You may have heard me mention here and there that I am going to be starting the GAPS diet (the Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet). In fact, I just started it. Yesterday.
So now is the time, folks, when I get to tell you all about what this is, why I’m doing it, and what this means for the oh-so-wonderful world of battling acne.
I’m going to start from the very beginning, so this may be long winded, but I want to so that you can understand exactly how I feel about this diet (well, “healing protocol” is more accurate, I’d say) – which is strongly!
The GAPS in a Very Small Nutshell
So… what is it?
It’s a system designed to completely and permanently heal the gut, and therefore the brain (thus the “psychology” in the name – ala – depression, anxiety, ADD, autism, schizophrenia etc), the immune system, allergies, food sensitivities, and everything else that might be wrong with you – including ACNE (or any other skin problems). The food you eat on the system is very Weston A Price meets Paleo, and there’s a really big emphasis on bone broths and fermented foods/probiotics for healing.
“All Diseases Begin in the Gut” said Hippocrotes, the father of modern health (he was some ancient greek physician).
Well, he was right, and skin problems in particular almost always have their roots in gut problems, whether you have digestive symptoms or not (allegedly 30% of people with a leaky gut don’t have digestive symptoms, yet improve greatly on a digestive healing program. Source: Chris Kresser). I believe that even if stress is your biggest acne culprit, it’s because stress harms the digestive system and its digestive flora.
Think of it this way – your digestive system is like the roots of a tree. If the roots of a tree are not healthy, the tree isn’t either. That sounds reasonable right? So if the digestive system isn’t functioning right, every single bodily function that comes after it also won’t be functioning right. It really is the “root” of the problem.
And it’s not so hard to believe that our digestive systems are pretty messed up these days. We all eat a lot of crap food, and take a lot of antibiotics, birth control pills, drink chlorinated water, and are stressed out all the time.
A Brief Recap of How Your Digestive System Works, or Doesn’t Work
Basically, to cut this short – you need three things for a healthy digestive system:
- Enough stomach acid to break down proteins, absorb minerals, and alert the rest of your digestive system to wake up and start doing its job. Apparently more than 40% of acne victims do not have enough stomach acid (source: Chris Kresser).
- Appropriate gut flora. You have a lot of bacteria residing in there, some good, some bad, but you definitely want the good guys to be the most prevalant. The bad guys really mess things up for you, and the good guys really, really help you out with absorbing the much needed nutrients in your food and keeping inflammation low.
- An intact gut wall. In some circumstances (like if your gut flora is messed up), your gut wall can get so irritated that it opens up and starts letting things into your bloodstream that it shouldn’t, like undigested food, bad bacteria, and all sorts of toxins. Your body then reacts to these things in whichever way it is predisposed to. In other worlds, gut problems can manifest themselves into a gazillion different diseases and health problems, and one that is particularly linked to this exact gut pathology is skin problems.
Is GAPS the Cure for Acne?
Now, I’ve known for quite some time that the root of acne, and a lot of other problems, begin with an unhealthy digestive system. The problem is, I have never quite known what the very BEST way to completely heal the digestive system for good was. I didn’t know if it even existed. I had some tricks up my sleeve for digestive healing, sure, but what combination of these tricks worked the best? Were they surefire? Were they an all round, full blown cure?
And another thing I didn’t know was that even if all my techniques were right, exactly how long does it actually take to fully heal the gut?
In my experience, for some people, just eating healthier seems to do the trick. Other people will probably see lots of improvement in their health from a whole foods diet, but need to actually specifically target the gut in order to truly come into the most outstanding health possible for them.
These are the people that no matter what they do, no matter which diet they’re on, and how good they are with it, they still have lingering problems – whether it’s acne or otherwise. I know I am one of those people (in my case, it’s mild acne, mild digestive issues, and mild anxiety), and I know that healing my gut is what I need.
In fact, I have seen astounding results in myself and others just from targeting only one area of a faulty digestive: the gut flora, and attempting to eradicate a certain type of harmful pathogen in the gut called candida. I’ve seen lasting results in my skin from doing short three week candida cleanses.
But I can’t say that the candida cleanse has ever cured me of acne long term even if I was eating a healthy diet afterwards, and I expected that every half a year or so, I may need to repeat the process to keep everything in check. A small price to pay, I would say for something that kept acne in check effectively without having to be overly perfect and strict with my diet for 10 1/2 months of the year! Essentially, I consider the candida cleanse an extremely effective tool in managing acne, but not necessarily curing acne.
In fact, I’ve never found anything that I would have really considered to be a true cure for acne. A true cure, to me, implies that you could essentially eat and live however slovenly you chose and your problem would never come back.
So, in essence, I suppose even the GAPS diet wouldn’t be a true cure, but I’d say it’s the closest thing I have ever come across, because after you completed the GAPS program and completely healed your entire digestive system, you essentially would be able to enjoy the entire full range of healthy whole foods (even gluten! even dairy!), and also enjoy some junk, or get stressed out sometimes without it having ANY effect on you. No acne, no breakouts, no moodiness, no anxiety, no anything.
In other words, you’d be able to get away with a lot of stuff before any breakouts or other unpleasantries would ever rear their heads. And maybe they never ever would again if you made a point to never take antibiotics again, birth control pills, and keep a relatively healthy diet most of the time.
If that doesn’t sound that great to you (ie, you want to be able to live as slovenly as you wish all the time), it should, because so many acne victims and others are reacting to HEALTHY foods. It’s not just the junk… people have food sensitivities up the ying yang, and many don’t even know they’re going on. I KNOW I have some food sensitivities and I have no clue what they are. You end up with symptoms, but it’s too hard to pinpoint them to a certain food. Even if you know, how fun is it to just avoid these foods for the rest of your life?
Getting tested for them and avoiding your allergens is a fantastic short term solution for acne. I have also had fantastic success with this approach, and I’d actually recommend it. This is essentially how I managed to put myself over the edge into clear skin when I was trying to get rid of my bad acne and I’ve managed to maintain *almost* clear skin ever since. Avoiding your food allergens does work.
But, again, this is not a cure because unfortunately, food sensitivities can change after a while… you take out a few things, then you may begin reacting to others. The root of the problem is still not being fully addressed in order to keep acne and all problems away completely and permanently. (And again – how much does avoiding certain foods suck?)
I Have Some Good News and Some Bad News
So, obviously the good news is that I am highly optimistic about the potential of the GAPS diet to actually cure your acne problem (watch as the FDA throws me in jail for saying that).
The bad news is that the GAPS diet and protocol is kinda hardcore, and lengthy, and takes serious commitment (without cheating!). It’s a lot of work, and depending on your situation, preparing for and doing the diet properly can also be relatively expensive. I’ll be honest, even I’m freaked out about it.
Yes… so here is the rain for your parade: it could take up to TWO years to fully seal and heal your digestive system to the point where you could actually consider yourself “cured”. It might not take that long, depending on how messed up your gut is. But it very well might.
To be honest, I was really disappointed to hear that that’s how long it truly takes. But… we spend a long, long time beating it down, I guess two years in the scheme of things isn’t that long. But in reality, it feels like a looong asss time.
However, I’d like to point out here that it’s not like you wouldn’t see any healing from following it loosely, or only doing the introduction diet (which is the most hardcore part of it, and I’ll talk all about that later). I mean, hey, if a three week candida cleanse can get rid of my acne and keep it away for a good while, I believe that doing only part of the GAPS would too. But in that case, I would consider it still another “acne management” tool and not a true cure.
Tune in Next Time for More Deets….
And now that I’ve piqued your interest, I’m going to cut it off there for today. On Monday, I will give you all the specifics about what this whole thing entails, and Wednesday will probably bring you my thoughts and deep, emotional, soul baring feels about how I feel about actually doing this diet. (I’ll give a hint: I’m scared!!)