Sandrine’s Personal Experience

Even though I had been eating the recommended diet outlined in the book Nourishing Traditions since 2004, I started to experience chronic constipation in 2011. This was a new experience for me. I also had keratosis pilaris, small bumps, on my arms and legs, which is considered a sign of  Vitamin A deficiency. That was true despite a diet high in Vitamin A. Knowing that “all disease begins in the gut”, I sought out the services of a nutritionist to guide me. She thought GAPS™ – the Gut and Psychology Syndrome dietary healing protocol would be of value. I started on March 14, 2011. I stayed on GAPS™ until recently.  I am now on an individualized healing protocol. While I had varying levels of success in terms of the constipation and keratosis pilaris while on GAPS™, I faced what felt a gravitational pull toward constipation despite following the protocol very exactly and taking the recommended supplements such as enzymes, probiotics and HCi (Hydrochloric Acid). My nutritionist thought that it may be because of the magnesium I was loosing through the intense night sweats and hot flashes I was experiencing, so I started consuming fresh Thai coconut water, and beet kvass in relatively large quantities. That definitely encouraged my bowel movements but, the amount I needed to consume was unsustainable. I started supplementing with ConcenTrace and that moved my bowel as well.

Maybe there is another path?

However, I started to reconsider this remedy when having been on GAPS™ well over a year, I came across this post on Facebook. It was very soon after I had attended a GAPS™ Cooking Class weekend with Monica Corrado. I had been told by Monica and others who were teaching about GAPS™, that if it wasn’t working for someone, then they likely “weren’t doing it right”. Well, I had returned several times to the Introductory Phase, and was being guided by a nutritionist trained in the GAPS™ protocol … and was adhering to the guidelines 100%. Yet, I wasn’t experiencing the results I had hoped for … and I wasn’t alone. There were several others in my circle who had worked with nutritionists and even with Dr. Thomas Cowan, MD, who were reporting that GAPS™ wasn’t working for them.

I had known Anne Fischer Silva as a fellow chapter leader for a number of years. I didn’t know her well, but had had contact with her being that she has been a supporter of Nourishing Our Children. I was intrigued with what Anne wrote in this chain:

“I used to do GAPS™ with all my clients until I realized they became sensitive to all the GAPS™ foods! The method I use now identifies all the sensitivities (within the parameters of the foods tested) and I am seeing amazing results. … The gut can heal quickly once the offending foods have been removed. I test for gut issues (fungal, bacterial or parasitic infections) and food sensitivities. It should not take longer than six months to heal the gut. I’ve seen many people on GAPS™ for over a year and they still don’t feel great. The GAPS™ specific foods I was referring to include coconut, almonds, beef, eggs, and chicken. Many are also sensitive to cod, therefore cod liver oil must be omitted for a time as well.

Food sensitivities are very difficult to determine and there are many ways to test. Most practitioners use antibody testing but that’s problematic because if you have gut sensitivity, you have depressed gut immunity and you can get false negatives with antibody testing. I use a blood test called MRT (Mediator Release Testing). It is highly accurate (95%, which is the highest of any test I’ve ever seen). GAPS™ is generic and will help some but I’ve seen many people who have been on GAPS™ for months and months and they are still trying to heal their digestive system. With MRT, it is specific to you. I usually recommend doing a GI Panel (stool and saliva) at the same time to see what the consequences to the gut are (typically fungal, bacterial, and parasitic infection). Then we heal the gut while removing the sensitive foods.

One more comment on food sensitivities: Think about them on a spectrum. You can be highly sensitive to some foods – you eat them and you get a reaction. But there can also be many foods to which you are sensitive, but to a lesser degree. These are ones that are impossible to figure out on your own. You can get a reaction to a food up to 3 days later (you can’t always look at your last meal). Additionally, you might not get a reaction if you eat a lesser sensitive food in isolation, but if you combined 2, 3, or 4 of these lesser sensitive foods, you can get a big reaction. All making it impossible to figure out through elimination or challenge.  With MRT, improvements are almost immediate and I’ve seen everything from eczema to headaches to joint pain clear up in 2 weeks.”


I forwarded this chain to a friend who had been on GAPS™ for over a year working closely with trained health practitioners yet she was finding that it wasn’t effective. She started working with Anne who did lab work that revealed a whole host of issues that GAPS™ would simply never address. My friend had a chronic eczema-like rash on her neck and arms that cleared up, and her hair stopped falling out … and I took notice. Tiffani Beckman, who posted on Facebook about her lab results, comes to my loft regularly to deliver groceries to me as part of her farm to table business. I saw her losing weight week in and week out. She reported that her weight loss was a result of having eliminated the foods that lab work had revealed she had a food sensitivity to.  Tiffani was transforming before my eyes – she was significantly thinner, and reported so much more comfortable without the stomach aches she’d had.

I decided to embark with Anne myself.

A New Leaf

Beyond nutrition, Anne offers hormonal balancing support. We focused initially on quieting the hot flashes and night sweats I was experiencing. I started on a hormonal support protocol on October 2, 2012 based on a comprehensive hormonal panel lab results.  In the last several years, I have worked closely with acupuncturists, homeopaths and a nutritionist before I started with Anne – and no remedies or treatment protocols resulted in sustained relief. So far, the hormonal support I am taking in the form of ProgonB and PhytoB has relieved virtually all of the hot flashes by day, and I am left with 1 or 2 at night.  I would say 90% resolution. We are working on the night sweats now with other hormonal support therapeutics from Standard Process.

Anne had me take the food sensitivity test that she described above, as well as saliva, stool and blood tests. The test revealed that I am sensitive to some of the very foods I had been consuming daily and that were foundational to GAPS™ – such as chicken.  At times, I had 2 quarts of chicken broth her day — and that was pasture raised, soy free chicken. For the next 6 months, I am eliminating the following foods – many of which I wasn’t eating: blueberry, chicken, corn, lecithin, pork (which were identified as foods I am highly sensitive to), banana, barley, cayenne, coconut, coffee, cottage cheese, cumin, hazelnut, lentil, lettuce, MSG, peanut, Phenylethylamine, saccharine, strawberry, string bean, tyramine, potato and yogurt. I am eliminating all eggs to reduce my lecithin load.

Several friends and I are now working with Anne – and they have their own unique list.

In addition to eliminating foods that we’ve identified I am sensitive to, I am taking enzymes, probiotics and  a formulation designed to heal the gut lining. I have stopped supplementing with the ConcenTrace. I haven’t been constipated since the first day I embarked.  My digestion is robust. I had taking all of these before however, this unique program designed for me based on lab work is working!  So far, the keratosis pilaris remains unchanged but, I have only recently embarked on this healing protocol: November 12, 2012. I will continue to report on my progress!

I asked Anne to write about her clinical experience of GAPS™ because I wanted others to know that there may be nothing wrong with how they are doing GAPS™. My experience is that there are limits to the protocol and a more individualized plan may be necessary.  Anne was reluctant to write as a guest blogger for fear of being viewed as being motivated by self promotion. I want to assure our readers that promoting her business is not the intention behind this post.  I solicited Anne’s testimonial as a public service!  Folks, I know that GAPS™ has worked for many, however I also know that one may be on GAPS™ for 2 years, adhering 100% to it, and still not heal and seal their gut with that protocol alone.

Addendum January 3, 2012

As a point of clarification, I honestly don’t blame any health practitioner mentioned, or any of those who utilize GAPS™ in their practice who aren’t directly mentioned. I sincerely regret the possible perception of implied wrongdoing on any practitioner’s part.

The nutritionist I worked with wasn’t named because of her long held request not to be named online, or in a public forum such as Yahoo Groups that is searchable online, for her own privacy concerns. I don’t hold her responsible for the outcome of my experience on GAPS™. She worked tirelessly on my behalf to guide me through this protocol to the best of her ability and knowledge. I have referred many to her and would continue to do so.

I simply think the protocol was not individualized enough for me, and it appears not to have been individualized enough for anyone in my own circle – all of whom worked with different practitioners.

A Nutritionist Perspective on GAPS™

by Anne Fischer Silva

Digestive symptoms are rampant in today’s world and are often what lead people to seek my services. I have experimented with many different gut-healing therapies over my fourteen years in clinical practice. When I first became aware of GAPS™ (Gut and Psychology Syndrone) in 2006, I was excited to encourage my clients to embrace this dietary program of self healing. Unfortunately, GAPS™ has not lived up to my expectations nor delivered the complete healing hoped for.

In my experience, GAPS™ can initiate some preliminary therapeutic benefits by removing dairy and grain products from the diet.  This can be quite beneficial if an individual has sensitivities to dairy and exist grain. However, GAPS™ is not capable of eradicating parasitic, fungal, or bacterial gut infections, commonly found today. Also, Natasha Campbell McBride, the author of GAPS™, directs us to test for food sensitivities by placing the food on our skin at bedtime and seeing if there is a reaction in the morning.  This may not be sufficient to test food sensitivities.

Many times, when people do not achieve success while on GAPS™, they are told they are not following the program correctly and need to start over with phase one of the GAPS™ program. This can be demoralizing and frustrating for someone who has diligently been following the limited foods available on GAPS™.

I often see people who have been on GAPS™ for 9 months to 2 years. Most continue to have digestive symptoms like bloating and constipation, which is why they call me. Other frequently seen ailments include eczema, depression, and “brain fog”.  These are often co-factor symptoms of a GI infection or food sensitivity.

The truth is, if a gut infection exists, GAPS™ will not fix digestion. With a gut infection – be it fungal (candida or other fungi overgrowth), parasitic (blastocystis,ameba histolytica, etc), or bacterial (C Difficile, H-Pylori, Cryptosporidium, etc) – more targeted therapies are required to destroy these pathogens. They infections are not unusual – I see them every day!

These infections take hold when an individual’s digestive terrain presents a favorable environment. As the pathogens take up housekeeping in the small and large intestine, they typically build a protective mucous barrier around themselves, called biofilms, that create insulation and make them impervious to many therapies – not to mention foods. Bone broth is a beautiful, nutrient-dense, mineral rich food and I recommend it to every client. But it’s not powerful enough to break through intractable biofilms.  Also, someone may have a food sensitivity to chicken and chicken broth will not be healing for them. This leads me to express another concern.

Food Sensitivities

In addition to infections, the other reason I see GAPS™ fall short is because it fails to take food sensitivities into account.  We’ve all heard of leaky gut, or intestinal permeability. This occurs when the small intestinal lining becomes damaged and loses integrity.  Sadly, this is also incredibly common today. What’s supposed to happen is that food should be broken down to microscopically-sized particles in the small intestine. Finger-like extensions, called villi, on the intestinal wall grab these food particles and allow them to pass through very tight junctures along the intestinal wall. This is how food is absorbed into the bloodstream. Leaky gut means that the villi become blunted and flattened. The tight junctures then turn into freeways, allowing large, undigested particles of food to enter the blood stream. This is one way food sensitivities happen.

Once food sensitivities are established, continuing to eat those sensitive foods further irritates and degrades the gut wall.  With GAPS™ clients, I frequently see sensitivities to many of the foods recommended on the program. Foods like chicken, eggs, coconut, and almonds are commonly seen on food sensitivity testing with GAPS™ folks. This propagates further intestinal irritation and the potential for even more food sensitivities as long as they continue to eat their trigger foods and not address the underlying causes.

In my opinion, the most effective method of restoring integrity to the GI tract starts with the concept of biochemical individuality. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to health. We all have inherent and acquired strengths and weaknesses that must be identified. Determining the status of each individual is imperative. Is there an infection? Is gut immunity depressed? Is there evidence of inflammation or enzyme insufficiency? These factors differ in each individual and it is impossible to determine without a lab test.

While I’m sure there are many techniques that can accomplish complete gut restoration, my method includes GI and food sensitivity testing. In this way, I can best support clients specifically based on their needs, and get them on the right path to healing.

Anne Fischer Silva, CN

Anne Fischer Silva is a clinical nutritionist and the owner of “A New Leaf Nutrition”, a private practice in Petaluma, CA. Anne serves clients throughout the United States, with an emphasis on digestive and hormonal health. She received her certification in Functional Nutrition from AIMI in Washington, D.C. and is also certified in Metabolic Typing and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition. She was involved in the creation of Nutritional Therapy Association and for four years taught nutrition courses in Washington, Hawaii, and California. Anne hosted “Health-Wise” (a weekly radio show), and has written articles for health publications. The focus of her practice is educating people about the importance of nutrient-dense foods and balancing biochemistry. She is passionate about teaching, fresh local food, cooking, gardening, and connection around the table.

What has your experience been?

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