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Why GAPS: Healing Your Inner Junkie

Affiliate Disclosure | in Health | by | with 38 Comments

This Is My Husband

This Is My Husband On Crack

Daddypotamus‘ symptoms: trouble focusing, moodiness, low energy, weight gain


Okay, not crack exactly. More like morphine and alcohol. Not that we have pills and booze laying around . . . they got into his system another way. Confused yet?? Keep reading, I promise I’ll explain by the end.

As you already know, our modern lifestyle is full of influences that damage the ecology of our bodies: antibiotics whether we want them or not (they’re in our food and water), sugar in amounts previously unheard of, chemicals, toxins, stress, and the list goes on.

So what’s the big deal?

When someone has schizophrenia, what does the psychiatrist do? Give them a pill. Where does it go? In their gut. We’re well aware of the power of something we put in our bodies to effect our state of mind, but do most of us realize the potential of food to function this way? It thought I did, but after reading this book I realize I really didn’t.

It’s kind of gross to think about, but:

Our digestive system, skin eyes, respiratory and excretory organs are happily co-existing with trillions of invisible lodgers, making one ecosystem of macro and micro-life, living together in harmony. It is a symbiotic relationship, where neither party can live without the other. Let me repeat this: we, humans, cannot live without these tiny micro-organisms, which we carry in our bodies everywhere.

The largest colonies of microbes live in our digestive system . . . All these bacteria are not just chaotic microbial mass, but a highly organized micro-world with certain species predominating and controlling others. The number of functions they fulfill in our bodies are so vital to us, that if our gut got sterilized, we would probably not survive.

Gut & Psychology Syndrome, p. 15 (emphasis mine)

When the upstanding citizens of our digestive tract (such as bifidobacteria) are governing, all is well. Toxins that try to sneak into our bodies are detained and escorted to the exit. The food we eat is broken down and distributed to fulfill vital functions in our bodies. But what happens when the bifidobacteria are not in control? When they’ve been overrun by pathogenic microbes, parasites and fungi?

Long story short, the pathogens start looting. They hijack your food and begin using it to feed their colonies. Now wildly out of control, these once benign colonies produce toxic byproducts that flood the body and cause illness, brain fog, learning disabilities, eczema, fibromyalgia and other problems. And since they’re getting the majority of your food (not you), you end up deprived of the nutrients you need to function properly.

As I read the book, two offenders stood out to me as some of Daddypotamus‘ main antagonists.

The Candida Albicans ~ Alcohol Connection

Until recently, the candida yeast lived in peaceful coexistence with us. Now, though, it’s considered invasive. What changed? Antibiotics. Antibiotics kill indiscriminately. Bad bacteria? Dead. Good bacteria? Also dead. Unfortunately, candida is unaffected. After a round of antibiotics it has no competition for food and begins to thrive, taking over the digestive tract.

What does candida love to eat? Sugar and carbs. People who have an overgrowth of candida love sugar and carbs, too, because they get a “payoff” when they feed the yeast.

Yeast [such as candida] requires glucose and other sugars as food. Sugars come from the digestion of carbohydrates. In healthy people dietary glucose gets converted into lactic acid, water and energy through a biochemical process called glycolysis. In people with yeast overgrowth candida hijacks the glucose and digests it in a different way, called alcoholic fermentation. In this biochemical process candida and other yeasts convert dietary glucose into alcohol (ethanol) and its byproduct acetaldehyde. This phenomenon was first described in adults, who appeared to be drunk without consuming any alcohol. Later on it was found that these adults had an overgrowth of yeast in their gut, which produced alcohol and made them permanently “drunk”. These people were particularly “drunk” after a carbohydrate meal, because carbohydrates are consumed by candida with the production of alcohol. Despite the fact that these people did not consume alcohol, they developed some typical symptoms of alcoholism.

Dr. Campbell-McBrides research corroborates what Daddypotamus tells me: He experiences a feeling of intense euphoria after consuming carbs. In addition, he also has some symptoms typical of alcoholics: a fatty liver and weight gain, difficulty controlling his blood sugar.

So why not go with the candida diet? First, because the diet’s creators misunderstood a lot about what causes candida to thrive and therefore it doesn’t really work. Second, because there are always other colonies that need to be dealt with . . . way too many to cover in this little post, so I’ll just hit one more.

The Opiate Effect

Improperly digested grains and milk products can act like opiates such as morphine and heroin in the body. Say what? I know it sounds crazy, but I can tell you firsthand that I’ve seen Daddypotamus react to food in this way.

Gluten is a protein present in grains, mainly wheat, rye, oats and barley. Casein is a milk protein, present in cow, goat, sheep, human and all other milk and milk products. In the bodies of  GAPS people these proteins do not get digested properly and turn into substances with similar chemical structures to opiates, such as morphine and heroin. There has been quite a substantial amount of research done in this area by Dohan, Reichelt, Shattock, Cade and others, where gluten and casein peptides, called gluteomorphins and casomorphins, were detected in the urine of patients with schizophrenia, autism, ADHD, post-partum psychosis, epilepsy, Downs syndrome, depression and some autoimmune problems, like rheumatoid arthritis.

Gut & Psychology Syndrome, pp. 53-54

I won’t get into other opportunistic pathogens for now, but they’re in the book if you’re interested. What I hope you’ll take away from this that even good, wholesome foods like fermented grains and raw milk are toxic to a damaged gut. If you have digestive symptoms like chronic constipation or diarrhrea, bloating or abdominal pain, symptoms of inflammation like eczema or asthma, or brain dysfunction like ADD, simply “eating organic” may not be enough. We’ve been doing that for years and it hasn’t resolved Daddypotamus‘ health challenges.


The short answer is GAPS is recommended by a lot of people and organizations I respect: The Weston A. Price Foundation, Ann Marie, Cara at Health Home Happy, and others. Now that I’ve read the book I understand why. As Cara said in her most recent post, “The Gut and Psychology Syndrome introduction diet is a diet focused on intensive rest and healing for the gut lining, as well as slow introduction of fermented foods to repopulate it with friendly microorganisms.”

The GAPS diet focuses on the restoration of digestive function so that we can be the vital, active, healthy people we are meant to be. I am amazed by the stories of healing I am hearing from GAPS patients, like this before and after video from an autistic boy after just three months on GAPS. His uncontrollable clapping disappears. He’s coherent. He makes eye contact. It’s amazingly sweet.

Other conditions such as autism, schizophrenia and depression are said to benefit from the protocol. Here are some tips from Dr. Campbell-McBride on getting started. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, consider checking out the new GAPS class from Ann Marie of Cheeseslave.

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and asking good questions yesterday. GAPS is still new to me and I’m thrilled to be able to share our journey with you. I’ll be posting updates as we continue doing this for our family.

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38 Responses to Why GAPS: Healing Your Inner Junkie

  1. Nikki says:

    I am SO anxious to buy and read this book!

    • Heather says:

      I hope you find it helpful, Nikki. It was pretty overwhelming to me at first (and still is on some levels), but that’s mostly because I am not patient when it comes to these things. I want to implement everything asap, and this protocol has a learning curve. I’d love to know what you think if you do get a chance to read it.

  2. Amy Wright Champlin via FB says:

    I believe this would benefit my whole family. I believe you mentioned a website with more information on Gaps? What was it?

  3. Mommypotamus via FB says:

    Hi Amy! It’s worth looking into :)The website

  4. Carole says:

    So, is the GAPS diet a temporary thing that you do just while you’re healing, or is it permanent? I’m very nervous, just thinking about trying something so restrictive: we have a house full of picky eaters here….

    • Heather says:

      Carole – It isn’t permanent, but it can take a long time for the digestive system to heal (2 years or more). Daniel has committed for six months. If we’re seeing improvement he’ll continue. If not, we’ll have to reeavaluate what we’re doing. Since we’re already seeing changes I’m 99% this will go beyond six months for us.

      • Carole says:

        Thanks, Heather! If you can see results that quickly, maybe we can give it a shot….

        • Heather says:

          I should add that not all the changes we’re seeing are pleasant. Carbs really do behave as opiates in Daniel’s brain, and he has experienced something very similar to drug withdrawals. Not fun, but a good indicator we’re on the right track.

  5. Lili-erika Wiegand via FB says:

    what a great post. It’s like bio classes all over again 😉 I came back from overseas so sick because of all the intestinal parasites and then the high and frequent doses of antibiotics. I’m cheating though, and taking a probiotic to facilitate a healthy microflora. WHAT a DIFFERENCE!

  6. Thia Hall via FB says:

    @Amy, I believe the author’s site is and there is also :)

  7. Sunny Espanet says:

    Heather, are you taking the Cheeseslave class? It might be interesting to form a local support group here of people going through the class.

    • Heather says:

      Possibly . . . I’m just not sure yet. Right now I’m subscribing to Cara at HealthHomeHappy’s meal plan and it’s been very helpful for me.

      • Sunny Espanet says:

        Thanks for the meal plan link. I have been “working on” creating our own family’s meal plan similar to this for a LONG TIME now. But what can I say, I’m scatterbrained, easily distracted, always tired, and lack focus. And crave carbs. So even though I needed a meal plan, and wanted to eat similar to this (I was trying to follow Body Ecology and NT) I just couldn’t effectively.

        I really hope that we like Cara’s recipes, so I can stick a fork in my half-planned mess of meal ideas/prep. :)

        • Heather says:

          Some of her recipes have been a huge hit in our house. Some . . . not so much. I’m glad we subscribed though because I’m getting tons of ideas that just wouldn’t have occurred to me on my own.

  8. Kaitlin says:

    I think we are going to try this. Michael and I have decided we are willing to commit to at least six months to see how it will work. I’ve had digestive problems since I was 11, and went to doctor after doctor gave me pink goo to drink and did test after test…once giving me vanilla flavored lactose-intolerance pills (I am NOT lactose intolerant) that still give me nightmares thinking about their chalky grossness. They never found out what was wrong with me…eventually settling on an irritable bowel syndrome diagnosis. I thought it was a miracle when I discovered sprouted and fermented grains. It helped me SO MUCH. But I think I can do better. It does seem like it takes a good amount of preparation though. Did you order the recommended probiotic? What do you use? Anything else you did to make sure you were prepared before you started?

    • Heather says:

      Kaitlin – I can totally relate to longstanding digestive issues. That was me before I got well a few years ago. To answer your questions, I did order the probiotic along with some enzymes and cod liver oil. I’m making a list of things to do for people interested in starting GAPS. Should be published in a couple of weeks.

  9. Mommypotamus via FB says:

    @thia Oops! Thank you for correcting me :)

  10. Amy Wright Champlin via FB says:

    Thanks you guys! I have a daughter with learning difficulties and my husband struggles with a compromised immune system. I have issues as well. This sounds like an ausome think to try. Thank You!

  11. FoodRenegade says:

    Love the post, Heather! This is one of the best summaries of the “why” behind doing the GAPS Diet I’ve read in a long while. So many think that just switching to a diet of “Real Food” will be enough to help resolve their health issues. And while that may be enough for some people, it simply isn’t enough for many others — particularly those who’ve had a lifetime of gut-flora-abuse behind them. I am so hopeful for you and Daniel as you venture into the GAPS Diet together. I’m thinking about doing something similar for Steve, but we’re making incremental changes to see if they can help without doing the full-fledged protocol. Thankfully, he’s on board and always has been. It’s ME who’s been the one unwilling to take the leap and prepare completely GAPS legal meals for him, 3 meals a day, 7 days a week! It’s so much work! I admire your ability to do it.

    Question: Are you putting the whole family on GAPS? (I mean, who would want to prep two meals at each meal time, right?) If yes, how is everybody else handling it?

    • Heather says:

      Thank you, Kristen! To answer your question, yes, our whole family will be doing GAPS together. Although I have been very careful about what Katie eats, I did allow my midwife to use a hibiclens wash on me before she was born (I was Strep B+ and refused antibiotics). I had no idea at the time that this could interfere with proper colonization in her digestive tract, but she has since shown an affinity for starchy foods that concerned me. As soon as we went on GAPS she began eating butter in unbelievable amounts. I think it is her body’s way of sealing and healing. As for me, I don’t really have any physical complaints other than that I am often tired, but who isn’t with a toddler and a six month old? Still, I was given round after round of antibiotics growing up and I’m convinced I can benefit from this time of rest as well. Regarding prep, it HAS been challenging, but I think it will get easier over time.

      P.S. I love that photo you posted of your little boy with his WAPF smile. It represents so much of what I want for my kids: to thrive, to be alive, to be full of joy, to be able to interact with the world as little dynamos of energy rather than like the sickly child I was.

      • Sunny Espanet says:

        What will you do when Katie attends a birthday party. I often fight a battle in my own mind of not wanting to be overly restrictive, but also wanting to stick to the healing plan. For a LONG TIME, I either brought my own treats or we would leave the party before cake was served. But my daughters are older now so they realize the difference. They are super-sweet and will obey me if necessary, but I don’t want them on a therapist couch someday talking about how I was such a controlling mom for not allowing birthday cake. When I was growing up, my mom didn’t allow “sugar cereal” so I would eat it by the case when I visited a friends house. But maybe that was because I had unhealthy intestines even then?

        Currently, I offer wisdom (such as “you will get a tummy ache if you chose to eat that”) then allow them to make a choice. But if we decide to follow this plan, that would just be detrimental to the effort we put in on a daily basis.

        Just curious as to your thoughts. Your daughter may still be young enough to not notice as much. :)

        • Heather says:

          So far it has just worked out that we need to be somewhere else before the cake is cut. She is getting old enough to notice, though. For the most part the moms in my community are aware that some children have dietary restrictions and they usually have a healthy alternative available.

  12. Thia Hall via FB says:

    Not meant to be correcting, just adding additional info! :) The link you posted has way more info than the other two!

  13. Mommypotamus via FB says:

    @Erika That’s not cheating! It’s actually part of the diet :) Good for you for taking care of yourself!!

  14. Mommypotamus via FB says:

    @Amy So glad you’re finding this series helpful. I’ll keep updating on our family and would love to hear from you if you try it!

  15. Mommypotamus via FB says:

    @Thia True, but I just realized it is not the “official” one. I purchased my book and supplements from the official one and just got them confused. I’m glad I know so I don’t misdirect anyone!

  16. Kirsten says:

    Wow, such great info! Thanks for posting about this. I’ll be looking forward to updates too! :)

  17. Claire says:

    Hey Heather! I actually work with Daniel and have been talking to him a lot about this recently. Since I read your post yesterday I’m very intrigued and ordered the book and cookbook. I fully believe in food’s ability to heal the body and have different family members that could benefit from this (I think) in different ways… so I’m eager to learn! But, I’m also a little worried about taking on the endeavor, since I work, I consider it a good thing when I actually plan meals a head of time, get to the store and cook them. Anything you make through this process that you find to be fairly yummy – please share!!

    • Heather says:

      Hi Claire! It’s great to “meet” you. I was planning to bring the kids up last week and introduce myself but it didn’t work out. I’ll be honest, the transition has been pretty rough for me. I subscribed to a meal plan from Cara at Health Home Happy ( and it has been helpful but there is still A LOT that goes into most meals. When Daniel said “go” I literally changed our diet THAT DAY, which was exciting but didn’t give me a lot of time to prep “convenience foods.” While you’re reading the book I’ll work on a post outlining some ways to cut down the time investment. Sound good?

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  25. Margaret says:

    Hi Heather, I’ve been reading a lot of your blog posts lately. I’ve heard of GAPs and thought of starting it before but it seems like a lot at once. Anyway, I read your posts about the Intro to GAPs. I was wondering if you and your family are on the “full GAPs” diet or if you have transitioned to including other things as well. (I’m not really sure if most people stay on it or continually add things and what’s best, so that’s why I’m asking.)
    I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog.
    Thanks so much!

    • Heather says:

      Hi Margaret we actually transitioned to the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol recently. We went off of GAPS over a year ago because my husband felt like he had made all the progress he could, then we became aware of AIP at the same time we started looking into thyroid issues and it seemed like a better fit for him. AIP is considered temporary, so we will be reintroducing foods soon.

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