Well, we really did it! We made it through a full month of the GAPS Introduction diet, successfully moved through all the stages, and have begun to transition to the Full GAPS diet. I’m so happy we went through with this — we feel great and the whole thing was relatively painless.
I thought I’d take some time to write out how our experience went overall, so that our readers could learn from it. I’ll continue to post about Intro — with tips, recipes, and other stuff you might find helpful — even though I’m done with it, to share with anyone who’s interested in starting GAPS, too.
What We Did Well With
I feel pretty proud of how well we stuck to the requirements of each stage of Intro. Especially the first couple weeks — there wasn’t a meal that went on the table without bone broth and a ferment, everything was prepared according to the instructions in the 30 Day Intro Handbook as well as the GAPS book, and we didn’t stray the least bit from the diet.
Well, except that time PH got peer-pressured into drinking half a beer, and felt like death for the rest of the day. Lesson learned with that — cheating on Intro comes with its own, natural punishment as a consequence!
I also feel good about how well I prepared myself to take on the challenge of Intro. I invested a lot of time into researching the diet, had saved up for and bought all the supplies I needed, and I felt very well-equipped to get this thing done.
What We Could Improve On
I started to get a little lazy with some aspects of Intro toward the end. I found myself really not ever in the mood for a sour veggie ferment in the morning, so I usually went without. I think this will actually improve once we introduce dairy back into our diet — because yogurt or a kefir smoothie in the morning always sounds good to me!
There were also several days where we definitely didn’t do broth at every meal, although now that we’re transitioning to Full, the requirement changes from every meal, to at least once a day. I think I’m going to aim for twice — a cup in the morning, and the evening. Skipping packing the hot soup for lunch will be a welcome change to my morning routine.
We also could have done better with preemptively doing detox strategies before we saw die-off symptoms. We did great with the juicing every day, once we were able to introduce it, but the detox baths (with epsom salts, baking soda, or apple cider vinegar) didn’t happen as regularly as I would have liked. We actually don’t have a bathtub, but you know what works nearly as well? Foot baths! I’ll be writing more about this soon, too.
One other thing that I didn’t do so great with was introducing new foods slowly with only a tiny amount as recommended in the books. Case in point would be my applesauce fail I described last week. You gotta take it easy with this, especially when it comes to sweet things!
As I explained back before I even started Intro, one of the main reasons I chose to go through with GAPS was because I have been chronically underweight my entire life.
From all the stories I’ve read through of GAPS-going people’s experiences, it’s typical to lose around five pounds on Intro. I prepared myself for this to happen, and tried not to let the anxiety of potential weight loss get to me. Sure, I might lose several pounds, but I knew I would be able to at least get back to where I started after a month or two on Full. Losing five pounds wouldn’t be the end of the world, I told myself, but I still was sad to think of the possibility.
Well, as it turned out, I didn’t lose a single ounce.
I GAINED FOUR POUNDS!
I could hardly believe it! I know that’s a small amount, and that your body weight can fluctuate throughout the day even by that much, so for several days I’ve been weighing myself multiple times a day and going by the average. I did this at the beginning as well. It’s a solid four-pound increase.
If I can continue to gain four pounds a month, I will more than meet my goal by our wedding this summer!
I cannot even begin to tell you how thrilled I am about this. It’s been a life-long source of stress, the weight of which has been lifted off my shoulders — and added to my booty where it belongs!
Again, this is not typical. An initial weight loss is to be expected, which is what did happen to PH. He lost about 8 pounds, then started gaining it back and right now is only a couple pounds less than when he started. He did not need to lose any weight, and he will continue to try to gain until he gets where he wants to be.
I think the reason why I was able to gain was largely due to my appetite increase. Even though the foods I was eating weren’t ideal for weight gain, I was easily eating probably 50% more food/calories than I used to on a daily basis. Maybe more. And because my gut wall was being healed, I was absorbing and assimilating much more of those nutrients than I used to be able to.
My taste in food has changed dramatically.
While I used to have an absolutely ridiculous sweet tooth, now even just a little too many apple pieces in my veggie juice makes me go, ick. Too sweet! This is coming from someone who literally shed a tear at the thought of having to let go of my pastry habit from the local bakery. No apple turnovers for maybe TWO years?! I died.
Except I haven’t.
I don’t crave sweets the way I used to, at all. I still enjoy them, and I’m allowing myself to have them liberally in the form of honey and fruit since I’m trying to gain weight, but it’s not nearly as much of a need for them I have anymore.
I’m shocked at the things I eat now that used to be so unappetizing to me. Tomatoes? Used to pick them off mycheeseburger. Now, I load up on them in a simple salad with cucumber, hard-boiled eggs, avocado, and herbed olive oil and thoroughly enjoy them. Onions? Ew… those are for flavoring, not eating, I used to think. Now, I pile them onto my plate and eat them by the forkful.
I’ve heard from GAPS families that very picky children become much better at eating a wide variety of food. Now, I’m not surprised. It happened for this picky girl with a kid-like appetite!
Other symptoms affected
One kind of odd and quite unexpected effect I’ve experienced is that along with a slight improvement in my moods, my anxiety has gone down significantly. I don’t have an acute anxiety disorder or anything like that, but I do tend to get really nervous over any sort of confrontation, and I tend to worry about things which are beyond my control (like PH’s safety while he’s working with big, scary, dangerous machinery on the job).
I noticed that my worrying has lessened a lot, and I have more social confidence. When I need to speak up about something, I’m much better about doing that now. I gave someone a real earful the other day who truly deserved it, and I felt really proud of myself for saying what needed to be said while not having my heart racing a million miles a minute. Anxiety is a common symptom of a GAPS patient and is very much treatable with the diet, so I really shouldn’t be surprised that what little of an anxiety problem I had is now pretty much gone.
Overall, I’ve noticed improvement in several aspects of my health, in addition to the weight gain and anxiety reduction:
- Improved energy, most noticeably in the morning
- Increased appetite
- Improved digestion and elimination regularity
- Reduction in cravings for sweets and starches
For PH, he’s noticed the following:
- Pain in joints nearly gone
- Better sleep quality
- Improved digestion
Why I think Intro was so easy for us
As I’ve mentioned before, we pretty much breezed through Intro without any terrible detox/die-off symptoms that are common for many people. I’ll be honest with you though — our experience isn’t quite the norm.
The conclusion that I’m coming to is that I think if you don’t have significant digestive symptoms, Intro will be more likely to be relatively easy for you, like it was for us. There are many, many different types of GAPS patients. Some are using GAPS to heal from serious digestive problems such as IBS, Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, and so on.
My main physical symptom of gut damage was just that I hadn’t been able to gain weight. PH didn’t even really have any sort of physical symptoms that indicated gut damage, other than that he had really bad acne as a teenager (skin problems like that are always a huge red flag for GAP syndrome) and subsequently was put on a very harsh, very damaging drug to rectify that. So we knew there was damage with him as well, but he only had been suffering very low-grade symptoms, and had relatively normal digestion overall like I did.
There are, however, some things that even those with serious digestive problems can do to lessen the effects of die-off and make going through Intro much more tolerable. I’ll be soon sharing my tips for how you can have the most success you can on Intro.
What do you think?
Does GAPS sound like something you’d like to try to optimize your health? Has our experience influenced your thoughts about the diet?
If you’d like to read more about how Intro went for us, check out our weekly updates here:
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