A success story is the first thing most of us hear about the GAPS™ Diet. When you come across one that describes you or your family’s health problem, and how the GAPS Diet heals, it’s incredibly motivating.
So what’s the next thing that people do? Look up what they can and can’t eat on the GAPS Diet and how to get started.
There’s actually a step in between there, and I want to make sure you don’t miss it. Today we’re going back to the basics of how you developed a ‘GAPS gut’ in the first place, and how the GAPS Diet will heal it.
Recent research tells us that about 90% of the genetic material and cells in our bodies is our gut flora. So we’re just that other 10%, a shell providing a habitat for this mass of microbes. In a healthy person with healthy gut flora, this mass of microbes is dominated by the beneficial or ‘probiotic’ species, which are involved in all kinds of functions in the body.
There are two other kinds of bacteria though. Opportunistic flora, which we all naturally have different kinds of, and these need to be kept in check by the beneficial flora or they’ll cause problems. Then there’s the transitional flora, which we swallow daily with our food and drink. When our gut is well protected by beneficial bacteria, this group of microbes goes through your digestive tract without causing harm, but if you’re low on beneficial flora this group of microbes can cause disease. This is what happens when we get food poisoning or traveler’s diarrhea.
To give you a hint at what goes wrong when your bacteria gets out of balance, let me tell you what your healthy essential gut flora does for you:
- Protects you from invading transitional flora
- Maintains the health and integrity of your gut so it doesn’t get ‘leaky’
- Helps you digest your food and absorb nutrients
- Produces some of your B vitamins and Vitamin K
- Assists detoxification by breaking down toxins and sending them on their way out of your body
- Modulates your immune system, where they stand as sort of ‘guards’ blocking inappropriate proteins from getting in to your bloodstream
When you’re dominated by opportunistic or transitional flora your gut wall starts getting damaged. New gut cells, called enterocytes, aren’t born as often as you need them, and the ones that are born are disabled and can’t do their job efficiently. These enterocytes are missing the enzymes that accomplish the last steps in digesting food, which then impairs your digestion and absorption. The structure of your gut wall changes and disease can set in, leading to malabsorption, nutritional deficiencies, and food intolerances. Sound familiar?
Pathogens, and the toxins they produce, damage cells in your gut and open the spaces between them, which are called the tight junctions. Tight junctions are where enterocytes are tightly ‘glued’ to each other, and foods aren’t supposed to pass between them. Instead food is taken inside the enterocytes, analysed, and then let through the other side into the blood stream.
The tight junctions are formed and maintained by very special proteins, which are like glue. Unfortunately, many pathogenic microbes in abnormal gut flora produce toxins that dissolve that glue and open the tight junctions. The gut then becomes porous and leaky, allowing substances through which shouldn’t be there. Then your immune system finds these partially digested foods in the blood, doesn’t recognize them as food, and attacks them. This is how food allergies and intolerances develop.
So, there’s nothing wrong with the food, it’s the damaged gut lining that causes this phenomenon. Food allergies and intolerances can manifest as many symptoms in the body from headaches, abnormal behavior, to arthritis, and the reaction can show immediately, in a few hours, or in a few days. As these reactions overlap with each other, it becomes impossible for you to figure out what you’re reacting to on any given day.
Now let’s look at what happens when you begin focusing on healing and sealing your gut lining with GAPS and start reversing all this damage.
As your gut flora normalizes it produces less and less toxins, so the level of toxicity in your body drops. As your gut lining starts healing and sealing, you start digesting food properly before absorbing it, so food allergies and intolerances disappear. Your whole digestive function is restored, so multiple nutritional deficiencies, and their symptoms, melt away. As you become better nourished, your immune system starts functioning again, taking control of various pathogens in the body, such as candida, viruses, and bacteria. At the same time your immune system gets re-balanced, which removes the basis for allergies and autoimmunity in the body, so instead of attacking its own tissues, your immune system starts effectively clearing pathogens and toxins out.
Finally, your detoxification system starts working. Everyone is born with a natural detoxification system that cleans your cells, tissues, and organs all the time. In GAPS people this system is broken and doesn’t work well, so toxins accumulate. As your detox system starts working again, the levels of various toxins in your body drop, which stimulates more healing and recovery.
So let’s bring this all back to the food we eat on GAPS and why it makes the difference. The GAPS Intro Diet is designed to heal and seal your gut lining quickly and it does this by addressing these critical areas:
- It provides large amounts of nourishing substances for your gut lining, including amino acids, gelatin, glucosamine, fat, vitamins, and minerals. Basically everything your gut lining is composed of.
- The GAPS Intro Diet removes fiber and other substances that can irritate your gut and interfere with healing. Most GAPS people have inflammation or ulcerations in their gut lining, which you may not be aware of. It’s estimated that 30% of people who have a leaky gut don’t have any digestive symptoms.
- The GAPS Intro Diet provides probiotic bacteria in foods right from the start. Cell regeneration in the gut lining is orchestrated by beneficial bacteria and healing starts when they show up.
- Foods are introduced gradually over the 6 Stages of the Intro Diet, which helps relieve diarrhea and food intolerances. All you have to do is listen to the wisdom of your body and be patient as it heals itself on its own schedule.
Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride teaches us that Gut and Psychology Syndrome establishes a connection between the state of your gut and the health of the rest of your body. She created GAPS as a program, and its purpose is to heal your gut, normalize your gut flora, and remove toxins from your body, which in time brings about all the healing you got so excited about in the first place.