Written by: Danielle Forrester, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Food is information for every cell in our body. It has the power to either damage our cells or give them new life. The western medicine approach to treating eczema uses corticosteroids, bleach baths, and wet wrapping. But western medicine frequently falls short of successfully treating autoimmune illnesses. The GAPS diet utilizes food as medicine and works to heal at its root: the gut.
A Brief History
Somewhere between the ages of two and three, my son Raleigh’s eczema overtook his body. He didn’t just have a patch of eczema here or there, his entire body, from head to toe, was overtaken by the itch that rashes. He struggled to sleep. He would wake each morning irritated and upset by the amount of discomfort his severe eczema caused him. He was miserable. We were miserable. Knee-deep in the western medicine route to “healing;” we were slathering his little body in corticosteroids, giving him bleach baths to avoid infection in his many cuts, and wet wrapping him like a mummy to offer him even just a minuscule amount of relief from the ever-present itch.
Western medicine was failing us. The corticosteroids only acted as a band-aid for a few days and, with their use, came a new diagnosis: asthma. Raleigh was deteriorating before our eyes, and I was growing weary of blindly trusting the white coats who repeatedly told me these creams were not harming my son. His sickly eyes, frail body, and steady decline were telling another story.
So I did what any mother who is scraping rock bottom does: I sought the dark corners of the internet for alternative answers. After hours of reading and researching the gut, I happened upon the GAPS diet.
What is the GAPS Diet?
GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome and/or Gut and Physiology Syndrome. The diet was created by Dr. Natasha Cambell McBride. The premise behind the diet is that all disease begins in the gut. You heal the gut, you heal the disease. The GAPS diet aims to heal and seal the gut lining. This is accomplished by consuming healing meat stocks, animal meat and its fat, and fermented foods. Likewise, there is a removal of certain foods: sugar, gluten, grains, starchy vegetables, and processed foods. The goal, however, is to heal enough to come off the GAPS diet.
Unlike many other diets out there like Whole 30 and Keto that remove certain foods or food groups indefinitely, the GAPS diet’s focus is on healing and sealing the gut wall so that all foods, properly prepared, can be consumed once the individual comes off of the diet. So really, it is more of a healing protocol than a diet.
There are two parts to the diet: the Introduction diet which is made up of six stages and full GAPS. The Introduction diet is intentional in removing more foods to allow rapid healing of the gut lining. The individual moves through each stage, adding specific challenging foods at each new stage with the goal of “graduating” to the full GAPS diet. Dr. Natasha recommends remaining on the full GAPS diet for a minimum of two years. This is no small feat as the diet can be incredibly challenging at times as the body goes through various stages of healing.
How We Implemented the GAPS Diet
We began the GAPS diet on June 13th, 2017. Raleigh was four years old. I had spent some time preparing myself mentally for the task and in the kitchen; I had to learn how to cook to be able to take on this massive challenge. As I look back now, I realize just how unprepared I was, but I knew GAPS was what he needed to heal; I had felt it in my spirit, and I was prepared to fight this new battle for as long as he needed me to.
I showed up daily, made him fresh meals, prayed for healing, and cried myself to sleep. I knew healing wouldn’t happen in a week or even a few weeks, but I never expected it to take close to nine months before we saw his eczema begin to change.
The first skin change we noticed was Raleigh experiencing topical steroid withdrawal (TSW). At the time, I did not know what was happening when he would wake up with large amounts of flaking skin on his bedding and clothes. I could tell that every time he went through a new “shedding”, as we began to fondly call the episodes, his skin would improve for a bit. It would be softer and clearer. I have since learned that TSW is something all topical steroid users go through when they decide to quit using creams. It is an incredibly painful and lengthy process.
Somewhere in those nine months, we realized Raleigh’s asthma was gone. Healing tends to sneak up on you. He was no longer wheezing or gasping for breath when he’d jump on the trampoline or run.
We slowly began to see a change in his skin tone and the sloughing off of dead skin from the TSW episodes became less frequent, until, one day, we could see his natural skin tone. Up until that point, he was either covered in eczema patches or maintained a pinkish-red hue thanks to the steroid withdrawal.
With every passing month on the diet, we noticed small changes in Raleigh’s skin. These improvements propelled up forward and gave us great hope. The skin is the body’s largest organ and eczema tends to be the last thing to go as the body is sorting through many aspects of healing. We have seen this to be true of Raleigh in his battle with eczema. After spending a year on the diet I realized I had made some significant mistakes, you can read about them here, and needed to spend some time correcting them.
After two years on the GAPS diet, correcting the mistakes, and continuing forward it was time to treat Raleigh for heavy metals. It is not recommended to begin any heavy metal detox or parasite detox until at least one year on the diet. You want to make sure the body is strong enough to handle the detox. You can read about our process here and here.
Eczema is always connected with heavy metals and yeast overgrowth. A large portion of Raleigh’s eczema healed during the first two years on GAPS. However, he still had a muted mass of eczema that wrapped around his torso, and a few stubborn patches on his ankles and wrists. After a few months of treatment for metals, the mass began to break apart and eventually went away completely. We saw him pass parasites and go through even deeper layers of healing in the coming months and years.
Today we sit at the five-year mark on the GAPS diet. We didn’t expect to be here this long but the journey knew where it was supposed to take us. We saw Raleigh’s eczema fully resolve and thus turned our attention to the remaining egg allergy. This is where we find ourselves in this saga; reversing Raleigh’s food allergies.
My Biggest Takeaway
The body is truly amazing and wants to heal, and food has the ability to be medicine to the body. Sometimes food isn’t enough, however. Sometimes you need the support of supplements and specific detoxes to aid the body in the healing process. The journey to healing Raleigh has been long and arduous. It has never been linear. Often, it was one step forward just to take two steps back. But the body is wise; it will not take on something it cannot handle. Trust the innate wisdom of your body. Give it time and have patience, showing up every day in faithfulness to the task. The body wants to heal.
I am currently taking on new clients. If you are interested in GAPS coaching check out my website. Need some recipe inspiration for the full GAPS diet? I created a 30 Day Full GAPS meal plan. You can purchase it here. For more information on the heavy metal detox we used click here. Find me on Instagram. Learn more about the GAPS diet.
Danielle Forrester, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Danielle Forrester is a certified Gut and Psychology Syndrome Coach (GAPS). She has successfully guided her son, Raleigh, through the GAPS diet since 2017 to reverse severe eczema, asthma and many food sensitivities. Forrester received her coaching certification in 2020 and has been working with clients to help them navigate the diet and reverse many health issues. She has also created a 30 Day Full GAPS meal plan to help those on the diet have success. She believes that healing is possible and food is medicine.