GAPS Intro Diet: Reflections On Our First 30 Days of Healing


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!

Progress Already!

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! :D

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.

Changing tastes

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:

We Survived One Week of Intro

Cravings, Perseverance, and Pancakes in Week Two

The Best Food I’ve Ever Eaten in Week Three 

Fruit Fails and the Home Stretch in Week Four

 

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MEDICAL DISCLOSURE: Your health is between you and your health care practitioner. Nothing in this blog is intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations is at the choice and risk of the reader.

20 Responses to GAPS Intro Diet: Reflections On Our First 30 Days of Healing
  1. Skye says:

    Very informative and helpful! Thanks so much for documenting and sharing your experience for the benefit of others.

  2. Kristina says:

    Can you tell me about your PH’s joint pain? My hubby has joint pain and has seen doctors about it. They came up with nothing. He also has gone the natural route and did an elimination diet with added protein (he’s a vegetarian) and although the pain isn’t as bad as it used to be (yea!) it’s not gone. I don’t think he’d actually do GAPS but I’m curious about the joint pain that went away.

    • ButterBeliever says:

      He started having trouble with his shoulder, elbow, and knees, and he also fractured a rib. After the first week of Intro, the pain was nearly gone. We are certain it was the collagen-rich bone broth (although if he did have a condition like RA, that could be healed on GAPS), because a few times prior to going on GAPS, he had a big bowl of soup made with concentrated broth, and the pain would be lessened significantly. He called it his “magic soup!” :D

      Do you mind sharing why your husband is a vegetarian? If it’s for health reasons, I’d be happy to point you in the direction of some really good information about why an omnivorous diet is superior for health. If it’s ethical reasons, well, I believe it’s important that the animals I eat be treated ethically and fed a species-appropriate diet. I won’t buy factory-farmed meat and support their cruel practices. If he just doesn’t enjoy the taste of meat, that’s fine! You can have a healthy and nourishing diet without it, but you’d have to be sure to include plenty of eggs, dairy, and ideally bone broth.

      For GAPS though, if he were to do the Introduction diet, it would be a really bad idea to try to go meat-free with it. The only foods you can eat on Stage 1, for example, are boiled meats and squash, broccoli, carrots, onions, and leeks. Later on in the diet, however, and on the full diet, as long as you included enough dairy and eggs (if they’re tolerated) as well as the bone broth (essential for GAPS), you could get away with eating very little to no meat.

      But anyway, if you don’t think GAPS is feasible for him right now, I would at least try to incorporate plenty of homemade meat stock and bone broth. Add in chicken feet or use bones with lots of cartilage like beef feet, or try powdered gelatin from grass-fed cows. Hopefully he doesn’t object to animal bones!

      • Kristina says:

        Thanks for the reply!I used to be vegetarian too–it’s kind of how we met! But now I’m on the GAPS diet and I feel so much better than I have the past few years. He is vegetarian because of concerns about what commercial animals are given (hormones etc.) and how that affects us. I eat pasture-raised meats now but I think that he has just been veg for so long that he’s not interested in eating meat. I think it would be good if he ate bone broth and maybe someday he will but I try not to bug him about it because it’s his choice. I had to go on my own health journey and come to my own realizations as well. What information do you have about the health benefits of an omnivorous diet?

  3. Randa says:

    Thanks so much for this! I’ve been reading Gut and Psychology Syndrome and wanting to do the GAPS diet… trying to prepare myself. I’m in my 30s and for the past three years I’ve had GAPS symptoms – first intense stomach aches, then itchy skin out of nowhere, seemingly. I’ve cut out grains and most forms of sugar (except honey, fruit, and occasionally maple syrup), and have been trying to eat lots of good fats (butter, olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, etc.). Transitioning to GAPS will still be a big transition, I know, but your tips have been helpful. Did you write a “preparing for GAPS” post? If so, I missed it somehow. Hubby says he will do GAPS with me, though I’d hate for him to be really tired the first few days and have to go to work.

    • ButterBeliever says:

      I’m so glad you’ve found my posts to be helpful! Yes, I did write a post about getting ready for GAPS! :)

      http://butterbeliever.com/2012/02/08/gearing-up-for-gaps-what-you-need-to-get-started/

      Sounds like you’re already well on your way to transitioning to GAPS! I mean really, you’re basically on the Full diet already — the only things you’re missing (or maybe you already are doing these) are fermented foods, all dairy except butter being fermented, daily bone broth, and a therapeutic probiotic. The biggest things that GAPS cuts out are grains, sugar, and very starchy root vegetables like potatoes. But you know that since you’re already educating yourself by reading the GAPS book! (good for you!) I think you’ll have an easy transition.

      And if you want to do Intro, that shouldn’t be too hard either. Let me know how it goes for you!

      Oh and make sure to load up on carbs as much as you can — that goes a long way in keeping energy levels up! My man did it and he’s a contractor that does a lot of hard labor. I’m sure your husband will be fine!

      • Randa says:

        Thanks so much for sending that link to your “prep” blog entry, it’s perfect! I just pinned it to my “GAPS” pinterest page (hope that’s okay?).

        Thanks for the encouragement, too… I am going to try & get everything ready over the next few weeks, to start sometime in April! The tip about keeping the carbs up is good to keep in mind, for me & especially hubby.

        We have been taking Udo’s adult probiotic since October, actually… get it at our local health food store in their refrigerated section.

        Blessings!

        • ButterBeliever says:

          Oh awesome! I really need to make better use of my Pinterest account. I stay away from it most days because otherwise like five hours go by and I don’t know what happened to my day. LOL.

          Well please keep me posted on how GAPS goes for you when you get started! If you’re well-prepared and determined to make it work, you’ll do fine. You might even luck out and have a super easy, almost (dare I say…) enjoyable time with it like we did! ;)

          • Randa says:

            Thanks again, and I hope so! I will have to update once we do it… it’s kinda nice to know I have some “accountability partners” in bloggers like you. :)

            I hear ya re: pinterest!!!

  4. It’s great to hear you both are already noticing so many great improvements! Now that I’m going through intro the second time, it’s been much easier for me. I was so exhausted the first week or so when I did it before. It’s nice to have good energy this time around.

    I think going through intro is not only really beneficial, but it makes full GAPS seem to have so many food choices available, which it really does. I can’t wait to get back to full GAPS soon!

    • ButterBeliever says:

      That is so true — I don’t feel like my diet is restrictive in the least now! One of the best things about Intro was that it made me have such an appreciation for all the foods I could eat.

      I’m really glad to hear that your second round of intro is going well! You know, as I was going through it, I kept thinking to myself, “I wanna make sure I do this right, so I won’t ever have to do it again!” But now, I think I really wouldn’t mind doing it again and I think it would be even easier for me because I know exactly what to expect, what to cook, etc. I don’t think I will “need” to do it again, but I might choose to at some point just to give myself an extra boost of healing.

      When you go back on Full, we should have a virtual party to celebrate and both make some cupcakes or something! Haha!

      • Yeah, when I did intro the first time, I wanted to make sure I was never doing it again! It really hasn’t been too bad so far. It’s especially nice to be on the second stage now and having things like egg yolks and casseroles. And it will just keep getting better!

        We should totally have a virtual party when I’m back on Full! I’ll let you know when I’m there!

  5. andie says:

    I loved these posts. I am saving up so I can get everything I need to start. :) now, if I could just convince my hubby to do it with me.

  6. Jenn says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your story! It’s the first one that I’ve seen referred to as relatively painless. :) I was relatively healthy when I began GAPS and it pushed me to a whole new plane of health and mental calm. Which I actually diverged from the month before my recent wedding. ;) Our household is back to full GAPS now, but we’re going to start another round of Intro in a couple weeks to recalibrate and have a Spring cleanse.

  7. Becky says:

    This post was really encouraging. We are doing a trial run this week with the Full GAPS and then going from there. I found it really encouraging that you gained weight since this has been a concern for me since I have also always been underweight and as much as I’ve tried I haven’t been able to put weight on. I was hesitant to try this thinking it would make me lose more, but I will have to see if I will be able to put any weight on! Thanks!

  8. Laura says:

    This is really informative and encouraging (as all your posts abouty GAPS have been), especially regarding anxiety. I would be like you in that I get anxious about the littlest things and don’t speak up wehn needed – and I also suffer from skin problems, so I feel my eyes have been opened with your GAPS posts. I will definitely try it in the future, I was reluctant to do it until I moved to a place that had a bathtub – but foot baths seems like an ingenious alternative.

  9. Evie says:

    Thanks for a wonderful article. My boyfriend and I are on week 3 of the Intro Diet and found this very enlightening. We can certainly relate. We are also in the process of starting our own GAPS blog and it’s exciting to know there are others sharing this good news. :)

  10. […] one of my biggest health concerns — my inability to gain and maintain an appropriate weight. I gained four pounds on Intro. I thought surely this trend would continue, since on Full GAPS my diet would be so much more varied […]

  11. natasha says:

    What if one wants to gain weight on a GAP diet?

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