I am very excited to share my journey on the GAPs diet (Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet) in this post. I want to document my story (ups and downs included), so that someone, somewhere may benefit from it.
The past 2-3 years of my life has been a complete struggle to heal my low back pain. I have seen endless physiciens, doctors, and tried anthing under the sun. Every time I see a new practitioner I get a new diagnosis. Some o them were accurate but nothing was helping me come up with a definite cure.
HOW IT STARTED
I started experiencing some pain in my right buttock about 2-3 years ago. At first, it would come and go. I found relief in anti-inflammatory pills and pain killer. I never paid attention to it. However, the periods of pain started to last longer than usual. I experienced extreme spasms and pain that would affect my ability to move my whole hip and leg. Of course, on those days I couldn’t go to work, or do anything.
Searching my symptoms on google, showed that I may be suffering from Piriformis syndrome. The symptoms mentioned online sounded like exactly what was going on with me, so I started doing physiotherapy and massage therapy to release the muscle and spasms. I posted about my experience with Piriformis Syndrome here. The treatment did bring me relief, but only for a short period of time.
I was doing acupuncture as well and both helped me tremendously. I switched to athletic therapy after that to also work on strengthening the muscle so that I can go back to training like I used to be (at this stage, I could barely do any leg workout, even bodyweight. Upper body workouts that involved twisting were painful as well).
- RELATED: Piriformis Syndrome do’s and don’ts
- RELATED: How to heal your low back, if you’ve tried everything else
A couple of months after I started feeling better, I had another bad flare-up. I could not understand what happened. I was doing all of my exercises. I never skipped a treatment. It was driving me insane. I went back again to google university to try to find another cause for this. At this stage, I wanted to try chiropractic and see if this would help me. I am very grateful I did give it a try because my chiropractor advised me to get an MRI scan done, as it can show more details about what can be going on.
*At this stage, I took several x-rays that showed nothing. I went ahead and scheduled an MRI with my general doctor. The wait time was very long that I asked the pain management specialist I was referred to if she can get me in sooner for an MRI scan.
I ended up with two appointments but each had different body parts (lower back, and pelvis). The first MRI showed a small disc herniation (that should not be causing me all this excruciating pain). At this point, again I was convinced that this was Piriformis syndrome and sciatica caused by a disc herniation. As usual, the disc presses on the sciatic nerve. I continued with all my treatments with short term relief.
My nutrition has always been super clean. I supplemented with a high-quality protein, ate mostly organic whole foods and exercised (when I could). The second MRI was scheduled 8 months after and I am very thankful I did not cancel it after getting the first one’s results. This one showed an abnormal pelvic inflammation.
Throughout this whole time, I was experiencing bloating almost every day. I was always feeling fatigued and would wake up feeling exhausted even after sleeping for 8 hours. I was addicted to my mid-day coffee and milk to give me the boost to carry on with my days. Of course, being in pain all the time can take a huge toll on you, but my digestive issues were just not helping. The other thing I was noticing was that stress always made the pain worse and caused flare-ups. When I travel or take a few days off, I always felt better.
THE GAPs DIET
The doctor referred me to a Rheumatologist to see if this was all due to an auto-immune disease. It turns out that my symptoms are very similar to rheumatoid condition: ankylosing spondylitis.
I was at a very confusing point of my life. I had all of these diagnoses and I still don’t know what’s up with me. I talked to a close friend of mine and she introduced me to the GAPs diet.
The GAPs (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) is a short-term diet that you go through in stages. Each stage can last from 3-5 days. You eat very easy to digest foods that include a lot of bone broth and fermented veggies.. The GAPs book is a must read to understand the “why” behind each stage.
You start introducing new foods at every stage until you complete all 6 of them. Once you complete the first 6 introductory stages, you can move to the full protocol that is very similar to a Paleo style diet with an emphasis on fermented vegetables (kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt).
The diet is a gut healing protocol. The objective is to heal and seal the gut lining to improve digestion and restore your body back to its optimum performance. Poor gut health can cause a myriad of other symptoms and autoimmune disorders. When I first learned about this protocol it sounded almost impossible. The first stage includes drinking bone broth, soup, and tea all day. I was mostly just scared to quit after the first day and face my cravings. The fear of failure made me not want to start in the first place.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH THE GAPs DIET
A month ago, I had another flare-up. This time it was on the left side. I started seeing a new chiropractor who actually took the time to listen to me and had a plan worked out to work on my nervous system and spine and joint alignment.
I was at two fingers away from a total break down. I was in pain 24/7, I would wake up several times at night due to the pain as I try to roll or twist. I could only sleep if I stayed in one position all the time. My training suffered again and I was just observing this situation as it takes over my life. I really felt like I have done it all. What else was there to try.
“WAIT…I have yet to try that diet thing..”
I made the decision to go full in it when I couldn’t take it anymore. I did not care if I had to fast for days. All I wanted is to be back to 100%. Of course, I had no idea how to make this bone broth thing so I had to search around. Thankfully there were tons of bloggers who have gone through the GAPs diet, have seen so much success from it and also have shared their recipes.
I purchased this amazing GAPs diet cookbook to help me out, as I was clueless about what to eat: The Heal Your Gut Cookbook: Nutrient-Dense Recipes for Intestinal Health Using the GAPS Diet
As soon as I started the diet (a few hours after breakfast where I would usually have rice based gluten free bread, coffee and milk, and eggs) I started feeling relief. I thought it was a placebo effect but I didn’t care. I had the BEST sleep in those first two nights starting on the GAPs diet. I did not have any nightmares and no pain.
This gave me more strength and motivation to go through each day. I have to say that it is challenging; you really need to be at that point where you are willing to do anything, come hell or high water to heal yourself. I was at that point. So, saying NO to few social events was a no-brainer for me. I also brought my food to other family gatherings. If somebody tries to tell me to eat something else, I simply said that I was following my doctor’s orders.
The first 3 days were very challenging. I experienced cravings at 8 am in the morning as I had to wait until noon to have my soup and broth. You could eat soup and broth in the morning but I just couldn’t. I was able to eat honey when I had energy slumps in the middle of the afternoons. After the first couple of stages, you can introduce stews and pancakes made with pumpkin. That felt like heaven. After a few days of just soup, you want to chew anything.
I also put together a simple recipe for pumpkin, almond butter cookies that you can try out 🙂 – I made this almost everyday as I moved to stage 4.
Overall, I have seen an amazing relief not just from pelvic and low back pain, but also from bloating, digestion and nightmares at night. I am now 3 weeks in and ready to move to the final two stages. The pain subsided by 85%, and some days it’s completely gone. If I get stressed out, I notice mild flareups so I have to figure out a better way to manage daily stress. I practice meditation everyday and that helps tremendously.
I will be sharing my experience with this protocol every month. I believe that this protocol can benefit anyone. You don’t have to follow it strictly as I did, but simply incorporating few principles from it can immensely improve your health and reduce inflammation in your body.