What’s the difference between Intro and Full GAPS? What do they mean?
Well, the GAPS Diet has 2 phases — the Intro and the Full.
If you’re brand new to our GAPS series, check out our posts Why I’m On The GAPS Diet as well as Let’s Demystify The GAPS Diet.
The Intro GAPS Diet
The 6 stages of the Intro Diet are restrictive. They focus on a limited number of foods (get a list here) — all very nourishing and easy to digest — with the purpose of soothing an inflamed and tender digestive system.
As a person moves from stage to stage, they introduce new foods as long as the foods can be tolerated.
Intro jump-starts healing. However, it can cause quite intense detoxification — aka “die-off”. Bad organisms in the gut (viruses, pathogens, bad bacteria, fungi, undesirable yeasts, etc.) start to perish and give off toxins on their way out.
Unfortunately, these released toxins can cause increased allergies, rashes, headaches, fatigue, lack of energy… And on top of all that, some people also suffer extreme boredom from the limited selection of allowed foods.
Intro is typically done before the Full GAPS Diet, and probably lasts around a month. Sometimes, if Intro is too difficult, people choose to complete it more quickly, or they skip it entirely. Others stay on it for months. There’s really no one-size-fits-all.
If you’re interested in implementing the GAPS Diet, the book is, of course, required reading. 😉 Also, What Can I Eat Now? 30 Days On Intro eBook is an excellent resource, complete with step-by-step meal plans for all 6 stages of Intro.
The Full GAPS Diet
As you can imagine, Full GAPS is less restrictive than intro — yet still eliminates all sugars (grains, sweeteners except raw honey, and starchy vegetables).
It includes nourishing foods such as fermented foods, fermented dairy, broth, meats, nuts and seeds, pastured animal fats, coconut oil, olive oil, and non-starchy vegetables (see a complete list here).
For the person with severe gut issue, Full GAPS can often pose a problem. This person simply has so many food allergies and reactions that they have to make their own kind of Intro diet.
Dr. Natasha recommends at least 2 years for the Full GAPS Diet, although I know people who’ve done it for 6 weeks. It depends on the severity and need for gut healing.
When it’s time to come off Full GAPS, people may slowly introduce sprouted “grains” such as buckwheat and quinoa. They eat only small amounts, seeing what is tolerated without an onset of symptoms.
The Purpose & Timing Of GAPS
The GAPS Diet — whether Intro or Full — is not meant to be a permanent diet. It’s meant for healing so that a person can eat most, if not all traditional foods, again. This doesn’t always happen for everyone, but for most it is a common goal.
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Kristi Massa Wagner via Facebook says
Very helpful, Wardee! One thing I’m considering that Cara suggested in one of her resources is starting backwards… like starting with full GAPS and going to Intro in order to reduce the likelihood of ketosis….
I definitely did best doing “full” GAPS first, then doing intro once I had learned the ropes a little bit. I still had die-off symptoms, but I didn’t have enough cooking fundamentals to jump straight into intro!
I would also counsel people to eat fresh fruit if you can tolerate it. I always shied away from eating grapes, apples, etc because I wanted to be eating a lot of nourishing bone broth, but I found that I was too low-carb a lot of the time and I think eating more fruit would have helped me.
One last tip: get a juicer. You will love it!
May everyone find strength and healing!
Yes Wardee very helpful. I also appreciate what Sarah just posted about about eating more fruits to help fight off the low carb issues. I haven’t started the diet yet, but one thing that has been a concern to me is the low-carb part of the diet.
Sarah is right a juicer is wonderful!
Thanks Wardee, Carol
Carol — GAPS is not supposed to be low-carb. We will talk about this more. In our family, we get low energy if we’re not eating enough veggies for carbohydrates. And honey and fruit, too, though less of those. Salads are lower calorie than squash fries or baked squash or steamed cabbage. We struggle on only salad but do much better on the higher energy vegetables. They’re essential!
Thanks Wardee….this has been such a big concern of mine. I’m looking forward to hearing more.
Keep bringing it on, carol ;o)
Katie G. says
I’m just finishing the intro diet, and I did find I was getting tired of my food choices, but overall the experience was good! I decided to go straight to intro because I was already pretty much grain free. I noticed digestive problems when I had grains. Also with the carb thing, remember that this also varies. I was noticing that I would get more white on my tongue than normal and gain a few pounds if I had more than a little fruit or more than one bowl of squash soup. One must always listen to their body.
Mooberry Farmwife says
Very interesting and well-explained. I find the whole subject of food and nutrition fascinating. I’m looking forward to learning more through this series.
I did full GAPS for several months, and then I did Intro. I personally think it is less traumatic on the body, especially if you are going from SAD or a diet high in grains and fiber, to do it that way. For one thing people can feel quite ill with flu-like symptoms and another thing that we don’t like to talk about is some (many) of us are dependent on fiber (instead of the right gut bacteria) and everything stops dead in its track – if you know what I mean. 🙂 In Dr. Natasha’s FAQ she has clarified that some people don’t need to do Introduction, and she says it is okay to do full GAPS first, then Intro at a later time, or not at all. For people with severe digestive problems, like diarrhea she does recommend doing Introduction first. Something else I like to recommend to families with small children if the family is determined to start out with Intro – mom and/or dad should start first. That way they won’t be flat out with die off, what some refer to as “carb flu” while the kids are feeling the same. One of the ladies I interviewed on my Blog Talk Radio show shared how chaotic it was when her and her husband and kids started on Intro all together. We giggled about it because it happens often, of course it wasn’t funny when she went through it, but thinking back on it…
Starlene, I also did the intro as a health measure to stop taking meds for Reflux. While the Gaps worked perfect for that…so much so from day one I no longer had Reflux symptoms….but, like you said, things stop dead in their tracks…like bowel movements. I wasn’t prepared for that and suffered for a couple weeks before I found Smooth Move tea. All natural and great to get things going again. I personally felt great other than the ‘not moving’ and would encourage others to take the step to make the change. If not doing the intro at least the full. It heals and seals and will turn your health around!
Starlene– I totally agree with you on the idea of doing GAPS first & then doing Intro. My husband & I are on Day 5 of the Intro diet & apart from a bit of low energy, we didn’t have any bad reactions. We had been pretty much grain & sugar free for a few months prior to starting the Intro diet & I really attribute that fact to our lack of really bad symptoms. It’s worth easing into the Intro diet to try to avoid the terrible die off reactions that I’ve read so much about. Also, it can give you some time to really prepare for the foods that you will be making during Intro so you don’t have to be so bored with your meals. My immersion blender is my new best friend & I’m using it to purée squash, chicken skin, liver & veggies into my soups to make a thicker base. Even thought you have to eat soup for every meal, get creative & try new things! I highly recommend the book Heal Your Gut Cookbook. It is a GAPS Intro lifesaver & then a lovely cookbook after you’re done with Intro.
My family has been on GAPS for 4 months now. The children have adapted and done very well on it. We all feel more energetic and less foggy (unless I go through a wave of die off). Intro took us (particularly me) a long time–maybe 3-3 1/2 months. Even now I have GAPS legal foods that I have to avoid (such as almonds and lard) or I’ll get joint pain and an exasperating compulsive desire to stretch my shoulders, neck, and sometimes fingers and toes (has anybody else ever dealt with this?). My face is also a barometer for me. When I break out badly now, it seems to be because I’ve eaten a food that causes inflamation in my gut because I’m not ready for it (at first it was from a lot of die off). Last but not least, my best friend on this diet has been kefir. I crave it. It has facilitated needed die off, so I’ve had to be careful and back off on it ocassionally, but it fills my tummy and gives me a boost when nothing else does. I think the B vitamins it contains have been helpful for me, too (since grains are a no-no). In fact, I’ve been without kefir this week and have felt like I wasn’t going to make it through (more emotional and hungry—a bad combination!)
FYI ~ Caroline’s GAPS chocolate chip recipe calls for using Baker’s Unsweetened Chocolate. Unfortunately, this is a Genetically-Modified food product produced by Kraft/Philip Morris. See reference: http://opposingdigits.com/forums/post-62.html
Dagoba and Sunspire both make organic unsweetened chocolate bars. Green & Black also offers an organic extra-dark chocolate bar that may be used in other recipes not GAPS related.
I just ordered the Idiot’s Guide to Fermenting Foods today from Amazon and can’t wait to learn more about it. I have a laundry list of symptoms and am thinking seriously of starting the GAPS diet to see if that helps. Thanks for all your great information!
Megan Prats Homan via Facebook says
Question: If yeast is an issue, would you stay in intro until it is under control, or move on (without major symptoms)? Thanks for this series!
I jumped with both feet right into the GAPS intro….as a previous reader stated, it stopped the pipes up solid. Once I got past that initial problem I did very well. The food was satisfying and I felt extremely good. Lots of energy, slept better, skin became smoother, joints didn’t ache, lost a full clothing size +. I did it to heal my gut and end the acid reflux for which I was taking expensive medication. I had previously tried to wean myself off it to no avail. The very day I started GAPS intro, I stopped taking the meds and I no longer had symptoms… and to this day 1 yr and 8 mo later, still no acid reflux. While I have incorporated some regular food back in to my diet, I still keep up with the probiotic rich cultured raw dairy products, healthy oils (like coconut oil), kombucha, organic veggies and grass-fed/pastured meats and fermented veggies. I would highly recommend the GAPS protocol for everyone and suggest you start where you are comfortable.