This article originally appeared on Doctor-Natasha.com on May 9, 2011.
How do we do apply this wisdom while on the GAPS diet?
The GAPS Diet is not set in stone; you have to adapt it for your unique body, for its unique daily needs. The GAPS diet gives you the list of foods to work with. When you eat these different foods and in what proportions is up to you. Listen to your body’s needs, communicated to you through the senses of desire, smell, taste and satisfaction. For example, one day you may feel like only an apple for breakfast, but tomorrow you may enjoy a large cooked breakfast made from eggs, bacon, sausages and a salad. For example, on the first day you were very happy just to drink meat stock and eat some cooked chicken, but next day you do not feel like meat or meat stock at all and are much happier to eat vegetables and yoghurt. Your body will let you know what proportions of protein, fat and carbohydrate to have at every meal. How? Through desire for particular foods; so when you sit down to a family meal, eat only what appeals to you at the time, and in the amounts that appeal to you.
It is essential to listen to your body’s desires when you are following the GAPS diet – the Introduction Diet or the Full GAPS Diet. Your desires will let you know how quickly to move through the stages of the Introduction Diet. It is possible that you would have to eat something not allowed on a particular stage if you really desire it, because that is what your body requires at that time, and you have to respect it. You are unique and nobody can prescribe the right sequence of food introduction for you. If you were following the GAPS Introduction Diet to a letter and felt well, but then one day you get a strong desire for, let’s say, raw tomatoes (which are not included into the plan), then listen to this desire! This is your body telling you that it needs particular nutrients at this particular time, and raw tomatoes will provide them. If you deny your body that need, you may get yourself into trouble: your electrolyte balance may get upset or your hormones may not work well, or something else will not work. Yes, you would have ‘cheated’ on the diet by eating tomatoes, but once that particular need of your body has been satisfied, you can continue with your programme. Any progress goes through two steps forward then one step back, and healing is no exception. So, don’t worry about ‘cheating’ on the diet sometimes if your body has really asked for it. This is not cheating; this is working with your body and respecting it. Remember, your body knows infinitely more about itself than we will ever know with all our intelligence and science!
Remember also that your body’s nutritional needs change all the time. So, your desire for foods will also change all the time: what felt wonderfully satisfying for breakfast may not be appealing for lunch, and what was delicious in the afternoon may feel repulsive at dinner time. All these feelings are very valid and should be listened to! You are a unique individual, so what suites one person around the table may not suite you at all.
How do we apply this to children on GAPS diet?
As parents we have to make decisions for our children. GAPS children have altered senses of smell, taste and desire for foods, and they may have severe cravings and addictions to the very foods that harm them. The cravings and addictions usually are to processed foods; as we start the GAPS Nutritional Protocol we remove all processed foods, and as a result your child may go through a period of withdrawal with all sorts of symptoms (behavioural and physical). This is important for the parents to understand in order to help the child to go through this difficult period: your child’s body is stuck in a diseased metabolic state, so it demands particular unhealthy foods to maintain and serve that state. So, unless we want to maintain this diseased metabolic state, we cannot allow the child to have those foods. Shifting the child’s body to a healthy metabolic state will take time and effort, and the GAPS Nutritional Programme will do it for you. So stick to the list of foods allowed on GAPS diet. However, within that list try to provide a large enough variety of foods for the child to choose from (when the state of withdrawal is more or less over!). It is very important for your child to start using the senses of desire, smell, taste and satisfaction. Your child will need time to learn to use these senses and to discover them in the first place, as in a diseased metabolic state these senses were suppressed and perverted. So, fill your house with GAPS food and allow you child to pick and choose (within reason of course). Allow your child to explore food the way he or she wants to, eat it with hands, eat it cold or warm, eat it at a meal table or graze on it all day. It is essential for any child (GAPS or healthy ‘normally’ developing child) to develop a healthy relationship with food right from the beginning of their lives. Unfortunately, in the Western world in many cases that does not happen. It is very upsetting to see some mothers in the Western world working intently on the child’s table manners, while not putting any effort into preparing a decent meal for her child (serving some micro-waved processed concoction). A combination of poor quality food and heavy pressure on eating that ‘food’ with the best table manners can put anybody off food, let alone a small child! In order for the child to develop normal senses in relation to food the child needs natural healthy foods full of flavour and taste; and the child must be allowed to explore that food on his or her terms (eating it with their hands, making a mess, enjoying it). Table manners can come later, when the child has developed natural food senses of desire for food, smell, taste and satisfaction from food, which will serve your child’s body well for the rest of his or her life.
In conclusion: Mother Nature took billions of years to design the human body; it is an incredibly intelligent creation! As the natural foods on this planet have been designed during the same time, your inner body intelligence knows their composition, and knows what foods to choose for particular needs. All we have to do is treat this intelligence with respect. Use your senses of smell, taste, desire for food and satisfaction from eating it to guide you in your decisions: when to eat, what foods to eat and in what combinations. And remember: you are unique, so what suits your neighbour may not suite you at all.
Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride is a medical doctor with two postgraduate degrees: Master of Medical Sciences in Neurology and Master of Medical Sciences in Human Nutrition.
She graduated as a medical doctor in Russia. After practising for five years as a Neurologist and three years as a Neurosurgeon she started a family and moved to the UK, where she got her second postgraduate degree in Human Nutrition.
She is well known for developing a concept of GAPS (Gut And Psychology Syndrome), which she described in her book Gut And Psychology Syndrome – Natural Treatment for Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Depression and Schizophrenia, now in its second edition. Thousands of people around the world follow the highly successful GAPS Nutritional Protocol to help themselves and their families. You can learn about GAPS on www.gaps.me