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My Pre-GAPS Symptom I Haven’t Talked About

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by Angela Gallardo in Articles

One of the main reasons I decided to go forward with another round of GAPS is due to a symptom I have been reluctant to talk about publicly.

It’s a delicate topic (both for me and I imagine others who deal with it, as well) and I fear I won’t be able to put it into words as perfectly as I’d like. Though I’ve realized that isn’t a good enough reason to stay quiet about it. And I hope that by speaking up, I might encourage others in a similar situation to see a light at the end of a seemingly dark tunnel.

My Struggle with Anxiety

I am no stranger to psychological disorders. Severely decreased appetite and major depressive episodes had my dr. wanting to put me on anti-depressants as early as age 12 (thank heavens for a mother who said “hell, no” to that!). My teenage and young adult years were extremely rough; likely a combination of upbringing, genetics, and a very inflammatory SAD way of eating.

As I aged, I learned a tremendous amount about the power we have to change what we think about, focus on, and even form new opinions about our own thoughts, and I found that depression was no longer my demon. Rather, anxiety was what would regularly do me in.

racing heart/palpitations

shallow breathing

inability to focus

lashing out or irrational words/actions

While I have often dealt with the sudden, intense anxiety attacks that look like the the ^^^ above, for me anxiety more regularly displays itself as an ever-present unsettled feeling, heightened stress and worry, insomnia, and inability to relax.

If depression is like a dark cloud hanging over your head, anxiety feels like an angry bull charging you. Leaving you no choice but to run unendingly, never knowing how to truly escape.

Anxiety is directly related to our ability to manage stress

Our modern lives are full of stressors. Anyone that has dealt with anxiety knows that stress is its BFF. I learned that I had a true struggle with anxiety about 5 years ago, when as my health decreased, so did my ability to manage my stress.

And I’m not talking about the big things like money struggles or relationship issues.Simple tasks like doing the dishes or walking the dogs were enough to have me hiding in bed in tears. Not only that but my upset outbursts and fights with the people closest to me increased tenfold.

When people on the internet talk about ways to decrease stress (yoga, deep breathing, etc etc), I get a bit upset. While those things *help,* they are often not sufficient in the face of a true physiological imbalance that directly impacts how we deal with stress, and therefore how intense anxiety can present itself.

The Gut-Brain Connection

Before starting GAPS the first time in 2015, I didn’t know much about how our gut health affects our mental health. I presumed that a good diet could possibly improve mood, etc, but I didn’t get how strongly correlated they truly were.

Over 90% of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gut, making it crucial to have a balance of gut bacteria and healthy, regular elimination. Serotonin plays a significant role in mood, behavior, memory, cardiovascular function, appetite, sexual desire, and more. Low serotonin has shown in studies to correlate with a decreased ability to deal with stress, with both mental AND physical symptoms (saggy skin, weight gain, decreased immune function).

(For those curious, further reading can be found here and here.)

GAPS is designed to improve your overall gut health, therefore improving your “brain health” as a result. (The fact that GAPS stands for Gut And Psychology Syndrome is the biggest tipoff, of course ;)) So when various life events the past 1-2 years had my anxiety increasing again, I had to take a good hard look how much effort I was putting into improving my gut health.

The benefits of GAPS are two-fold. It’s such a nutrient-dense, healing diet but it also encourages you to slow down with your eating and be more mindful about the food you consume. I can attest that BOTH these elements have completely overhauled my previous anxiety levels. This has displayed by: no anxious episodes, better sleep, and a greater presence of mind when anxiety does appear.

TLDR:

I have anxiety. I likely always will. But the degree to which it impacts my life is not outside of my control.

To be honest, it’s been an extremely long and hard road. It can be embarrassing. It makes you feel like a bad wife, mother, or human, period. Like “why can’t I handle my life better? Who am I? Why did I say/do that?” But like so many things, we are not defined by our struggles. I am not my anxiety.

My efforts with both GAPS and a continued Paleo diet in the future are key components in this battle. I’ve seen firsthand the impact of a healing diet and the benefits cannot be understated. It is quite literally saving my life.

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