I’m excited to share with you my experience on how to start the GAPS introduction diet.
How to Start the GAPS Introduction Diet
Even though following the GAPS diet is delicious way to eat, changing the way you eat isn’t easy. For me, focusing on the end goal was very helpful. And it is so worth it!
Many people have successfully used the GAPS diet to get relief from things like constipation, food allergies, and food intolerances (source). It was one the most important things I’ve done to improve my wellbeing. Read about how the GAPS diet changed our lives here.
If you have a plan and guide in place, following the GAPS diet is very doable. I’m going to share my experience on how to start the GAPS introduction diet with you.
If you’d like even more tips on how to start the GAPS Diet in general, check out my post here.
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What is the GAPS diet?
The GAPS diet is a way of eating that focuses on gentle, nourishing foods that are good for the digestive system. Dr. Natsha Campbell McBride, author of “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” designed the GAPS diet to rebuild leaky gut and restore the balance of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.
As we know, the roots of a tree, invisible, hidden deep under the ground, play a crucial role in the wellbeing of every branch, every twig, every little leaf of that tree, no matter how proudly high and far they may be from those roots. In the same way the diverse and multiple functions of gut flora reach in the body far beyond the gut itself. Gut and Psychology Syndrome, page 25
Read more about what gut dysbiosis is here.
How to Implement the GAPS Introduction Diet
How do I start the GAPS introduction diet? Switching to the GAPS diet from another way of eating takes some planning. Here is what I did before I began GAPS intro:
- Got my kitchen ready. There are certain foods I knew I needed to have on hand, and there are some appliances and equipment that make the diet easier. I went shopping and stocked my kitchen. It’s also a good idea to get rid of non allowed foods. I have a guide on how to get your kitchen ready for the GAPS diet here.
- Cleared out my schedule. The first stages on GAPS intro are the biggest adjustment. Most people feel some detox or die off during the first stages. I found it was helpful to take it easy during this time, take extra rest, and do epsom salts baths. I made sure my days were open and free to let me take it easy during the first few stages of GAPS intro.
- Prepared some of the foods. I spent some time in the kitchen making bigger batches of the most important foods, like meat stock, squash, sauerkraut, yogurt, and ghee. That way, I didn’t have to try and start the diet at the same time that I was trying to figure out how to prepare those new foods. I have a free eBook that shows you how to make all of the essential recipes for the GAPS introduction diet, and you can grab your copy here.
- Made my ferments. Fermented vegetables, like sauerkraut, are such an important part of the GAPS diet. It takes at least several days for the fermentation to happen, so I made some batches of homemade sauerkraut ahead of time so they would be ready to use when I started GAPS intro. Read all about sauerkraut benefits here. I also began some batches of yogurt. That way I was sure I knew what I was doing with that, and could easily make more yogurt for whey, and make sour cream once I started the diet.
- Ordered the essential supplements. I took cod liver oil, essential fatty acids, a probiotic, and some digestive enzymes while I was on the GAPS diet. Even though I knew I wouldn’t start taking them right away, I went ahead and bought the supplements before starting GAPS intro so that I didn’t have to worry about it later. I talk all about supplements for the GAPS diet here.
What can you eat on the GAPS introduction diet?
The GAPS introduction diet builds upon a foundation of the foods that are best at soothing and rebuilding leaky gut. Dr. Campbell-McBride recommends starting on stage 1 with meat stock and soft boiled meats, non starchy vegetables that are cooked very soft, healthy fat, and liquid probiotic food. She also recommends ginger or mint tea in between meals.
Each stage of the GAPS introduction diet builds on these foundational foods. I added the new foods for each stage, one at a time, slowly and carefully, making sure I was ready.
This blended carrot soup and this beef soup are perfect for stage 1 and beyond. For a simple and delicious chicken stew for GAPS intro stage 2, check out this recipe here.
Everything you need to know about the GAPS diet: the complete guide
I followed the entire GAPS diet for 2 solid years. Dr. Campbell-McBride recommends that most people do GAPS for this amount of time. I took the essential supplements that she recommends.
After going through each of the intro stages, I transitioned to the full GAPS diet. I explain how I transitioned to the full GAPS diet here.
What can I eat for breakfast on the GAPS diet?
Breakfast on GAPS is one of the biggest adjustments for people, especially on the first few introduction stages. Once traditionally prepared eggs are introduced in stage 3, you’ll be back to eating a more typical breakfast.
On stages 1 and 2 of GAPS intro, soup is actually a perfect breakfast. The key is to have an open mind. Once you try it, you’ll see how good it really is! I had soup for breakfast quite often on GAPS intro. Thankfully, there are many different ways to make soup for the GAPS diet.
Something I like to do first thing in the morning on the GAPS diet is juicing. I explain how to do GAPS diet juicing here.
Meat stock and bone broth
What is meat stock? How is it different from broth? These are questions that lots of people ask when they’re getting ready to start the GAPS introduction diet.
Meat stock is made by simmering bones and meat in water for a shorter amount of time. Bone broth is made by cooking bones in water for a longer amount of time.
Dr. Campbell-McBride recommends meat stock for the GAPS introduction diet, because it is more gentle. Bone broth is very healing, but it can be a little too much for people just starting GAPS, and cause too much of a healing crisis. I used bone broth once I was farther into the GAPS diet.
Having pure, healthy water is very important. This is my Berkey water filter review for the water filter system we use in our home.
Common mistakes on the GAPS introduction diet stages
In my reading and talking to people, I’ve come across some common GAPS intro mistakes that can come up. I’ll share my experience and how to avoid them.
- Introducing more than one food at once. This seems like it wouldn’t be a big deal, but it actually is. If you introduce two foods, and one gives you a reaction, you have no idea which food it was. It takes so much longer to go back, start again, and sort through which food caused the reaction. When I did GAPS into, I was careful to only add one food at a time. I went slowly and made sure enough time went by before adding the next food.
- Moving through the stages too quickly. Each stage of GAPS intro builds on the previous one. It’s really important to spend enough time on each stage, so that healing can take place before adding new foods. In our fast paced, modern world, it’s easy to get caught up in wanting things to happen in an instant. But, healing takes time. And believe me, it is time well spent!
- Discontinuing the diet too soon. Sometimes people give up without giving the GAPS diet a chance to work. Like I said before, healing takes time. Sometimes, there are situations where people need a different approach to starting the GAPS diet. Some might need the help of a certified GAPS practitioner to navigate the diet. It’s a good idea to explore different options and approaches before deciding to quit GAPS for good.
- Using a low quality probiotic. It’s really important to use a probiotic that fits the criteria recommended by Dr. Campbell-McBride. I explain her recommendations for probiotics and other supplements here.
More GAPS Introduction Diet Resources
Are you thinking about starting the GAPS diet?
What questions do you have? What are your biggest challenges? Tell me in the comments!
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Looking for a GAPS intro meal plan?
GAPS to Go is a 30 day meal plan for the GAPS introduction diet that tells you what to eat each day, with complete cooking instructions, and guidance on when to move to each intro diet stage. Check out GAPS to Go here.
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GAPS™ and Gut and Psychology Syndrome™ are the trademark and copyright of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride.
The information in this blog post is my personal experience and opinion. It is for general information purposes only, that may not apply to you as an individual, and is not a substitute for your own physician’s medical care or advice. Always seek advice from your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding nutrition, medical conditions, and advice. Never disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical care because of something you have read on this blog.