Saturday, January 12, 2013

GAPS Diet and Adrenal Problems

This article was originally published in the November/December issue of Real Food and Health Magazine.

The Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Diet is recommended for curing a long list of autoimmune illnesses, including relatively mild symptoms such as allergies and eczema, and also more severe symptoms such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and even autism. The GAPS Diet typically takes one-to-three years to cure these autoimmune issues.

I decided to undertake the GAPS Diet back in Fall 2010, after having joint pain in my left shoulder for over eight months. This pain made it difficult to pick up my infant, exercise, or even to push the kids on the swings. In addition to my shoulder pain, I was also exhibiting signs of adrenal fatigue, such as balding lower legs, vertical lines on my fingertips, irritability, low energy, cold hands, and sensitivity to sunlight.

The first few months I was on the GAPS diet, I felt wonderful. My shoulder pain disappeared and my adrenal fatigue symptoms abated. I felt better than I had in years! But after about five months on the GAPS diet, I started to notice some energy problems. Specifically, I started having spells of extreme lethargy and fatigue. As in, "I have to go lay on the floor for awhile" and "I can't keep my eyes open". All of my adrenal fatigue symptoms came back and were even worse than ever. After lots of research and some self-experimentation, I figured out that this problem was caused in large part by eating too few carbohydrates.

Is the GAPS Diet Low-Carb?

The GAPS diet relies heavily on nutrient-dense foods such healthy fats, meats, vegetables, bone broths, and fermented foods. The diet allows no processed foods, starches (such as potatoes and corn), grains, or complex sugars. However, the GAPS diet is not necessarily a low-carbohydrate diet. Fruits, veggies, lentils, white beans, and honey are all allowed on the diet. But, I tended to shy away from things like lentils and white beans while on GAPS because they caused digestive upset for some of the other members of my family. I also tended to not each much fruit or sweets. So it was easy for me to unintentionally eat very few carbs while on the GAPS diet.

Does the Body Need Carbs?

Popular low-carb diets, such as Primal and Atkins, are quick to point out that people do not need carbs, since the body can manufacture them from other energy sources. However, it became clear to me that I do need plenty of carbs to have normal energy levels.

As I have researched this issue, I have learned that the body actually prefers to use glucose as a fuel, and the brain prefers to use ONLY glucose as a fuel. Glucose is delivered to the brain via the glucose in our blood. With a low-carb diet, the body strives to maintain optimal blood glucose levels through the process of gluconeogenesis. To achieve this, the adrenal glands send messages to the liver and kidneys to convert protein and fat into glucose. These messages from the adrenal glands come in the form of cortisol, which is one of the body’s stress hormones. The body sees a lack of carbs as a stress, and in the long term this can be detrimental.

When the body is deprived of carbohydrates for an extended period of time, the adrenal glands have to keep sending signals for gluconeogenesis over and over again. This can cause the adrenal glands to become overworked. It can also lead to other problems because the body is constantly in a state of elevated stress.

GAPS Can Worsen Adrenal Issues!

In my case, I had adrenal problems even before going on the GAPS diet, and the low-carb version of GAPS I naturally followed made my adrenals have to work even harder. To compound this problem, I was also nursing an infant while on GAPS, and a large amount of glucose was leaving my body in the form of breastmilk. My poor adrenal glands!

In talking with others on the GAPS diet and researching on the internet, I found out that adrenal issues such as low energy are not uncommon for people on the GAPS diet. The low energy problems seem to develop rather quickly for women who are pregnant or nursing, but they also develop for other women and men who stay on the diet for an extended period of time (and after all, the diet is recommended to last from one-to-three years, so it is intended to be used for an extended period of time).

How to Avoid Adrenal Problems While on GAPS

My body clearly indicated that it wasn’t ready to go off the GAPS Diet, with a recurrence of shoulder pain anytime I strayed from the strict GAPS diet. I had to learn how to nourish my adrenal glands while staying on GAPS, and this involved much more than changing my diet. The main principle of nourishing overworked adrenal glands is to allow them to rest by reducing all forms of stress on the body.

Any of the following can contribute to adrenal problems:

  • Inadequate sleep
  • Being stressed out
  • Too much exercise
  • Inadequate protein, fat , and/or carb intake
  • Intake of stimulants such as caffeine (which cause the adrenals to release more stress hormones)

After much reading and self-experimentation, I found the following to help in avoiding adrenal problems while on GAPS:


  • Get plenty of sleep. The more sleep you get, the better. 8 hours a day would be nice, but to really help adrenal health, aim for even more. Go to bed no later than 10pm, and stay in bed until at least 7am. If you feel tired, or if you have a hard time getting good nighttime sleep, take a nap every day! And don’t feel guilty about making sleep a priority, as this is really important for recovering adrenal health. Since my youngest child is not sleeping through the night yet, I have had to prioritize a daily afternoon nap for myself.
  • Do not workout excessively. When my adrenals were at their worst, I was surprised to learn that exercising made me feel worse and worse. If I did any intense exercise, such as strength training, sprinting, or interval training, the next day I would be absolutely exhausted and very irritable. Exercising also caused my basal body temperature to plummet, which is another sign of too much stress on the body and overworked adrenals. I stopped all exercise for a few months, and this was tremendously beneficial to my adrenal health. Then I started to gradually add in very mild exercise, such as yoga and walking. Initially, even those forms of exercise were too much for my body! Nowadays, I can do strength training and interval training with no ill effects.
  • Eat plenty of carbs. The following list of GAPS-legal carbs should be used liberally if you have any adrenal issues. I found it beneficial to eat at least one of the following with every meal, and to allow myself to eat much more fruit and GAPS-legal desserts than I would normally eat.
    • Lentils
    • White navy beans
    • Milk kefir or yogurt
    • Winter squash, such as butternut, pumpkin, and spaghetti
    • Fruit
    • Honey
    • GAPS-legal desserts such as ice cream and cookies 

  • Follow your body’s cues. If you are willing to listen closely to your body, it will tell you what foods you need. I tend to really over-think what I eat, by thinking about what is “healthy” and what I “should” eat. When I am willing to pay attention to my body’s cues, I feel much better. (Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, the author of the GAPS Diet, also advocates listening to your body’s cues to determine what to eat.) When I started eating intuitively, I was shocked to see that my body really wanted ice cream, lots of ice cream, as in two or three bowls of ice cream each day. I would normally have denied my body the ice cream, out of fear that it was unhealthy, but after struggling with energy problems for over a year, I decided it was worth a shot to go with the flow of my body’s cues. This really helped my energy levels and helped me kick-start the path to adrenal recovery. After about 6 weeks, my desire for ice cream dropped off dramatically. Even now, though, I find that my body wants more sweets than I would normally allow, and if I go with the flow my energy levels are much more even.
  • Do NOT intentionally try to lose weight. Restricting calories, just like restricting carbs, results in your body releasing more stress hormones, and can thereby cause more adrenal problems. If you try to cut calories while your adrenals are already stressed, you will likely see a rapid increase in your adrenal symptoms. I gained about 10 pounds in the first few months of really trying to heal my adrenals; although not ideal, this weight gain has corresponded to me feeling much better overall. And if I have to choose between being a bit heavier or feeling like the walking dead every day, I’ll take the weight! (And my weight has remained steady for the last 7 months, so there hasn’t been a continual gain for me while I’ve implemented these adrenal recovery measures.)
  • Make relaxation and stress relief priorities. When the adrenals are healing, the body really needs plenty of time to relax, and stress-relief must be a priority. I found it helpful to make myself take some time to sit on the couch every day (which is something I don’t typically do). To keep “busy” during this time, I like either watching the kids play, reading a book, or working on a crochet project (I’m a newbie to crochet, but I love that it can be such a relaxing yet rewarding activity). Once I committed to making relaxation and stress relief priorities, I was also able to take a step back and see that I was spending way too much time in the kitchen. I have simplified meal preparations by relying more on simple foods, and this has freed up quite a bit of time.
  • If all else fails, start adding in GAPS transitional foods. If, like me, you have had adrenal problems for quite awhile, even liberally eating GAPS-legal carbs may not be enough. I had to find the balance between following GAPS and allowing some carb foods such as potatoes and even white rice (which is recommended as a “safe” starch in The Perfect Health Diet, and which is much easier on my digestion and joints than brown rice). If you are near the beginning of your GAPS journey, then adding in these foods may not be an option, but if you’ve been on GAPS for quite awhile you may want to start experimenting to see what foods your body can tolerate without a recurrence of symptoms. 

My Progress

While I am not completely recovered from my adrenal problems yet, I have come a long way towards health in the last year. For the first time since I started tracking my basal body temperature back in 2006, my temperatures are now normal. I’ve lost my sensitivity to sunlight, the vertical lines on my fingertips are nearly gone, and I no longer have balding lower legs or cold hands. My only remaining adrenal complaint is that I still struggle with low energy at times, but my energy levels are still vastly improved over a year ago. I hope that my experiences in regaining adrenal health can help others prevent or recover from similar problems.

This post is part of Pennywise Platter and Fat Tuesday

63 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed this article. I find that when I eat low carb I just don't function very well... but I also have high blood sugar (doc has no idea why bc I'm normal weight and still loosing without trying) so it's a balancing act for sure! Thanks for the information.

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    1. Hi Cassidy, my interest was peaked by your comment on the high blood sugar, normal weight. Have you been tested for obstructive / central sleep apnea? This is an anatomical predisposition that results in lose of breath at night, and isn't just affecting those that are overweight or obese. In fact, increased cortisol levels at night due to not breathing impacts insulin levels and ability to manage sugars. Check into just to be sure :) -- Marsha Fulton, RPSGT

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  2. It is funny. When my energy is low I do tend to reach for carbs for a quick pick me up but I have figured out that fat helps me even more. In fact those carbs rarely help me like I think they should. Fat and electrolytes are the key here. I have healed my adrenals on very low carb GAPS.
    The key for me has been getting plenty of fats in and making sure my mineral and electrolyte intake was high enough. All that detoxing wastes lots of minerals and those are also needed by your adrenal glands to function properly. And of course saturated fat is needed to make hormones of all kinds.

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    1. I find this to be very true. Low carb usually works just fine as long as you don't forget the fat and minerals. I have found it is difficult for most people to realize how much fat we can actually eat....75% of your plate should be fat according to Dr. Jaminet.

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    2. Yes I have found this helpful too! along with what Sarah and Dr. McBride said about listening to your body and eating what it needs. Though I was puzzled about how to get more fat into my diet when I am also dealing with a 1.3 cm gallstone. But I found that taking a larger quantity of coconut oil and coconut milk has been a huge benefit as it requires less bile to digest. Aside form the benefit of easy digestion coconut oil does not store up like other fats which lends to no fat accumulation and also more energy. There is a wealth of good info about this in Eat Fat lose Fat by Mary Enig and Sally Fallon.

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    3. Patty and Sherrie I think this is where I am going wrong, not enough fats and feeling very faint and hungry right now. I am only day 1 on the intro diet so wanted to give it a couple of days before adding in the ghee but I don't think I can wait any longer, will have to prepare some tonight.

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  3. This is so very interesting. I listened to Dr. Natasha in an all day seminar. I loved it! I've never followed GAPS because I never felt the need for full GAPS, but I keep her protocol in mind when it comes to making food choices. I'm not paleo either, but eat very low grains. I find the whole issue of grains particularly interesting. I think grains deserve much greater study. I find that I can't go without any, but I also can't have very many, but I don't understand WHY?

    Thanks for your thoughtful post!
    Lynn

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    1. My thoughts are that we need carbs, yet they are also a problem in other ways. Paleo people talk about how we didn't eat lots of carbs before the advent of agriculture, but we probably lived very different lives back then and weren't as stressed or as social as we are now. My guess is that we probably need a lot more fuel in the modern day to cope with day to day life.

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    2. I've struggled to understand where this paleo idea comes from that there existed some primal man who lived in caves and did not cultivate crops. Perhaps it is an atheist thing. From my finding in the Bible, as soon as Adam was kicked out of Eden he was told he would deal with thistles and weeds as he cultivated the ground. There was agriculture in the beginning therefore, and why would one assume they did not grow grains? It was popular during Jesus' day and the eating of grains was not discouraged biblically. Of course modern wheat has been made toxic but the older varieties like Emmer and Einkorn and even rye still contain only 14 chromosomes and at least rye has been studied and shown to turn on numerous anti inflammatory genes within the body. Modern wheat and even spelt have 42 chromosomes (if memory serves). I see the benefit to a low-grain diet utilizing the old varieties properly prepared.

      I just don't understand where this non-agriculture man that is being touted by the paleo club comes from, which seems to be the basis for not eating grains? The first man was a farmer, his first son was also a farmer, and so forth. Am I missing something? Do we have actual evidence that Adam did not cultivate grains?

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  4. thank you for sharing. It is interesting as I also struggled with same problems not knowing that i went too low on carbs.

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  5. Thank you for this. I went off GAPS after a year, because of adrenal problems. But my old symptoms required me to get back on GAPS again, so hopefully this will help me stay on it longer this time.

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  6. Really interesting. I am getting into health coaching and teaching and health blogging and I am finding out some really interesting information. Your article is really helpful.

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  7. Thank you for all your hard work on this issue and for shining a light on the way for the rest of us! I have read some of your other posts on your adrenal issues in addition to this on. They have helped me immensely, and I am always referring others to you. Thank you!

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  8. Thankyou for this post, I found it really helpful. I developed problems quite quickly after going on GAPS, so returned to a higher carb diet, but I keep going back bto lower carb. I seem to feel better with less carbs inb my system, yet I also have energy problems. I'm hoping to find a nice balance in time.

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  9. Thank you for the post. I think that you absolutely made the most important point -- we each need to find what works for us, through individual experimentation and follow that. Its taken me more than 4 decades on this earth to finally figure out that no specific diet plan will ever work as well as my own understanding of what foods are inflammatory for me and which are not.

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  10. Actually braincells can also use ketone as fuel. That is why some patients with Altzheimers can benefit from taking coconutoil as a source of ketones. The damaged cells that no longer can use glucose can survive and function if enough ketones are around.
    I like the rest of your post, just not the line that glucose is the only fuel for the brain.
    Please excuse my english (I am from Sweden)

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    1. Thanks for the clarification. I'll update the wording!

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  11. Dear Sarah,
    I can totally relate to what you said here. I felt excellent for the first two months on the GAPS diet - I could tell that the gut was being healed, and my anxiety issue was relieved by an enormous amount. Then I began to have extreme fatigue as you did and from then on had to make some changes, including cutting out vigorous exercise (the exercise thing really surprised me too).

    This post was helpful! I'm going to add more carbs into my diet and have more time for relaxation.

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  12. Thanks for writing this Sarah. This is something our family has had issues with on the GAPS diet. I know we need more healing on GAPS and we need to increase our carbs to give us more energy.

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  13. I have generally read/heard that our bodies are running on a sugar metabolism and the key is to shift the body back into running on fat (for lack of better words). I can imagine, that if the adrenals are already taxed by lifestyle/diet before this shift, it is...for most people...a very intense shift. We actually find out how exhausted we are from running on sugars -- the up and down waffling that is largely absent from indigenous and traditional cultures' physiology. This is more of a modern issue. I think you articulated all of this very well in your article.

    I think the important thing for folks in transition to note (at least, as I understand) is that we are assisting our bodies in the transition from running on sugar to running on whole fats. Of course, we need sugar -- but our bodies are not meant to be running on these sugars. Looking back at our ancestors -- sweet could be found in the natural environment (wild hives) and sweet is technically in every food...but, it was a precious thing that was somewhat rare to find it in a concentrated form.

    Finally, there are other ways to support the adrenals and kidneys as one makes this shift. I would suggest licorice root tea, nettles/oatstraw infusion, and an adaptogenic herb such as astragalus root (add to bone broths). To your health!

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    1. Yes, I also read that there is a transition to burning fat instead of sugar. I kept hoping that would happen for me (and had read the different protocols for doing so to make sure I was doing it the right way). I was on low carb/high fat GAPS for 18 months, and the adrenal symptoms kept getting worse and worse, which is when I finally gave up. I think low carb works fine for some people, and some people are clearly able to transition to becoming fat burners. But that doesn't seem to be the case for me, at least not at this point when I am still nursing (which means I am outputting a tremendous amount of glucose through breastmilk) and with previously existing adrenal problems.

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    2. I've had chronic fatigue syndrome for 30 years and just can't do without some grains. I think I'm wired differently as I rarely get into ketosis despite trying for years with different methods and I just crash and burn without some grains. Glad you posted on this topic as I wonder how some young children feel on GAPS that can't verbalise how their body feels??

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  14. It's interesting how many people accidentally go low-card on Gaps, because Dr. Campbell-McBride absolutely doesn't recommend that. In fact, on the Intro. Diet, she includes winter squash from day 1, and juice soon thereafter. I've been on Gaps 6 months and without trying, average between 150-200 carbs daily. I don't choose sweets often, because I prefer fruits and veggies. Pears, Cabbage, Winter Squash are all pretty high carb. Add a few servings of each and you're in the moderate (instead of low) carb range.

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  15. Thanks for posting this. I am thinking of going on the GAPS diet and I needed this bit of information because even now I'm struggling with adrenal fatigue and I have not even started it yet. I love your blog. Please keep posting!

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  16. Hi Sarah

    Very interesting thoughts. Just a few thoughts of my own for debate. A lot of authors think the thyroid (not the adrenal) is the master gland of the body even regulating the adrenal, but both are important in fatigue issues. I have to admit my own research has been limited to the thyroid and haven't spend much time on the adrenal. Will do that soon.

    I have discovered iodine (as in orthoiodosupplementation) to be a good adjunctive treatment in thyroid issues (most of the symptoms you are listing as in fatigue, low body temp, as well as thinning hair, dry skin, cracked heels, large tongue with scalloping, etc.) Kelp and other seaweeds are not high enough in iodine (have to increase up to 50mg to sometimes have a desireable effect once you have health concerns), as maintenance they seem fine.

    What was interesting in my research into iodine is that it seems to get depleted more quickly on a high fat diet which could explain the result GAPS people find, and if you are also avoiding processed iodized salt (which is for some people their best source of iodine) this will happen even faster. Apparently soils are getting really really low in iodine over the last 50 years and this is why our dietary intake is not nearly enough except if you eat a LOT of produce from the sea more than once daily.

    Would appreciate your thoughts.

    Daleen Amb

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    1. Hi Daleen,
      I have done quite a bit of research on thyroid as well. My understanding is that adrenals and thyroid work together, and if one is out-of-whack, the other is likely out-of-whack as well. I have a friend who is into iodine supplementation for thyroid issues. She uses relatively high doses and is part of a Yahoo group where people talk about how they use iodine as well as other supplements they find helpful to take in conjunction with iodine (such as extra salt, magnesium, Vit C, etc).

      I myself am wary of taking supplements in general. I did try iodine once or twice and felt strangely afterwards, so I didn't try it any more. But I know some other people do have good results with it. I do try to make sure I get plenty of dietary iodine through grassfed butter, lots of egg yolks, etc. Oh, one other protocol I've seen for iodine is painting the skin with it (for instance the bottoms of the feet can be painted and then socks put on). That is supposed to allow the body to absorb as much iodine as it needs through the skin and not get excess (as can happen with internal supplementation).

      Also, you may be interested in this article about using homeopathic iodine:
      http://www.westonaprice.org/homeopathy/thyroid-and-homeopathic-iodine

      I hope you find the path to health that works for you!

      Sarah

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    2. Hi Sarah

      I am definitely not up to speed about the adrenals and it is on my priority list now, due to your and other people's prompting.

      The thing of interest to me was that high fat in the diet (which I am all for because of following GAPS myself) could deplete iodine very quickly. I thought that the high fat would restore the function of the adrenals, but if it is taking iodine away from the thyroid in people who are already iodine deficient, could it not be causing the problem we are seeing with people experiencing fatigue on the GAPS diet? According to Brownstein, 97% of people he sees in practice are iodine deficient (although he lives in the goiter belt).

      I'm just throwing ideas out there and hoping others who have pondered the subject as well might chip in. I don't think we should eat less fat, just take in more iodine due to the higher demand. Iodine tends to be displaced by other halogens as well and those (fluoride and bromide) all over the place and impossible to avoid, hence the need for higher levels required to stay healthy.

      Have to put a dislaimer in here now - I'm not even an expert on iodine, have just been researching it for the last 2 weeks :).

      HTH, Daleen

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    3. Hi Daleen,
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. The possibility of needing more iodine with a high-fat diet is definitely something worth looking into, and maybe some self-experimentation is in order. :)

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  17. Thank you Sarah for your blog and for posting this. One of the reasons I am doing the GAPS is to address adrenal weakness, so I learned a lot from your post and reading all the comments. I am now following you!

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    1. Welcome, Sarah! I'm glad you found this helpful, and hope you find plenty more good stuff to read and make on the blog!

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  18. Thank you for sharing this! I travel for my job and that naturally messes up my sleeping patterns and energy levels. I have been trying to make sleep a priority, but even when I do get around 8 hours of sleep, I feel so tired with little energy (I am 25 btw). I have been on the GAPS diet nearly a year with great success in improving various health issues including for me to transition off. I have been thinking there is something wrong with me and I am not doing everything right. Maybe it is time for me to re-introduce potatoes and some gluten-free digestion. However, in more recent months I have lost my energy. I am wondering if it is time grains. I have been reading that some people need to eat these carbohydrates and that the GAPS diet long term is not good for everyone.

    Please share your thoughts and advice! I would like to gain back my energy!! Thanks, Sarah

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    1. I would try to reintroduce some potatoes in combination with making sure to get LOTS of sleep and little-or-no exercise.

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  19. This is great information, thanks for sharing it. I do question what blood type your are. I know Dr Natasha addresses The Blood Type Diet in her GAPS book. I am blood type O and do really well on a low-carb diet. However, my husband, is blood type A and feels better having some grains in his diet. Both are true to what the Blood Type diet states. I believe having an awareness of your blood type and eating for your type might help in understanding why some of there is a difference in the posts/people above.

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    1. Oh, that's interesting Kerry. My blood type is B+. I don't remember seeing anything about that is the GAPS book, and a quick look didn't turn up anything. What chapter does Dr. NCM talk about that in?

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  20. I agree with Kerry and have been wondering if people who don't do so well on GAPS are blood type A. I have had the same experience in that my daughter and I have been on GAPS for 2 years and have done very well and we are both O's. My sister found she could not do low carb and she is A+.

    Dar
    PS. Can't figure out how to post this without choosing Anonymous??)

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    1. Dr. NCM does not talk about blood type diet in her book. In her FAQ page she mentions it and says there is no basis to it. Maybe it was eating for your ancestral type that she has spoken of and one could easily misunderstand that to mean blood type?

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  21. I really appreciate this particular blog because it specifies some physical adrenal stress symptoms that I have, which have never been pointed out to me as being a result of adrenal stress (especially the vertical fingernail lines). Also giving an idea of how long it might take to actually be free from symptoms.

    My question is with respect to weight gain -- you said you gained 10 lbs at first but have not gained anymore in the following 7 months. Yet you said you started tracking symptoms in 2006 which is 7 years ago. Could you have intended to say you had not gained weight in the past 7 years?

    thanks!
    Kathy

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    1. Hi Kathy,
      Sorry for the confusion. I didn't start GAPS until Fall 2010, and didn't start implementing these adrenal measures until January of 2012. So the 10 lbs I referenced was in the beginning of 2012.

      I started tracking my body temperature back in 2006, but that was for a different reason. I was using that to predict ovulation and thereby used it for birth control and then for getting pregnant twice. So my weight has actually fluctuated widely in the last 7 years since I've had two pregnancies. When I started GAPS (which was 6 months after my second pregnancy), it resulted in me very quickly losing all of my postpartum weight. But then my weight actually started to creep up after being on GAPS for a year (about 5 pounds). Then I gained about 10 pounds implementing these adrenal recovery measures, so right now I'm holding steady at about 15 pounds over my "normal" weight. But I feel so much better energy-wise, and I'm still nursing my youngest, so I'm not overly concerned about the weight now.

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  22. Interesting post as we have been GAPS for 4 years. I "fixed" most of my health issues with diet but eating GAPS modified (no dairy here). HOwever, when I decided to begin working out again, I FRIED my adrenals/thyroid and CANNOT for the life of me, despite diet, get them working again. Frustrating to say the least as I finally was able to incorporate fitness into my routine after years of putting it on the back burner. IF I eat grains, I gain about 1 pound a DAY! I just dont process them well. Suggestions?

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    1. Hi Jeni,
      If you are like me, then adrenal recovery will take awhile of really focusing on extra sleep, stress reduction, and very little exercise (with NO intense exercise at all). I had to decide to be okay with the weight gain, as I feel so much healthier and function so much better. And by the way, the weight gain for me was not really related to less exercise; it was more related to purposely over-eating a little bit to jumpstart my adrenal recovery (and it did work in that regard).

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  23. I found eating low carb I was always hungry. It did not matter how much fat or protein I ate, I felt exhausted and shaky. I know it effected my adrenals and the real sign something was wrong was how my skin on my face looked. Very dry and way too many wrinkles, especially in new places. Has anyone else noticed a difference in their ski

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    1. Yes, I also noticed that I got more wrinkles while eating low-carb!

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  24. Hi Sarah, I too am a homeschooling mother of three boys. I have followed your site through our journey with leaky gut and strep infection, passed from childbirth, for the past year. Thank you for your info you have helped me through those many times of uncertainty. We have been on GAPS for 8 months now and I can relate very well to this article. My eldest boy with the majority of health issues and compromised immunity started to look pale and very lathargic and his behaviour wasn't great very defiant. What I wanted to share with you is something I have recently discovered. My son and I have both been diagnosed with Pyrrole dysorder which is hereditary and results in many thiings such as fatigue, irritabity, anger, behaviour issues, poor memory/concentration ... a simple urine test and it can be cured very quickly with supplements mainly of B6 and Zinc I was amazed with this finding. Thankyou for your hard work and willingness to share. Kym

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  25. In my experience and research, the body only resorts to gluconeogensis if there is inadequate fat in the diet (and an excess of protein). Supply the body with enough fat and it'll turn them into ketones and avoid the stress of gluconegensis. I eat over a cup of fat (mainly ghee) a day and feel fine without any symptoms of adrenal fatigue. Plus I exercise every day very intensely.

    I agree that adrenal fatigue is a problem with high protein, moderate fat, low-carb diets; but I don't think this will happen with high-fat, moderate protein, low carb.

    Of course, that's assuming that the bile duct and liver are working properly and can process dietary fat correctly. Dr. Natasha talks about how to clear up fat absorption/digestion problems.

    Lastly, if the body is in a state of stress it'll turn to gluconeogensis to produce quick energy in the form of sugar. I suspect it maybe that that the stress comes first, more often than not, then the cortisol, then the gluconeogensis. It's not that the body considers low-carb stressful, it's that the body wants sugar if it is stressed -- and if it's not available in the diet it turns to gluconeogensis.

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    1. I don't think inadequate fat was the problem for me. At that time, I was getting about 65% of my daily calories from fat. I think that, for me, I already had adrenal issues and they just got worse on low-carb. Some people do fine on low-carb (although I have don't personally know anyone that has done well on low-carb for long-term, 2+years). But it seems that, particularly for pregnant/nursing mothers or people with adrenal problems, low-carb can be especially detrimental.

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  26. I've been eating low-carb (goal is less than 20 grams a day at the recommendation of my naturpath) for about six months. I eat a no sugar, yeast and gluten free diet with minimal dairy (I do eat raw yogurt regularly) and no processed foods. I eat grass-fed beef, good sources of chicken and seafood (mostly salmon). Systematic candida is a huge issue for me, as candida/fungal infections often go hand in hand with adrenal issues which I now understand I've had for a long time. I don't feel that I do well (and interestingly I'm A- blood type)on low carb for extended periods--my adrenals suffer and now I'm experiencing bad anxiety and sinusitis. For those of you who are incorporating carbs into GAPS, have you had any issue with Candida? My naturopath said I need to be below 20 grams of carbs to balance candida which I've been battling for two years with many, many supplements and low-carb diet. I don't know if the candida is the source of my anxiety or adrenal issues to the stress of ongoing infection (sinusitis). Maybe my focus should be more on adrenal repair than candida eradication/balance at this point?

    Sorry I could only post as anonymous but my name is Linda

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    1. Hi Linda,
      You might find this video about candida interesting:
      http://180degreehealth.com/2012/04/rethinking-candida
      (Obviously he is a bit tongue-in-cheek/juvenile at times, but he still has some good information nonetheless.)

      From what I've learned , many people do not do well on low-carb for an extended period of time. I myself found some great adrenal relief by following Matt Stone's Diet Recovery program. In addition, my family has great success using homeopathy instead of GAPS to stimulate the body to heal itself. I wrote more about that here:
      http://nourishedandnurtured.blogspot.com/2013/05/was-gaps-diet-worth-it_5.html

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    2. Thank you! That is helpful!
      Linda

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    3. Hi Sarah,
      Although I work with a naturopath, I left a message with Alan Saxon as I'd like to consult with him. I'm really concerned about the anxiety and food allergies I've developed on a l0w-carb, anti-candida diet. I have to take Xanex to control it. I'm 47 and never had to deal with anxiety before. I swear I'm getting worse on the diet and supplements my naturopath prescribes and I've spent a lot of money over the past two years. Anyway, thank you for all the great information on your blog. I will continue to follow it. I will continue to strive toward optimal health although I'm more than discouraged at this point.
      Linda

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  27. Great article! Do you mind asking what your temps were averaging at the height of your adrenal problems vs what they are now?
    Thanks

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    1. I saw a 3-degree improvement in my temperatures. When my adrenals were at their worst around the end of 2011, my temperatures were in the low 97's (with an ear thermometer, which runs 1-2 degrees below oral temperature). I'm not currently taking my temperature anymore (don't need to), but over the first six months of 2012, my temperatures rose to high 99's and low 100's (once again with the ear thermometer).

      I would estimate that with an oral thermometer, the temps would have been high 95's/low 96's at their worst, rising to high 98's/low 99's through implementing the adrenal recovery measures.

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  28. Hallo Sarah, thank you for sharing your experience. Very interesting. As i do not have much time to read through comments and other articles, can you please tell me if you are still grain free? I had been on Scd for long, but suffered low energy. When i went back eating starches, it helps with improving energy. But later i find myself having joints problems = stiffness and sore, that i find myself limping, etc... I start to wonder if it is because of grains - I eat gluten free grains, like rice and gluten free flours. thanks, Karin

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    1. No, I'm not grain free anymore. My energy levels are much better if I include potatoes and a small amount of grains in my diet. I do best sticking to millet and true sourdough white bread; whole grains (brown rice and whole wheat), even when soaked or sprouted, make my joints stiff.

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    2. Thank you for your reply. Can you please advise what one can do about stiff sore joints? How can we rid of it?
      thanks,
      Karin

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    3. My joint pain was cured through constitutional homeopathic care with an experiened, classically trained homeopath.

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  29. Just curious. How did you find an experienced classically trained homeopath? Was part of you protocol detoxing metals? It is well known that metals like mercury can poison the thyroid & H P A axis, block absorption of minerals & mimic thyroid hormones. Candida[and other opportunistic microbes] have also adapted to thrive in mercury toxic individuals. This is why you MUST detox the metals or you hit a wall every time no matter what you do.

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    1. I found our homeopath, Alan Saxon, through word of mouth. We consult over the phone as he does not live here. He's been practicing homeopathy since the 1970's, and his rates are MUCH better as he charges a one-time fee for each constitutional case rather than charging by the hour. He charges $225 for each constitutional case, and that includes the homeopathic remedies. (His rates may increase at some point if he starts getting too many patients. Supply and demand.) We have had amazing results with Alan, and in fact he is my mentor now as I am studying homeopathy myself. His phone number is 831-662-8144. (He is also a chiropractor and nutritionist, so his answering machine also talks about calling his office. But, unless you are planning to see him in person, just leave a message on this number I've provided as that is the number he uses when doing homeopathy over the phone.) If you contact him, please mention that I sent you. (I don't get a referral fee or anything, but he'd be interested to know.)

      None of us on my family have any obvious sources of mercury (such as fillings), so we did not do any metal detox as part of our healing protocol. Nonetheless, we are getting amazing results: lessening of food intolerances, plus improvement in lots of other areas such as sleep, moods, joint pain, etc. In my opinion, he greatly underprices himself. While not familiar with the GAPS diet per se, he is a nutritionist as well as a homeopath, and his suggestions regarding diet have been very good, even from a WAPF perspective.

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  30. Hi! Thought you might be interested since you battle with adrenal (hormonal) imbalances; I stumbled upon Diana Schwarzbein and her books a couple of years ago and they've provided so many answers and explanations to things going on in my body and all these myths and diets in this health era... She talks besides nutrition about the importance of sleep and relaxation, and smart exercise in her books, and how there isn't any magic diet that will cure you, that it is about balance in everything and how our hormones play important roles in our wellbeing and interestingly that you have to be HEALTHY first in order to lose weight, and you can't become healthy by losing weight. Would recommend to read the second and third one, and really can't recommend them enough!! Many things you mentioned that had/hadn't been working for you or things that work now made me think of her books, I think you would find them interesting. Here are some links: http://www.schwarzbeinprinciple.com/pgs/home.html and http://www.amazon.com/Diana-Schwarzbein/e/B001K8PY9S

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    1. Thanks for the recommendations, Irene!

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  31. Was it that you were sensitive to sunlight or heat? I'm curious because I'm sensitive to heat

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    1. I was (and am still) a bit sensitive to heat, or more specifically to humid heat.

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  32. The moment you withdrew yourself from eating the wrong foods, you are setting your feet into the right road towards the attainment of your goals.

    Read more: http://www.amchara.co.uk/adrenal-stress/

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