead--no more to wreak havoc on our guts--will have made this temporary restriction worthwhile!

A common concern/complaint we all hear is how easily (and how much) people gain weight when they begin adding carbs/grains into their diets after practicing a high-protein, no-carb lifestyle.  Without delving into the involved science on the topic, I want to highlight a few reasons for this weight gain.  The weight gain puzzle is certainly more complex than this, but the following are common possibilities:

  • You have a food sensitivity (such as wheat) and are suffering from gut dysbiosis.  When we have dysbiosis, we easily put on weight because of inflammation and toxicity.  Healing the gut (a la GAPS) is an important step in properly digesting and utilizing grains without the toxic weight gain.
  • Your weight gain coming off a no-carb lifestyle is due to your body's "starvation response."  During your no-carb diet, your body did not receive the correct balance of essential nutrients.  You lost weight, but your body believed you were starving.  When you commenced eating a fuller spectrum of foods once again (ie, adding grains and starchy carbs), your body immediately began to build up fat stores to prepare for another cycle of starvation. 
  • You have a hormonal imbalance.  Hormones regulate every system in our bodies and are intricately linked with our weight.  Any hormone malfunction (thyroid, adrenals, sex hormones, etc) can tip the scales.  One notable culprit is high estrogen levels, because estrogen is housed in fat cells.  Excess estrogen can cause an increase in fat tissue.  Our polluted environment, with its abundance of xenoestrogens, leads to excess estrogenic imbalances in both women and men.

It is important to remember that we are unique individuals and we have varying food needs; additionally, our personal food needs will shift through the seasons of our lives.  I see validity in understanding metabolic typing, blood sugar issues, food sensitivities, etc.  We will not all thrive on the same exact diet, and that's OK.  As the old maxim tells us, one man's meat may be another's poison...  (But always and forever?  I hope not.)  I believe we all can have healed guts and should be able to process the variety of real food available to us.  But that is a theory in progress, and I certainly believe in individual food choice freedom.  Yet, if you want to enjoy the cornucopia of real food, make sure you have a strong foundation (healed gut) and that you learn traditional food preparation.  Again, there is no exact time limit on healing.  And in the end, some bodies will not process all the same foods in the same quantities to the same level of success.  "Individual results may vary."   LOL  

Well, I'm off to render some lard, so until next time, be well and enjoy real food!