“Cherries On Top”

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While the pictured banana split is not literally acceptable for GAPS, the concept is. :) Patty from Loving Our Guts shares GAPS complementary therapies, or the “cherries on top” for healing. I learned a lot from Patty, and I know you will, too! –Wardee

According to Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, 80% of people will get better on the GAPS nutritional program alone. In other words, by following the advice in her GAPS book, most people will heal in an average time period of two and a half years. However, 20% of people will need GAPS plus more to find full healing. She calls this adding the “cherries on top”.

Alternative and Complementary Health Care Approaches

My family has always been very open to alternative healing approaches. We regularly see a chiropractor, and our long time family doctor is both a family practice medical doctor and a homeopath. However, my definition of cherries on top means more than just this. I think that fully following GAPS fully means seeking out health care professionals who are able to support the GAPS quest. (I know it isn’t always possible to find or afford such care — I’m talking about an ideal.)

We don’t want our health care provider(s) at odds with the GAPS protocol, right?

In our quest for healing over the years, we have found other health care practitioners. I have learned their strengths and weaknesses, and I know which one is best to help us solve a particular issue. As much as I would like to solve everything myself, I simply can’t learn everything that all of them know. So I’m glad for their help.

Our health care practitioners are knowledgeable in these disciplines:

  • Acupuncture
  • Chinese medicine
  • Chiropractic
  • Cranial sacral therapy
  • Enzyme therapy
  • Essential oils
  • Herbs
  • Homeopathy
  • Integrative medicine
  • NAET
  • Nutrition

They know about more besides; these are just some of the approaches that have benefitted us. I think healing can be achieved without using all of these approaches, but sometimes it does take more than one to find answers for your family. I feel blessed that my family’s practitioners can address various issues with these complimentary therapies — the cherries on top, remember?

My Approach

Here’s what the process of seeking out and using these healing methods looks like for my family.

I know my family well. I know each person’s strengths and weaknesses. I see daily how each responds to various therapies and dietary changes. With this knowledge, I approach one of our health care professionals. Together we find solutions and try out new ideas. I do not bring every issue to every health care provider, but sometimes it takes more than one to figure something out.

A Word About Health Care Practitioners

No one knows for certain how someone will react to a treatment.

For instance, your medical doctor doesn’t know if a particular antibiotic will heal you or hurt you. He gives an educated guess based on the literature he’s read and keeping in mind experiences with others who had your same symptoms.

The same is true of any approach to health. A good practitioner will give his or her best good faith treatment ideas — but that doesn’t mean healing is guaranteed.

It is also important to consider that someone may have a negative consequence from a treatment — either short term or long term.

I think it is pretty ironic that some will put up with the “normal” side effects of prescription drugs, taking them daily and long term without question. Sometimes, they’ll even take another drug to manage the symptoms of the first drug!

Yet, if — for that same person — an herb or body work treatment causes uncomfortable symptoms or doesn’t completely solve their health issues in a single dose or treatment, the herb or treatment is declared as quackery and ineffective, or even dangerous!

Our “Cherries On Top”

I am going to briefly cover some of the cherries on top my family has used to improve our healing, while we still follow the GAPS diet.

Keep in mind: you don’t need to consider these if you are just getting started with GAPS. Instead, take your time to get fully comfortable with GAPS. Keep these ideas on the back burner. Consider them later, if you’ve been on GAPS for awhile and are either: 1) not seeing the results you were expecting, or 2) are noticing a pattern of issues that seems to point to a “cherries on top” kind of solution.

Further Diet Restrictions

The point of GAPS is to heal and seal the gut so that all real foods can be eaten (in moderation) without negative consequences. GAPS, especially at first, can seem like such an incredibly restrictive diet that the thought of further removing foods from the diet is completely overwhelming. I agree!

However, my family has found that some foods need to be removed — in addition to the ones that GAPS removes — in order to give the body the break it truly needs.

IgG and IgE Allergy Foods. If you have had this kind of allergy testing done, and it has shown certain foods to be problems, then certainly keep them out of the diet — at least for a time while GAPS continues to heal you.

Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Diet. For many on the autism spectrum, it is common to have been on a gluten-free/casein-free diet. Continuing with the gluten-free and casein-free diet can really make a difference for some.

Classes of Foods. Nightshades are a common trigger of joint pain and autoimmune issues as are eggs.

Food Chemicals. One of my children needs to be on a low free sulfur diet (restricting foods with high levels of free sulfur). These foods include dairy, eggs, garlic, onions, and brassica vegetables as well as some others. While this is a bit overwhelming, the health pay off is immense. That makes it more than worth it for us. You can read more about it here: High Sulfur Foods? What Are They?

Phenols/Salicylates. The Fiengold Diet is a common approach used to restrict these food chemicals (more info here). This diet is commonly used for children with AD/HD or autism. However, this diet often leads to hyperactive behavior in those children. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride says this is because it pushes detox too fast. Detox is good and necessary, of course. But when it happens too fast, the body can be overwhelmed and have negative reactions. Thus, her approach is to restrict those foods to a level that is tolerated, then slowly increase them so that the detox that the body so desperately needs is carried out in a more manageable way. The liver, kidneys, and other detox organs can only process toxins so fast. Those negative reactions are a symptom of the detox organs being overwhelmed and unable to keep up. There is no benefit to overwhelming those organs.

Low Oxalate Diet (LOD). My family has implemented this diet — in addition to the usual GAPS restrictions. Oxalates are food chemicals that are high in some foods and excessively absorbed by people with leaky guts that lack certain bacteria to break the oxalates down. Unlike some other food chemicals, these do not have any benefits.

It can be difficult to recognize the need for a low oxalate because the “reactions” are not usually clearly related to the intake of the offending foods. In fact, the problem foods may seem to alleviate health issues when they are ingested. This is because oxalate is stored in the body, like heavy metals are, and only when the intake drops below a body’s threshold does the body move from storage mode into detox mode. This stage — when the body moves oxalates from storage to the detox organs — causes much misery.

Everyone has a limit to how much they can store of anything; sooner or later that storage will get full and begin to spill over and symptoms will be unavoidable. One of the most commonly recognized symptoms — but not the only one — of too much oxalate in the body is kidney stones. Other symptoms are pain with urination and defecation, genital pain without an infection, stools that look like they are full of sand, joint pain, brain fog, thyroid disorders, stones in other areas of the body (like the gall bladder or tonsils), and eye pain. This is just a short list.

It is very common for these symptoms to come on suddenly, and especially after implementing a “healthy” diet of foods like spinach, almonds, and cumin, which are so extremely high in oxalates. Different foods in the same general family can have vastly different oxalate values. For example, spinach is extremely high in oxalates, but arugula is very low. For more information about oxalates you can read this blog post: What Are Oxalates?

Body Work

My family sees a chiropractor regularly. We go not just for joint and muscle pains, but because we find that regular adjustments help keep the whole body moving toward wellness more easily. Issues like ear aches, constipation, diarrhea, inappropriate wetting, and others have been addressed quickly and easily with just one or two treatments. Migraine headaches are an ailment which I call my chiropractor to fix. Thankfully, I rarely get them any more, where once they were a regular plague on my life. I consider seeing a chiropractor regularly to be one of the best things a person can do to support wellness.

Treatment for Parasites

My family is currently exploring this. Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride recommends that if you have been on GAPS for a year yet aren’t seeing the healing you expected, you should look into treatments for parasites.

Testing for them can be very difficult. Stool tests are the standard method, but parasites live in your gut and want to stay there. Unfortunately, this means a stool test can often come up negative even if they are a big issue. However, if you do find them through testing, you can better tailor the treatment to exactly what you are facing.

Unfortunately, it is estimated that only one in five tests for parasites in an infected person will turn up positive. That is, if five people have parasites and get their stool tested, only one of them will actually show positive in the test. It simply isn’t a good way to determine if you have parasites.

The next best way to figure out if parasites are a problem is to look at symptoms. But again, so many issues produce similar symptoms, and there are so many different parasites out there that just looking at symptoms doesn’t always narrow things down far enough.

The more I learn about parasites the more convinced I am that they are probably a factor in most, if not all, complicated cases.

(Interestingly, parasites have been shown to have positive effects on the immune system. Like with yeast and bacteria, it comes down to the balance in your body, not whether they are present at all.)

Parasites are easy to pick up, so treating for them once does not mean they won’t come back later. In third world countries, those with means commonly take parasite medications quarterly or semi-annually.

But don’t let the fact that you live in a first world country fool you! Parasites don’t care about your income level or standard of living. They live in the soil and in water, so if you are ever in contact with anything that is in contact with unsterilized soil or water you are at risk for picking up a parasite. Or, contact with others who are infected can infect you. (Children and pets come to mind right away.)

The most common symptoms of a parasite infection are: constipation, diarrhea, gas and bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, joint and muscle aches and pains, anemia, allergy, skin conditions, nervousness (nail biting), sleep disturbances, teeth grinding, chronic fatigue, and immune system dysfunction.

Now before any OCD people leave to wash hands, I want you to know that there are effective parasite treatments. For this, you would definitely want a knowledgeable practitioner to assist you. Not all parasite treatments are created equal — parasites respond better to some treatments than others. Plus, parasites are creative creatures and can learn to live with what should be toxic to them. This means that after a time, you may need to switch things up to see full healing.

I will say (without getting too graphic) that treating parasites is making a big difference in my family’s gut issues. I am thrilled with the progress, but also simultaneously holding my breath so that our good results will continue.

Other Treatments

Some issues my family faces are tongue ties, MTHFR mutations, adrenal fatigue and dental cavitations. We use essential oils, acupuncture, herbs, homeopathic remedies and enzymes to support our healing. Please follow those links to learn more, as I simply can’t go into all of them here for you today.

GAPS + Cherries On Top

As my family has pursued healing, we’ve found that GAPS is so important for laying the foundation and strengthening our bodies. We don’t abandon it when we add other healing methods and treatments — they are the “cherries on top” in our healing journey with many layers.

I hope and pray that many will find healing that is easy and straightforward! Eight out of ten will find that simple healing through following the GAPS diet. But two out of ten will need more help. And for you, I hope what I’ve shared here today has given you both ideas and hope that solutions and healing are out there — though they may be more elusive than you first hoped.

What complimentary therapies have you added (or are you considering adding) to your healing strategy? Please share so that others may benefit!

New to our GAPS series? Get up to speed by browsing past posts in this series or reading what the GAPS diet is.

This post may contain affiliate links. We only recommend products and services we wholeheartedly endorse. Thank you for supporting Traditional Cooking School by GNOWFGLINS with your purchases. Our family thanks you!


  1. says

    Great post Patty! Thank you for so much great information! I am just building my “cherries” on this road to healing. I have been on the GAPS Diet for about 6 months now and have been absolutely thrilled with it! However, along the way, I have had to eliminate some other foods in order to slow down or speed up the healing. It’s such an individual thing, isn’t it? I am still dairy free until I can repeat Intro because I had a serious detox reaction during Intro the first time (mercury overload from my 8 amalgams)! I had to interrupt the healing of the Intro to eliminate the mercury through getting to a dentist who removed them safely. Only then could I begin healing again. It was an amazing journey and one I have been sharing on my blog. Thank you so much for this great post and thank you Wardeh for hosting it! :)

  2. Jenny Nichols says

    I really dont know where to start with what I need to avoid. I am on “real food” at this point but feel like I need to attempt the GAPS. I am trying to educate myself so I know just how to ease into it. But how do I find out if I really need to avoid the other things you mentioned?

    • says

      Start with GAPS. Give it at least 3 months before you even consider anything else. During that time you will become comfortable with the diet. Keep yourself aware of any foods that seem to cause problems and you may see a pattern emerging. Or after 3 or 6 months on GAPS if you aren’t seeing progress like you expect then come back and read this post again and see if it has any ideas that jump out at you as being things to pursue. Since I wrote this post I have thought of even more issues that I didn’t bring up, in part because i don’t have experience with them. So this is not an exhaustive list but it may be a good way to start.

  3. Carol Oliver Sharp via Facebook says

    Wardeh I just got back from the store. I was thinking about you. In my grocery bag I have three different types of squash. Ever since you shared how squash is so helpful with keeping us from having a low carb issue I’ve been putting squash in my diet. OH My GOSH…..I’m falling in love with squash. This recent post has answered a question my daughterinlaw and I have been wondering about. We’ve been reading about parasites and wondered if it could play a part in all of this as well. Patty

    • says

      There are lots of different approaches for eliminating parasites. We have done most of them. :) Well quite a few anyhow and they aren’t gone yet. We have used vermox, paragone, neem, garlic, oregon grape root, TickABoo, Mimosa, Diotomacious Earth, Black walnut hull, Hmmm… can’t remember what else right now. Some of these are ongoing still. Some had more obvious effects than others. It is hard to say what would work for anyone else though since we are each so individual. Our parasites are not gone yet but I recently have come across the idea that you need to treat for them for much much longer than is traditionally thought so we intend to keep going for a long time at this point.

      • Kristie says

        I went to your website and read alot about you and your children’s stories! I am very curious about diotomacious earth. I have some from the bulk herb store, but not sure what I feel about using it internally. My lyme’s test came out 3 positive bands and 1 indeterminate (not positive or negative). It takes 4 bands to make a positive result. I also suspect mercury. I would love to know the pros and cons of taking diatomacious earth. I have had my fillings safely replaced, and I have done detox + from the bulk herb store for 2 weeks. I have also taken liposomal glutathione which is a detoxifier that is also supposed to be great for lyme’s disease. I would love to get rid of bloating,. fatigue, post nasal drip, tingling hurting legs feet (especially bottoms of feet). Thank you for your reply! I am learning all the time, and because of God, and His help I plan on being 100%.

        • says

          Have you been tested by Igenex? That is the only Lyme test I trust.
          2 weeks is not a long detox time. It usually takes months to remove significant build up. Slow and steady is the way to go. Your body can only detox so much at any one time.
          DE is only to be used if your gut is healthy. I did not react well to it at all and I don’t know if it was too much die off at once or a damaged gut.
          Keep going. You will figure out the next step. It isn’t a fast process at all. We are seeing good progress with essential oils right now. I posted about a liver cleanse on my blog that has really been doing some amazing things for us. It seems to simple and yet the results for us are pretty profound.

        • Robin Seel says

          I also had an “indeterminate” western blot (lyme test). This test is so insensitive (50% accurate) that having multiple bands present strongly points to borrelia infection. The longer borrelia have been present in the body, the less likely the person will test positive — the immune system may be too suppressed. My doctor and I began treating for lyme as an experiment to see if I responded by having a herxeimer (detox) reaction. Within a week I was nearly bedridden, the lyme die-off reaction was so intense. I’ve never been happier in my life!!!!!!!

          I really encourage you to either do further testing (there is now a blood culture test that is new but promises up to 95% accuracy), or do a trial treatment. Really, seeing if you respond to treatment is the fool-proof way to see if you have lyme.

          My healing wishes go out to you, it is a challenging journey.

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