Giving up GAPS

You’re probably wondering what’s happened to me.  Is she miraculously cured?  Did she die? Did she just get sick of writing about being sick?  Well, I’m still alive, I’m not cured and yes, maybe I am just a wee bit tired of writing about my ailments and endeavours.  I’ve actually written several posts, created a bunch of new recipes, cooked quite a few tasty treats and meals and even photographed them with the intention of pasting all of the above on this blog but somehow doing so just didn’t feel right…  The longer I left things, the more I felt I ought update my wellness and when I couldn’t say that I had improved yet, I didn’t want to say anything at all.    It’s emotionally exhausting to vest so much hope in each attempt at wellness, only to have them fail.  And I guess that’s why I’m giving up GAPS… for now at least.

I have nothing against Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride or the GAPS diet at all and I wholeheartedly believe there are people for whom this programme works wonders, but for me it has not been the saviour I was seeking.

After almost three months on the diet with about a 95% adherence rate, I am still experiencing the same symptoms as I was beforehand; abdominal pain, bowel irregularity, anxiety and reflux.  Then I underwent dental surgery and I figured, if I have to live on soft foods for the next 2 weeks, I’ll be having that white bread, pasta and ice cream thanks!  Two weeks later and I can honestly say I felt exactly the same as I did on GAPS which was disappointing but liberating.

Now, there will always be critics no matter what you do in life and I have already copped some flack for my lack of commitment to the GAPS programme.  A number of people are adamant that it will work for everybody but only if you are strictly 100% compliant.  Others have said it would have worked, but can take a year or two for symptoms to change.  The problem with a dietary programme like this is, if it doesn’t work, it’s very easy to blame that failure on the patient, not the diet.  100% compliance with the diet is practically impossible or at the very least, extremely difficult.  Unless you happen to live on an organic farm and prepare every single morsel that passes your lips from scratch, there will always be doubt as to whether what you just ate was GAPS legal.

Working full time and trying to juggle menu planning, shopping, cooking and cleaning is hard enough, but trying to manage all that when you are also chronically unwell is beyond a struggle.  There are days when everyone just wants to eat something ready-made.  Worse, as most social activities throughout the ages have and continue to revolve around eating and drinking, it is very difficult to stick to GAPS without a) Asking a million tricky questions at restaurants and then praying that they don’t spit in your food, b) bringing your own food from home and embarrassing yourself, and/or c) pissing off all your friends and family no end.  It is one thing to request the side salad be changed from Caesar to garden because of the dressing, it is another to ask for a grass fed, organic, locally sourced, country-killed cut of beef fried in coconut oil, thank you!

In addition to the practical difficulties, I had a well-qualified, although mainstream, healthcare professional in my very impressionable ear, berating these “alternative health therapies” as nothing more than glorified placebos and advising I attempt a return to “normality”.  My anxiety, she felt, was the cause of my Irritable Bowel syndrome and if I could just calm down, stop obsessing over what I ate and try to be “normal”, it would subside.  Of course, I objected, explaining that my General Practitioner, a medical doctor, had tested me and had scientific evidence I suffered from these conditions, but psychiatrists will be psychiatrists and of course, to them, everything is in the mind.  I explained, ad nauseum, that I had been eating a “normal” and “healthy” diet before I became ill.  In fact, my diet was a model example of a Western nutritionist’s dream, most of my meal plans coming straight from a dietician’s magazine.  The shrink simply smiled and said, “Ahh yes, but you were uptight then.  Try it again now”.

I wondered if there could be an element of truth in what she was saying.  Could my anxiety be causing my IBS and not the reverse?  Could I really eat bread again without feeling guilty?  I thought long and hard and eventually, after much soul searching and a really strong carbohydrate craving, figured I may as well give in and see if her method worked.  At least if it didn’t I would know a) that I was right and she was wrong (always gratifying) and b) that I was not completely crackers, subconsciously creating psychosomatic illnesses to sabotage the career I had worked so hard to create.

So what am I eating now?  Anything.  Everything.  I had trialled gluten free, grain free and dairy free diets prior to GAPS to no avail, so felt no need to restrict my intake of those nutrients.  I attempted a low sulphur diet but after three days discovered I had inadvertently breached it anyway and decided to give up until my tooth had healed.  I am yet to experiment with reducing salicylates and FODMAPs but am now postposing any further “crazy diets” as we love to call them in my house (and the psychiatrist’s office) until after Christmas.