As a GAPS Practitioner I come across a lot of people that will say, "Yeah, I tried the GAPS diet but it was just too hard." or "I don't think I could ever do that." or even sometimes, "I tried it for a couple of months but it didn't work for me." It seems that some people will come to me for a consultation hoping that I have some other easier approach, a quick fix that doesn't involve major dietary changes. But let me tell you, if there was a quick fix for gut dysbiosis, I would be shouting it from the rooftops!
The truth is - it is really difficult to heal the digestive tract once it has been damaged to the extent that it leads to food sensitivities, allergies, auto-immune disorders, chronic digestive disturbance, and psychological issues. Gut dysbiosis is like the pebble that triggered an avalanche. The longer it goes on the worse it gets and the harder it is to recover fully. Sure you can dabble with a gluten and dairy-free diet for a while; just avoid those foods that seem to aggravate your symptoms; or save the sweets for the weekends and rare occasions - but every day you put off fully dealing with gut dysbiosis is another day of damage that leads to nutrient deficiencies that will at some point lead to something really serious, maybe life threatening.
The other day I met with a client that had just completed the minimum two-year healing protocol of GAPS for her IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). She had tried other diets which gave her some relief but since starting the GAPS diet she had zero episodes of intense cramping, pain and diarrhea. Until then she had been having 4 episodes a week. After asking her some detailed questions about her levels of energy, bowel habits, quality of sleep, etc. I gave her the green light on trying to re-incorporate some foods that are illegal on the GAPS diet. While she was relieved to be able to expand her repertoire she, like many others who have successfully completed GAPS, didn't feel the diet had been that difficult overall. The initial planning and changing of habits had been the most difficult part.
Most clients struggle with die-off reactions within the first few months but soon all cravings for sugar and carbohydrates will cease. Suddenly you can go to a potluck and not feel crazy with desire for all the sugary desserts. You can feel satiated with each meal and watch as your health and vitality begin to recover.
I've come to the conclusion that when it comes to health issues - it's good to be boring. What we are looking for with the GAPS nutritional protocol is to restore some resilience to the digestive functions. You should be able to eat some birthday cake and ice cream once in a while without suffering. You should be able to travel to a foreign country without feeling so fatigued that you sleep for several days after returning home. You should be able to eat real pizza! The GAPS nutritional protocol has the ability to restore your quality of life if you are only brave enough to do it! What is harder? Suffering for decades and slowly getting worse or a couple of years of discipline for a lifetime of health?
That being said, there are those out there that have legitimately tried the GAPS diet and not felt better right away. There are complications that can make a quick recovery unlikely such as hormonal imbalances. That's why having a GAPS Practitioner to help you navigate the ups and downs can be so valuable.
With each client I learn how complicated the effects of gut dysbiosis can be. Sometimes we have to get creative with herbal remedies and supplements, sometimes I have to throw my hands up in the air and admit I have no idea what the body is trying to do! But, I always appreciate working with the individual through the issues side by side. I am just as invested in their health as they are!
It is all worth it to have that client come back and say how good they feel - how much relief they have - and how boring their health issues are! So if you have considered the GAPS diet before or even tried it for a little while, I encourage you to take another look. It is certainly not easy but nothing worthwhile ever is and you really are strong than you think.
Plain and simple.
And until I find that magic pill that makes gut dysbiosis go away in a day I will keep recommending it.
To Your Health!
Kathryn Doran-Fisher, ND, CGP
Kathryn Doran-Fisher is a Board Certified Naturopathic Doctor and has been seeing clients for natural health consultations and therapies for more than 6 years. Most recently Kathryn has received training from world renowned author and practitioner Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride in 2012 to become a Certified GAPS Practitioner for dealing with the connection between gut health and our mental/physical ailments. Kathryn has done numerous public speaking engagements, taught several classes on natural health for the community, is an instructor for a naturopathic school, maintains a website and blog about natural health, has written several articles for local publication and is a highly respected professional in her field.
There are some remedies out there that every herbalist, naturopath, and natural health minded person probably knows as a go-to for common problems. But these remedies are not common knowledge for the general public and they should be! Here are some of my favorites in no particular order.
Lavender oil for Burns
I keep a spray bottle with lavender essential oil next to my stove. I once spilled a pot of just boiled pasta water all over my legs. My husband always hits his hand on the oven rack as he takes things out. I have three kids that touch hot food before it's ready. Lavender oil takes the pain of a burn away almost instantly. It can prevent blistering and reduce or eliminate scarring. I can burn myself pretty bad and a few hours after applying lavender oil - not even know where I burned myself. Why it is not found in every single household or commercial kitchen - I'll never understand. Most people know about aloe vera but lavender oil is quicker and easier for those that kill houseplants easily...like me.
Dissolve kidney stones with Hydrangea
Said to be more painful than giving birth by those who have experienced both. Kidney stones are extremely painful as they try to pass through your ureters scraping and scratching along the way. Modern medicine has little to offer short of drinking lots of water and waiting it out or surgery. But herbalists have a secret weapon in the herb called hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens). Hydrangea is lithotriptic meaning it dissolves those sharp little edges of calcium making the stones easier to pass. Taking anywhere from 6 to 14 capsules a day for no more than 2-3 days seems to work (anecdotally) for most. Like most herbal remedies, this one is not scientifically proven but if you've ever had a kidney stone you wouldn't want to wait for science to catch up.
Activated Charcoal for Food Poisoning
Used in the emergency treatment of certain types of poisoning, activated charcoal tablets or capsules can also absorb the poisons that contribute to the vomiting and diarrhea associated with food poisoning. Although this black powder looks alarming, it is essentially tasteless and harmless. Take several capsules after each bout of vomiting or diarrhea to calm the storm.
Plantago for Cuts, Scrapes, Stings and Bites
Plantain (Plantago spp.), not to be confused with the banana-like variety, is a very common weed. But the usefulness of this plant should not be overlooked, especially in the summertime when you are caught without your first aid kit. My kids know it as Tago and they know that any cut, scrape, bee sting or mosquito bite gets an immediate application of macerated plantain even if I have to chew it up myself and apply as a spit poultice. Generally the kids prefer a pre-prepared plantain salve instead - can't imagine why.
Peppermint oil for Gas and Bloating
A common ingredient in gripe water, most grandmothers know to reach for the peppermint candy for tummy aches. But if you'd rather avoid the sugar (which will also cause gas and bloating) reach for the peppermint essential oil instead. Rubbing one or two drops on the abdomen will give you quick relief and have you smelling like a candy cane. Just don't get the oil in your eyes or on any sensitive skin. You'll never forget it if you do! Spicy!
Homeopathic Arnica for Injury
The #1 selling homeopathic. It's amazing what a little sugar pill can do! Arnica is used for any trauma to the tissues meaning any bump, bruise, cut, scrape, or even to help heal surgical wounds. When my one-year-old bumps his head he stops crying the instant the Arnica bottle is in my hand because he knows relief is on the way.
Magnesium for Leg Cramps
There are lots of ways to take magnesium but for leg cramps in the middle of the night my favorite is the cell salt preparation called mag phos. A couple of pellets of these tablets under the tongue can bring instant relief. For the really bad ones though I go for the magnesium oil instead and rub it into those stubborn muscles to relax them. If you get cramps a lot you should look into supplementing with magnesium regularly though.
Red Raspberry Leaf for Women's Issues
There is no women's reproductive system tonic like red raspberry leaf. To help with PMS symptoms, cramping, anemia from blood loss, fertility issues, pregnancy issues, morning sickness, pain in labor, breastmilk production... need I go on? I like to drink it as an iced tea whenever possible.
Mullein Leaf Tea for Asthma
This one is for my mom. Our sales of mullein have gone up considerably ever since she started drinking the tea on a regular basis to get rid of her asthma. Ask her if it works. I dare you.
Garlic Oil for Ear Infections
Ear infections are so common and before you reach for the antibiotic prescription you should consider the herbalist approach. Fresh garlic soaked in olive oil is simple to make and so effective as ear drops in relieving pain and reducing infection. If the eardrum is perforated just rub the oil around the outside of the ear. If you're lucky enough to find some garlic oil mixed with mullein and St. John's Wort oil you will have one happy little camper in no time. Stop the overuse and abuse of antiobiotics which leads to antibiotic resistant superbugs - save them for the really serious stuff and use garlic instead.
To Your Health,
Kathryn Doran-Fisher, ND, CGP
Kathryn Doran-Fisher is a Board Certified Naturopathic Doctor and has been seeing clients for natural health consultations and therapies for more than 6 years. Most recently Kathryn has received training from world renowned author and practitioner Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride in 2012 to become a Certified GAPS Practitioner for dealing with the connection between gut health and our mental/physical ailments. Kathryn has done numerous public speaking engagements, taught several classes on natural health for the community, is an instructor at a naturopathic school, maintains a website and blog about natural health, has written several articles for local publication and is a highly respected professional in her field.
Kathryn Doran-Fisher is a Traditional Naturopath, Certified GAPS Practitioner and owner of Elder & Sage.