Monday, October 17, 2011

GAPs for Asthma?

 Check out my results - What Works for Me! - to see how GAPs has affected my asthma.

You may know, from my way-overenthusiastic Oregon posting, that I am insanely excited about our new home in Oregon.  I love all the trees, the gorgeous green grass, and the awesome growing conditions.

But the one thing I am not loving is the pollen.  I haven't had allergy issues for quite a few years, but I have noticed that my (once dormant) asthma seems to act up more here than in Colorado, especially when I'm out working in the yard.

The past few years of non-dependence on prescription asthma meds has made me feel so free, and now I'm reluctant to start up a prescription regimen again.  So I've been exploring all my nutrition and natural medicine-based options before I investigate the prescription route.

My go-to idea is the GAPs diet.  This diet, developed by Dr. Campbell-McBride, has been successfully used by hundreds of people to heal their damaged intestines and alleviate symptoms ranging from eczema to depression to autism.  Although "GAPs" stands for "Gut and Psychology Syndrome," which reflects the psychological symptoms it can treat, it has also been widely used for digestive problems, auto-immune symptoms, and other non-psychological diseases.

The theory behind the GAPs diet is simple: It heals the large intestine by eliminating all disaccharides (sugars that are more complex than fructose or glucose) from the diet.  If you don't eat any disaccharides, then the harmful bacteria in your large intestine won't have anything to eat, and they will die!  At the same time that you're avoiding disaccharides, you're also consuming lots of bone broth and probiotics, which help to repair any damage to the intestine and begin to populate it with healthy bacteria again.  The result is that the holes in your intestine (also known as leaky gut) begin to heal, so that tiny food particles aren't able to escape through them into your bloodstream (gross, I know).  This heals systemic inflammation and can even, apparently, reverse some kinds of auto-immune disease.

But even though it sounds so simple in theory, the GAPs diet takes a lot of planning and lifestyle change to accomplish.  Disaccharides are any complex sugars, so starches, dairy that contains lactose, and sugar are prohibited.  That means no grains, no legumes (except white beans, for reasons I'm not entirely clear on), no milk or fresh cheese, and no sweeteners except for honey.  It's also very important to consume bone broth at least once a day, because of the way it heals the intestine and soothes inflammation.

So I'm strongly considering GAPs, but I'm wondering if I need such a strict protocol (am I desperate enough to make that many drastic changes or increase the food budget that much?).  In the meantime, since I know pasteurized dairy and improperly prepared grains always create inflammation, and that's not going to do my lungs any favors, we're avoiding them more diligently than before.  It seems to be helping for now.

One awesome factor in this grain-avoidance is that my husband just restarted the P90X home fitness program, which recommends a strict low-carb diet at the beginning to help maximize weight loss.  So I can happily prepare meals for our whole family that do not revolve around grains, and not have to make anything special or separate for any of us.  This really helps all of us to eat what we ought to be eating.  I do miss some of my super-inexpensive grain-based meals (that I know I shouldn't be serving regularly anyway, since the grains aren't always prepared properly), but I think we will adapt and adjust nicely over the next few months.

As we adjust, I'm getting excited about trying out some new recipes that will help me get out of my carb-dependent rut.  I've started browsing through the Against the Grain e-book cookbook by Katie Tietje over at Modern Alternative Mama, and I'll be sharing what I think about it here in a few weeks, once I've had a chance to try out a few recipes!

What is your take on the GAPs diet?  Have you ever heard of it?  Have you heard about anyone using it successfully to help heal asthma?  How hard would it be for you to avoid grains in your everyday cooking and eating? 

Posted at Monday Mania


  1. ImagesOfRealHope.orgOctober 18, 2011 at 12:01 AM

    I've never heard of GAPs, but I can tell you first hand that garlic and vitamin C have helped me keep the cap on my inhaler. A couple of years ago I thought I'd try consuming more garlic cause I'd heard it was good for you (nature's antibiotic). Some time after that I noticed I didn't need the albuterol after mowing, and could get through the night without wheezing even without Intal before bed. For some reason I stopped both garlic and C and the wheezing returned. After resuming both, the need for an inhaler is almost gone. It's hardly a "double blind" scientific test, but I'm convinced!

  2. Hmmm, interesting. Is this any form of garlic, or raw, or roasted?

  3. ImagesOfRealHope.orgOctober 18, 2011 at 9:41 PM

    Just plain garlic powder. Usually just generously sprinkled on about 6 Triscuits, or generously added to some other side dish. I've never measured it, but I might guesstimate about 1/4 teaspoon total.

  4. I think it would be worth considering. I'm currently doing GAPS to reverse my food allergies which I found are a big contributor to my asthma. When I removed wheat, dairy, sesame, and a few other foods from my diet, I was able to slowly work off of all my asthma meds. I've also been taking Respiractin (you can find it on Amazon) which is an herbal supplement to help with allergies and asthma. That gave me the final push to be able to get off of all the meds. Haven't used any in almost 5 years!

    Another helpful thing if you're having a little trouble breathing is peppermint oil. While it's a bit inconvenient to carry around the essential oil, I always keep peppermint Altoids in my purse and suck on one if my chest if feeling tight. It helps my chest relax. Although, since starting the GAPS diet about 3 months ago, I haven't needed a single one.

    Best of luck to you!

  5. Hi, Mindy,
    Thanks so much for your helpful advice! I will definitely check out Respiractin, and we're working on eliminating wheat, too (raw milk and yogurt I'm not sure I can give up just yet). Peppermint has been so helpful for me, too.

    It's awesome to hear your story! I am so encouraged!

  6. Just reading this for the first time almost a year after it was written. I was wondering if you tried GAPS and if it helped with the asthma. My mother-in-law suffers severly from asthma and I was going to recommend GAPS, but felt I needed some testimonials first.

    1. GAPS has helped my asthma significantly. I don't know that I would recommend it long-term, because I find I do much better when I include "safe starches" (a la Perfect Health Diet) like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and rice. But GAPS was a great temporary start to jump-start my healing. If I have a few days of horrible diet, for whatever reason, I find that a few days of strictly following GAPS gets me healthy and breathing easily quickly, and then I can transition back to adding in safe starches. Hope this helps! Even if GAPS is not a perfect fit for your mother-in-law, I hope she'll consider a high-fat, low processed carb, very low-grain diet. It's made a world of difference for me.


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