GAPS Diet Days 15-16: Unraveling a Story of Toxification
When I was young I used to love playing on my tire swing. I could spin in circles there for hours, usually to the point that I would make my friends who came over dizzy and nauseous. I wish I could find as much amusement in the spirals of detoxification that I’ve been experiencing over the past two weeks on the GAPS Introduction Diet. The first few days of the GAPS Diet were expectedly challenging. With any elimination diet, intense die off symptoms (headaches, constipation, brain fog, exhaustion, etc.) are common at the beginning of the protocol as bad bacteria are starved of fuel (sugars and simple carbs) and try to cling on for dear life. What I wasn’t prepared for, however, is the sustained waves of uncomfortable symptoms and negative emotions that keep coming up.
Looking back over the toxifying journey that has brought me to this place, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I have a lot of cleaning out to do. I also have a highly sensitive system to begin with.
According to Dr. Peter D’Adamo’s Genotypes, I am an Explorer. Meaning that my body is highly adaptable but also easy imbalanced by foreign substances because my liver tends to be extremely slow at processing toxins.
Direct from the source:
“Explorers are very often medical enigmas. They can be challenging to diagnose, since nothing apparent or obvious presents itself as a problem. Physically, they may appear to be in good health, but will complain of a sudden loss of energy, or a sudden inability to tolerate a certain food, supplement or drug. Explorer women often suffer from chronic yeast infections or heavy periods.”
Yep, all of that sounds pretty darn familiar.
Since the age of 14, I’ve suffered with chronic inflammation. It first presented as a red face, clogged pores and cystic acne. I think that I was probably genetically pre-disposed to this condition and that the rise in teenage hormones caused it to manifest itself physically. The problem grew from there. At age 15, I visited a wise acupuncturist who recommended a sugar-free diet. I didn’t understand the connection between sugar and inflammation at the time, but I did follow his recommendation for two years with moderate improvements in my skin. Over the next 10 years, I saw specialists ranging from dermatologists and chiropractors to acupuncturists and homeopaths, and tried every topical treatment from stinky emu oil and benzoyl peroxide that bleached all my sheets to microdermabrasion. No one could seem to figure out the root cause of my condition. It probably didn’t help that I never told any of them the complete story as described in the paragraphs below.
At the same time that I saw that first acupuncturist, the recklessness of youth began to take a toll on my overall health.
I tried beer for the first time at age 15, and by age 16, I was binge drinking almost every weekend with my friends. We would down entire handles of poor-quality vodka in a single night, sleep very little (if at all), and top things off by smoking cigars or clove cigarettes. Somehow we still managed to stay at the top of our class in academics, hold positions on student council, play varsity sports and work part-time jobs. Oh, the resilience of youth!
By college, I was sleeping even less and drinking just as much. I never did any recreational drugs, although I did smoke marijuana once every few months. I still excelled at academics and sports, so my body was taking a lot of abuse. By junior year of college, I started to get actual hangovers and my skin was the worst it had ever been. That said, I was still eating gluten and didn’t suffer any memorable stomachaches, except during a semester in Spain when I was eating bread at every meal. I just thought it was the overall change in food and water. Looking back at photos, I do notice visible inflammation in my stomach and face, but it didn’t slow me down in the slightest.
Senior year of college, however, was my body’s breaking point. It was my toughest year academically and all-nighters were fairly common as I worked to perfect my portfolio and manage a student-run advertising campaign team (on anti-binge drinking, no less). I still drank heavily on weekends, played college lacrosse and tutored part time while maintaining a near-perfect GPA. On top of that, I was madly in love with a toxic significant other in LA. The roller-coaster of glamorous nights out, blow-out fights, emotional abuse, and birth control had me completely lose track of myself, my needs and my health.
Remember how my spiritual guide said that we attract people who are a reflection of ourselves? Not taking care of myself = unhealthy romantic relationship.
By the time that relationship ended, I was a physical and emotional disaster. I spent the next year trying to regain my emotional functioning while completing an accelerated master’s degree, seeing a therapist and binge drinking. Overdrive is an understatement. It’s no wonder that I started to experience symptoms of gluten intolerance, first exhibited by an extreme sensitivity to beer, and chronic stomachaches and bloating.
I moved to Los Angeles the following year and began to have even more intense gluten sensitivity symptoms including chronic fatigue, eczema, acne, extreme lack of focus, anxiety and mood swings. I finally started to pay attention to the warning signs my body had been trying to communicate for years and adopted a gluten-free diet in the fall of 2010. On the advice of a holistic dermatologist, I cut out dairy (hormone sensitivity) in 2011, and in 2012 I gave up drinking entirely for 6 months. I still wasn’t sleeping enough, however, and my acne, nerve pains (left over from a car accident in 2008) and chronic fatigue kept flaring up. I stopped eating red meat and became frustrated that my elimination diet wasn’t helping to resolve my on-the-brink-of autoimmune symptoms.
In the summer of 2012, I tried a bentonite clay liver cleanse and ended up in the ER after suffering severe headaches, blurred vision, heart palpitations and fainting. It turned out I was on the low-end of the normal range for vitamin B12, which for my sensitive body was enough to cause some pretty intense symptoms. B12 supplementation helped to address the immediate problem, but it was clear that my body was struggling with a nutrient deficiency. At the time, I was still eating grains and dealing with chronic candidiasis as well.
That fall, I connected with a network of Paleo foodies who encouraged me to cut grains and sugar out of my diet. After a month of night sweats and exhaustion, I actually started to regain some of my energy and feel my gut and skin start to heal. After years of trying everything I could think of (although reading back over this post it’s pretty clear why my body was so out of whack), I was encouraged to find a diet that actually fit my body’s primal needs. I had renewed hope that I could feel alive and energetic once more.
I strongly believe that there was a direct connection between my emotional health and the physical abuse I put on my body. At the time my acne started to flare up, my beloved grandfather committed suicide, which sent me into a spiral of repressed grief and feelings of abandonment. The acne made me self-conscious, and I would wake up every morning feeling ashamed to show my red and boiled face to the world without first layering on globs of makeup. My binge drinking, unhealthy romantic relationships and general careless attitude were, at least in part, ways to numb some of these pains and insecurities. I certainly hadn’t yet developed healthy skills to overcome the challenges that life threw at me. Considering that I’ve always seen myself as a strong and healthy person, I’m a little embarrassed to admit just how much I let a few difficult circumstances pull me down into such an imbalanced state.
So here I am today in need of a deep cleanse. Looking back at my story of toxification, it’s no wonder my detoxification journey is full of uncomfortable physical symptoms and a wash of emotions. I am working now to reverse years of damage to my physical, mental and spiritual health. This is probably gonna take some time.
Our bodies are truly amazing in their ability to adapt. Even after just two weeks on the GAPS Introduction Diet, my skin today is the best it’s been in years, my energy levels are above average, and I have experienced encouraging waves of unadulterated bliss. Most importantly, I am finally making my health and well-being a priority by eating right for my explorer/primal body type, staying physically active, getting enough sleep, and prioritizing time to relax, meditate and heal.
I am really excited to discover a more authentic version of myself as I continue to unravel the coils of toxins that I’ve let build up inside me over the course of my lifetime. Onward and upward through this journey to healing!
Day 15 Foods
Probiotic and room temperature water, then bone broth one hour later. Eggs scrambled in ghee with avocado, olive oil, butternut squash soup, and sea salt. Organic peppermint tea. Handful of organic, raw cashew pieces (not sprouted). Eggs scrambled in ghee, sauerkraut, bone broth and butternut squash soup.
Day 15 Symptoms
- Heavy sleep with stressful, active dreams
- Woke up at 8 a.m. feeling positive
- Slow start to the day
- Good energy and motivation by 10 a.m.
- Mild headache throughout the day (likely detox from the weekend’s indulgences)
- Bright, cheery and clear thoughts from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- After not eating for 5 hours and surfing, intense hunger and sugar cravings from 5-6 p.m.
- Sugar and fat cravings from 8-10 p.m. (likely flare-ups from weekend indulgences)
- Exhaustion and brain fog from 10-11 p.m.
- Heavy, tired eyes
Day 16 Foods
Bone broth, chicken soup, sauerkraut, butternut squash soup, boiled chicken, steamed vegetables with olive oil, pancakes, sprouted walnut butter, green juice, more chicken soup
Day 16 Symptoms
- Woke up feeling tired and groggy
- Minor headache and congestion
- Face is sore and slightly swollen
- Bloated and constipated
- Sore neck and lower back (post-surfing)
- Feeling alert, focused and strong
- Increased sex drive
- Intense hunger mid-morning and afternoon
- Lack of focus throughout the day
- Headache and indigestion after eating steamed vegetables with olive oil
- Sleepiness at 3:30 p.m.
- Feelings of sadness and frustration from 4-6 p.m.
- Stomach cramps from 5-6 p.m.
- Negative thoughts and anxiety from 7-9 p.m.
- Relief from brain fog at 9 p.m. after drinking green juice
- Improved energy and mood at 9:30 p.m.
- Increased urination at 9:30 p.m.
- Itchy scalp at 10:45 p.m.