L earn. Start by reading the Food Allergy article by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride. This is a great foundation and overview of the protocol. Next watch the 1 hour video interview with Dr. McBride. A second review of the concepts will help it all sink in and to better understand how this therapy actually heals the gut and resolves the symptoms that go with it. Next, read the GAPS Guide by Baden Lashkov. Because GAPS is so comprehensive, and can be very overwhelming it’s best to give yourself a strong foundation using the Guide before diving into the details of the official text. Now you’re ready to read Dr. McBride’s GAPS book. Resist the temptation to skip over the medical chapters in the first half of the book.
Avoid. When you’re just starting out and trying to learn, stay away from getting tangled up in blogs and lists. There are so many helpful resources out there! It’s easy to get so confused because each person’s journey looks different. Some say, “do this”, others say, “no way, you have to include that.” After chasing your tail, it’s best to put the blogs and lists down for a bit. The best way not to get side tracked by someone else’s journey, is to work with your own therapist.
Rotate. It’s very easy when on any elimination diet to eat the same foods every day. We forget that when our guts are sensitive, eating a single food too often will sometimes produce allergy symptoms to that “healing” food. We were a whole year into GAPS when I realized how essential rotation was. We started getting sensitive to chicken because I was serving it much too frequently. Now, when I write my meal plans I try to have a certain protein once every 3 days (beef, fish, chicken, lamb, bison, pork and turkey). The same principle applies to fats (olive oil, coconut oil, butter, ghee, duck fat, lamb tallow).
Team. It works best to assemble a healthcare team. Along with your primary care manager it can be extremely helpful to see a nutritional therapist. It has made all the difference in the world during our GAPS journey. I really can’t imagine navigating all the ups and downs without Sharon Brown, NTP, CN. How do you know what to do when the symptoms actually get worse? Is this normal? Am I doing this right? These are all questions that therapists are trained to answer and have years of experience treating a number of cases. There are many types of clinicians that can offer insight, but a GAPS practitioner has undergone specific training with Dr. McBride and can best guide you through the specifics of this protocol. It will save you months and months of trial and error on your own. Support is critical, and due to its complexity, it’s best to get the support that is tailored to your specific symptom picture. It works best to assemble a healthcare team. Working with a therapist should never replace your primary care provider or other specialists that are also essential to your care.
Slow. The desire to implement the changes right away is likely one of the biggest snares to avoid for most people. You have learned an incredible amount of new and exciting information about how to improve your symptoms and you want it to happen now! The trouble with that approach is that because GAPS is so comprehensive, it cannot be started on a whim, or even after a week or two of preparing. Depending on where your nutrition is currently, it could take months, to be in a good position to start. It took our family, who was already eating healthy, 6 months to work our way to Full GAPS. The second reason for going slow and only making one change at a time is to allow your body to adjust. If you take out wheat, dairy and soy all at once, then you will never know which of those was causing symptoms! One small change at a time will allow you to see how your symptoms respond. It’s best to make notes and pinpoint exactly what shift in diet or lifestyle led to which improvement or worsening of your symptoms.
Grounded. When you are swimming in new information and overwhelmed by implementing even small changes, stay grounded. Be thankful that you are even learning about gut healing and strengthening your immune system. Purposely do things you enjoy that have nothing to do with food. Yes, it’s easy to demonize certain foods, or lament the way you’ve been eating for years. Try not to lose sight of the big picture. There’s really more to life than food and label reading. Because GAPS is a protocol, not a diet, it really will impact every area of your life (sleep, work, relationships, and finances) but it doesn’t have to consume your life. So much change is hard to sort through. It is important to stay mindful and intentionally avoid the pitfall of allowing GAPS to control your life.
Journal. Write it all down! You’ll be working so hard to learn more about gut healing and how to notice even slight changes in how you’re feeling. Was there less bloating today? Did your brain fog seem to lift? What about that 2pm lull in the afternoon? Was your sleep less interrupted? How about your emotions? There are so many tiny changes in symptoms that if they aren’t written you’ll forget when they happened and what changes caused them. It’s such an up and down journey that one day a certain food may not have caused a reaction but the next time you tried it, it did. Another item to document is the serving size or dose of a food or supplement as these change quite frequently. A written log is also going to be a wonderful aid to any health care provider in their assessment of your symptoms.