In March 2011, I began my healing journey with the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet. GAPS is a natural digestive healing program, which has successfully treated many conditions including: Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis (UC), IBS, Autism, ADHD/ADD, Allergies, Depression, Anxiety, Asthma, Eczema and many more. The GAPS program rebuilds the gut by healing the damaged gut lining, the root cause of the diseases.

I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (UC) at age 19, over 10 years ago. Ulcerative Colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) characterized by abdominal cramping and bloody diarrhea. To manage and “hide” symptoms, I was led by doctors down the typical road of conventional medications: Asacol, Colazol and Prednisone.

In 2006, a major flare-up landed me in the ER, and the highest dosage of IV Prednisone didn’t stop severe bleeding and cramping. They told me the only option, besides surgery, was Remicade, an intravenous drug that suppresses the immune system. Desperately wanting to stop the pain and bleeding, I agreed to the infusions.

I was encouraged that Remicade would make me better. I was advised to take another immuno-suppressant drug called Mercaptopurine/6MP. I eventually weaned off the Mercaptopurine/6MP and prednisone, but remained on Remicade, receiving infusions every 8-9 weeks. This managed and hid my UC symptoms.

The world of conventional medicine said I was doing well – no signs of disease. I went through college and early adulthood “healthy”. Unfortunately, this is the typical approach of today’s “healthcare” system, prescribing a drug that hides the symptoms and makes you forget that your body is at war– a pill for every ill. I was only reminded of my disease at infusion time. Remicade managed my symptoms and disguised my body’s ill state but I soon realized I wanted out of that trap.

You may wonder why I wanted to risk flaring, bleeding and more pain. Well, I usually felt “uneasy” during infusions. It’s very difficult to describe. I never had a direct allergic reaction to Remicade but following infusions, I just usually felt a little “out of it”, so I didn’t plan much for those days. I became progressively more troubled at infusion times. I also had that “uneasy” feeling (like a string was being pulled within my stomach) when thinking about what my body was going through underneath the Remicade mask. I guess that was my gut giving me a sign that something wasn’t right! This wasn’t the way to deal with my body’s ill state! Plus, the possible effects of Remicade are very serious. They can include a weakened immune system, infection, liver damage, tuberculosis, and lymphoma (cancer).

My gastroenterologist asked “Why?” when I expressed my desire to heal naturally and get off drugs. My answer was that I wanted to address the core problem and stop the chaos, hidden under the meds. He questioned why I wanted to stop a “successful treatment”. He advised that if I chose to stop Remicade, I should transition to another oral anti-inflammatory medication. Of course, that medication came along with another list of side effects. Obviously, we weren’t on the same page, or even in the same book! My objective was clear – to heal my disease without the dangerous medications that are pushed too quickly. That was the last time that I saw a GI “specialist.”
That brought me to my search for natural healing. The role of food was NEVER discussed during the 10 plus years dealing with UC. I was told that I would have to manage the disease by taking medications for the rest of my life. I was NEVER questioned about my regular food intake.

I found it difficult to believe that food didn’t play a major role in our gut health. Around this time, I was introduced to the teachings of Weston A. Price and the true meaning of health with traditional and nutrient-dense foods. I immersed myself into that lifestyle and approach. It was during the Weston A. Price Foundation Conference in November 2010 that I was exposed to the GAPS program. After reading and learning, I determined that it would be my path for healing. In January 2011, I consulted with a doctor who utilizes the GAPS healing program in his practice. We decided how I would taper off Remicade meanwhile implementing the GAPS diet program.

As I look back at this year on GAPS, the food aspect was of course challenging – including emotional breakdowns over acorn squash! It was those times, I had to dig deeper, envisioning my life healed, unmediated and truly healthy. I refocused and kept on.

I have to say the most challenging aspect of GAPS, especially during the first 8 months, was the uncertainty of my body’s reactions to the Remicade tapering, and the limited food regimen. All of the testimonies and stories that I encountered thus far told the story of people implementing the GAPS program while symptoms were present and when conventional medications were not managing symptoms at all. The conventional medications were managing my symptoms so it was scary, and I was in the dark.
With any natural healing process, there are ups and downs, plateaus and hills. I trusted in my heart and gut – this is the path for me. I have regained most of my lost weight – a sign of gut healing. From the extra nourishing GAPS diet, my triglycerides are a record low and my energy has increased! I remain on GAPS and I plan to do so in order to heal completely.

I hope that my story has inspired you to take a step towards natural healing. I truly believe that anyone can take back their health. If you or anyone you know is dealing with any of the conditions I mentioned in the beginning of my story, I encourage you to read the book “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” by Dr. Natasha McBride. With the strength of our bodies and heart, and with REAL, nourishing foods, we CAN heal. Let your journey begin!

Gina Rieg

Gina is a Health & Nutrition Coach and the owner of Simplistic Wholistic LLC. She provides in-person and telephone coaching. She is passionate about guiding her clients towards optimal health through real, nutrient-dense, natural and traditional foods. Specialties include digestive issues, weight management, energy and cravings. From her own personal experience, she is able to provide support with GAPS, SCD and the Paleo/Primal diets. Additional services include talks/workshops/seminars, group programs and tours of Health Food Stores. You can connect with her through her website or by email