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Jennifer Whitney, CHN, CGP, CHC nutritionist, discusses with Dr. Michael Karlfeldt, ND, PhD about the GAPS Diet Protocol from by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride,h MD that was developed to heal Leaky Gut (damage to the gut lining) resulting from less-than-optimal dietary habits and lifestyle for detoxification, recovery and healing, and digestive health support. 

Dr. Karlfeldt: With me I have nutritionist Jennifer Whitney. One of the programs you run is the GAPS program. Tell me more about what that is.

Jennifer Whitney, CHN, CGP, CHC:  The GAPS program is a nutritional protocol created by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, who has a degree in human nutrition and neurology. It lays down the basic foundation to heal the gut. And since 90% of your immune system is located in your gut, you want to have a healthy digestive system.

Dr. K: So, healing the gut, you’ve got a lot of gut obviously. There’s almost 30 feet of intestines. So I would assume it would be an extensive process.

JW: It is, it can take 1-2 years (or more) to heal the gut. The GAPS protocol involves 6 stages, and it’s really important to go through each stage correctly. That’s the benefit of working with a Certified GAPS Practitioner to help guide you through each stage. It involves a lot of different things.

Dr. K: You can’t just, because I assume like normal diets, you have a diet here and this diet, and go by the book and you read “eat this” and “don’t that.” And so you can’t just do that?

JW: Well, you can do that. And a lot of people do this. But usually what I see in my clinical practice is they don’t do it correctly. And so they don’t receive the true healing that they should be receiving, which is in this program, wanting to heal the gut. If you follow it correctly, then you are going to actually to heal it correctly.

So you have to know when to move through each phase. Sometimes you may need to add in certain supplements. There’s a lot of different things that can come up that aren’t in the book, that a trained specialist understands and is aware of, and can help guide you better.

Dr. K: So you are talking about phases. What would be like the first phase? And what would be like a middle phase, and a final phase? What do those look like?

JW: The first phase is actually going in there and removing foods that are feeding bad microbes in the gut. And so there’s a lot of withdrawl that can go on, you’re coming off of carbohydrates and sugars. And then you start to eat foods that actually go in and heal the gut. They help to promote new stomach cell growth, they help to grow beneficial bacteria, grow the enzymes and just rebound that inner ecology in the gut. And that’s what you want. 

So that first phase can be one of the tougher phases to go through because you are going through the withdrawl from foods that many people are eating on a daily basis … and so it’s good to have that accountability and guidance. Make sure you are eating the right foods, to do that.

And then as you go through eat stage, you start to slowly add foods back in. And according to the types of symptoms you are having is how you know whether you are ready to do that. 

By the time you are in the 6th phase, you’ve added back in a lot more foods, but they are still mainly foods that promote good stomach cell growth and they are promoting beneficial bacteria and enzymes in the gut. 

And you make a lot of the foods, so a specialist can help you learn how to make those, and they can help you adjust the doses of how much you should be eating every day. So, it’s pretty complex.

Dr. K: So it’s almost like then, like you are using food as medicine. So instead of saying, “Take this much of this nutrient or supplement or medication”, you’re using, then, food as saying “Take a teaspoon of this to start with,” and then building up to…

JW: Exactly.

Dr. K: … and then building up to half a cup. Or eat two apples, and then build up or cut back to one.

JW: (Laughing). Yeah. I actually will write it down. Because it’s so specific. And according to what they go through is how I adjust that.  

Because you can go through die-off. We’re removing foods that are feeding bad microbes. I have a picture here to kind of show you the difference.  

Dr. K: Yeah, please show me.

I’ll start with an example of a healthy gut. And you can see here, inside of a healthy gut there should be about 6 pounds of beneficial bacteria inside that gut wall. And you can see the green represents the good bacteria, and good bacteria helps to break down food, which is the orange. It helps to have a protective coat on the inside of the gut wall, and it eats the bad bacteria which is the purple. And we always have bad bacteria in our gut, and we want that to stay in balance.

And so in an unhealthy gut, the bad bacteria, which is the purple, greatly outnumber the good. And you see here, there’s not as many digestive enzymes. So what starts to happen is this bad bacteria in combination with toxins and parasites starts to eat away at the gut lining, and eventually forms holes there. That’s what you don’t want. And that’s called Leaky Gut, which a huge amount of people are walking around with. 

That’s at the root of a lot of symptoms going on. When you get to this point, you’re in trouble. You’ve got a lot of different things going on.

Dr. K: So what are some of the symptoms then, that a person would experience, when they have this … so they would know that this is what they are dealing with?

JW: Usually they are always having extremely painful digestion, no matter what they eat, whether it’s healthy food or unheatlhy food. It just hurts to eat. When you are actually walking around with Leaky Gut, or a lot of inflammation in the gut, pathogens and partially digested food goes through those holes.  And it gets into the bloodstream, and the body sees that as a foreign object. So it can affect your cells and it cause any number of diseases to start to form. 

The brain sees that as an opiate. And it just works almost against the body, so you’re not getting the nutrition you need at all into your blood, and your organs.

Dr. K: So over and above, the gut being painful: can people be dealing with this kind of issue and don’t feel anything in the gut, and experience other symptoms?

JW: Yeah, they can be experincing, say, this is a natural treatment for autism ADD / ADHD, schizophrenia, dyspraxia bipolar, chronic illness, Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis, there are so many different conditions that appear really as symtoms, but at the root of it is  the gut. You want to heal your gut. Because you are probably dealing with Leaky Gut.

Dr. K: So, even though you’re not dealing with any visible … I mean it feels like you are eating everything perfect. You can then, be dealing with an emotional, psychological …  

JW: Absolutely.

Dr. K: Psychiatric disorders, even. And doing this program then, will correct that.

JW: Yeah. It goes in and truly corrects it. At the root up. Your gut is your root, it’s kind of like a tree. If you visualize a tree. So you’re dealing with different symptoms, say it’s bi-polar or anxiety, or chronic digestive issues. But at that root … those are like the branches of the root, is your gut. That’s where 90% of your immune system is.

Dr. K: So if you’re going to have an inflammatory condition in your brain, or all over your body, it would start in the gut.

JW: Yep. That’s the root of your body. You want to have good gut health.

Dr. K: So, there are other practitioners out there. They read the book and try to help other people to do this. But you are a Certified GAPS Practitioner. So how does that differ from other practitioners out there?

JW: I can speak for myself. I have just spent hundreds and hundreds of hours reading and studying this. I went back to New York and got actually trained by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. I work with clients all the time on this program. And there’s different things that come up with each person. No one is the same.

So the protocol can be the same, but you have to adjust that per client. And so, as an experienced GAPS Practitioner, I know how to do that. I can’t really speak compared to other practitioners, but there’s so much I’ve been trained in and have learned> This is my specialty.

Dr. K: So I know that as you’ve been doing this for a longer period of time, initially it kind of looks simple, “Well, eat this and don’t eat that.”

JW: (laughing)

Dr. K: But the more you get into it and the more you do it, it becomes more and more complex. So it’s actually a quite complex program.

JW: (laughing) It’s very complex nutritional protocol, which also involves usually some supplementation. A lot of times people who start have a very hard time breaking down fats. They might need to raise their stomach acid, they may need the assistance of digestive enzymes. Most of the time you’re going to go through die-off because you’re killing the bad microbes. 

There’s a lot of different things that go on when you’re healing the structure of the gut and you’re re-balancing that micro-environment on the inside.

Dr. K: And then to have someone who’s trained and certified, and does this for a living. I would assume that would be a great help.

JW: It helps a lot. Clients come to me who have tried to do this on their own, and they actually tell me “I need to actually do this with a trained professional. Because there are things going on that I need help understanding.” Because the human body is unpredictable. 

You can follow a book, but in real life, different things can happen.

Dr. K: Right. Thank you very much Jen