Simple Steps to Heal Bowels, Body and Brain
One Hill Productions, 2009
By Baden Lashkov
Baden Lashkov, a young mother who lives in British Columbia, has written a complementary guidebook to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s popular treatise on healing multiple gastro-intestinal conditions, Gut and Psychology Syndrome. Lashkov successfully implemented the GAPS protocol to improve her own health and that of her son, but not without pitfalls suffered along the way. Based on her experiences and those of many others committed to the program, she has compiled this step-by-step guide largely for newcomers to the GAPS approach to gut healing.
Although the steps to heal bowels, body and brain are deemed “simple,” and many who have adopted the GAPS protocol will attest to near-miraculous improvements, many have also been frustrated by setbacks, obstacles and apparent failure to progress with the diet, even with the best of intentions and dedication to instructions. What is needed for those at such impasses is support from others whose own trial-and-error struggles can light the way and provide helpful signposts at the critical junctures, which virtually everyone dedicated to the program will stumble upon.
Lashkov emphasizes the three-pronged approach to the GAPS program—diet, detoxification and supplementation—and the commitments one will need to undertake in order to receive the most benefit from seriously adopting the entire program. With the calm assurance of one who has been down this path before, she counsels newcomers to ease into the program as slowly and comfortably as possible—the transition will not only be one of dietary habits, but of psychological and emotional patterns as well. Each new step must be taken with full awareness of its implications within both the mundane practicalities of daily life, and the complex dynamics of the family. Lashkov provides a template for this slow-motion evolution that gradually introduces a new food preparation technique, a new food, locating alternative grocers and suppliers, outfitting the kitchen with necessary tools, and planning for uninterrupted time for the program. To be sure, this prelude to the program itself will prove to safeguard more than one parent’s sanity!
The GAPS Guide provides in-depth details to the introductory diet—a protocol that patients of Dr. Campbell-McBride will have received in their personal recommendations, but readers of Gut and Psychology Syndrome will not find in the book. Nevertheless, virtually anyone starting on the GAPS program will benefit from beginning with the “intro diet” and in fact, may only achieve the desired results by doing so. This preamble to the full GAPS diet is a simple yet extremely nourishing and easy-to-digest variation of meat broths, boiled meats and vegetables meant to soothe and pacify the digestive system while prompting its healing. The intro diet can be returned to whenever some stage of the program has provoked an uncomfortable digestive response, and reliably returns the system to balance. Many who have embarked on the GAPS protocol without this information will welcome the added detailed instructions and guidance that may make all the difference in their success with the program. Recipes for foods in the intro diet are also provided in a separate section.
The chapter “Frequently Asked Questions” covers everything from practical matters of transporting foods to work or school to the question of whether one can be vegetarian or vegan on the program. Lashkov treats this last query with sincere compassion—a former vegetarian and occasional vegan herself, she understands the ethical position of those who choose these paths. She herself needed the meats and broths to heal, and reminds readers that Dr. Campbell-McBride stresses the fact that children especially cannot be healthy as vegans, and everyone should consume at least one cup of bone broth daily for digestive health. Unfortunately, “many committed vegetarians continue to suffer” rather than adopt the GAPS diet to help their health issues.
The topics of pathogen die-off; constipation and other digestive distress; and unexplained relapse are some of the common problems addressed in the chapter “Troubleshooting.” Lashkov offers numerous approaches for handling each, yet the last topic, “Finding Time for GAPS” has the most involved answer of any in this section. While fairly large lifestyle and health changes (not to say upheavals) will take place when implementing the GAPS program, Lashkov reminds us that having the home front in order and our lives simplified as much as possible will support our success “so that good food can take over without everything else falling apart!” Her advice in this section to downsize, organize, get help when you need it, and so on, will enhance the efficiency and happiness of anyone in any situation, but especially when one needs to focus clearly, without distractions, on serious matters of health. Subsequent chapters address the most common topics that new GAPS adherents may find confusing or daunting, such as juicing, detoxification, enemas and choosing supplements, especially the centrally important probiotics.
Lashkov addresses the economic side of the GAPS program in terms of making it available to anyone who needs it. She offers many tips for shopping in season, making the most from bones, finding your local farmers, stocking up, and more, to wring the most out of a tight budget. This subject is close to Lashkov’s heart, since she has essentially rescued herself from a precarious downward spiral as related in the early autobiographical chapter “Our Stories.” Misdiagnosed health problems early on plagued Lashkov, and as a young woman struggling with mammoth physical and mental imbalances she was briefly homeless and near suicide. Her recovery is not only a testament to tremendous personal grit and determination, but an invitation for all of us to reconsider our judgment of those marginalized by society. How many of the homeless, those in institutions, or incarcerated could be happy, productive, creative citizens if they were liberated from their longstanding biochemical disorders and restored to health via access to safe housing, rest, and truly nourishing food?
The GAPS Guide packs a lot of advice, encouragement, clarification and good humor in its one hundred sixty pages. Reviewed and approved by Dr. Campbell-McBride, readers can feel confident in its guidance into the more minute details of day-to-day implementation of the program. Throughout the chapters, Lashkov frequently invites readers to learn even more about specific topics by visiting her website, www.gapsguide.com. Indeed, during my first visit there I spent a couple of hours happily exploring and yet barely touched a sliver of all the resources available. Lashkov also writes an enjoyable blog in her clear, direct and very personable voice; her energy never seems to flag as she answers all readers’ questions carefully and fully—and there are many! Further, there is already a column of amplification and occasional correction to the GAPS Guide at the website. I was glad to find a correction of the startling recommendation in the book to drink half of one’s weight in water each day! (The real advice is to take one’s weight in kilos, divide by two, and drink that number of ounces of water each day—rather more manageable!)
Lashkov has already been asked to write a second edition of the GAPS Guide, and one will likely be in the works soon enough, if reader demand is any goad. Resources for those on the GAPS program seem to grow daily, and so much good information and advice are generated through the sharing of support groups online. The usefulness of a second edition would be enhanced by an index, and also a chapter devoted to middle-aged and older newcomers to the GAPS program. This older population faces somewhat different challenges from those of young parents and their children, yet stands to gain great health benefits as well if given the needed support.
Baden Lashkov has performed a grand public service by writing the GAPS Guide and bolstering the education and morale of parents everywhere who have turned to the GAPS program to help themselves and their children regain health. The book may be ordered from International Nutrition: www.nutrivene.com (410-335-2802).
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2010.