The GAPS diet is a temporary diet used to heal mild problems (like eczema and allergies) as well as serious problems such as lupus, autism, and rheumatoid arthritis. The GAPS diet heals these conditions by establishing normal gut flora and repairing leaks in the gut walls. The diet is very nourishing and allows the gut walls to heal by allowing no complex food molecules (which cannot be properly digested by a compromised gut). My family has good success using the GAPS diet to treat joint pain and boost the immune system, among other things.
Tips for getting started
- Get organized: Before starting the diet, make sure you have a good understanding of what foods are allowed and not allowed on the diet. I find it very handy to keep this list of GAPS Diet Allowed and Not Allowed Foods on the fridge for handy reference. I also frequently visit the Legal/illegal SCD list, which is a very comprehensive list of legal and illegal food items, including very obscure ingredients. (The GAPS Diet is based on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD); while this list is for SCD, it also generally applies to GAPS as well.)
- Get everyone on-board: If possible, get everyone in your household on-board for the GAPS Diet. In the beginning, the GAPS Diet can feel overwhelming at times. The diet is more likely to be a success if everyone follows it together, as this will keep the amount of cooking and cheating on the diet to a minimum.
- Practice doing GAPS: Rather than jumping in all at once, try having a few GAPS weekends to see what the diet is like. These weekends will be a great chance to figure out exactly how to do the GAPS diet, and to get comfortable with it before you're fully committed.. This allows you to still have plenty of time to research anything that you're unsure about without the pressure of having to know everything all at once. My $5 grain-free e-cookbook is a great resource to have when you start the Full GAPS diet.
- Prepare meals in advance: During your practice GAPS weekends, make some large servings and double batches. Freeze the leftovers so that you already have some foods ready for when you start GAPS. This is like having a safety net in place for when you actually start GAPS full-time.
- Make ferments, broth, and snacks: Since the GAPS diet relies so heavily on broth and fermented foods, it is a big help to prepare some of these in advance. I have relied heavily on storebought fermented pickles (I use Bubbies brand) as well as homemade sauerkraut and bread and butter pickles. Storebought condiments are also generally not GAPS-legal, so you may want to take the time to prepare some homemade mayo and ketchup in advance of starting the diet. If possible, prepare a few grain-free snacks in advance as well, as snacking on GAPS can seem particularly difficult when you are not used to eating GAPS.
- Go very slowly in introducing fermented foods and probiotics: Even if you are already taking probiotics and eating fermented foods, a “die-off” reaction can occur with the shift to more beneficial bacteria as you transition onto the GAPS diet. “Die-off” reactions are caused by toxins that are released as the bad bacteria are killed within the gut, and symptoms can include diarrhea, flu-like symptoms, headaches, and lethargy. Stop taking probiotics before you start the GAPS diet, and then very slowly reintroduce them once you have finished with the first round of die-off. With a therapeutic-strength probiotic (such as Bio-Kult), you'll need to initially break the capsules open and start with a small amount (such as 1/4 of one pill). Wait several days before increasing the amount to keep die-off symptoms to a minimum.
- Start with Full GAPS instead of the Intro Diet: Don't do the GAPS intro diet right away, as this can be totally overwhelming. Instead take a few weeks or even a couple months to get used to the Full GAPS diet first. This will also help to keep die-off symptoms at bay. I will post more about doing the GAPS intro in the coming weeks.
This post is part of Real Food Wednesday and Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways!