Any use of the letters GAPS on this website are used solely as an acronym for Gut And Psychology Syndrome
Dr Natasha

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07/01/2014

Healing from Rheumatoid Arthritis

Dear Friends!

Happy New Year to you all!

I would like to share this wonderful letter with you. It was written as an aswer to questions from a person who is trying to recover from rheumatoid arthritis. No matter what health problem you are dealing with, this letter will give you deep insight and profound knowledge of the healing process involved. Thank you Katrina!


Hi GAPS protocol follower,

There is so much to talk about when it comes to this universe within us. It is so complex, it can do extraordinary things beyond the capability of all known science today. We humans are attempting to explore and understand outer-space and yet we haven't yet got to grips with the complexity of our own bodies, not even the single cell! And this is important to understand because respect for its' complexity will help us to put our healing process into perspective.

We have priorities and our own time line for how we want the body to heal and when, but, the body knows different and will direct your new foods and nourishing interventions in some very different areas within its' many complicated systems, many of which you couldn't possibly feel improvements within for a good many months - maybe years. The accumulation of subtle changes for the better will eventually become noticeable to you as a collection of improvements...and of course we all forget how bad we were suffering while we are still suffering. I, Katrina had this experience where, because I had pain everywhere, it took a friend to point out that my ankle was moving better, or I had stopped bruising so easily, or I was able to use my fingers a little differently.....I hadn't even noticed because the joint, muscle and tendon pain that remained was overwhelming and made me feel very negative about my recovery process. I was convinced that I was getting worse and I could give lots of evidence for why I thought so, until I was reminded of some changes. We see this now in the clients that we work with, there is an innate ability to forget how bad it was before...which is why so many women go in for the second child after the first was so painful!!!

So, the first plan....be very present and feel the intensity of the pain, the lack of mobility, the behaviour of the gut, the quality of the hair / the skin, the energy levels, feel everything about your experience so that you can be adept at seeing the changes for yourself and you won't miss a single thing and give up at a critical point in the process. Now at the moment your priority is to resolve the joint pain and it will happen, but there is a whole lot of work for your body to do to achieve that. I hope that you are one of the lucky ones who after a few changes the joints got better almost straight away. I wasn't so lucky and I had all those years of ill health, bad diet, toxic medication, chemical-laden environment, misunderstood emotions, ancestral life-style / health issues, to undo.

My route was laborious and complicated because with my foggy brain and therefore scatty approach, I couldn't create order in my protocol. I was also chronically fatigued so living through a permanent hangover-like experience wasn't conducive to learning how to cook. Cooking required for one thing, that I entered the food store and didn't immediately forget what foods I needed because the over-stimulation of the store frazzled my brain and nervous system. I would just wander around aimlessly trying to remember what I was supposed to be purchasing....with the smell of bread being pumped through the air con, stimulating the pleasure centres of my brain convincing me that a bit of bread couldn't hurt - after-all I am sure I must be a carb person!!!....said with the certainty of an addict!!! - Just this once won't hurt! :-)

...and addicted we are! Most of the population is addicted to something but they think that they are not. But needing to eat, drink or take something everyday sometimes more than once, means that you may be getting a kick out of it, and those pleasure centres of the brain are being activated very like when taking drugs like heroine. The drug addict and the alcoholic when going through recovery have to realise and acknowledge to themselves and others that they are addicts and once they get that realisation, they can begin to heal. Being aware of what is driving the desire and the resulting behaviours puts us back in control.

So, it is important to know when following the GAPS protocol, that we are addicted to certain foods. This makes us feel the urge to move quickly through the process to bring in those foods that we believe will fulfil us. We will fall off the protocol and eat the things that are not on the recommended list and we will always have an excuse....it was my birthday....I didn't want to offend the host....I felt miserable after a hard day....etc!!! There is always going to be a good excuse not to stick to the protocol. However after about the 500th time (in my case!) of cheating we might just begin to notice how painful that momentary slip was and when finally we dare to review it properly by really thinking it through, we begin to see that the cake that lasted for 2 minutes in the mouth - after which we also wanted more because it wasn't quite doing the job of total fulfilment!...wasn't worth the 5 days of discomfort. It takes a long time to see this for what it is.

Like any addict in recovery we also do substitution. When sugar in the form of sucrose, or starchy foods is out, we switch to fruit (and honey)! We eat lots of fruit as it must be good for us because we are supposed to have between 5 and 15 portions per day (depending on the country in which you live!) so it must also be essential for my recovery. Modern hybridised fruit especially, is loaded with fructose these days. With original varieties, the combination of important minerals, the fibre combining with the fructose made fruit a healthy food....WHEN IN SEASON!...and when eaten traditionally, in tiny portions, within their season, with a good dose of animal fat. Many of us will find, as I did, that this substitution takes us off course because again we have a food problem of a different sort. With the delicate constitution which has been created by, or has created, the gut problem in the first place, we need to understand and address the addictive mind and notice its behaviours.

Not understanding the depths of this in myself, caused me to take a very circuitous route through my own healing. It wouldn't have taken me so long had I realised the source of these behaviours and had I known the importance of sticking completely to the protocol and addressing the addictions head on. I can easily say this now with my beautifully crystal, clear brain, and my focus, and my high energy and my stable mood, and my freedom from addiction....I know, I did it!...it's possible if I can do it, I mean...I was the worst example! But to say to anybody else that you have to go cold turkey on the sugar addiction, is me talking to the potentially addicted from the clarity of an non-addicted mental state. It is hard, very hard! You also have the nagging of organisms inside you that are fully in support of you eating that cake, chocolate, icecream....they just love the undigested residues they leave behind when your poor gut can't digest these foods properly. They will give you such an appetite for their favourite foods. We think we are in control at least of our own appetite....we are not! But there are things that you can do that will help enormously....

First - the diet....Natasha's cooking processes and food recommendations are so sustaining and nourishing that I would recommend them to everybody even if there are no health problems - but of course without a health problem few would do it. This is where you can begin to appreciate just what your body has caused you to learn about. You have an incentive, which is a gift! Once you are healed you will never want to return to your original habits of eating. Thank you gut problems....thank you arthritis....thank you mental health problems! This is your route in to a lifetime of the greatest food and the strongest health. However at first.....the food doesn't look that good to your carbohydrate and sugar indulged senses! The stock pot is going to be your greatest friend, it will support you and nourish you sometimes multiple times a day. When you feel drained or in need of sugar or starch...go straight for the stock...and later the stock made into soup when you can add a vegetable or two to it and give it a hearty blend into the most silky of silky soups.

Go sooooo slow with this. My mistake....I loaded in the foods so quickly I never did find out which one I was reacting to! Remember that Natasha said something like - you can react to something you had today, yesterday or three weeks ago. This is why there is a need for slooooooow! You will desperately want to do it all fast, but I can warn from my own laborious experience, that this will set you back years if you try to make it faster than you can really handle. I spent many years doing it all too fast - I hadn't addressed the addiction of course - and I wanted to bring in my favourites too quickly. And then of course there was denial - I just didn't want to consider the possibility that I was causing me a problem by being obsessed by food. I would have traded all those years of not doing it right, for a good 6 months to a year if need be, of basic, basic food. I wouldn't have said that at the time however! :-) I don't regret the extended time that it took me...it helped me to eventually learn from the failed attempts to heal my gut again, and again, and again, that there was no other way than to go sloooooow! And this was my route to resolving the addiction....which is why after years of trying I began to learn why the protocol was so clever, and that there was no way around it! There was no way to argue with it, unless I chose to be right and forever unwell!

Going 'cold turkey' (abrupt and complete cessation of a food or drug) in a way that the protocol encourages you to do, can make you very wobbly and lethargic, with strange symptoms and feelings of being unwell. The body hasn't yet achieved the switch-over from burning carbs for its' energy needs to burning fat for its' energy needs. This happens somewhere between 3 and 6 weeks, it's a different time scale for everybody. You can feel like anybody who is having to kick any substance - out of sorts....I can't go on like this!....I shouldn't be feeling like this!.....I am a carb person for sure - now I've proved it!!!...I prefer just to eliminate gluten, I can do that much easier!!....etc. If this 'cold turkey' situation is too difficult to manage at first, and I would encourage anyone to try as hard as you can to keep going, go to the full GAPS diet first before the intro diet, but I think Natasha has already said that. It's just that it takes much longer to achieve healing, but forget time-scale, it's important that you start somewhere and easing in is better for some people especially if their original diet was very sweet and carbohydrate based with the only vegetable consumption arriving in the form of pizza toppings!

Go sloooow, very slow with the probiotics and re-read about this in Natasha's book. Some people need to open the capsule and take a very small part of the powder from the capsule for their first few days. This may also be addressed in the FAQs of her website www.GAPS.me.

After 3 to 6 weeks of, NO, that is, NO sugar, or any sweetness passing the lips, the craving goes from raging internally and telling you all the reasons why sweet things are important to you right now in this very moment....to an overwhelming sense of peace from being untied from the sugar monster. The feeling of power that you get when the sugar monster is chained up is such a good feeling....but he is only chained remember - for now! Don't get too confident too early! - my experience again! :-) ......And your skin glows, the eyes brighten, the energy dips in the afternoon disappear, the clarity and focus of the brain - oh my goodness...I found a brain! And a new supermodel body!!! - OK I'm exaggerating but the tone of the body changes and a great shape develops before your very eyes - where did that come from? Where was she hiding!?

By the time I did the absolutely no sweetness rule, I had by then been doing My Version! :-) ....of the GAPS protocol for a number of years and the only source of sweetness that I had to unhook myself from was a handful of dried dates and raisins, some fresh fruit, and 1-2 squares of 85% chocolate per day. But, it was enough to keep me addicted because I noticed that I would have a strong desire to have it and the desire would sneek up on me at any moment even when I was deeply focussed in my work. Stopping that little bit of sweetness was very hard, no, VERY hard, but the results were amazing!

At this stage I had experienced many health changes to my general health but the joints and the gut were sooooo stubborn. I was not repairing.

As I gained control over my appetite I found the protocol became easy and I could be out socially and I didn't care at all that my friends were eating chocolate, nutty wonderful (deadly!) creations. I could look at those cakes and I knew that my old beliefs about how much I would enjoy them were actually not true. My taste buds had become educated and I found that I had always deluded myself about the deliciousness of sweet foods and when I experimented with this and tasted them, I began to find that they were loaded with sweetness to the point that I couldn't actually taste the character of the cake - whether it was chocolate or vanilla or coffee. I realised that the sugar hit was all it was really about after-all. I was also able to project ahead and imagine how I would feel straight after it was eaten - "was that it?! :-o "......later that day having fallen off the protocol again......"I did it for that?! :- / "......and in a few days times when the discomfort of my body would remind me that it was never worth it! If I went to peoples' houses I became very confident about taking my own food and some extra so that they could taste how good this food actually was, my body was too important for politeness and eating something that I shouldn't for their comfort and my discomfort I realised was disrespectful to them and myself.

Establishing contentment with the diet was the first and most important step. People do ask me about supplements and I did incorporate many different types because they helped to alleviate some of my deficiency symptoms and provided me with some nourishment while I was still stumbling at what I saw as food restrictions (more like food reforming I realised later). However, it is very important that we focus on food for our nutrition because Natasha's recommendations are so therapeutic that the supplements are really only a crutch and many supplements out there are not clever enough to be any good for the body. It is better to focus on 'Project Food' than to dip in and out of this supplement and that supplement. The GAPS personality if I may call it that, can be very unfocused and scatty, and desperate and fearful...what else can you be when your gut is passing dangerous chemicals into your blood stream, and toxifying the brain, the nervous system and the organs of the body. There can be little sanity and order out of all this internal disorder. Sometimes some of us can appear to be exceptionally ordered in our lives, but I suspect that this may be a sign of exceptional disorder internally and we are trying to enforce strict rules within our lives in order to cope with ourselves and our tendency towards disorder in every aspect of our lives and our thinking....and some of us, me, just let it all go...housework? No chance! :-) There can be a wasteful and expensive tendency to try lots of different supplements and for very short time frames, moving from this recommendation to that recommendation and we just go around and around in circles spending too much money....and it's OK to spend that money when it is well directed in some very important and nourishing supplements and if you take them for long enough for them to have any chance of having any impact. On a low income however, it is best to do the minimal amount of supplements and concentrate on food.

Beet Kvass!!! Homemade - easy - A great tonic, this is a good supplement! Add to beet kvass some cabbage and onion chopped up and you have an exceptional pre-meal tonic. In this way you increase your nutrients alongside all those life-giving foods on the GAPS protocol. The book 'Nourishing Traditions' by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig Ph.D is great for recipes, and beet kvass is in there....and you don't even need a book - find that recipe on line. You no doubt have Natasha's book - great recipes....and don't do what I did and go straight for the cake section! :-)

I misunderstood the importance of the whey supplement. It is important and if Natasha had gone on to describe it's importance she would have had to have created a book that was encyclopaedic in size...and none of us would have had the energy to lift it!

The egg yolks are important, the garlic is important.

All of it is important but Natasha couldn't possibly emphasize properly how important. Just assume that they are and investigate for yourself why.

Don't assume that everything on the 'recommended list' is going to be good for you. Some of it may not be. This is why you have to take things slowly to find out. Leave the difficult to digest things (for some people) out - like the cooked egg whites, the curds of the dairy products, the fibrous vegetables. Just because a food is normally very medicinal doesn't mean that it's good for you, because your gut isn't ready for it yet - it becomes harmful to you instead.

Supplements to recommend? This is very individual and we do this via consultations. Our needs are not all the same. Supplements are not all the same. We need to check where the person is with diet first. So many other things need to be considered when creating a supplemental regime.

How long is this protocol going to take? For me, a very long time, and if you are like me....a very long time! But....if you follow my warnings taken from hindsight.....you will do it so much better than I did. There is more work to do inside of you than you could ever imagine. The liver, the poor underestimated liver, the organ of detox - look at how much it has been put through detoxing your lifestyle, detoxing your doctor's recommendations, detoxing the dangerous chemicals produced by those organisms in your gut. The liver may also need to be given some attention - but not through liver flushing and anyway I am not referring to liver and gall stones....the liver gets into trouble in many more ways than that and you may want to do everything you can to support it at some stage. The hormonal glands will benefit from the support which comes from diet. The hormonal system is such an important part of the functioning of the whole body and it is badly affected by a malfunctioning gut. I could go on and mention all the body systems in turn because they are all important to your recovery and not paying attention to them may hinder the process. How to pay attention to them? Eat for them and drink for them. Their needs are simple, we just got in the way when we misunderstood how to eat.

It probably took me 5 years but you know the healing process is much longer than that. While you are ageing, there is always healing to do! The healing is ongoing because I had to turnaround 30 years of wrong action toward my body and I am not going to expect my body to repay me with instant regeneration - it's wiser than that, it treats me like an adult. Cause and effect,...and it's all good! As I grow toward health, I learn and continue to learn until I think there is no more to learn and then I learn again. The joints are now lovely and pain free, - they have what feels like a new suspension system and all the deformities dissolved away - not that I cared about the deformities - your values all change when you go through such an enormous experience like this. My energy levels - oh my goodness I have never experienced so much energy...and who said that the skin ages as you get more birthdays...and my brain...well it turned out that it's a genius - at some things!!! And my ability to be good at deadlines?...well, I have to keep something still to aim for!!!!

I wouldn't want to take the learning opportunities that come from this route to health, away from people. It's important that others do what I did and not only incorporate 'Project Food' into their lives but also 'Project Them' into their lives, and use the time that they find themselves with through illness or disability to really get to grips with this 'Life / Body Manual' that we are all now creating together. Use the internet for research so that you begin to learn how to look after your body. You do have to be careful about the information that you find on the internet but one great site is www.mercola.com. He investigates all things health and his information is clear and helpful. Then there are good articles on www.westonaprice.org and this will help you to perhaps find a community of post-carbo-junkies and the food repentants (who 'turned around' their food), and there will be people at an earlier stage of food change than you, people who are well in to their recovery and those who have come right through and out the other side.

You are not alone. There are many with you. I am with you. We pull together and perhaps one day we will change this food monolith that we allowed to lead us astray, but not by doing anything other than changing ourselves. We can only influence by our example of how we do it. They can do it if they want to, and if they don't, we get to have great cooking, delicious food, glowy skin, mental peace and great bodies! There's no stopping you and me!

Best of best wishes to you and your body,

Katrina