Positives of the Intro Diet
The Intro Diet:
- works amazingly to heal the gut quickly,
- is a very good way to tell for certain which foods your body has troubles with, and
- can result in amazing healing or even complete reversal of many gut-related health problems such as joint pain, digestive issues, allergies, etc.
The biggest drawbacks of the Intro Diet are:
- It can be VERY difficult as it is a very restrictive diet,
- It can cause intense die-off reactions as the bad bacteria in the gut are killed off and there is a shift to more healthy gut bacteria,
- It can take as little time as a few weeks or as long as several months, and you can't really predict ahead of time how long it will take you (you pay attention to your bodies cues as to when you should progress through the different levels of the Intro Diet).
My whole family did the intro diet after a few months on the Full GAPS Diet. At the time, my daughter was 3&1/2. The hardest part of the Intro for my her was not being able to have any yogurt or milk. But she and my husband generally breezed through the Intro Diet.
I was exclusively nursing my 8-month old son when we did Intro and I had a VERY difficult time of it. I should caution here that Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride does NOT recommend that nursing mothers do the Intro Diet; unfortunately I somehow missed that and didn't figure it out until I had already started Intro. I had a very hard time getting enough calories and not feeling like I was starving (I dropped 4-6 pounds a week, and it took me a month to get through intro, so that was over 16 pounds in one month).
I tried to quit the Intro, but couldn't because my stomach would absolutely not tolerate eating other foods. This was a huge shock to me, as I didn't think I had many digestion problems (and neither my daughter or husband had the same problems on Intro). So I rushed the Intro as much as possible because I was starving, but still had bad stomach cramping for hours every day because my body wasn't ready to introduce new foods yet. Despite these problems, I had great results from Intro and felt amazing once it was over.
I repeated the Intro Diet after being on GAPS for about 8 months because I wanted to once again accelerate the healing. The second time around, Intro was much easier for me because my infant was eating some foods and not relying on me for all of his calories. I was also able to include kefir and yogurt (since we had already gone through the full dairy progression), and this really helped in making sure I didn't have that starving feeling like the first time around. I was hugely encouraged the second time to see that I did not have the same problems introducing new foods during Intro, so I was able to progress through it quickly without the severe stomach cramps.
Tips for the Intro Diet
- 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.
- If you are nursing, wait to do the Intro until your baby is eating a significant amount of food, or wait until you are done nursing altogether: Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride does not recommend that nursing women follow the Intro Diet as there is the potential for toxins released by the body to be passed to the baby through breastmilk.
- Stop taking probiotics when you start the Intro Diet: Even if you have already followed the Full GAPS Diet for a few months, the Intro Diet can still cause a die-off reaction as the bad bacteria are starved out. Slowly re-introduce the probiotics after the first wave of die-off is over (or after a week or two if you can't tell whether or not there was die-off). Or you could even wait until you've completed the intro before you slowly reintroduce the probiotics.
- Do the full dairy progression BEFORE you do the Intro Diet: Completing the dairy progression before the Intro Diet will give you more options rather than having to eliminate dairy along with so many other foods. The full dairy progression includes NO dairy/cheese/butter/yogurt/kefir for 4 weeks, followed by a sensitivity test (putting whey on the skin and leaving it overnight, then looking for signs of redness or irritation the next morning). If there is no redness or irritation, then start slowly introducing homemade whey a little at a time (starting with 1 tsp per day for a few days and slowly increasing to 1/2 cup per day with meals), then slowly introducing homemade yogurt (starting with 1 tsp/day and working up to a cup or so), and then slowly introducing kefir, and then hard cheeses, butter, etc. Once you start Intro, cut back dairy to only yogurt and kefir. Limit the yogurt and especially kefir in the early days of Intro as they can lead to more pronounced die-off symptoms.
- Freeze some Intro-legal foods ahead of time: Freezing some Intro-legal foods will help in making sure that you will have plenty of food options, and will also save you a bit of cooking during Intro. I like to freeze soups in single-serving glass containers that can be reheated easily in the toaster oven.
- Plan to make enough food to eat 6 meals a day: The foods allowed on the intro diet are so easily digestible that you may need to eat 6 or even more meals each day. Plan for this so you aren't caught off-guard and unprepared.
- Plan to keep a pot of soup cooking at all times: The Intro Diet is centered around consuming broth, meats, and veggies. Keeping a pot of soup or broth cooking at all times during Intro is a great way to save on active cooking time and to ensure that there is always food ready to eat. You can drink the broth throughout the day and easily add more meat and veggies as they are consumed. Keeping a pot or slow cooker going all the time can also make it easy to add some variety by pulling some out into another small pot and adding whatever additional veggies or seasonings you want for variety. There is a great tutorial on a constantly-cooking, perpetual broth here.
- Take some time off or plan nap breaks:Since the body is healing rapidly during the Intro Diet, you may feel more tired than usual. If possible, plan to be able to take some time off work, or try to plan a nap break each day. Also, try not to schedule too many activities, but rather take this time to relax and rest.
- Food variety: Having so few food options during the Intro Diet can make it tiresome to eat sometimes. Egg yolks can be added to any bowl of soup to add great flavor and richness. Some ideas for variety are:
- Beef and veggie soup with peas, carrots, onions, zucchini, garlic
- Boiled chicken (including some chicken skin and fat) served with cooked peas, carrots, and onions, and a cup of broth
- Brisket with carrots and onions (leave the celery whole so you can easily discard it)
- Classic chicken soup with onions, carrots, and mushrooms (celery can be added whole for flavor and then discarded)
- Meatball and mushroom soup (omit the sour cream, replace butter with ghee or tallow)
- Chicken soup with carrots, onions, mushrooms, garlic, thyme, and fresh ginger
- Beef soup with carrots, onions, and fresh dill
- Braised short ribs (follow the time-crunch method and leave the celery whole so you can easily discard it)
- Chicken soup with tomato paste, garlic, carrots, onions, zucchini, green beans, peas, and oregano
- Chicken and thyme soup (omit the creme fraiche and replace butter with ghee or chicken fat)
- Pureed butternut squash soup made with chicken broth, chicken fat, onion, garlic, ginger, honey, and nutmeg (since spices aren't allowed in the early stages of Intro, you can leave the nutmeg whole and discard it once the soup is done)
- Slow cooker beef fajitas (omit cheese and sour cream from garnish, serve in a bowl)
- Pizza soup made with beef, strained tomatoes, garlic, onions, carrots, basil, oregano, thyme, and a dash of red wine vinegar
- Herbed pork and cabbage stew