While the pictured banana split is not literally acceptable for GAPS, the concept is. 🙂 Patty from Loving Our Guts shares GAPS complementary therapies, or the “cherries on top” for healing. I learned a lot from Patty, and I know you will, too! –Wardee
According to Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, 80% of people will get better on the GAPS nutritional program alone. In other words, by following the advice in her GAPS book, most people will heal in an average time period of two and a half years. However, 20% of people will need GAPS plus more to find full healing. She calls this adding the “cherries on top”.
Alternative and Complementary Health Care Approaches
My family has always been very open to alternative healing approaches. We regularly see a chiropractor, and our long time family doctor is both a family practice medical doctor and a homeopath. However, my definition of cherries on top means more than just this. I think that fully following GAPS fully means seeking out health care professionals who are able to support the GAPS quest. (I know it isn't always possible to find or afford such care — I'm talking about an ideal.)
We don't want our health care provider(s) at odds with the GAPS protocol, right?
In our quest for healing over the years, we have found other health care practitioners. I have learned their strengths and weaknesses, and I know which one is best to help us solve a particular issue. As much as I would like to solve everything myself, I simply can't learn everything that all of them know. So I'm glad for their help.
Our health care practitioners are knowledgeable in these disciplines:
- Chinese medicine
- Cranial sacral therapy
- Enzyme therapy
- Essential oils
- Integrative medicine
They know about more besides; these are just some of the approaches that have benefitted us. I think healing can be achieved without using all of these approaches, but sometimes it does take more than one to find answers for your family. I feel blessed that my family's practitioners can address various issues with these complimentary therapies — the cherries on top, remember?
Here's what the process of seeking out and using these healing methods looks like for my family.
I know my family well. I know each person's strengths and weaknesses. I see daily how each responds to various therapies and dietary changes. With this knowledge, I approach one of our health care professionals. Together we find solutions and try out new ideas. I do not bring every issue to every health care provider, but sometimes it takes more than one to figure something out.
A Word About Health Care Practitioners
No one knows for certain how someone will react to a treatment.
For instance, your medical doctor doesn't know if a particular antibiotic will heal you or hurt you. He gives an educated guess based on the literature he's read and keeping in mind experiences with others who had your same symptoms.
The same is true of any approach to health. A good practitioner will give his or her best good faith treatment ideas — but that doesn't mean healing is guaranteed.
It is also important to consider that someone may have a negative consequence from a treatment — either short term or long term.
I think it is pretty ironic that some will put up with the “normal” side effects of prescription drugs, taking them daily and long term without question. Sometimes, they'll even take another drug to manage the symptoms of the first drug!
Yet, if — for that same person — an herb or body work treatment causes uncomfortable symptoms or doesn't completely solve their health issues in a single dose or treatment, the herb or treatment is declared as quackery and ineffective, or even dangerous!
Our “Cherries On Top”
I am going to briefly cover some of the cherries on top my family has used to improve our healing, while we still follow the GAPS diet.
Keep in mind: you don't need to consider these if you are just getting started with GAPS. Instead, take your time to get fully comfortable with GAPS. Keep these ideas on the back burner. Consider them later, if you've been on GAPS for awhile and are either: 1) not seeing the results you were expecting, or 2) are noticing a pattern of issues that seems to point to a “cherries on top” kind of solution.
Further Diet Restrictions
The point of GAPS is to heal and seal the gut so that all real foods can be eaten (in moderation) without negative consequences. GAPS, especially at first, can seem like such an incredibly restrictive diet that the thought of further removing foods from the diet is completely overwhelming. I agree!
However, my family has found that some foods need to be removed — in addition to the ones that GAPS removes — in order to give the body the break it truly needs.
IgG and IgE Allergy Foods. If you have had this kind of allergy testing done, and it has shown certain foods to be problems, then certainly keep them out of the diet — at least for a time while GAPS continues to heal you.
Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Diet. For many on the autism spectrum, it is common to have been on a gluten-free/casein-free diet. Continuing with the gluten-free and casein-free diet can really make a difference for some.
Classes of Foods. Nightshades are a common trigger of joint pain and autoimmune issues as are eggs.
Food Chemicals. One of my children needs to be on a low free sulfur diet (restricting foods with high levels of free sulfur). These foods include dairy, eggs, garlic, onions, and brassica vegetables as well as some others. While this is a bit overwhelming, the health pay off is immense. That makes it more than worth it for us. You can read more about it here: High Sulfur Foods? What Are They?
Phenols/Salicylates. The Fiengold Diet is a common approach used to restrict these food chemicals (more info here). This diet is commonly used for children with AD/HD or autism. However, this diet often leads to hyperactive behavior in those children. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride says this is because it pushes detox too fast. Detox is good and necessary, of course. But when it happens too fast, the body can be overwhelmed and have negative reactions. Thus, her approach is to restrict those foods to a level that is tolerated, then slowly increase them so that the detox that the body so desperately needs is carried out in a more manageable way. The liver, kidneys, and other detox organs can only process toxins so fast. Those negative reactions are a symptom of the detox organs being overwhelmed and unable to keep up. There is no benefit to overwhelming those organs.
Low Oxalate Diet (LOD). My family has implemented this diet — in addition to the usual GAPS restrictions. Oxalates are food chemicals that are high in some foods and excessively absorbed by people with leaky guts that lack certain bacteria to break the oxalates down. Unlike some other food chemicals, these do not have any benefits.
It can be difficult to recognize the need for a low oxalate because the “reactions” are not usually clearly related to the intake of the offending foods. In fact, the problem foods may seem to alleviate health issues when they are ingested. This is because oxalate is stored in the body, like heavy metals are, and only when the intake drops below a body's threshold does the body move from storage mode into detox mode. This stage — when the body moves oxalates from storage to the detox organs — causes much misery.
Everyone has a limit to how much they can store of anything; sooner or later that storage will get full and begin to spill over and symptoms will be unavoidable. One of the most commonly recognized symptoms — but not the only one — of too much oxalate in the body is kidney stones. Other symptoms are pain with urination and defecation, genital pain without an infection, stools that look like they are full of sand, joint pain, brain fog, thyroid disorders, stones in other areas of the body (like the gall bladder or tonsils), and eye pain. This is just a short list.
It is very common for these symptoms to come on suddenly, and especially after implementing a “healthy” diet of foods like spinach, almonds, and cumin, which are so extremely high in oxalates. Different foods in the same general family can have vastly different oxalate values. For example, spinach is extremely high in oxalates, but arugula is very low. For more information about oxalates you can read this blog post: What Are Oxalates?
My family sees a chiropractor regularly. We go not just for joint and muscle pains, but because we find that regular adjustments help keep the whole body moving toward wellness more easily. Issues like ear aches, constipation, diarrhea, inappropriate wetting, and others have been addressed quickly and easily with just one or two treatments. Migraine headaches are an ailment which I call my chiropractor to fix. Thankfully, I rarely get them any more, where once they were a regular plague on my life. I consider seeing a chiropractor regularly to be one of the best things a person can do to support wellness.
Treatment for Parasites
My family is currently exploring this. Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride recommends that if you have been on GAPS for a year yet aren't seeing the healing you expected, you should look into treatments for parasites.
Testing for them can be very difficult. Stool tests are the standard method, but parasites live in your gut and want to stay there. Unfortunately, this means a stool test can often come up negative even if they are a big issue. However, if you do find them through testing, you can better tailor the treatment to exactly what you are facing.
Unfortunately, it is estimated that only one in five tests for parasites in an infected person will turn up positive. That is, if five people have parasites and get their stool tested, only one of them will actually show positive in the test. It simply isn't a good way to determine if you have parasites.
The next best way to figure out if parasites are a problem is to look at symptoms. But again, so many issues produce similar symptoms, and there are so many different parasites out there that just looking at symptoms doesn't always narrow things down far enough.
The more I learn about parasites the more convinced I am that they are probably a factor in most, if not all, complicated cases.
(Interestingly, parasites have been shown to have positive effects on the immune system. Like with yeast and bacteria, it comes down to the balance in your body, not whether they are present at all.)
Parasites are easy to pick up, so treating for them once does not mean they won't come back later. In third world countries, those with means commonly take parasite medications quarterly or semi-annually.
But don't let the fact that you live in a first world country fool you! Parasites don't care about your income level or standard of living. They live in the soil and in water, so if you are ever in contact with anything that is in contact with unsterilized soil or water you are at risk for picking up a parasite. Or, contact with others who are infected can infect you. (Children and pets come to mind right away.)
The most common symptoms of a parasite infection are: constipation, diarrhea, gas and bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, joint and muscle aches and pains, anemia, allergy, skin conditions, nervousness (nail biting), sleep disturbances, teeth grinding, chronic fatigue, and immune system dysfunction.
Now before any OCD people leave to wash hands, I want you to know that there are effective parasite treatments. For this, you would definitely want a knowledgeable practitioner to assist you. Not all parasite treatments are created equal — parasites respond better to some treatments than others. Plus, parasites are creative creatures and can learn to live with what should be toxic to them. This means that after a time, you may need to switch things up to see full healing.
I will say (without getting too graphic) that treating parasites is making a big difference in my family's gut issues. I am thrilled with the progress, but also simultaneously holding my breath so that our good results will continue.
Some issues my family faces are tongue ties, MTHFR mutations, adrenal fatigue and dental cavitations. We use essential oils, acupuncture, herbs, homeopathic remedies and enzymes to support our healing. Please follow those links to learn more, as I simply can't go into all of them here for you today.
GAPS + Cherries On Top
As my family has pursued healing, we've found that GAPS is so important for laying the foundation and strengthening our bodies. We don't abandon it when we add other healing methods and treatments — they are the “cherries on top” in our healing journey with many layers.
I hope and pray that many will find healing that is easy and straightforward! Eight out of ten will find that simple healing through following the GAPS diet. But two out of ten will need more help. And for you, I hope what I've shared here today has given you both ideas and hope that solutions and healing are out there — though they may be more elusive than you first hoped.
What complimentary therapies have you added (or are you considering adding) to your healing strategy? Please share so that others may benefit!
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