I’ve been wanting to write an update on the GAPS Diet for a while now. Where I’m at on it, how it’s going, what I’m eating, and specifically why I did the GAPS Diet… again. But life got in the way. Namely getting pregnant midway through the diet and having a crazy baby who started walking at 7 months. All while blogging and homeschooling and living…
Soooo here we are, two years after I started the GAPS Diet (for the second time), and I’m finally making myself do this thing.
What is this GAPS diet?
If you’ve never heard of the GAPS Diet before, I encourage you to take a look at a post I wrote a couple years ago during my first run on the GAPS Diet. Hello, I’m GAPS outlines the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of the diet, but I also wrote an intro to the Intro, as well as a detailed post on what my family of 6 (at the time) ate while on the Intro Diet and how the Intro affected us.
In short, though, GAPS stands for “Gut and Psychology Syndrome.” The GAPS Diet is all about healing the connection between the brain and the digestive system, a.k.a. your gut. Due to excessive consumption of highly processed foods and overuse of toxic chemicals and antibiotics (among other things), this connection has been damaged, causing all sorts of health and digestive issues.
The GAPS Diet starts out with a very intense, restrictive menu (or lack thereof – ha!), called the Intro Diet. This diet serves to starve out the unhealthy bacteria that have been feeding on the sugars from the carbs and starches in our diets. After the Intro – which can last for weeks or months depending on the person – you can move on to the Full Diet, which is basically a low-starch, refined sugar-free version of the primal diet.
The Full Diet.
Just like the Intro, the Full Diet is mainly stock/broth, meat, veggies, fruits (in moderation), and ferments, but also adds in soaked legumes and aged cheeses and raw milk, if there is no dairy intolerance.
While on the Full Diet, every meal should include these three foods:
- something raw
- something fermented
- a cup of bone broth (unless your meal is soup, which would contain broth)
In all reality, Full GAPS isn’t that bad. There are plenty of GAPS-friendly recipe blogs out there, and most paleo/primal recipes can be easily modified to fit into the diet. And on top of that, the GAPS Diet is only temporary, until your gut has healed and your body is once again thriving.
My journey on GAPS.
The first time my family and I went on the GAPS Diet I had a long list of food sensitivities and intolerances I wanted to heal. One of my daughters was also struggling with SPD. Our hope was that the diet would help heal our guts and clear up these issues. Though the originator of GAPS, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, encourages following the diet for at least 18 months for optimal healing, we were only able to stay on the diet for 6 months. Regardless, the short time we were on GAPS yielded amazing results!
For about two years after doing the GAPS Diet, my daughter’s behavioral issues calmed down, and I was once again able to eat things I hadn’t been able to tolerate as long as I can remember. On top of that, my seasonal allergies were the best (or least?) they’d been since childhood.
After our short stint with GAPS, we transitioned onto a more traditional diet, full of sourdough, kefir, sweet potatoes, and soaked/sprouted beans. But as time progressed we began eating less and less properly prepared grains, and more and more sugar. I knew I was consuming too many of these foods, but convenience convinced me it would be ok.
With that lifestyle, it didn’t take long for my allergies came back full-force. I began to suffer through monthly sinus infections, allergy attacks, pneumonia, and constant drainage until I couldn’t take it any longer.
Back for seconds.
Now, you know that my blog isn’t chock-full of sugar, in fact I use very little, if any at all, and all my grains are gluten-free. But even gluten-free grains can be damaging to your gut, and after a year or more of eating them my delicately teetering-on-healthy body couldn’t handle it.
Why were my allergies so bad, even after all the healing I’d done on the GAPS Diet?
My lackadaisical attitude toward grains and sugars had been slowly destroying all the work my body had done healing during its short stay on GAPS. The more I consumed these foods, the more I re-tore down my intestinal lining, allowing allergies and food sensitivities to come back.
I found out the hard way why Dr. Campbell-McBride urges people to stay on the diet at least 18 months!
So I went back on the GAPS Diet.
Starting with the Intro Diet, stage 1, I slowly and carefully plodded my way to the Full Diet. On my way I experienced even more healing, and an over-all feeling of wellness I hadn’t been able to achieve during my short-lived earlier GAPS experience.
What I ate.
As I mentioned above, the first couple stages of the GAPS Intro Diet are very restrictive. Lots of soup. The end. I’m just kidding, though it does feel that way for a while. I did find the one thing I craved more than anything on the Intro was food that had crunch! That being said, by the time you get to stage 3 you can eat some pretty delicious meals, and by the time you get to the Full Diet you’re pretty much eating like a normal-ish person again. 😉
If you’re looking for a detailed list of what you can eat on the Intro Diet, check out this post, or head up to my GAPS Diet tab in the navigation of my blog. They’re both full of delicious GAPS-safe foods!
Full Diet Deliciousness.
A detailed list of Full Diet dishes is coming soon, so stay tuned for that. But until then I’ll just share a few of my favorite recipes from this time around GAPS…
Soft scrambled/boiled eggs. Before my first round of GAPS I couldn’t tolerate eggs at all. In any form or baked good they would send my stomach into painful knots. Thankfully, post-first-GAPS eggs and I are on happy ground again – as long as my eggs are fresh! While on this last round of GAPS I discovered my love for smooth, silky yolks. I enjoyed them in my soups, on my salads, with my meat (have some protein with your protein?), and in my smoothies!
Nut Butter Squash Pancakes. I struggled making these palatable my first time on the Intro, but was thankfully able to perfect them this time around! And I’m pretty sure I lived on them for a few weeks… Even though they’re technically an Intro meal, I found myself craving them on the Full Diet, too! You can see my recipe here.
Salads. When I was finally able to add in raw greens to my diet I honest felt like throwing a party for myself. I’d never been so excited to eat a salad in my whole life! And throughout the Intro and Full Diet I thoroughly enjoyed finding new ways to dress up my salads, as well as making healthier versions of a few of my favorites, like the Chick-fil-A market salad.
Warming drinks. I’ve always held a special place in my heart for smoothies, but during this round of GAPS I truly began enjoying all the warm drinks – even in the summer! Golden milk and Pumpkin Chai Lattes are now a couple of my favorites drinks.
So here I am.
As of this post, I’m working on transitioning off the GAPS Diet after being on it a full 2 years. This means slowly adding in different foods and seeing how I react to them before progressing. So far I’ve been able to add back in sweet potatoes and tapioca starch, as well as pinto beans and lentils in moderation. There are still foods I simply cannot handle, like any kind of dairy product (yes, even raw, cultured, and lactose/casein-free), white potatoes, oats, rice, and refined sugars.
Though they’re still rough, my seasonal allergies have drastically improved this time around. This past winter was the first in a couple years I didn’t get pneumonia. I even went through my first GAPS pregnancy (hopefully I’ll be able to write more on that soon!) and it was THE BEST pregnancy I’ve had yet. And I’ve had nine…
Now, I don’t want you to think that I’ve been perfectly faithful to the GAPS Diet in these past two years. It was really hard to completely nourish my pregnant/nursing body while on GAPS. Mostly because I had a very limited budget and I ate A TON of food (not literally, but it sure felt like it!). A couple times I cheated and ate a few corn chips or Chick-fil-A fries. I even had to take a month break toward the end of the Full Diet while we were out of town. But for the most part I’ve been completely grain-free and sugar-free (with honey as the exception) for the past two years.
And even though there’s always more healing to be done, as long as I continue to feed my body nourishing, whole foods I feel whole.
Give it a try. . .
If you’re here because you need healing from gut issues and allergies (which really are gut issues), I strongly suggest you give the GAPS Diet a good look. Though it’s best to start with the Intro Diet, it’s also possible to start on the Full Diet and work your way backward to the Intro before heading up again. Or even just do the Full Diet, it’s still helpful for healing!
If you’re not quite ready for the GAPS diet, but you know your gut needs a little work, check out my post on 5 steps you can take to heal your gut.