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Today is the third annual “Real” Food Symposium, held this year at the Sheraton in Pasadena, California. The host is Elaina Luther of Culture Club 101, a tireless advocate of—and educator about—the Real Food Movement.

Dr. Dan Berisford is continuing with his demonstration on home beer brewing. The crowd is lively, with lots of questions for Dan as they examine the ingredients and he cooks his mash.

A lecture by Anna Hammalian on the GAPS (Gut And Psychology Syndrome) diet is in another room, and that room is filled to capacity with people sitting on the floor and standing in the back. She is a certified GAPS practitioner, working with both children and adults with autism, spectrum disorders, autoimmune disorders, asthma, allergies and more of the plagues of modern society. She speaks about the link between the gut and the brain, and talks of how a damaged gut can lead to other health problems that seemed to be unrelated in the past, but new research is showing otherwise.

She gives an overview of her treatments: Diet, Detoxification and Supplementation.

The GAPS diet basically cuts out starches, sugars and other gut-damaging foods, replacing them with nutrient-dense and living foods that heal the gut. The introductory level is pretty spartan, but is a necessary step in healing. Gelatin- and nutrient-rich bone broths make up the majority of the diet at first, with more healthful foods added as the body heals.

Anna speaks of the challenges in detoxifying the body. Toxins are everywhere: our environment, our foods, our personal care products. Even some of the medicines given to us are actually toxic; for example, an allergy medicine first introduced in the 1950s actually prevents the body from detoxifying itself. There are ways to help detoxify and rebuild, but first we must eliminating toxins from our lives as much as possible. This includes pesticides and chemicals in our homes and gardens (try to replace these with essential oils and natural products), our food (eat organic and grass-fed foods) and using natural personal care products (olive oil, coconut oil, essential oils—try brushing the teeth with olive or coconut oils!). Soaking in epsom salt, sea salt, seaweed, or baking soda baths is an excellent way to help the body rid itself of toxins.

Anna then recommends supplements, mostly in the form of real foods. Bone broths, of course, but also fermented vegetables (sauerkraut juice is highly recommended). Fermented raw dairy products are helpful and build up the body, but she contrasts that with the typical commercial yogurts and other processed dairy products. To illustrate the point, Anna related a story told by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, one of the best-known promoters of the diet and the mother of an autistic son.

“Dr Natasha,” as Anna calls her, is the author of Gut and Psychology Syndrome, a highly-recommended book on the subject. Anna echoes the cautions of Dr. Natasha that each situation is different and each person is different, so one must be careful when adding supplements to the diet. Consulting with a certified GAPS practitioner is, of course, highly recommended. But essential fatty acids are essential for brain and hormone health, and probiotics in the form of the fermented vegetables, fermented raw dairy, cod liver oil, bone and meat broths, organ meats, and healthy doses of vitamin D from sunbathing are all helpful and even necessary for building and maintaining a healthy gut.

After another break, we will have a demonstration of cooking GAPS style, and a session on organic home gardening.

I’ll keep you posted as the day progresses!

(Most photographs in this post courtesy of Jessica Leigh)