We are in the middle of week three on the GAPS Diet. At the time of my husband’s heart attack last March, our number one concern, and that of his doctors, was healing his digestive system by trying to identify the foods that bothered him. This was following the removal of his gallbladder two years before, mystery infections, enlarged spleen, swollen lymph nodes in his abdomen and daily discomfort. We’d tried low carb dieting but had primarily lived on a low fat/high complex carbohydrate diet for the nearly two decades we had been together before the heart attack, as recommended by that ridiculous pyramid the government pushed before deciding it was a dumb idea.
His cholesterol was perfect at the time of the heart attack and there was no other blockage in any of the arteries but the one that was affected, leading some to theorize that there was no blockage in that artery either, and that a bend in the artery caused platelets to build up at that section or that he had a stress induced artery spasm. In the images of the artery that were taken during the heart attack and after, there is no evidence of this “bend” in the artery. So considering the fact that his high stress, six day a week job (during the busy season) caused him to come home enraged at the end of every work day, we’re going with the artery spasm theory. Another good indication that it was stress related is that he was able to quit his job and come home to work and is now, usually, happy as a clam.
The truth of the matter is, this poor man of mine has been sick since I met him during his second year in the military. He’s been on high blood pressure medication since he was 25. He was told then that he hadn’t done anything wrong and that the problem would never go away, because he had hypertension. “Hypertension is what it is.”, he was told. He was fit and strong but just couldn’t keep that bp down. Insane deployments on a sub the size of a double wide trailer did not help. The bp was always an issue, even with medication.
So I sit here, post heart attack, sometimes getting so furious I’m afraid my bp’s going up, wondering how a man with perfect cholesterol can have a heart attack. Obviously all the olive oil and natural whole foods that we consume have been beneficial, but does it really matter when he went and had a heart attack anyway?!
His cholesterol has been checked periodically over the past months and it is still spot on with a great HDL level. So we have his doctors telling him to stay away from carbs but to consume lots of vegetables and healthy fats. He finally got the okay from a CARDIOLOGIST (I never, ever thought I’d see the day!) to begin consuming virgin, cold expeller pressed coconut oil,”especially in cooking”. I’ve been eating it daily for years and really wanted him to start but we’d never gotten the okay from any of his doctors. And then we have his gastroenterologist giving him a list of foods that he should avoid periodically to allow his digestive system to rest. Her fear is colon cancer in his future. So…here we are. He just had two major analyses done, one by the gastro., one by the cardio., and had another great cholesterol report, so we figured it was a good time to try GAPS. Boiled meat and vegetables, lots of broth, lots of probiotics, are all believed to detox the system and allow it to heal. Many proponents believe that once healing is complete, food allergies disappear completely and may be consumed again in the future.
One problem– his blood pressure has been staying very low since the heart attack which led him to have an echo., and scared the heck out of us for a few months when the echo. showed some valve problems. Well, as it turns out, they weren’t problems, just normal post heart attack heart valve behavior. But his bp still stays pretty low, especially when his electrolytes are depleted. We believe his electrolytes were getting depleted by such severe cut-backs in sodium following the heart attack, in conjunction with his body’s inability to efficiently absorb nutrients due to his ongoing gastrointestinal issues. We switched to only Himalayan salt, which is believed to aid in nutrient absorption, added magnesium, calcium, and potassium supplements, and are now trying GAPS to see if we can heal him and get to the source of the problem.
As I’d feared, however, we very quickly realized after the first few days that, in addition to the fatigue from die-off that people typically experience in the introduction phase of GAPS, his bp was really down there and he was miserable. I can’t stand to watch him like that, it breaks my heart, and I was like a zombie myself so added almond milk right back into our diets. I crushed and mixed in several chewable probiotic tablets, as I had been doing pre-GAPS, so that we could get a good dose all through the day by sipping our almond milk. Wow! Nothing has ever perked me up as quickly as that milk did. The almond pancakes with a drizzle of honey we started including at the end of that first week have kept me feeling less fatigued and dizzy throughout the day, and with more energy.
We decided that my husband would probably never be a GAPS intro. candidate and that I never wanted to be again, so worked our way up very quickly through some higher GAPS phases. Gradually we were able to add back in raw spinach and fruit, but have stuck to our constant bone broth slurping, almond milk “kefir” sipping, soup spooning, disciplined selves. To be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever give up the all day broth and periodic probiotic consuming. I’m sold on the whole idea and the fact that I never feel my stomach growl anymore. I’m also convinced that pumping myself full of such beneficial substances can only do me good.
In that first, strict phase there is die off. There is detox. So much so that we tried, tried, to eat at our favorite date night restaurant. I started sipping water. My stomach started knotting up. That was just the beginning. It took me a while to realize that I was so thoroughly detoxed from a week and a half on GAPS that it was the chlorinated, flouridated water that was bothering me. It didn’t help that the only thing we were able to order from the menu that was GAPS friendly was French pot roast. When it came to the table it was covered in roux thickened Madeira sauce. I couldn’t eat it but it didn’t matter because I was getting sicker by the minute. I was sick until the next afternoon and the only thing that made me feel better was my bone broth and almond milk. Lesson learned. My husband lapped up every bit, happy that we had made a mistake, but didn’t have the first problem with the rich meal. Hm. Maybe I’m in worse shape than he is. Yikes!
This week we were able to work up to grilled meat, which exacerbated my husbands digestive issues. That was frustrating because they had almost entirely vanished, but was encouraging because now we know that either he needs to avoid it all together or wait until a little further into the healing process before trying it again. Tonight we added in lentil flour. Yesterday it was cooked apples, and were they good!
So GAPS is tricky. It definitely does something. It is working on my husband’s issues, but only time will tell if the changes are permanent. For now, he’s sure that all the whole wheat he was eating was irritating his system, so he’s not missing that, and the cheeses we added in the other day have not given him any trouble, thank goodness! It would be horrible for him to have to give up cheese altogether. But maybe with the addition of coconut oil and more time on full GAPS he will heal and be able to go back to a meal plan with more variety. Three weeks is hardly enough time to judge whether it’s working or not. And with the limited animal fats that we are keeping him on, he isn’t really doing GAPS “right” to begin with.
Okay. So this ridiculously rambling post has finally gotten me to my point. My husband’s favorite food in the world is meatloaf. Sometimes I think he likes his favorite post heart attack splurge, baked hot wings (chicken breast) with yogurt bleu cheese dipping sauce, even better. But tonight he had meatloaf. And he was happy. There was no baked-to-black layer of sugary ketchup on top or salty, white flour crackers crumbled inside like his mama used to make, but it was healthy-er and delicious. This is how I made it GAPS friendly so he could have it.
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef. GAPS calls for high fat animal products, but I go as lean as I like and get our HDL improving fats elsewhere.
1 tsp. Himalayan salt
3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 cups diced Roma tomatoes. I think next time I’ll puree them.
1/4 c. lentil flour. I just grind up lentils in my little blender thingy. It’s an off-brand of the Magic Bullet.
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/4 tsp. dried sage
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 clove minced garlic
2-3 c. loosely packed raw baby spinach
1 c. grated Swiss cheese (One of the GAPS friendly cheeses. Woo hoo!)
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix together all ingredients but the spinach and cheese.
Spread on a sheet of parchment paper or foil.
Layer with spinach leaves.
Top spinach with grated cheese.
Use the edge of the foil or parchment to lift and tightly roll the sheet of meat mixture and layers.
Seal the ends.
I covered it while it baked so that it would steam more than bake, thus making it easier on the digestion and GAPS friendly.
Bake for 1 hour.
The best part for me was that the vegetables and cheese were included and I didn’t have to make any side dishes. It was slice and serve!
Yield: 10 servings