I can’t even believe I’m saying this, but…….. I’ve quit the GAPS (Gut and Pyschology Syndrome Diet) already!

Or at least I’ve put it on hold.

To be honest, I’m shocked, after all my personal buildup to this, and then me telling you all about it… I really thought I was going to last more than ten days. I am really, really surprised.

I couldn’t handle it though. My stomach was just killing me.

I know I should have stuck it out to see if it was just detox, but something just didn’t seem right about it… I felt like it wasn’t just die off, because the stomach problems seemed to just be getting worse and worse. I could be totally wrong though and am probably just being a baby about it. I have some clues that make me think otherwise, but in the end, I really don’t know.

Either way, this wasn’t what I was expecting to happen with the GAPS. At all. I was in it for the long haul!!

Anyway, let me tell you a story about what led me to this decision and what I’m going to try now:

Figuring Out Nutrition is Too Hard

In my effort to not be too biased about GAPS, I read everything there was to read about it and that included any downsides that people were talking about. I couldn’t find a lot of stuff, but the most prominent thing people were saying was that sometimes after being on the diet for a while, they ended up losing energy, and it’s because of accidentally going too low carb with it (even though it’s not necessarily intended to be a low carb diet).

This was great, actually. It helped me to realize that maybe people do need more carbs than the low carb paleo community would lead you to believe. Maybe eating a balanced diet really is the way to go, instead of hating on a certain macronutrient or food group like everyone in the health world tends to do. Woohoo!  

Of course, this all didn’t deter me because I was convinced GAPS would work great for me, I just took note to eat enough carbs and remember that it’s a temporary diet, and not that grains or starch are bad.

However, I did take notice that the people who GAPS didn’t seem to work for, or who lost energy after a time were finding a lot of success with this thing called RRARF – (Rehabilitative Rest and Agressive Re-Feeding) – the brain child of a health and nutrition blogger named Matt Stone.

Again, I didn’t give it much attention though, because

  1. It seemed a little crazy and that this guy was just trying to get attention by saying the complete opposite of everyone else
  2. It didn’t matter because GAPS was my saviour.

Until I started to doubt my own experiences with GAPS (of course), and then I had a second look at it.

Matt Stone’s thing is the cellular metabolism, which he defines as “the ability to produce cellular energy at a high rate.” (if you’re following here, this is related to the lack of carbs thing causing lack of energy).

He feels that the metabolism governs everything in the body and that GAPS is misguided because it is an isolated approach to a specific problem – it might fix your gut, but wreck your metabolism, which will lead to other problems.

Yay.

To cut a long story short, the metabolism is connected to your body temperature. Raise your body temperature, raise your metabolism, and somehow this fixes everything (including digestive trouble), according to Matt.

He says that while faulty digestion may be the root of much disease, it’s faulty because of other body processes – like stress and metabolic rate – not necessarily the bad bacteria and whatever GAPS and the rest of us are going for. It can’t be fixed independently without considering the rest of the body.`

*Sigh*. Okay.

Matt Stone has quite a reputation in the health blogging community… you either love him or hate him. Personally I think he’s overly dismissive of GAPS, as it really has helped a ton of people.

I think much of his shtick is controversy, so I probably would have completely ignored him if it wasn’t for the fact that a lot of the health bloggers I follow and respect (the ones who are also very well versed in GAPS) seem to think he’s legit and and are also finding success with RRARF.

I mean, what he says does make sense, but god, SO DOES GAPS!!!

Have I mentioned that nutrition often makes me want to curl up into a ball and cry? Seriously. You think you have something figured out because it makes complete sense and seems to work for people, but there’s always someone there to bitchslap you with the complete opposite (which also happens to make complete sense and work for other people!).

Wah 🙁

Basically, I don’t know. I don’t know what the answers are. I don’t know if Matt Stone and his metabolism thingy is true. How am I to know? Intellectualizing these things doesn’t seem to be working too well for me.

But I was curious enough to buy his ebook – Diet Recovery, and true or not, it was sooo interesting. And like a total breath of fresh air.

Apparently metabolic rate is tied to your body temperatures. So you can tell if your metabolism is low by checking your temperatures throughout the day with a thermometer. The average internal body temperature is 98.6. Body temperature does fluctuate throughout the day, lowest in the morning, highest in the evening, and women’s temps go up and down throughout the menstrual cycle.

But basically if it’s consistently below 98, like in the 96s or 97s, that’s too low.

Click here for help on the specifics of taking temperatures.

According to Matt, if you find yourself with low body temps, and bring your metabolic rate up and body temps up, it’s likely that you find everything else just kind of falls into place after that.

Matt’s method for raising body temperatures is by spending a period of about 30 days resting up (by avoiding all exercise except light stuff like walking and yoga) and aggressively feeding yourself ALL the macronutrients. You eat 3 or 4 squares a day till you’re full every time. You eat any time you even think about food.

Sometimes RRARF is referred to as the “High Everything Diet”. It’s obviously recommended that you do this with healthy whole foods, but you should eat all of them in large quantities – grains, meat, fat and animal fat, good diary (preferably raw), fruit, vegetables, root vegetables, beans. It seems he’s still seems a little iffy on gluten grains for regular every day consumption though (although sourdough may be acceptable). And he particularly says to avoid PUFAs (or polyunsaturated fatty acids) or Omega 6 fatty acids. Starches are very important, apparently, especially in the beginning while raising the metabolism.

By the way, he also seems to think that avoidance of your sensitivities is not the way to go, because then your body stops producing the needed enzymes/whatever to digest those foods and makes the problem worse. Kind of like how when vegetarians start eating meat after years avoiding it and it makes them sick. He thinks that building up your tolerance to foods is the way to go until you can eat them freely.

So anyway, I guess after you’ve raised your temps with this (which happens quite quickly in most cases, within a few weeks), you will naturally stop eating so much food and can resume exercise, although extreme endurance exercise isn’t really recommended.

Here’s the best part about RRARF and Diet Recovery though – there’s a big emphasis on lowering stress, which he feels is one of the most detrimental things to the metabolism and therefore the body. And food related stress is major here.

Now food related stress can be either stress from his definition of starvation (ie, depriving our bodies of a certain macronutrient or groups of food, whether it’s carbs, fat, protein, animal products, grains, whatever) which creates unconscious stress on the body. I guess that body stress from super intense and endurance exercise would also fit in here.

Or, food related stress can be the fear and guilt that’s been beaten into us over certain groups of foods or ways of eating (different fears produced by different diet camps), stresses us big time and takes the joy out of eating. Or the flogging we give ourselves when we don’t eat properly all the time (like when out with friends) instead of enjoying ourselves (which he feels is fine as long as junk food doesn’t become habitual).

So yeah. It’s a full recovery from dieting – whether it’s paleo, vegan, vegetarian, GAPS, whatever. Just eat the food, mostly whole foods, but either way – just eat it, and get those temps raised. (“Eat the Food” is his little tag line).

The Curious Starch Connection

So, whether this whole RRARF thing is legit or not, it got me thinking.

I’ve had a nagging question in the back of my mind about my stomach problems.

It was because I was thinking about when my heartburn and bloating issues have been their worst. Now, I regret that I haven’t been keeping track that well. I used to get this stuff occasionally, but I noticed that the frequency and intensity of it increased a fair deal about half a year ago, right before I went to Australia, and it aways seems so random.

Many people say they get bloating/heartburn/whatever whenever they eat junkfood, or gluten specifically, or dairy, or after they’ve simply eaten too much. There’s an obvious trigger.

Mine, just… I donno. I’d get it after my own healthy home cooked dinners sometimes, green smoothies sometimes, sometimes I’d get it when I drank WATER! If I ate junk, it wasn’t a necessary recipe for a stomachache. If I ate too much, that wasn’t a necessary recipe either. I just didn’t GET IT!!

Now it was a vague correlation, but one that I randomly noticed when I was in Australia was that it seemed like, as a general trend, that I’d most often get the GI issues when I was cooking for myself. I’d notice it the most after I’d make a nice meal for Luke and I, containing a small portion of meat, a big salad, and like… some vegetables and avocado or whatever. You know, what I thought was very healthy (a perfect paleo meal), so therefore, should give me less GI trouble.

Yet, the GI stuff would be lessened in periods when I was not cooking for myself and didn’t have as much control over my food choices, like when we would go to Luke’s parents house. I think anyway. My memory is hazy. But I do remember putting this vague correlation together, being confused about it, and ignoring it because it didn’t seem to make any sense as to why I’d get the most trouble from my own food.

Okay, but more recently, when we came back from Australia, we were living with my parents for a month or so.

Technically I did have the ability to cook and eat whatever I wanted when I was there, but I was lazy, because I knew we’d be moving into our own house soon, and that I’d be on the GAPS diet soon…. and I’d make up for it later…. and also it was more convenient to just eat with the family if my mom or dad was cooking something. Or eat their food or whatever they had in the cupboards.

Basically, I wasn’t eating terribly or anything but I wasn’t being very strict about what I was eating, and I wasn’t all that stressed out about it or thinking so hard about food like I usually do.

I didn’t really notice at the time that my stomach problems had been almost non existant or at least very minimal while I was there, UNTIL… and this is the curious part…. we moved into our new house two weeks ago, began eating exclusively the way that “I” wanted again, and immediately noticed a significant increase in the gastric distress.

This time it really did get my attention, and I’ve wracked my brain wondering what the heck it is that I was eating now that I wasn’t there, or what I was eating there that I wasn’t here that could possibly have improved things for me. I really couldn’t think of anything. I mean, when I was there, I had still been eating meat, eggs, butter, vegetables, salads, smoothies, fruit, garlic, tahini, even bone broth, and sauerkraut, which was what I was mostly eating now. All that was different was that I had been a bit more lenient and eating a little bit more junk….. AND…. a little bit more starch! (hmm.. and cheese, come to think of it)

Often when we’d eat with my parents, they’d cook a starch like potatoes, sweet potatoes, or rice. So I’d just eat it, even if it wasn’t necessarily something I would cook for myself in any great frequency.

And while I wasn’t paying close attention, so it’s hard to say if this is 100% true: I don’t specifically remember a time when I got annoyed about a meal that contained starch giving me stomach troubles. But I remember several times getting annoyed about it after I cooked myself a dinner without starch and ended up bloated.

However, I never considered this a possibility that starch could have anything to do with it. I’ve never considered starch to be a horrible, despicable thing, and I’ve never purposely tried to go “low carb”. But I know I’ve been indoctrinated by the paleo people and did consciously try to keep it out of my own cooking as much as possible because I considered other foods a lot more nutritious. And I dont think I’ve eaten more than a mouthful or two of starch since we moved out of my parents’ house since I was slowly moving my way toward the GAPS intro.

I never would have put two and two together on this until I did GAPS, had my stomach issues get, ahem, gastronomical, and then read about RRARF.

Well, I can’t say for sure at this point that it’s the starch…. but it’s a clue!

My Temps Really Are Low

So after reading his book, I couldn’t help myself and went out and bought a thermometer, and while it’s probably best to take your average temperature over a period of a month or so, I’m too impatient for that.

My average temps midday (which is supposed to be hotter than the morning) were an average of 97.7. This morning my basal temperature (which is generally the lowest one after you wake up, before you do anything) was an average of 97.3. That’s cold.

Matt also says that a sign of low temperature and metabolism is that you’re always cold and have cold hands and feet. Well I’ve always always had a problem with icy cold feet (it’s really fun for Luke when he gets to warm them up for me), and I’ve noticed that on the GAPS, they’ve been positively FRIGID!! Even with socks. My hands have been extra cold too.

The Dangling Carrot

Okay, so here I was – I was in a world of stomach pain that was only getting worse, I’m putting two and two together about starch, my temperature is low, and my feet are about to fall off.

And here I am being told that maybe all I have to do is eat everything, eat a lot, and give myself permission not to stress out about food so much?? For only a month??

Wow, I just dangled the biggest, fattest, juiciest carrot right in front of my face.

Suddenly, it was like a fog had lifted and two years sounded like a LONG time (I think the stomach pain was clouding my motivation at that point, for sure… if I had seen some improvement in digestion as many do, I might have felt very different).

I hated to quit the GAPS so soon (seriously… ten days??? I can hardly believe it myself) especially after being so enthusiastic about it, but once I got that idea in my head, I just couldn’t seem to bring myself to carry on. I figured… what do I really have to lose?

Honestly… wouldn’t it make sense to try RRARF first?

Who knows if it’s a good idea, but its only a month. If it worked, it would save me from two strict years on GAPS. And it sounds like a lot more fun (although I do think that eating all the time and a lot is kind of stressful in a different way – ie…. always eating = even more cooking and dishes, and always eating = bigger grocery bill)

If it doesn’t work though, GAPS will always still be there for round two.

Anyway, sorry about being wishy washy and confusing you. I didn’t mean to. I really didn’t see this coming.

photo by Austin Evan