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Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, Dyspraxia, A.D.D., Dyslexia, A.D.H.D., Depression, Schizophrenia Revised & enlarged Edition
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About the Author
After practicing as a neurologist and neurosurgeon in her Russian homeland, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride moved to the UK, where she developed her theories on the relationship between neurological disorders and nutrition. She completed her second postgraduate degree in Human Nutrition at Sheffield University, UK, and currently runs the Cambridge Nutrition Clinic. She specializes in nutritional treatments, and has become recognized as one of the world’s leading experts in treating children and adults with learning disabilities and other mental disorders, as well as children and adults with digestive and immune disorders.
She is the author of Gut And Psychology Syndrome (Revised Edition 2010), in which she explores the connection between physical state and brain function; Put Your Heart in Your Mouth (Revised Edition 2016), which reviews natural treatments for heart disease, and Vegetarianism Explained (2017), which compares the physiological benefits of animal- and plant-based foods.
Dr Campbell-McBride frequently gives talks to health practitioners, and at professional conferences worldwide. She is a Member of The British Society for Environmental Medicine, and a Board Member of the Weston A Price Foundation, and is a regular contributing health editor to journals, magazines and newsletters in English speaking countries around the world.
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Over a year and a half ago, I became sick. Super sick. So sick I was unable to get out of bed. I eventually realized my adrenal glands were shot. So I quit my job and school and took time off, expecting to recuperate within a few months. Ha.
I researched and researched, pouring over everything I could read online. I had a Candida infection (resulting from allopathic drugs) that never went away. I'd literally feel poisoned, especially after eating. My immune system was a mess. I had zero energy. I suffered severe chemical and mold sensitivities and began to develop hives. I started developing arthritis in my knees and fingers. Some days it was so bad it prevented me from knitting/crocheting, two of my favorite pasttimes. I experienced constant congestion and back-to-back sinus infections. My body was in terrible shape. I'm not a dramatic person by nature, but I assure you, some days I wasn't sure how much sicker one could get before the body just gave up altogether. I kept getting weaker and more exhausted by the day. For months, I didn't leave the house. For the record, I'm 32 years old. (Mind-blowing, isn't it?) After several months of research and trial and error, I discovered the adrenal issues were a symptom of a much larger problem - severe leaky gut and gut dysbiosis.
If the preceding paragraph sounds like hyperbole to you, I can't say I blame you. Before my experience, I'd have been skeptical too. I had been preparing to study biochemistry in grad school. Before I became ill, I thought chronic illnesses and autoimmune diseases could merely be 'managed.' In blind faith, I had accepted what the medical establishment tells us. That was fine, until the medical establishment failed me...repeatedly. I gave up on allopathic medicine and knew it would be my responsibility to heal myself. As much as this illness has consumed me, it really was a true wake-up call. A blessing in disguise.
So I researched. Boy, did I research. I took vitamin/mineral supplements. I got my detox pathways up and running again, as per Dr. Myhill's methylation protocol. I followed her advice for supporting mitochondrial health. I started eating meat. I had been a vegetarian for 16 years, but I was so sick I had no difficulty adjusting to eating meat again. In fact, I craved it. Things improved slightly, but my quality of life was still abysmal.
Finally, a few months ago I happened upon some website extolling the GAPS diet. I looked into it but figured I was already eating a clean (mostly) paleo diet, so I didn't need to buy this book. I didn't think it was that different from what I was already doing. When I had to stay home on Christmas day because I felt so toxic and crummy, I decided to purchase the book.
So, sure I had already eliminated processed foods and gluten. But I still ate cheese everyday. I still ate sweet potatoes and oats. I still ate a lot of fiber. This book showed me the error of my ways. These things are fine for a healthy gut. But my gut was a complete wreck and needed special help. More importantly, this book showed me what I WASN'T eating that I needed to be eating: lots of bone broth and marrow, organ meats, and lots of ferments, amongst other things.
I started following the GAPS diet intro on January 1st of this year. The first two weeks were brutal. I had been toxic for so long that I was used to feeling lousy, but the die-off this diet produced was intense. In the book, she stresses the importance of managing die-off; but, because I was so toxic, there was really little I could do. The diet alone, even without the introduction of probiotics, sauerkraut, and kefir was enough to produce rapid die-off.
Then early last week, it was like the fog broke. Gradually, I started having more energy. I announced to my shocked boyfriend that I wanted to go for a walk in the park like we used to do. We did. I suffered no repercussions from it, whereas before GAPS it would have taken me days to recover. I now go for a 30-45 minute walk nearly every day. I can't stress how utterly amazing this is. I prayed that GAPS would help me. It was my last resort. However, I never expected it to work this quickly. Truth be told, I'm still stunned.
I'm nowhere near fully recovered. I've still got toxins circulating. I still feel die-off, but it is nowhere near what it once was. True, I take other supplements. However, since starting GAPS I have stopped taking the majority of my supplements, simply because I no longer need them. At long last, my diet is providing the nutrients my body has been needing all along for repair (particularly cholesterol and saturated fats, which are sadly demonized in our culture). I probably sound like a crazy person because I'm so, so excited about this book and this diet; but if you're sick like I was, you know all too well what it's like to live in a chronically ill body. I don't know what percentage of CFS is caused by gut dysbiosis, but I know that mine was. If yours is, this is, without a doubt, the diet to follow.
Because I'm having such rapid success on the intro phase, I intend to stick with it for a few months. Some people fly through it in a matter of days before starting full GAPS. That's the nice thing about this diet; you move at your own pace and let your body be the guide.
I'm also curious to see how this diet helps me with the mental health issues I've contended with since childhood (namely fits of debilitating anxiety, ocd, and depression that have become increasingly severe in the last few years). I had tried several SSRI's over the last ten years until a new doctor put me on Adderall (which is nothing more than a mixture of amphetamine salts and is very, very hard on the adrenals) after diagnosing me with ADHD. The SSRI's never worked. I'd be happy if GAPS prevents my anxiety from getting worse, but truly I'd love to see the anxiety eliminated permanently. At this point I have no expectations. After all, I've lived with the anxiety for 30 years. But if anything can help, I firmly believe it'll be this diet.
This book saved me. Reading success stories of people recovering from CFS is what got me through the worst moments. I hope my story does the same, and I will update again in a few months as I progress along my GAPS journey. I wish you all the best of health.
UPDATE 4/10/12: Spring has sprung here. I no longer seem to be affected by pollen, which in previous years gave me terrible allergies and sinus infections. In fact, I have not had a sinus infection in months. The arthritis symptoms are completely gone. I've lost 15 pounds and walk an hour or more just about daily in addition to my chores around the house. Also, for the last 3 months my monthly cycle has been just that (cyclical). In the 20 years I've been menstruating, I've NEVER once had a regular cycle. Now it's literally every 28-29 days. There has been no improvement on the mental stuff yet; in fact, the die-off seems to be temporarily making it much worse.
UPDATE 3/1/13: I've been on GAPS for over a year now, with no deviation. No cheating whatsoever. I can honestly say I don't miss any of the "normal" food that I used to eat. This stuff is just so nutrient-dense that I don't ever think of eating anything else. And I used to literally be addicted to sugar. So, that's pretty cool. As to my progress - physically, I'm not much stronger than I was six months ago. But I'm still light-years ahead of where I was two years ago. Still taking walks, doing chores, knitting, able to function like a human being. I'm experiencing new die-off symptoms (caused by breaking up biofilm in my gut with probiotics and systemic enzymes, I believe) like visual disturbances, rosacea and other rashes, adrenaline rushes, numbness/tingling/burning in my extremities. Apparently, these things are all typical for Candida overgrowth. I'm not surprised that I haven't experienced more physical improvement. My Candida infection was/is quite severe, and I've always anticipated that it would take several years to recover. Happily, though I am able to report a significant improvement in my mental well-being. My depressive episodes started to lift just a few months into GAPS, and now they are all but gone. My favorite improvement by far, however, has been with my anxiety and panic attacks. It took about a year, but they are about 85% gone, at this point. I can't tell you how wonderful it feels to have some relief from this torment for the first time in over ten years (most of my adult life).
It should be obvious, but in case it's not, this protocol is not (nor does it claim to be) a quick-fix. I've had gut dysbiosis (and many, many rounds of antibiotics) since birth. It takes a long time to undo decades' worth of damage. The diet is only the base, although Dr. Natasha says that for many GAPS folks, the diet alone is enough. In my case, after the infection is gone, I will still need to detox, fix my adrenals completely, get my metabolic hormones back in order, and perhaps chelate. I have no delusions about how long this is going to take.
Thanks to all of you who have commented or contacted me over the past year; it's been wonderful swapping stories and information. I'm very grateful to you all. Here's to continued healing! :)
UPDATE 11/13/13: A lot of healing occurred this year. A lot. I now walk 4-5 miles almost everyday. I am doing so much more than I have in the last few years. I am still quite toxic but can now tolerate an infrared sauna, which is great for detox, every other day. (My adrenals were too weak, and I was so toxic my body could not handle it before.) The little things that used to require so much effort are back to being a routine part of my life, i.e. doing my hair, wearing make-up, etc. I feel more like my old self than I have in a long, long time. Occasionally, I feel even better than I remembered. There are still periods every few weeks of fatigue and die-off, where my IBS symptoms act up, anxiety and brain fog skyrocket, and I feel rough. But I haven't had one panic attack! What I (and my fella) are most excited about is I actually get to celebrate the holidays this year! I missed out on them the past two years, so I'm making up for that. Lots of GAPS baking and so forth. I have read most of the other reviews here, and I am so happy about and moved by how much this diet is helping people with chronic, so-called "untreatable" conditions. My thoughts are with all of you, and I want to wish everyone happy holidays!
When I was 28, I started developing strange symptoms of constant anxiety and a general feeling of being unwell. I made so many excuses as to why I was feeling this way: weather/change of climate, allergies, not getting enough rest, stress etc., no matter what I tried to do about it, it would just not go away! Maybe I had some good days here and there but I was on a steady decline with my health. A year later, things started to get really bad, I had constant brain fog, digestive issues and anxiety that landed me in the ER, twice (nothing they could do!) I was falling apart and despite over eight different doctors (neurologist, hematologist, countless times to general practitioner, several naturapathic docs) and tens of thousands of dollars later I still didn't know why I was feeling this way.
The following couple of years I was in a sad and desperate state. When I thought things were getting better, they would suddenly get worse. I had so many different symptoms and they were getting more severe. Heart palpitations, insomnia, constant fear and startled easily, fear of the future, tightness in the throat (it would feel as if I was choking sometimes, unable to workout, pale, red eyes and fatigue around the eye sockets, severe allergies, off and on constipation, nightmares, hypoglycemia, brain fog, skin issues ( I looked really old) the list goes on., The worst part was not knowing what was causing all of this, so I began searching the internet for solutions. It was difficult and frustrating trying to navigate and weed through all the bologna, I didn't know where to start since I had so many different things going on. In early 2012 I started the Dr. Lam protocol for Adrenal fatigue. I was sure this was it since so many of the symptoms he illustrated in his videos was exactly what was going on with me. His protocol worked for a year and things were slowly (and I do mean slowly) starting to get better, stomach issues were gone, sleep and heart issues were somewhat better but I still felt something on a much deeper level was causing this. In the beginning of 2013, like a light switch, things began going down hill again. Anxiety and depression came back with a vengeance, as did fatigue and various other symptoms. I was going backwards again and I felt panicked all the time which made working my full time job almost impossible some days.
Once again I became desperate and alone. I couldn't go to the doctors because I knew they would say the same things, by this time they just thought I was crazy and a hypochondriac anyway and I refused to go on anti-depression and anxiety pills (I've seen what they did to other people I know.) I lost contact with all my friends since I couldn't do anything with them, I was too weak and depressed for no reason. I would come home from work crash on the bed and just lye there. I thought maybe I was not doing the Dr. Lam program properly so I started pumping on on supplements that he provided and taking all these natural pills, regardless it just wasn't working. How could all of this be happening to a once healthy and alive 28 year old!!
In October of 2013 I finally decided to take a parasite test from a lab here in Scottsdale that specialises in parasites. I had heard of things like Candida before but didn't think something in my gut would be the cause of all this misery, besides my stomach issues were not even an issue anymore, I would have the occasional constipation, but thats it. I took the test anyway and two weeks later got the results back from my doc. The results left me both scared and relieved, high amounts of Candida were found in my stool! The report stated that the candida levels were high enough to cause health issues and somehow they also knew that these things were multiplying in my gut. Finally a diagnoses! But still, I was not 100 percent convinced that this was the issue, it was hard to since so many things I tried before had failed me. I started a "candida diet" and eliminated all processed sugars and other processed food in general. I did this for the following two months with some positive results but nothing ground breaking yet (with the exception of losing 30lbs within a very short amount of time.) Progress but I was still dealing with horrible anxiety and afteroon depression.
I started to do some more research and try alternatives to getting rid of candida. People have reported having Candida issues for years and they were still unable to get rid of it. This left me a bit dismayed, why was it so diffiult to get rid of? I heard of the GAPS diet through a health blog, I've heard of it before but didn't want to have to research yet another program. But something told my I should consider it. I started reading about it and it did make sense, so I started the gaps diet in February of 2013 and began eliminated all grains and sugars. I began making my own beef and chicken broths and stews and ate them regularly. I eat vegetables "swimming" in good fats and get plenty of sun. After three months I'm happy to report that i've seen the most improvement in my health than anything else I've tried! Over the past few months I've still have had bad weeks, like something is trying to work itself out of my body. But when I feel good, I feel really good and it stays with my longer. It seems like its been a two step forward one step back progress. Other times it's been three steps forward then three steps back. I'm also happy to report that I can work-out again and feel good afterward, this is something I was not able to do for the past four years. But overall a upward progress! I've very happy with the results so far but I also need to acknowledge that I'm not 100%. Not going to get over excited quite yet.
At this writing I feel about 65 to 70%. Six months ago I was at a 35 to 50 (just for reference.) My depression is only very subtly noticeable during the afternoon and some days it's a non issue. Anxiety levels have dropped considerably and I don't have that constant "on edge wired and tired" feeling. The brain fog is much less significant and some stretches of days it doesn't exist at all, my thinking is much clearer also! Hypoglycemia has reduced a lot also, not constantly hungry for sugar and food in general. Energy levels are way up! Heavy and fatigued feeling around my eyes is almost completely gone. Skin has improved and I'm getting carded again when I enter a bar with friends. A lot of other changes for the better, too many to list here in fact.
I am grateful for this book and I will continue to report my progress as I am planing to make this a permanent lifestyle for at least another year. I hope to report continued positive news! I wish everyone well.
(UPDATE June 3, 2014)
Hit a major wall, feeling some major anxiety and brain fog. I feel as if a bunch of toxins were suddenly released and are flowing around in my body. Stomach issues have back, constipation especially and gas. Ugh feel like hell. I'm going to stick with the diet and hopefully everything clears. Still taking probiotics and eating fermented foods. Starting intro GAPS.
(UPDATE August 16, 2014)
Past couple of weeks I've been feeling significantly better. Brain fog and anxiety have started to clear up, don't have that constant on edge feeling. Energy has improved significantly and I'm able to work-out again! Feeling more motivated about doing things and am starting to do things I used to enjoy. Feeling more optimistic about life in general and not as depressed (for no reason) anymore. Able to concentrate at work and productivity is up. Pretty amazing how things have suddenly started to improve. Going to continue to be cautiously optimistic but significant improvement. It's been a two step forward one step back progression and at times one step forward four steps back. But eventually I'm propelled up again, very strange. I'm still on the fifth stage of GAPS protocol and I've been taking liver clearing supplements, they have been helping a-lot. I've been feeling the best I have in years, bottom line. I'm hoping for continued progress, will keep you updated.
As for GAPS itself, I did low-FODMAP modified GAPS including the reintroduction diet strictly for 3+ months; consumed tons of grass-fed grass-finished homemade beef bone broth made from meat and marrow bones (4+ hrs high in instant pot) with nothing in it but carrots, a tiny bit of organic ACV, salt, and pepper. Made homemade fermented foods and ate small amounts regularly, gently cooked organic local veggies, didn't eat out, etc., all of which required a lot of self-control and I thought for sure I would see results. Nope, took a stool test at the end of the 3 months and was told I had liver/gallbladder issues and likely hydrogen sulfide SIBO, after being on GAPS for 3 months. All-in-all I would say get a stool test first to figure out more about what you are dealing with health-wise before you sink all the effort into this demanding diet.