Are you on the GAPS Diet? Have you thought about starting? How do you know when it's time to stop?
My family and I have been on the GAPS Diet for almost five years. We're unusual that way. We needed to keeping going because healing was continuing to happen.
Along the way, as obstacles presented themselves, I studied supplements and alternative forms of healing to complement the diet.
Our bodies can often heal themselves, given the chance and the means to do so. But how long does this healing process take?
We've been dependent on the GAPS Diet for most of my children's childhoods. A year ago, I questioned if I personally would ever be able to get off.
Don't get me wrong — I actually love the diet and am content with consistently excellent meals — yet, I wondered, Will my body ever be able to eat foods like potatoes or sprouted rice flour again?
Thanks to my own research and various people I met along the way, I don't wonder any more. Each solved piece of the puzzle projected me or my children forward — until finally, we are essentially well: full of energy, no rashes, and autoimmune diseases in remission or greatly improved.
Somewhere along our journey, under the care of one practitioner who required me to take regular volumes of prebiotic fiber and to do regular enemas, I became constipated.
Thus began my search for causes and remedies to constipation. Here are my discoveries.
I learned that my body did not need supplemental fibers (like apple pectin, psyllium husk, and inulin) — but it did need whole food sources of prebiotics.
How does this relate to the GAPS Diet? For those who have FODMAP (Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-, And Polyols) sensitivities, the GAPS Diet doesn't provide very many prebiotic food alternatives — or even very many prebiotic foods at all.
For example, two excellent GAPS-friendly prebiotic foods are leeks and onions. But they cause bloating in those with FODMAP issues and are therefore avoided.
Without leeks and onions, a GAPS patient — including me — may eat almost no prebiotic foods.
I'd been doing GAPS for so long, and without any cheating (ever), so I actually felt a bit guilty about taking this step. GAPS had been my friend and ally for so long. How could my body possibly handle the addition of a starchy flour?
I was wrong. Do you know what happened? My colon got happy, and my constipation improved.
Prebiotics! They were what my body was missing.
A full description of why my constipation cleared is beyond the scope of this post, but suffice it to say that adding grain-free starches to my diet was an excellent step in my wellness journey — a step my body was ready for! And surprisingly, the GAPS Diet simply couldn't provide this step for me.
My family also introduced tigernut flour, arrowroot starch, tapioca starch, red new potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Shortly after, I stumbled upon confirmation of all I'd just learned, in an article by Chris Kresser:
…I saw a lot of issues with people who were staying with that really extreme early intro approach and started to recommend that people add some more starchy tubers and other starchy types of plants and resistant starch into their diet as they improved in function so that they could preserve their good gut bacteria without completely decimating it. (source)
I wish I'd read that article one year sooner. But perhaps, for my family, five years was what we needed. Our starch-free guts, though void of prebiotics, were healing up in other necessary ways.
How Long To Stay On GAPS?
Naturally, the duration of the GAPS Diet will vary considerably from person to person. Some will find two years to be enough; others, like us, need more time.
How did we know when it was time to be done?
Our symptoms had almost completely disappeared, with the exceptions of my son's dyslexia and my own Hashimoto's. Both are still in process, but both keep improving.
I include the two above details because I want to give you an unedited picture. GAPS has not made all of our wildest dreams come true — BUT, it truly has been amazing.
Briefly, here is what we've accomplished over the last five years through the GAPS Diet, our amazing doctor, and supplements:
- my Raynaud’s Syndrome is in remission
- my Interstitial Cystitis is in remission
- my arthritis is healed
- our rashes and eczema have completely disappeared
- my daughter's asthma is in remission
- my son’s dyslexia has improved
- I've overcome adrenal fatigue
- our leaky guts are sealed
- we've overcome pathogen overgrowth and sugar addiction
The GAPS Diet has been foundational in all of this healing. And yet, we added many critical components of our own.
We could not have made the progress we have without the diet, but conversely, the diet alone could not have gotten us this far.
The other pieces of the puzzle include:
- detox baths
- insights into food intolerances
Additionally, juicing and omitting all supplements were two facets of the GAPS Diet that didn't help us at all.
How To Phase Off The GAPS Diet
When you feel well, or mostly well, move forward. Slowly reintroduce a starch you've missed, like red new potatoes (cooked and cooled because the process of retrogradation creates resistant starch), or a gentle starch like cassava that contains resistant starch.
Start slowly, and be okay if the reintroduction isn't successful. Too much starch, introduced too fast, will produce gas, possibly a negative effect on one's bowel movements, and potential pain in the stomach or GI tract.
Continue to drink a mug of bone broth (or gelatin-fortified tea) with every non-soup meal. This is vital and will keep providing the building blocks of your gut lining.
Continue to eat probiotics with every meal, or in supplement form.
Stay committed to the ultimate goal. Introduce new foods only as your body wants them. Listen to your body. Let soups, stews, animals fats, organic produce, and not too many sweets be normal.
How do you add back in grains?
I recommend starting with gluten-free sourdough when you're ready. Sourdough is the most thorough method of predigesting grains. This recipe for gluten-free apple spice sourdough donuts will get you started. See how your body responds and proceed accordingly.
For those with a history of pathogen overgrowth, keeping balanced gut flora is now a life-long focus. We will never again eat lots of sugar or stop consuming probiotics and prebiotics. I, for one, will always keep pathogen killers in rotation with my probiotics. Avoid sugar completely or add it in only a very little at a time.
As GAPS patients, we've worked long and hard to accomplish healing. Let's maintain that. Don't let the precepts of the GAPS Diet fade out of your life.
Bone broth, fermented foods, animal fats, cholesterol, and minimal sweets will always be wise aspects of my diet. I thank Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride for these food truths — ones that I genuinely enjoy and keep close in my daily meal choices.
Where are you in your GAPS Diet journey?
Looking for more nourishing, gut-healing foods that your family will love to eat?
Be sure to check my cookbook: Eat Beautiful: Grain-Free, Sugar-Free and Loving It (softcover version as well).
It contains all the recipes I've perfected through my family's years on a gut-healing diet.
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