real health

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Part One

We’ve done this before, attempting to fix underlying health issues by addressing gut problems. We started years ago by adding fermented foods. It helped, but it seemed like there was something else missing. And so I read up some more on these concepts of gut healing and sealing.

I learned that for most of us with highly damaged guts, and that’s probably many of us, just adding probiotics and fermented foods isn’t enough.

Two more things need to happen:

1. Remove foods that irritate or slow down gut healing. You want foods that are not going to tax your gut while you’re trying to heal it. I know there’s a ton of rhetoric on both sides of the food sensitivities argument, but I think the bottom line is this: most foods, if they are real to begin with, are only allergens to us when our gut health is compromised.

We don’t need to make blanket statements about grains or dairy (or raw vegetables, which are also on this list) being inherently bad. We just need to step away for a bit in order to heal and let our guts gain some perspective. And some of us might find that staying away from excessive amounts of grains or pasteurized dairy in the long-term can also be beneficial.

To me, changing the way we think about why we have food sensitivities is critical. I think it’s easy to blame a food, take our eyes away from the systemic problem of our own lack of gut health, and continue to struggle because we’ve put a band-aid on a gaping wound.

There are, of course, always extreme cases in which a full GAPS diet isn’t as helpful to some as it is to others. I think of my cohort Erin at Plan to Eat who has gone to tremendous lengths to heal her gut through GAPS and an Autoimmune Protocol. I have so much respect for what she’s endured, the grace she’s shown through the process, and her courage to at least try to do something about her struggles.


2. Utilize foods that both heal and and build up the gut. The three main foods, according to the GAPS protocol and my own findings, are

  • homemade bone broth
  • fermented foods
  • pastured/grass-fed animal fats.

I try to think of it as a soothing anti-inflammatory diet, so animal fats from factory-farmed and primarily grain-fed animals would be out.

So, not only do we add in those beneficial bacteria (and other elements) from fermented foods, but we’re also giving our digestive system a rest while attempting to heal and seal it with nourishing foods.

Fermented Foods vs. Probiotics

Not surprisingly, many studies are finding that fermented foods and the probiotics and other beneficial factors in fermented foods are more affective than probiotic supplements. One source claims that fermented foods give us not only more types of bacteria, but also a larger volume of these beneficial beasts than a probiotic supplement can provide.

Probiotics obviously have their place, but getting our nutrients and bacteria from real food always makes more logical and economic sense, right?

For that reason, many people call fermented foods the missing link in a healthy diet. I agree; we always feel better when we’re consuming ferments every day, and ideally more than one variety.

But I actually think there’s another missing link that is just beginning to see some light in the scientific community. And it has more to do with where we’re at than what we eat. More on that next time.

Further Reading

These are some of the resources I found helpful in researching this topic over the years:


Every once in a while something keeps popping up in front of me from every angle, leaving me unable to ignore it. Of late it has been gut health. Stewart and I discuss his health, and it comes back to the gut. We discuss our children’s health, and it comes back to the gut. I open an email and someone has found that food allergies, not surprisingly, come back to gut health. I read headlines and a study is released on… gut health.

Last week I sat down to pen a book review. As often happens, things got a little out of hand and I ended up with way more to say about the issue than a simple “I liked this book”. (Which I did… and I’ll try to get back to that eventually.)

But first, let me ask you this: Do you believe that all disease begins in the gut?

It’s a bit contrary to prevalent medical thinking, but it makes sense to me. Not only that, there are many, many scientific studies now that point to the gut’s role in childhood and adult illnesses, such as:

I can’t imagine what else we’d need to see in order to finally accept that if something is wrong, maybe we should check gut health first. This has become my practice whenever someone has a chronic health issue in our family. How’s your gut health?


Our Story

We have our own history of gut challenges in our family. Stewart and I went through years of antibiotic use, a SAD diet, exposure to anti-bacterial everything, and for some of us, not nearly enough contact with the soil and animals.

Three days after our eldest son was born I spiked a fever of 104 and ended up on a course of antibiotics. We are still working on his gut health.

When Stewart went down with adrenal fatigue last year one of his biggest struggles was digestion. In order to absorb nutrients during this time of healing, we’ve had him on a regimen of apple cider vinegar, enzymes, probiotics, and, of course, fermented foods.

We’re also considering embarking on another round of a GAPS-like diet, if we can source some good bones from a local farmer. (The two roosters we need to butcher just aren’t going to cut it).

Other Resources from Our Earlier GAPS Journey

This isn’t the first time we’ve hit pause and worked on rebooting our guts. Here’s a few resources from those times…

I’ve got a few more ideas to add to this discussion, but now I’d love to hear from you!

What are your thoughts on gut health? Do you start their first? How have you healed?