3. Recuperate the population of healthy micro-flora in your gut.
As I briefly explained in this blog post, there’s a constant battle in your body between the good, beneficial flora and the bad, opportunistic flora, and if you’re less than healthy, then the bad guys are winning at the moment. You have what’s called gut dysbiosis.
In the GAPS approach, as you add the nourishing foods that heal the gut and you eliminate the foods that feed the bad guys and make you toxic, those bad guys become debilitated. It would be the perfect strategy, except, you can’t starve the bad flora alone. Just like using antibiotics will kill ALL bacteria, good and bad, so will trying to starve them affect all of them.
Which is why it is so extremely important to repopulate the body with good, healthy bacteria — I can’t emphasize this enough! Of utmost importance!!! Critical!! Muy importante!!
(Have I mentioned that the thing I love most about this protocol is its simplicity? I know it doesn’t sound or look simple when you’re just getting familiar with it, but once you understand the principles behind it, you can easily see how everything fits together, logically. Just for the record…)
This repopulating with healthy flora happens two ways — fermented foods and probiotic supplements. That’s all.
The thing is, our health has always depended to a large extend on our contact with the bacteria in the “outside world” to feed our internal ecosystem. For most of our evolutionary history, direct contact with the soil was our primary source of healthy flora. Nowadays we don’t really have that relationship with the soil, and even those few who do, don’t benefit from it because our soils are depleted of nutrients and good bacteria. This is one of the reasons why GAPS conditions are unfortunately, dramatically on the rise.
Moreover, all traditional societies knew of the importance of consuming fermented foods. We find examples all over the globe — from fermented dairy products to lacto-fermented vegetables, fermented grain foods and fermented (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) beverages.
In adding fermented foods to your diet, you are recovering not only your health, but important traditions that have been almost completely forgotten (I dunno ‘bout you, but knowing this is pretty exciting — and motivating — to me).
What fermented foods are used on GAPS?
* Lacto-fermented vegetables, fruits and their juices
Things like sauerkraut, kimchi, fruit chutneys, relishes and fermented cabbage juice. Any low-starch vegetable and most fruits can be lacto-fermented.
* Fermented dairy
Mainly kefir, yogurt and fermented cream. These must be fermented for at least 24 hours to ensure that all the lactose has been broken down by the lacto-fermenting bacteria. Cheese can be introduced slowly after some healing has occurred.
* Alternative kefir and other probiotic beverages
Beet kvass and other kinds of kvass, fermented with whey, probiotics or another starter. Fermented tomato juice. Coconut water kefir or grape juice kefir fermented without sugar.
* Fermented meats
Gravlax. Fermented small fish, like sardines or herring. Fermented red meat.
Ideally, we’d replenish all our beneficial flora with fermented foods exclusively, but that’s a little unrealistic for GAPS patients, and quite honestly most people are so deficient in good bacteria sources that taking a probiotic supplement is almost always a good idea.
There are thousands — maybe millions — of probiotics in the market. How do you choose one that is right for you?
There is no straight answer to that question, but from the GAPS point of view, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind.
- A good probiotic should many different bacteria strains. Most probiotics contain just two or three different ones.
- A good probiotic should provide at least 8 billion bacteria per gram.
- The manufacturer of the probiotic should test every batch for strength and be always available to publish the result of the tests.
This one area is tricky to navigate on your own. If you are using probiotic therapy to rebuild your internal ecosystem, then it’s best to consult with a knowledgeable practitioner — hello! over here! — to determine an appropriate brand and dosage for your needs.