Raederle’s GAPS Diaries
The GAPS diet has three primary parts:
- Eliminating starches (complex carbohydrates)
- Adding in meat stock made from whole animals or at least a mixture of organ meats, bones, connective tissues, and regular meat.
- Adding in a lot of fermented foods and probiotic supplements.
This diet, if followed carefully, is supposed to heal underlying gut problems and microbiome imbalances which cause a wide array of conditions including autism, fibromyalgia, seasonal allergies, and ulcerative colitis. The full program includes a six-stage introductory diet and a “full GAPS diet” which is where you land after the introduction stages.
There are two GAPS books, and I have the more recent (2020) edition. I began reading it in April 2021 and began my journey with the diet roughly on May 1st 2021. Following the book’s directions, I started with the “full diet” instead of the introduction stages because the book directs people with constipation to use the full diet prior to the introduction diet. Since I’ve had constipation issues my whole life I have my doubts about the full diet ever healing my constipation, but I have gotten some other impressive results.
What follows are posts I made to GAPS facebook groups, the responses I received, and my experiences with embarking on a GAPS diet. This page is an ongoing diary of my experience with GAPS, so it will continue to be updated over the course of my journey.
This page is a wealth of information and I hope that many of you will enjoy reading the entire page from top to bottom. However, I know many of you are here with specific questions. To help you get those answered, I’ve created an index below.
The index links will allow you to navigate around this page. Throughout this page you’ll see small text reading, “Click here to return Raederle’s GAPS Diary Index.” By clicking one of those links you’ll return to this part of the page.
Index | Table of Contents
Health History (Short Summary)
I was a classic GAPS kid sick with everything (strep several times a year, mono four times, etc), overweight by age 14, autism, dyslexia, stomach ulcers. Western medicine overlooked everything, diagnosed nothing, and only offered more and more antibiotics. This is probably the shortest summary I’ve ever written. Let’s just say childhood was mostly misery.
Elimination Diet & Weight Loss
At sixteen I gave up on western medicine and began healing myself with a simple elimination diet. I mostly just ate potatoes and rice. The constant acid reflux stopped, I lost thirty pounds in thirty days (while entirely sedentary), cankersores cleared up, vaginosis improved, etc. I couldn’t reintroduce much though as most things I tried to reintroduce were not tolerated.
FODMAP Digestive Issues
Raw Veganism & FODMAP Issues
At twenty I became a raw vegan and became the most energetic, strong, and healthy I’ve ever been. I studied nutrition avidly, became a health educator, and also became the chief editor for The Vegetarian Health Institute.
But I also developed increasing sensitivities to fumes and FODMAPS (onions, garlic, etc) mysteriously stopped being edible for me. Raw onions and raw garlic had been part of my raw diet for years, and yet they became increasingly aggravating. [Read my June 2nd 2021 update for my newfound ability to eat onions.]
Community Answer: I’d especially like to address your references to mysteriously losing the ability to digest FODMAPs. I relate! This happened to me while on GAPS. In retrospect, this is what I think happened: first off, I never have had a truly functional relationship with plant food at all, ever; e.g. my earliest memories of constipation go back to the toddler years, and my lifelong depression began at age four.
Second, when I decarbed in 2009 on the Specific Carbs Diet (SCD), I might have unwittingly caused myself to lose whatever partial abilities I once possessed to digest plant foods, including FODMAPs, but also including more generally plant starch, plant sugar, and plant fiber – I have trouble in all three categories, so my plant foods consumption must remain low and infrequent.
Perhaps the GAPS stages would have spared me this fate, but I went cold turkey on the SCD, not knowing what I know now. And on GAPS, I had trouble with fructose and fructans from the get-go.
Raederle: I find it fascinating and disturbing that I lost my ability to digest FODMAPs on a raw vegan diet, and you lost the ability while on a very opposite diet (GAPS). What’s going on? I’ve read that some people have been able to eat onions again as a result of GAPS, so some people are going the other direction.
At twenty-two I switched to raw vegetarian and brought in raw milk which helped with lots of things (namely weird joint pain I was having), but slowly other unusual food sensitivities were developing. I noticed that I reacted badly to cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables (although kale was always fine and acted as medicine for me).
Deviating from Vegetarianism
By twenty-five I wasn’t a raw foodist anymore, nor vegetarian, but I found I couldn’t tolerate a long list of foods including cruciferous vegetables, carrots, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. I started taking Royal Blend around this time and found it very helpful but I originally took it infrequently.
Steven Gundry’s Plant Paradox
The Plant Paradox Diet
At twenty-eight I went on the Plant Paradox Diet and became lectin conscious and it made a tremendous improvement. I have two blog posts about the major revelations this had for me, as well as a delicious, carefully-perfected cassava pancake recipe which you can check out here:
After a year lectin-free I was able to introduce peeled, pressure-cooked potatoes again and was so happy about that. I was doing well on a diet with plantains, potatoes, and cassava flour as some of my main calorie sources for a couple years.
Inflammatory Pain & Food Reactions
May 6th 2021
I’m thirty-two now and doing well-ish, but I still have an array of complaints despite eating more healthfully and consciously than anyone I’ve ever known. All my body products, my laundry detergent, my clothes – everything is organic and selected with personal health (and planetary health) in mind.
I am experiencing nearly daily inflammatory pain in my joints these past two years. (For more on that, and how GAPS has almost entirely resolved this issue, see section: Inflammatory Pain.)
I get facial pimples if I eat honey, bananas, dried fruits, yogurt, or cheese. (Even A2A2 dairy.)
I constipate easily (and have my whole life) so I’ve been careful about what I eat to prevent that. Each day needs a little something to keep things moving. I rotate between magnesium citrate, salad, banana, plantains, blueberries, and cacao. Exercise also helps, and also avoiding the foods that explicitly constipate me (such as winter squash, cheese, and nuts).
Stinky Sulfur & Skunk Gas
I get horribly disgusting gas from egg whites, avocados, and coconut. Egg whites and coconut make my gas smell strongly of sulfur, and avocado makes my gas smell exactly like skunk.
Chicken Skin: Yes Please — Meat: No Thanks!
Thankfully, I love connective tissues of meat (which I get from an Amish farm that raises animals naturally). In fact, it’s the only part I crave or like. The meat is bland, kinda gross, and constipates me. I don’t like watery broth. Just the chicken skin, bone, and delicious connective tissues.
Potatoes Tolerated; Nuts Not Tolerated
I want to do the GAPS introduction diet, but I’m dubious. Most of the foods that get introduced throughout the introduction diet are the most problematic foods for me right now. I “tolerate” potatoes far better than nut flour!
Why Carrot Juice?
1. Is it really important to tolerate a cup of carrot juice before adding celery juice, for example? Currently I can drink celery juice all day and it’s great for me (even if it is gross tasting). Carrot juice, however, makes me feel very sick even if I have only a little. (So does beet juice.) Also, why is carrot juice included first? What is the particular logic of this?
Community Answer: I wouldn’t eat anything that makes you feel sick, even if it’s considered good. I can’t drink vegetable juices at all, they make me very nauseous, so I don’t drink them; regardless of how many praises are sung to them. You absolutely can heal on your own terms.
Why Raw Egg Yolks?
2. Is it really important to eat raw yolks if I already tolerate cooked yolks just fine? I currently can eat egg whites, but they give me that disgusting sulphur gas. Does that count as tolerating?
Community Answer #1: Yolks are highly absorbable and nourishing when consumed raw, requiring virtually no digestion, akin to mother’s milk. I highly recommend consuming raw yolks.
Community Answer #2: Yes, you need raw egg yolks. Start with a pin tip. Try to get those 5-7 cups of stock in a day to heal your gut.
[My experience with egg yolks after one month is explored later on this page.]
What is Food Tolerance?
3. What does Natasha really mean by tolerating something? Bananas do just fine in my gut (so far as I know) and really help me poop, but they cause my face to develop pimples. Does that count as tolerating?
Adverse Reactions to Honey
Honey makes my face breakout super aggressively.
4. Does that mean I shouldn’t include it at all, or should I attempt to introduce it one drop at a time? (I generally have not sweetened things with anything besides natural fruits since I was sixteen. In the past I used honey sometimes but every time I broke out really consistently.)
Community Answer: If I were to break out from bananas or honey, I would interpret it to mean that I fed the yeast. This is not desirable and therefore not considered tolerating that food.
Why Is Winter Squash Even On The Intro Diet???
Winter squash constipates me really, really badly, and gives me horrible gas pains. I have not eaten it in years even though I love it. I’m not sure if I have the same reaction to zucchini; I just think zucchini tastes gross so I don’t eat it.
5. Should I try winter squash in my intro diet?
Nuts Give Me Problems
Nuts are one of my biggest problem foods. Most nuts give me gas pains, constipation, stomach cramps, smelly gas, and skin break outs and many nuts (walnuts in particular) cause my breasts to swell and ache too! The only nuts I seem to tolerate at all are hazelnuts and almonds, but even this is very dubious, so I’m not keen on introducing nut-flour based bread that mixes eggs and nuts together. This sounds like a recipe to turn my guts into a rock!
6. Can I really expect my sensitivity to nuts to just go away after living off of connective meat tissues for weeks? That seems so improbable after fifteen years of dietary experiments and deep research.
Community Answers: Probably. Other people resolving their sensitivities to, “Carrots, onions, dairy, fibre intolerance,” “Fructose malabsorption,” and “pineapple, honey, eggs.”
The Magic of Magnesium Citrate (Constipation)
Magnesium citrate works for me in terms of addressing constipation. So do epsom salt baths and enemas. More about how I take this, how much I take, and how it is working for me in later on this page. And also, how it has stopped working for me on GAPS!
7. If I prevent myself from becoming constipated by using these methods heavily, as needed, is it okay for me to do the introductory diet? (I feel that the full GAPS diet is going to be so hard for me in my current state that there is just no point in doing this at all without going right for the intro diet. I’ve been getting a lot of my calories from starch for two years, eating either potatoes, cassava, or plantains every day.)
Community Answer #1: For those that rely on vegetable fiber to avoid constipation, it really is recommended to start from Full Gaps until the stools are more regular. Starting from full does not mean that you have to eat all the foods allowed like nuts or squash or whatever else you don’t tolerate. You keep the approved foods that you do tolerate, whilst slowly adding in the healing foods like stock and probiotic foods. Most people find this much easier of a transition than going straight to intro.
The other problem with going straight into the intro is die-off of the pathogenic microorganisms, which can make you feel very bad if too much, too soon. I’m not diagnosing anything obviously, but I see quite a lot of signs in your description that would make me suspect yeast at play. Yeast produce quite a lot of toxins and toxic gases, and toxins leave the body at the pace of a dripping faucet. So doing the intro to try to change things over faster isn’t always the best idea. In this regard, if you do go through the intro first, enemas will be your best friend, in my experience.
Raederle: Interestingly, I don’t have much luck with vegetable fiber aiding me with constipation. I’ve tried psyllium husk and such, but the main thing that helps me is magnesium. Epsom salt baths and magnesium-citrate, and even magnesium-malate in capsule form along with other alkaline minerals. The other things that help are cacao, elderberry juice, bananas, and aloe.
[But cacao isn’t allowed on the GAPS diet and bananas make me break out which may be a yeast reaction, so those are out on the GAPS diet too. And aloe and elderberries are normally part of my daily diet. And, by June 18th it became pretty obvious that all my usual defenses against constipation were becoming insufficient.]
Community Answer #2: One thing that has helped my digestion more than anything is gentian bitters before meals. Completely cured me of constipation.
Community Answer #3: When you’re further down the healing track, I have found juicing with a bunch of dandelion greens to be an excellent beneficial source of bitters. My juice also includes apple, carrot, celery, cucumber, and lemon with crushed ice and it’s such a yummy blend. Find what works for you in terms of taste and tolerance.
Will I Be Able To Eat Sweet Potatoes In the Future?
I used to be able to eat sweet potatoes just fine. I ate them growing up and loved them. I began noticing adverse reactions in my twenties after not having them (or regular potatoes) for years. I later learned that sweet potatoes are a natural source of mannitol, which causes some people gastric distress. I learned that I could eat sweet potatoes if I limited my serving to just a quarter cup. But, of course, I discovered it was easier not to eat them at all than it was to limit my serving size to just a few bites.
8. And most importantly, if I go through all this, will I be able to eat a sweet potato again eventually? I mean, what’s all this hardship for if I can’t have a sweet potato at the end of it?! (Obviously, to address the inflammatory joint pain, but really, I do care about being able to eat sweet potatoes again.)
Why Not Do Fecal Implants?
9. Also, why not go directly for a fecal implant during the intro diet? Wouldn’t that speed things up a whole heck of a lot? (I’ve read most of the book now and have not seen a reference to this healing method yet which surprises me since it seems like the obvious solution.)
Community Answer: Since the GAPS book was meant to be a nutritional protocol that could be followed at home, fecal transplants are simply outside the realm of what the book discusses. They can be a powerful tool for shifting the microbiome in a positive way, but they alone aren’t guaranteed to heal a damaged gut wall, which is the whole goal of this protocol. One must determine on an individual basis if doing one will be a worthwhile asset to their overall healing.
Lettuce Is My Friend
10. Lettuce has been my consistent friend through all my health struggles. Can I just include it from the beginning of the intro diet?
General Response: Wow! You have certainly done a lot of research over the years! A lot of your questions you will need to answer for yourself as you work through each stage of the diet. You may tolerate or not tolerate things differently once you start the diet. When you are ready, start with stage 1 and see where you go. There were some things I couldn’t tolerate so after trying small amounts a couple of different times, I moved on without those things.
A Day of Just Animal Products
May 8th 2021
Yesterday was perhaps the first ever time I ate just animal products. (Well, technically I also had a few spirulina tablets like I usually do. I also had three small strawberries grown in my solarium, and four spoonfuls of kimchi water.)
I took potatoes and plantain chips (my main sources of calories) out of my diet last week (April 30th) and noticed some mild benefits from doing so. Since then, I’ve been winnowing out my other sources of starches (which are minimal), incorporating more fermented food, more meat, and more broth.
Dizziness & Disorientation
Low Blood Sugar & Poor Circulation
This morning was a disaster.
I woke up at 6:00am and had to pee; I was so dizzy and so disoriented I could hardly make it to the bathroom. My legs went pins-and-needles in the short time it took me to pee. When I got back to bed I didn’t have the strength to pull my covers over me.
Yesterday I ate five to six cups of chicken broth that was very rich in chicken fat. (Amish-raised, free-range, high quality meat.) I added some kim chi water to my broth each time. I also had about a quarter cup of cream (A2A2 from a brown cow, Amish-raised, grass-fed, raw, and very fresh), and two tablespoons of sheep yogurt (store-bought, from a brand I’ve done well with for years).
These are all foods I know myself to “tolerate well” in small quantities. But I have known animal fat to bring my circulation way, way down. In this case, my circulation was so low this morning that elevating any part of my body even the slightest amount resulted in pins and needles, and moving my head made me feel awful, like the worst hangover I could imagine. I sipped water (thankfully I use a glass straw in a mason jar so I can sip water without sitting up) over the course of the morning, but much above a sip made me feel very queasy.
Eventually I grabbed something beside my bed to make a loud noise on the floor to summon Lytenian (my husband). I described my pain, and just talking put me out of breath. He supposed my blood sugar was low in addition to my low circulation and suggested eating one of my all-time safest foods: a peeled apple. He also brought me sliced fresh ginger which has helped me with my circulatory issues for years. (All the produce I eat is either organic or better than organic.)
That first bite of apple was intense. I felt it in my throat glands and it felt like someone had stimulated my heart with an electric current. It took me several minutes to be ready for another bite. I ended up eating three peeled apples with about an inch of sliced ginger from about 11:10am to 1:30pm, all brought to me by Lytenian since I was still struggling to get up.
It’s now about two o’clock and I am starting to feel more like my usual self.
Does anyone have experience of advice with this?
Why does my circulation drop from animal fats? (I’ve noticed this trend consistently over the last decade.) I imagine it is related to low stomach acid which I know I have.
I took a digestive enzyme complex yesterday with the cream (which includes lactase), but perhaps I need something specifically with ox bile with every cup of broth?
Community Answer #1: Definitely sounds like low blood sugar from lack of carbs. Can you add carbs like squash, carrots, zucchini, or honey? I’m not sure about the low blood pressure or the pins and needles, but the dizziness and feeling like you’re going to pass out sounds like low blood sugar.
Raederle: I’m intolerant to all four of those (squash, carrots, zucchini, or honey) in various ways, although I might try a “one drop at a time” introduction with honey at some point, but I think with honey the issue is some kind of yeast flare up.
I read a story yesterday about a GAPS boy who had to introduce broth starting one drop at a time because his system was so sensitive. Maybe it’s just too much for me to introduce six cups of broth in one day all of the sudden?
Community Answer #2: I’m sorry you are going through this. Do you have Dr Natasha’s blue book? On page 186 she talks about No-Plant GAPS Diet. Please read this chapter. It will all make sense to you.
Raederle: Thank you for your sympathy. ♥
Yes, I’ve read about 75% of the blue book now (I have stickies marking it all over the place because I’m writing a book, Neurodivergence: Autism & Beyond, and I actually got into reading this because I want to share this perspective in my book).
I just read the section you suggested, but I’m unclear how this answers my question. Why do large quantities of animal fats cause my circulation to drop like that? This isn’t the first time I’ve had that response by any means. In fact, it was part of my reasoning for going vegan a long time ago. (I noticed that animal products correlated to my fatigue. Although, later I learned from reading The Plant Paradox that I was actually reacting to the lectins in farm-raised fish and in other meats, so I introduced wild-caught fish and occasional chicken from an Amish farm that I trust.)
My typical animal product consumption has been extremely low these past few years, and I’m having trouble eating even this much.
After yesterday morning’s terrible fatigue and pain, I had a hard time not just reverting to veganism at least for the day. But then I realized I had some egg yolks already hard-boiled and waiting for me and I ate three of them, and then I remembered the fresh cream I really wanted to eat while fresh and had a little with baked apple. But otherwise, I ate all plants yesterday (leafy greens, salsa, almond-based cheese, apples, etc) and I felt better and better over the course of the day and woke up feeling great this morning.
This is why I wonder if I need to take ox bile with every serving of animal products.
The section you referred me to did tell me one new piece of information that I hadn’t thought about before. I knew we stored glycogen in our over liver, but it never occurred to me that eating liver was a source of glycogen. I also didn’t know that it was in the skins and connective tissue, which are the only parts of the chicken that I crave. (And they sit best in my stomach whereas the meat makes me feel heavy and tired.)
I’ve already ordered some turkey liver from the Amish farm so I expect it to be here next week. Also my husband is making some beef liver from them today. I have not had liver in a couple years, so I don’t even recall the flavor or my body’s response to it. Perhaps liver broth would be easier on me, or perhaps there is simply too much water or salt in all that broth (because I know diluting my stomach acid to be a huge issue for me).
Perhaps I need to start with liver, connective tissues, and bones on a daily basis and just get used to that.
Fast Transitions, Restrictive Diets, and Newfound Hesitation
May 9th 2021
I was originally planning on going onto a full GAPS diet rapidly (within a week), and then moving into the introductory diet rapidly from there. I figured the sooner I just “did it” the better.
I’ve often favored fast, immediate transitions when inspired. That worked well for me with raw foodism, and it also worked well for me with The Plant Paradox Diet. I had no adverse reactions to Phase I and Phase II of The Plant Paradox Diet, yet my first real day doing what the GAPS protocol asked me for made me feel terrible. I’ve had bad reactions to things before, like my first time fasting. I actually vomited the morning after my first time trying a day of just water.
I didn’t expect that six cups of broth accompanied by a little yogurt and raw cream could possibly give me a reaction like that. Is it a bacterial die-off reaction? Possibly. But what that man said about losing his ability to digest FODMAPS (like alliums) while on the GAPS diet gave me serious pause.
Do I really want to go on another restrictive diet which might heal my food sensitivities or might cause me to lose the ability to digest more foods? I’m the one who has been cautioning people not to lose the diversity in their diet soas not to lose the diversity in their flora for the past handful of years now.
It’s true that many people have had great success on GAPS, but that doesn’t cancel out all the people I’ve known who have thrived on fruitarian diets or other plant-based diets. But all of these approaches have several things in common: fermented foods and/or other sources of probiotics, no seeds or low seeds (by which I mean all botanical seeds including nuts and beans), and not combining fruits with meat (with the exception of lemons).
I suppose Ayurveda is an exception to low seeds or no seeds, but India has a health saying about how to fill a stomach: one third food, one third water, and one third air. This means never filling your stomach more than a third full, which greatly enhances digestion. They also use fermented foods and spices heavily, which helps keep microbial balance.
My New Approach to GAPS
It is obvious to me that there is great benefit to consuming animal organs and connective tissues. I’ve seen people heal very dramatic conditions on vegetable juice cleanses, so I don’t believe animal organs are the only path to healing, but I want to give them a more serious shot than ever before.
I’ve previously only consumed animal organs and connective tissues every few months or even less frequently, and obviously I didn’t consume any at all for the decade I was either raw vegan, vegan, fruitarian, or raw vegetarian. (Yes, those are quite different diets. The raw vegetarian and fruitarian diets worked best for me.)
After yesterday’s experience, I am going to listen to my own intuition that says I want to eat chicken skins, some bone, and definitely all those strange connective tissues that taste so very good. I’m not inclined toward much broth, so I’m going to start with only a little broth, maybe one small bowl a day.
I agree with the GAPS logic about microbiome balance and gut-healing in general. I’ve known for a decade that I’ve had (and to some degree still have) a flora imbalance. I think at this point in my life my flora is as healthy or healthier than it has ever been, since I was born without appropriate flora since my mother didn’t have appropriate flora to give to me.
I think the main reason why people experience success on the macrobiotic diet is because it prescribes fermented food at every meal. I’ve also seen that prescribed to some people embarking on an Ayurvedic diet, and many teachers of raw foodism also advise fermented food either with every meal or at least daily. The people who live in the blue zones of the world also take much advantage of fermented foods.
In addition to the above arguments for fermented foods, I also came across someone’s account that said they experienced inflammatory pain when they went off a probiotic supplement. I’m now realizing that I went off probiotics about three years ago, and that’s around the same time the inflammatory pain began for me. So for all of these reasons, I’m going to get into probiotics in a big way again, like I once was in my early and mid-twenties.
New daily protocol for myself:
- One or more probiotic tablets.
- Fish oil daily, as usual.
- Connective tissues and skin.
- One bowl of broth with kimchi water and possibly raw yolk.
- Ox bile supplementation with all servings of animal products.
- Plenty of leafy greens and vegetables prepared in the ways I already know to work best for me (such as asparagus baked with a little avocado oil).
- Fruits prepared in the ways I already know to work best for me (such as peeled apples either raw or baked).
- Some fermented food or a probiotic with every meal.
- No processed foods, as usual.
New weekly protocol for myself:
- Organ meats (such as liver) at least once a week, moving toward having some daily.
- Slow introduction to thoroughly cooked onions by including them occasionally with my broth or greens.
- Lactase with all servings of dairy.
- Home-made yogurt (which I have not currently had in many years), and if tolerated well, moving up to daily consumption.
- Cream and butter in the quantities and combinations I know to work best for me.
- Home made-ghee (which I’ve never made before, but I will start).
- Starches not approved by GAPS (such as potatoes or plantains) and other not-approved foods (such as cacao and chicory root) in very tiny quantities once per week or less (to ensure I don’t somehow mysteriously lose my ability to consume these).
- GAPS-approved foods that are on the fringes of my tolerance (such as lima beans, prepared carefully of course) in very small quantities to increase/maintain diversity in my diet.
- Magnesium citrate, as needed to keep me regular.
- Probiotic enemas, possibly made out of my own home-made yogurt.
We’ll see how this goes, and how long it takes before I decide to revise my plan again!
Yesterday’s pain aside, I’m glad I’m getting to delve into the opposite perspective on natural food healing techniques. It’ll give me more dynamic flexibility as a master of nutrition, health, and human biology. What health coach or expert can say that they know how to heal you with just plants or just meat?
One Month on GAPS
How Things Have Actually Been Happening
June 2nd 2021
I mostly stuck with the plan I outlined above. Here’s how the first month has actually gone (in terms of consumption – we’ll talk about results afterward):
- Two probiotic tablets daily.
- Fish oil semi-daily.
- Connective tissues and skin from chicken every two to four days, largely because I don’t crave it at all the day after I’ve had it, so it is hard to have it daily.
- Broth about twice a week, usually the day after chicken skins.
- Kimchi water or kvass with nearly every meal.
- Semi-raw yolk every day, prepared by frying an egg over-easy and then eating the yolk out of it (and then spicing up the egg whites for one of my husbands).
- Ox bile and enzyme supplement with most servings of animal products.
- Some amount of leafy greens and vegetables, but actually less than I was eating prior to GAPS.
- Some amount of fruits, but less than I was eating prior to GAPS.
- No processed foods, as usual.
- Organ meats (such as liver) about once in five days.
- Totally caramelized onions almost daily. This has been a huge change from believing I couldn’t tolerate onions at all! It turns out if it is thoroughly cooked, I can eat them to my heart’s content!
- Lactase with all servings of dairy, although I’ve been leaning more toward no dairy as the month has progressed (having none besides ghee this past week). My first yogurt-making attempt made me feel sick, so I’ve decided to get an official yogurt starter instead of trying to use various things readily available at the grocery store.
- Home made-ghee, which I made for the first time. It’s been agreeing with me rather well.
- I have not been having any starches not approved by GAPS. It just hasn’t felt important, required, or necessary. And it’s always harder to have “just a little” than to have none (for me).
- I had lima beans once during the month (thoroughly pressure-cooked after 48 hours of soaking), but they gave me terrible gas (as usual), and I didn’t feel any particular benefit from eating them.
- Magnesium citrate several times per day, every day. This is the only way I’m keeping regular, and it’s crucial that I stay regular (which I’ll explain more below).
- I did one regular water enema thus far (no probiotic ones yet).
- Red light therapy on my lower back most days (unrelated to the GAPS protocol).
- Cannabinol oil (which is a slightly different extract than cannabidiol oil) on most nights which has been helping me sleep (unrelated to the GAPS protocol).
- Castor oil on my belly a few times a week (unrelated to the GAPS protocol). I am new to castor oil and surprised by how thick and unpleasant the texture is. I love every other oil I’ve ever encountered, but this is more like glue! It is supposed to help with constipation, but I have not noticed it doing so.
Results After One Month on GAPS
Results? It’s been rather mixed. We’ll start with the positives.
Inflammatory Pain Reduction
The most notable improvement has been a dramatic decrease in inflammatory pain. It’s definitely not gone, but I’ve been able to do much heavier gardening, type for longer, and exercise more vigorously than I have been able to for at least two years. But what is really causing this improvement?
It’s hard to tell if it has more to do with the chicken skins or more to do with the red light therapy or the cannabinol oil. Red light therapy is specifically known to help with joint pain and is commonly used for that.
Cannabinol (CBN) oil has been helping me get to sleep earlier and sleep more deeply, and I’ve long-since noticed sleep quality being an important factor in how much inflammatory pain I’ve experienced. However, neither of these seems like they could have accounted for this significant of a change in joint burning, aching, itching, and swelling on their own, or even together. My educated, intuitive guess is that each of these is responsible for 10% of the improvement individually.
Besides connective tissues, red light, and cannabinol oil, I’ve also been taking daily probiotic tablets and fermented vegetable juice with every meal. I read somewhere that someone developed inflammatory pain after they went off their probiotic supplement. That really encouraged me to get into probiotics again, particularly since I realized that I went off probiotics about three years ago – around the same time I developed inflammatory pain in my knees (which progressed to my lower back, wrists, elbows, and hands). I forgot to take my morning probiotic tablets on a few mornings this past month, and it did seem that those days correlated with increased inflammatory pain later that day or the following morning. Based on this preliminary evidence, I’d guess this is responsible for as much as 50% of the improvement, but perhaps as little as 15%.
Now, let’s talk about connective tissues – the key remedy of the GAPS diet. I’ve been eating a lot of chicken skins and even a couple chicken feet which are essentially just skin, connective tissues, and bone. Because I’ve been using my pressure cooker at “max” which is a special setting that higher-end pressure cookers have, I’ve been turning my frozen chicken into something so soft that you can bite through the bones and chew them up comfortably. This transformation from frozen to bones-of-mush takes only a little over an hour at max pressure! I’m not sure why Natasha doesn’t talk about pressure-cookers in her book. Getting bones this soft on a stove top pretty much never happens, not even after days of cooking. (My mother always did it on a stove top and we’d eat the ends off the bones, but the center part was still too tough.)
One key thing I’ve noticed about eating chicken skins previously (about three years ago) is that it makes the skin on my hips and thighs much smoother. This was very notable to me because I’ve always taken very long, hot, soaking baths and used a lot of exfoliation action to get my skin smooth, and it would always bump back up again in a couple weeks. These bumps are known as keratosis pilaris (KP), which is a common, harmless condition where the collagen in the skin decides to form bumps. Ironically, this is sometimes known as having “chicken skin.” Well, eating your condition’s nickname (in this case) may just be the cure. Once again, this month my keratosis pilaris is gone without all the intense soaking and scrubbing. This experience leads me to believe that keratosis pilaris may specifically be a sign that the body’s collagen supply is either low or compromised.
If eating chicken skins (and other connective tissues) is having such a visible, touchable affect on my external skin, what effect might it be having on my intestines and other internal surfaces? I expect it is quite positive, and this is a likely cause of my decrease in inflammatory pain. I’d guess it is somewhere between 25% and 60% responsible for the improvement I’ve experienced in this regard.
Just to underscore what a tremendous improvement I’m talking about: Two months ago I was having trouble continuing to make necklaces for fun because my hands were burning too much. I was using T-relief cream on my hands and other parts of my body as often as twenty times a day to relieve pain. (The cream works like a charm for a while, but then the pain comes back.) In contrast, I’ve used the T-relief cream about fifteen times in this entire past month, and yesterday I used our electric weed wacker for about forty minutes – something far more taxing on one’s hands than making necklaces! And today I only feel a mild soreness in my biceps as a result of yesterday’s weed-wacking!
It’s possible that the intense amount of magnesium citrate I’m taking is also helping. If it is, I’d guess it’s only about 7% responsible for the improvement since I’ve taken large amounts of magnesium citrate before, particularly to help with menstrual cramps. (Taking a large daily dose for three days leading up to my period results in having only about 5% of the menstrual pain I would otherwise have. For my full advice on relieving menstrual cramps and making a period pain-free, read my article: Eliminating Menstrual Cramps, PMS, Bloating & Excessive Bleeding.)
The inflammatory pain, while dramatically improved, hasn’t been entirely gone and has come up a little here and there.
Inflammatory Pain Returns
Seven days later, on June 9th, there was a significant return in inflammatory pain. Not as bad as it used to be, but a definitive spike that had me reaching for the T-relief cream.
June 18th through June 20th I broke the GAPS diet to have plantain chips each day. The inflammatory pain returned intensely from June 19th through June 22nd, actually feeling the worst on the two days when I was no longer eating them. This demonstrated to me that my inflammatory pain response to starch is genuinely delayed, which is interesting since all my gastric and skin responses to food happen within a day, usually within eight hours! While the gastric and skin responses often take many days to fully clear up, the connections have been easy to draw because of the relatively immediate onset.
The pain also began to get steadily worse again starting toward the end of June (as I describe on July 14th). This time the onset was not abrupt like it was with the plantain chips: it is a subtle, slow creep. My guesses as to the cause were: macadamia nuts, too much freeze-dried fruit (which I’m eating with kefir daily), not enough broth or chicken skins, not enough kvass (as I consumed less over the time the inflammation was increasing again), staying up too late at night, the fact that I stopped the red light therapy, or that I’d gone so long without any yolks. I decided to test the yolk theory first.
The reduction in inflammatory pain has been incredible, but many other symptoms have been worrying me. In the past few days I’ve lost a lot of fingernail length on my left hand. It usually takes me about a month to see changes in my fingernails based on my dietary changes. When I eat more salad and add silica to my water consistently for about three weeks, I begin to see my nails strengthen. I’m still putting silica in my water, but my salad consumption has gone way down. Perhaps the simple solution is to just eat more greens again.
Update on nails from June 18th (roughly 18 days later): My nails continue to be thinner, uneven, and breaking. I’ve been eating more greens again, but I wonder if something about the chronic constipation getting worse is having a bad impact on my nails somehow.
Update on nails from July 14th (roughly a month after the above update): My nails have become thicker and stronger again. This is, perhaps, due to having improved my bowels this past month. I’m really at a loss on this one.
Another worrying issue is breaking out on my face and other lymphatic symptoms. I’ve been experiencing soreness in my breasts and chest area between my breasts and collar bones, which is a key area for processing lymph toxins. I’ve also had soreness around my salivary glands and lymph nodes along my jawline. My sinuses are also sore to the touch (under my cheeks and around my eyes and forehead). This reaction seems to be particularly stirred up by dairy, so I stopped eating the goat milk, brown-cow cream, and sheep yogurt that I had been consuming. I’m still having some ghee, but only a very small amount. (I’ve mostly been caramelizing my onions with chicken fat.) Despite removing dairy this past week, I still developed a new, large pimple in the middle of one of my cheeks and my facial skin is generally much more rough than it would be on previous healthy protocols that I’ve been on.
This skin distress has been a bit of a mystery to me because I’ve been avoiding all my pimple triggers for at least a week, most of them I’ve been avoiding for the past three weeks. (No bananas, no honey.) However, I do have one other cause for pimples besides dairy, bananas, and honey: constipation.
Constipation Leads to Lymphatic Buildup
I’ve observed that a single day without pooping results in my having a canker sore the very next day! (For my full advice on canker sores, read my article: Healing & Preventing Cankersores Holistically.) And, if you think about it, a canker sore is very similar to a pimple – it’s just different because it is inside your mouth. Also, I’ve often had pimples right on the other side of my cheek from a canker sore (although nothing that severe this past month on GAPS). In fact, I’ve noticed a pretty strong correlation between lymph blockages and constipation, as well as lymph blockages and skin distress both inside and outside my mouth.
So why is the GAPS diet so constipating? Natasha talks about “fiber dependence” but I’ve never found fiber to be all that helpful for my life-long constipation. For me it’s always been particular, stimulating foods that make me poop: bananas, cacao, aloe, prunes, elderberries, and blueberries. Whereas other foods I’ve known to constipate me, such as beans, grains, eggs, yogurt, cheese, nuts, and sesame seeds. And then there are many foods that are neutral, such as citrus fruits, leafy greens, and asparagus.
I don’t think my fiber consumption has gone down all that much, but I’ve been consuming egg yolks nearly daily, and yogurt for much of the month (particularly in the beginning when I wasn’t sure what to eat). I also had the lima beans once. But, truely, I’m inclined to blame the egg yolks on my constipation/lymph-clogging/skin-distress. I had five egg yolks the day before yesterday. Maybe they’re becoming an unhelpful crutch to this diet.
Magnesium Citrate, or Mag-Fizz
Earlier on this page you saw me ask the GAPS community about taking magnesium citrate daily. They essentially told me to do full GAPS until the constipation went away. I have no particular faith in that working (and knew it definitely wasn’t going to work right away), so I’ve been consuming about a tablespoon of magnesium citrate every day.
Years ago, I used to take it in water. It made me queasy and I hated it. Then, a couple years ago Greg had the idea to drink it with carbonated water. I tried that and it was a huge improvement. I began calling this drink “mag-fizz” for short. About the same time I started GAPS, I realized I could make my mag-fizz with more flavorful bubbly beverages for an even easier experience. At first I tried it with Chobani’s new line of fermented drinks. Then I tried it with kombucha. Both were delightful. I found that I could mix in carbonated water to tone down the sweetness and reduce the cost per serving.
I used to take mag-fizz, at most, once a day. If I was having a tablespoon, I’d have it all at once. If I did this enough days in a row (usually three), I’d have the runs suddenly, which is very unusual for me. (Usually everything wants to constipate me.) I’ve found that I can stay regular without the runs by breaking up my tablespoon into three teaspoon-sized doses throughout the day instead, which is now possible because it is so easy to take when mixed with delicious fermented beverages.
I’ve never taken so much mag-fizz before so consistently, so I don’t have any context for what to expect, other than the fact that I wasn’t surprised when I had virtually no menstrual cramps. (I actually forgot I was on my period even on the very first day because it was so mild!)
The last worrying thing I’ve noticed is that I’m heavier than I used to be, although this is not the fault of the GAPS diet. I’ve been going through a lot of footage of myself and it is clear that I had the most extra fat on my body in March and I began losing it in April. So both the initial fat gain and fat loss were independent of the GAPS diet which I began just as April was turning to May.
April–July: However, I’m confused and concerned by the fact that I have not lost more of the extra fat on this diet. I would have assumed that the weight gain was due to a diet so rich in potatoes and plantain chips, but switching to this entirely different diet seems to have done little-to-nothing for the excess fat on my middle and jawline. To my extreme distress, a pair of my jeans I’d previously been using for gardening is currently too tight to wear.
August–October: I’ve lost the extra fat I had back in March at this point. It has taken many months for my body to adjust to GAPS, and I’ve had to make my own adjustments to the protocol. No eggs, very little nuts, plenty of lettuce, and lots of kefir with berries. But slowly my appetite has been dramatically reduced. I always used to want more and more and more food. I seemed virtually bottomless. But for once I’ve found a diet that actually, genuinely reduces my appetite. The Plant Paradox Diet promised that but didn’t deliver; instead, the high-starch diet I was eating made me hungrier over time. I’d had far better appetite control as a raw vegan than as a plantain-eater. Now that I’m seven months into GAPS my body is actually slowly returning to what I had in my peak physical condition as a raw foodist!
My cravings have gone through a lot of phases over this past month, but I was only craving potatoes and other scratches for a relatively short time. My cravings have mostly landed on fruit. This seems like a very positive sign as fruit has always been one of the ideal foods for me, giving me a lot of energy with little-to-no side effects.
I’ve decided I’m going to follow these fruit cravings and do a fruit cleanse for a short time. I’ll continue with kvass, probiotics, and my fermented fish oil supplement, but I will stop the eggs, meat, and cooked vegetables (which has only really been onions and asparagus anyhow). I’ll essentially just eat like a fruitarian for three to seven days with my fish oil supplement being my one non-vegan food, and some leafy greens, flax oil, kvass, and ground flaxseed being my few non-fruit foods. I’ve done this before with great results each time, although I never included beet kvass as part of it before.
The fruit cleanse will serve several purposes:
- First, it will likely help me lose more of this excess fat.
- Second, it will reveal to me how much the continual consumption of connective tissues is required for keeping my inflammatory pain low. (For example, if on the third day I have severe inflammatory pain again, I’ll be able to say the chicken skins really have been as much as 70% responsible for the improvement in that regard.)
- Third, it will likely clean up this lymph mess going on around my chest, throat, and face by cleaning up the constipation much more thoroughly.
- Fourth, it will shift my cravings by satiating me on fruit. This will be revealing. If I start craving chicken skins, that would be surprising and fascinating. (Normally I’ve only had a craving for chicken skins about twice a year, and have eaten them about that often too.) If I start craving starches again, that would also be interesting (and possibly indicate that I have been feeding an overgrowth). Basically, whatever craving turns up, it’ll be informative.
Fruit Cleanse Results
June 6th 2021
For my fruit cleanse I ate mostly fruit (mangoes, pink lady apples, watermelon, cherries, oranges, grapefruit), but I also ate nori wraps (nori, greens, flax oil, ground flaxseed, salt, pepper), sparkling fermented beverages with magnesium citrate (described as “mag-fizz” above), beet kvass, my regular supplements (including Royal Blend), and a little home-made kefir with freeze-dried raspberries and cherries.
As I suspected might happen, I began craving meat after I began the fruit cleanse. I realize now that I virtually never had meat cravings growing up because I wasn’t exposed to enough high-quality, good-tasting meat. But after a month on GAPS with access to Amish-raised meat, my body is sending me appropriate signals to eat some meat when I stop.
I did the raw fruit and greens for three full days and two half days, and then for dinner yesterday I included chicken skins and a little beef thyroid gland. I found this very satiating and no longer felt the strong desire for animal tissues. Today, after taking my probiotics and having a shot of vegetable kvass, I had an orange for breakfast. I feel a lot better this way than I did when I was trying to have yolks or broth for breakfast; it felt too heavy to me. I crave antioxidant-rich food in the mornings. So I might continue this way for a while, eating fresh fruit at breakfast, greens at lunch time, and animal tissues with herbs at dinner.
My fingernails are continuing to chip away, which might be a result of gardening, but that begs the question of why it didn’t start earlier. My neck tension became slightly worse on the fruit cleanse. My bowels improved. My skin cleared and the lymph pain I was having along my jawline went away. My energy levels were fantastic. Overall, I would say the fruit cleanse was a success on several levels. It confirmed that my body does crave some animal tissues at times now, and that the improvement in my neck tension has likely been due to eating these animal tissues. But the cleanse also confirmed that some of my sluggishness and lymph issues have been due to the version of the GAPS diet I was following for most of the first month.
Is This Diet Actually Good For Me?
The Return of the Inflammation
June 9th 2021
Today I have the most significant return of the inflammatory pain and burning in my wrists that I’ve had the entire time since I began the GAPS diet. I’ve used T-relief cream on my wrists throughout the day to help me with the pain. As usual, this cream helps a lot in the short term, but as far as I know, doesn’t do anything to resolve the underlying issues.
I’m now questioning how much the broth or “meat stock” ever related to the inflammatory pain receding. Afterall, I began several things at once: red light therapy, cannabinol (CBN) oil, probiotic tablets, and kvass. I also started taking enzymes with nearly every meal in my second week on GAPS. (I’m in my sixth week now.)
Freeze-Dried Carrots & Beets
In a mental review of what I did differently yesterday, I realized I ate a significant portion of freeze-dried carrots and freeze-dried beets – nearly a full bag of each, which is only four ounces, but that translates to a lot when considering how condensed freeze-dried food is. I consumed these in my chicken broth, and they made the broth much more delicious and appealing.
I’ve known both raw beets and raw carrots to somewhat upset my stomach when consumed in the form of juice or slaw. I’ve never previously associated them with inflammatory pain. However, I read a post about “free glutamate” in foods and how it can irritate or increase inflammation, and beet concentrate and beet powder were listed as high sources of free glutamate. In addition to those freeze-dried beets I ate, I also have been drinking a lot of beet kvass, and I had extra yesterday.
The only thing is, chicken stock is also high in free glutamate, so my inflammation can’t be a response to just glutamate, otherwise the entire time on GAPS I would have had an increase in inflammation instead of a decrease. Unless one of the other factors I introduced is actually compensating for the glutamate in the chicken stock as well as improving my baseline inflammation levels all at once?
Just to be on the safe side, I stopped the freeze-dried beets entirely and reduced the freeze-dried carrots to just a little on occasion. I also focused more on kvass without beets for a time.
Strawberries are high in histamines?
Another possible explanation is histamine. I ate several handfuls of home-grown strawberries fresh in my garden yesterday. If histamines in foods are related to inflammatory pain, and strawberries are an unusually high source of histamine, this could be an explanation. I’ve also been eating a lot of cherries (because the flavor is great with kefir) recently, which may be a cause of something since I don’t usually eat very many cherries.
Another explanation is that I really did just overtax my wrists gardening. I moved a lot of heavy rocks yesterday and used the trimmer a bit. But I’m not buying that as a reason for my pain because I’ve been working my body harder than I have in years overall – specifically because the inflammatory pain has gone into significant remission, as I wrote about in my first month of results. I used the trimmer on other days in the past six weeks, and I also moved rocks on many other days. There was even one day where I was gardening heavily for six hours out of the day, and I didn’t have an inflammation spike the following day from that.
Probiotic Tablets versus Probiotic Foods
I forgot to take my probiotic tablets yesterday morning. This is yet another sign that perhaps taking probiotics is actually the most important part of reversing the inflammation. What’s particularly interesting about that, however, is that I did have plenty of kefir and beet kvass yesterday. What’s significant about the tablets that isn’t addressed by the kvass and kefir?
Have I Underestimated The Redlight Therapy?
Today’s uptick in inflammatory pain also makes me wonder if the redlight therapy was having more impact than I thought. Because it’s been very hot this past week, I have not used my light in around five days. While the light produces very little heat, it’s still unpleasant if you’re already overly hot.
I only ever used the light on my wrists once or twice in the five weeks I was using it, but then, perhaps a reduction in inflammation somewhere translates to a reduction everywhere. I’m not sure. In any event, I decided to use it on my upper back, then my lower back, and then the backs of my thighs today, keeping it on each area for twenty minutes. While it would be easiest to determine the cause of the return of the inflammatory pain if I hadn’t done the redlight today, the fact is that the results are what is most important to me. I’ll figure out the cause eventually.
Another thing I noticed today was a constant desire to eat. This finally abated at 9:00pm when I ate a salad of spring mix with flax oil, algae oil, pink salt, and black pepper. It was a simple salad, and yet it made me feel worlds better.
What Side-Effects Are There GAPS?
Considering my constant hunger and the mysterious return of the inflammatory pain (despite having broth every day and connective tissues every two or three days), I googled, “hungry all the time on GAPS.” I found a helpful blog post called: Does the GAPS diet work well long-term for everyone?
The simple answer is: No, it doesn’t. The common theme is that after a week, a month, or a year, many (if not most) people become extremely fatigued. I imagine this is largely because they’re eating too much meat and not enough fermented foods. But then, Natasha herself says in the newer GAPS book (Gut and Physiology Syndrome), that eighty-five percent of the diet should come from animal products. To say the least, I’m increasingly dubious.
Healing with Plants – Especially Leafy Greens
I come from a background of healing people with plants. I agree whole-heartedly with Natasha about the difficulty of digesting beans (which is why I wrote a whole article about just that years ago) and many other seeds. I agree about the importance of the microbiome and fermented foods. I’ve even come to believe that the connective tissues in meat really are healing and soothing for the gut lining. But I don’t think that 85% of your diet (by calories or by volume) should be animal products, especially not for two whole years. At least, not for most people. If someone really can’t tolerate any plants for some reason, that’s a different story – but an incredibly rare one.
People point to oxalic acid as a reason not to eat leafy greens, but that’s absurd. I’m really sensitive to oxalic acid. My throat swells up if I eat chard for that very reason, but that doesn’t prevent me from eating lettuce every day, and spinach and kale several times a week. I still benefit from these greens in a way that I can feel. Once I had introduced these greens to my diet and made myself eat them daily for a few weeks (way back in 2010), I began craving greens when I needed them – which was every day.
GAPS has sorted out my relationship to meat, I feel. I am now craving meat and connective tissues more frequently – but I’m only craving a small serving a day, and that serving is very satiating. Surprisingly, the GAPS diet has also brought me back to craving fruit, but perhaps the removal of starches automatically leads to a craving for fruit. This, I feel, is very positive, because fruits have a lot of benefits that potatoes and cassava don’t. Where potatoes and cassava have some mineral content and some vitamin content, fruits, in general, are powerhouses of antioxidants and vitamins, with a little mineral content as well.
Fatigue from Not Enough Fat?
While most of the commenters on the blog post I found were reporting that they too were struggling with GAPS, one commentator remarked how well he was doing on it, despite being constipated prior to GAPS. John C. A. Manley wrote:
I was also underweight. 128 lbs at 5’7″. I started GAPS in January 2012. Today, 11 months on GAPS, I weigh a lean 152 lbs (and still gaining muscle).
I’m also prone to constipation. I find as long as I include a lot of fat in the GAPS diet I gain weight and have perfect bowel movements.
I suspect a lot of people just aren’t including enough fat. I literally have a third of a cup of ghee (clarified butter) with each meal plus sour cream and coconut or olive oil.
I only eat two meals of vegetables, fat and meat a day. In the morning I have two cups of kefir plus one cup of sour cream. I used to eat twice as much food when I was eating gluten-free grains and could barely maintain 130lbs.
My ancestors were mainly Irish who — some say — didn’t have a lot of exposure to grains until after the potato famine. So maybe grain-free is just better for my DNA. My 7-year old son has been on the diet since January also and has only got stronger and healthier (stopped peeing the bed,too).
I strongly suspect most people who are not thriving on GAPS are not including enough fat in the diet. Either that or they need to supplement their diet with HCL (acid) and lipase (fat digesting enzyme) until they can produce their own acid and lipase. Adding HCL helped me a lot — though I did okay without it.
Still, if my ancestors were from South India — maybe GAPS wouldn’t work for me. I certainly tried Ayurveda for years and while I could have done worse it certainly didn’t click like GAPS did.
I found John’s comment rather interesting. I eat a lot of fat. Do I eat that much fat? I thought about it and I wasn’t entirely sure, but this is what I wrote back:
I like your theory that people on GAPS just need more fat. But, that can’t be true in my case. I actually felt the worst on the days I ate the most fat. I’ve been on GAPS for six weeks now, and it’s been terrifically difficult for me to have enough energy unless I eat a lot of leafy greens and fruits. I was exhausted the first three weeks when I ate mostly broth, egg yolks, yogurt, and lots of fat added to everything. I fried my fish in chicken fat. I added extra fat to my broth. I had sausage with ghee. I was so tired one day I literally could hardly make it to the bathroom. I was dizzy and felt terrible.
Then, not wanting to give up on the diet, I started eating a lot of raw fruits and leafy greens, which came directly from my experience with the raw vegan diet (the diet that originally saved me a decade ago). By eating a lot of lettuce, apples, mangos, cherries, coconut water, and spring mix, my energy started coming back. I also put lots of flax oil and ground flaxseed on my greens, so even my greens are very fatty.
I also take copious fish oil supplements each day. I’d estimate it’s normal for me to consume around one cup of oil a day (in addition to fatty foods). That was probably normal for me prior to the GAPS diet since I was doing The Plant Paradox diet and eating cassava pancakes fried in tons of avocado oil previously (which was working beautifully for me).
I mostly wanted to try the GAPS diet for first-hand experience with a diet that supposedly cures autism since both me and my husband (and both my parents) are neurodivergents and I’m writing a book on the subject.
Anyhow, while lacking enough fat may be the issue for some, it definitely isn’t my issue. Also, I’m taking digestive enzymes with every meal to help ensure I digest the fat properly. But I just miss plantains and cassava terribly sometimes (particularly today). I don’t do well on grains (or puedo grains) anyhow, so I already wasn’t eating those prior to GAPS.
The Hallelujah Diet
I’ve heard of the Hallelujah diet before, but I hadn’t really looked into it. I think I heard of it back when I was a raw foodist and attended raw food potlucks monthly. (Oh, how I miss those!) It was brought to my attention again by a person called “Maid Jean” who commented on the same blog post. Jean sounds so much like myself that it’s made me really question whether I want to continue doing the GAPS diet much longer.
“Maid Jean” wrote:
I have studied diets for twelve years now and have read too many books to count. I had ovarian cancer in 2000 (my impetus), when my doctor admitted I could not be cured here in America, I headed for Mexico. At the clinic in Mexico a priest gave us lectures three times a week on diet and lifestyle, and their effect on cancer. We learned that our digestive tracts was where it all began.
We ate a 75% raw diet, which was 80% veggies and 20% fruits. The rest was non-allergenic grains, and meat, if we wanted it. We were given herbs and herbal extracts, and electrical treatments of all kinds, as well as many ways of cleansing the body. The cancer was gone in two months and I looked twenty years younger by Christmas.
I continued to study when I arrived home. After doing Hulda Clark’s parasite cleanse and her program of removing toxins out of my environment, and an intensive three month Candida cleanse, I began the Hallelujah diet. In three weeks I was amazingly healthy.
I thought I had found the answer for everyone and couldn’t wait to share it. I even went to Hallelujah Acres to become a health minister. That is when God began to put people in my life to caution me. People who had tried the Hallelujah diet and had become weak and sicker. Eventually I was given a book called Eat Right For Your Type by Dr. Peter D’Adamo. He suggested that different blood types did well on different diets. This began to explain why some people did poorly and some really well on the different diets that were out.
I want to butt in here to Jean’s post and mention a few things. I also thought I had found the golden key to vitality when I discovered raw foodism when I was twenty. It was such a miracle for me after years of digestive pain. However, I too met raw foodists who were not healthy. That said, the unhealthy raw foodists I met were almost ubiquitously heavy eaters of nuts and/or agave syrup, the former of which is better eaten cooked and/or fermented and the latter of which is best not eaten at all.
I’d also like to further clarify that our microbiome likely has more to do with what we digest best than our blood type. I believe the types exist, and there may be some correlation with blood type, but it seems highly implausible to me that blood type has the final say on what you’re going to digest well. Then again, I have not read that book as of yet.
The Hallelujah diet, and Body Ecology diet are for blood type A. Being a blood type A, I do really well on these diets. The GAPS diet is best for blood type O. Blood type B and AB might do well also. However, their best diet might be the Zone type diet, balanced between meats and grains. B’s handle dairy better.
Blood type A’s have a weak digestive tract and often a slow metabolism, often lacking enough acid in our stomachs to digest meat efficiently. We do well on grains, fruits, and veggies, but poorly on meat, and even dairy products, unless it is raw and fermented. Allergies to dairy are common for both blood type A’s and O’s.
O’s on the other hand have a lot of acid in their stomachs and do well on meat, and poorly on a lot of grain. Bread makes them gain weight. They find their ideal weight and feel strong on a meat and veggie diet.
You all might want to read the Eat Right For Your Type book yourselves.
My experience on the GAPS diet was a disaster. I began it hopeful but cautious realizing that it sounded like a diet good for O’s. I lost thirty pounds in three months, which I needed to lose. But the amount of acid in the diet quickly put me and the family that was doing it with me (also A’s) into acidosis and ketosis.
Immediately upon beginning GAPS, we did not have a bowel movement unless we did an enema, and so toxins were building up. Every week we developed new problems. I was on it for two months. By then my digestive tract was inflamed, I was pooping little round rocks if at all, and I was an emotional basket case, too exhausted to do anything but lay on the couch and think about everything I needed to get done.
A friend encouraged me to do what had worked for me in the past. I started adding non-allergy grains back to my diet and cut out most of the acid food (meat, fermented food, dairy). Eating a lot of alkaline foods, especially veggies. Within two days I began to have bowel movements although they were not normal for a while. The colonics doctor (not colonoscopy) said that I was so impacted that he could only get a little stool out. As I returned to the Hallelujah or Body Ecology type diet, I improved steadily until within a month I was back to normal.
A friend of mine was newer to the healthy diet scene and had trouble convincing herself to let go off the GAPS diet. She is still struggling with depression, anxiety, and weakness, has developed numerous nutritional deficiencies and her adrenals are exhausted.
I hope this has been helpful to some of you. May God bless all of you and help you find the diet that is right for you. All of you A’s might try the Body Ecology diet or the Hallelujah diet. B’s might try the Zone or Jordan Rubin’s, The Maker’s Diet. Lots of choices, they all work for some. None work for all.
This post resonated with me a lot. I’ve also read so many different books on health. I’ve tried a lot of different diets. Raw foodism worked best for me, which is similar to the Hallelujah diet.
Once again, I feel like I’m moving back toward an intuitive diet. I feel that GAPS has educated my body about meat and kefir, and now I will crave these more often than I did, which will diversify my diet further. But perhaps it is time to go ahead and allow cassava, potato, and plantains back in as I crave them.
The trick is to allow myself to eat things when I really crave that food specifically, and not just because it is convenient. Sometimes I crave convenience most.
The other key, I think, is for me to continue to have some fermented food with each meal and probiotic tablets each morning. I feel this is immensely helpful to my gut.
My one largest concern is the inflammatory pain. I want to continue to be able to garden and exercise heavily. I’ve been gaining muscle. What has been the real cause for the reduction in inflammation? Were potatoes causing the inflammation? If so, I would be just fine giving them up for a couple years. Perhaps it would behoove me to research inflammation specifically.
The Worst Constipation Ever
Despite Magnesium Citrate
June 18th 2021
I’ve been taking magnesium citrate multiple times a day for weeks now. I make up a mixture I call mag-fizz in the morning, and again after lunch, and a third time after dinner. Prior to GAPS, using mag-fizz was a last-resort when normal methods (such as eating more salad) weren’t working. And beyond that, having just a quarter teaspoon of magnesium citrate in a glass was sufficient to ensure I would have a normal bowel movement within twelve hours, if not six.
Just now, I drank an entire scoop of magnesium citrate in my morning beverage. That’s about one-and-a-half tablespoons of magnesium citrate. Consider that most people I know who have used this stuff will get diarrhea from just a quarter teaspoon of the stuff, and here I am taking eighteen times as much.
Constipation is serious stuff, particularly since I’ve connected it to virtually every other symptom I ever experience. Cankersores? Caused by lymph backups which are caused by constipation. Sore breasts? The same. Swollen face and pimples? The same. Rashes on my skin? You guessed it – constipation. Even things you wouldn’t expect like headaches and lower back pain are things I’ve discovered are alleviated by pooping.
The one obvious exception here is the inflammatory pain, which has been overall dramatically lower since I began GAPS. But why? Even the inflammatory pain comes back a little when I don’t poop for a day. (And when I don’t poop for a day, many symptoms arise that night when I try to sleep, including muscle aches, vaginal itchiness, and a general sense of discomfort that causes me to roll over repeatedly.) So even inflammatory pain is affected somewhat by the constipation.
I begin to wonder if merely taking out potatoes (or cassava, or plantains) has been the reason for the regression of the inflammation. I’ve been eating a significant amount of my calories from these three foods for several years, roughly overlapping with the time the inflammation began and continued. If this is so, is it the starches in general which are causing the inflammation? (If so, it can be presumed it is because they feed a certain overgrowth which is in turn creating an inflammatory reaction.) Or, is it one of these foods in particular?
If the issue is actually a histamine overload, then it could be the fact that I’ve been consuming more packaged foods the past few years, particularly plantain chips but also organic canned dolmas, and many other organic, whole-food products. If histamine is somehow increased in food merely by the amount of time it sits around, then these foods would be much higher in histamine than anything I made at home.
This morning I’ve decided to find out directly. I need help with this constipation besides mag-fizz, because all I’m getting when I poop at all is liquid and little pellets. These are the most unhealthy stools I’ve ever had in my life. I suspected the whole “follow the full GAPS diet until your constipation is gone” was going to be nonsense for me, since my constipation isn’t caused by grains (since I already was eating a gluten-free diet incredibly low in grains) or other conventional foods.
Anyhow, just now I ate a small serving of plantain chips, which are just organic plantains fried in organic coconut oil with pink salt. I was eating these daily prior to GAPS. We’ll see if my inflammation returns with a vengeance – and if it does, then the plantain chips just can’t be in my diet. If the inflammation doesn’t return and my stools do improve, then it’ll be hard to argue for keeping them out of my diet.
What I’ve Been Eating: It’s Been Shifting
You might wonder exactly what I’ve been eating that has resulted in the worst stools I’ve ever had. Of course, largely my stools are so terrible because I’ve had to force them to come at all with mag-fizz, rather than being able to rely on them to come regularly enough to prevent other symptoms from arising.
I’ve been continually shifting what I’ve been eating since I began this dietary protocol fifty days ago. I started by aiming for something similar to the introductory GAPS diet: a lot of broth, a lot of raw yolks, a swig of beet kvass with every meal, and chicken skins every few days. I had a fair bit of beef liver in the second and third weeks. I’ve had a number of gizzards and hearts since then. I’ve had sausage occasionally.
I was eating yogurt the first couple weeks but that was clearly making the constipation worse so I stopped that and have not gone back. I started eating kefir around the third week and that actually seemed to help slightly with the constipation, so I continued that. The kefir is home-made by my husband using a culture we got from the same Amish farm where we source our meat and other animal products. I consume the kefir with freeze-dried cherries or raspberries to make it palatable, as otherwise I can only manage a spoonful. With the fruit I manage about a half cup.
I decided the mostly raw, partially-cooked yolks I was eating had to go because of the constipation as I’ve known yolks to be a huge factor in constipating me since I was a child. I stopped having eggs around sixteen days ago and only recently reintroduced them. The initial stop in the eggs traces back to when I did a several-day fruit cleanse. I thought the fruit cleanse would straighten out my bowels in a lasting way, but alas, it did not.
What I’ve Been Eating: More Fat
Many people have suggested eating more fat. I got this recommendation from so many different sources that it seemed worth a try. I made my own ice cream from fresh, A2A2, raw, grass-fed brown-cow cream. I made various flavors using dried fruits, freeze-dried fruits, fruit juice, vanilla extract, almond extract, orange extract, and lemon zest. I intentionally didn’t use strawberries because of my suspicion about the histamine in strawberries aggravating my joints. I’ve had this ice cream daily for the past seven days, and it mostly consists of cream which is nearly pure fat. This has been in addition to my usual high-fat diet.
I’ve started making my own tortillas using almond flour, which is what caused me to reintroduce eggs in a limited way, as the recipe calls for a large egg or two small ones. This means I’ve been having somewhere between half an egg and an egg each day most days of the past week as part of my wraps. I’ve been loading these wraps with spicy salsa (something that usually helps me poop), heaping piles of leafy greens (iceberg, spinach, and baby lettuce), and lots and lots of oil. I’ve been frying the tortillas in a thick layer of chicken fat and avocado oil and then adding copious amounts of flax oil and sometimes algae oil to the wrap.
I’ve snacked somewhat on macadamia nuts, which get eighty percent of their calories from fat. They’re the most fatty nut around and generally one of the nuts I do best with. But I decided that these were most likely contributing to gastric distress I was having a few days ago and decided to stop them again.
I’ve been eating wild-caught fish (mostly salmon) cooked in chicken fat, often with extremely caramelized onion, which I’ve learned is a source of the enzyme DOA which breaks down histamine. Interestingly enough, I seem to crave and like my fresh, home-growth strawberries more after eating a lot of this caramelized onion.
What I’ve Been Eating: More Fruit, Then Less Fruit
After the fruit cleanse (which only lasted three days), I decided that I didn’t really want to continue eating mangoes or watermelon or cherries at this time. It felt like too much sweet, and too much sour. Hence, since then, my fruit consumption has been zero to one orange per day, and zero to two apples per day. The only other sweet thing I’m consuming is kombucha, but only in the morning, only as part of mag-fizz, and only the less-sweet kombuchas (such as AquaViTea’s Elderberry which is one of the least-sweet varieties of kombucha I’ve ever had and is actually so bitter than almost everyone I’ve introduced to it doesn’t like it – but it is my favorite and I’ve known it by itself to keep me regular in the past, but now it’s not working).
What I’ve Been Eating: Summarizing This Past Week
And that about wraps up what I’ve been eating. Here’s a brief summary of what my diet looked like for the past seven days:
- A breakfast of Elderberry kombucha with magnesium citrate, plus all my other probiotics and supplements (which are described earlier on this page).
- My real breakfast hours later consisting of wraps (home-made almond tortilla which is put on a sheet of nori and then stuffed with salsa, greens, sometimes a little almond ricotta, sometimes a little tahini, flax oil, black pepper, and sea salt), sometimes with a cup of broth on the side, sometimes with a few macadamia nuts or an apple or an orange, followed by more mag-fizz.
- Half a cup to a cup of ice cream for lunch (which doesn’t sound like a lot but translates to 550 to 1,100 calories from cream), sometimes with a cup of broth on the side, sometimes with a small glass of cold-pressed grapefruit juice.
- A dinner of one or more of the following: fish, sausage (usually just half a sausage with something else), shrimp (usually just 3 shrimp with something else), salad, broth, more ice-cream, an apple, and/or more wraps.
- More mag-fizz, but this time with sparkling water and no kombucha.
I’m definitely getting at least 60% of my calories from fat and as much as 80%. I probably was prior to GAPS too since I was eating a lot of fried food and heavily-oiled salads. I thrive on fat, but I have not known it to make me poop. There may be one exception to that, which is that I found my cassava pancake recipe to keep me regular despite it containing eggs, and I don’t have an explanation for that besides the incredible amount of avocado oil that the pancakes soaked up while frying.
One explanation for my intense constipation on GAPS is actually the absence of starches. I’m really not sure what to make of this, since I know potatoes have often had a constipating effect on me, but I know plantain chips and cassava pancakes to help keep me regular. Another explanation is that the increase of meat and other animal products causes constipation.
56 Days on GAPS
Almond Flour Pancakes
June 25th 2021
I tried making my gluten-free pancakes yesterday with almond-flour instead of cassava-flour. I tried substituting one-for-one without any other changes to the recipe and was surprised to discover the pancakes didn’t really hold together at all. Flipping them was entertaining and disappointing. The flavor was fantastic. They felt much heavier in my stomach however; I felt shockingly full after only a very small amount (less than 20% of what I would have eaten with cassava pancakes). It seems like a good recipe for times when I’m having trouble feeling full. (You can find the cassava pancake recipe here.)
I made pancakes a second time a few days later and more almond-flour tortillas a few days after that and began to wonder if the almond flour didn’t agree with my digestion that well after all. This was disappointing, but not terribly surprising. I decided to scale-back my consumption of almond flour, although several weeks later this meant I was snacking on macadamia nuts to try to abate the constant sense of gnawing hunger instead which is probably not an improvement.
Bentonite Clay Introduction
This past week I’ve been having one to two tablespoons of diluted bentonite clay with each meal as yet another measure to try and improve my stools. I’ve reduced the amount of mag-fizz I’m having in an effort to stop having consta-arrhea, but I’ve actually moved from one kind of constarrhea to another. Previously I was having watery stools that felt impossible to eek out; now I’m still feeling the need to go more often than usual, but my stools are hard and difficult to get out. I’m so tired of spending an hour or more a day on the toilet.
Over the following two to three weeks since I wrote the above paragraph I continued having clay every day and have found that it does seem to consistently keep my stools at a more natural consistency. While I continue to have mag-fizz each day (often in copious quantity), the clay seems to prevent my stool from turning entirely to fluid with lumps in it.
Kefir & Organic Berries
On the plus side, my taste for kefir is growing and it’s really convenient. I’ve recently purchased freeze-dried blueberries to eat with the kefir and it’s delicious and I’ve known blueberries to help me poop as well. I’ve also been adding a bit of freeze-dried banana because I know bananas help me poop. Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier on this page, bananas generally cause pimples on my face and sometimes other lymphatic symptoms, which is why plantains were always such a boon to me: they kept me regular without the skin reaction. I like that the kefir is easy, inexpensive (because we have an inexpensive source of raw, local goat milk), and fairly satisfying. That said, my cravings only seem to back down when I eat something with almonds in it.
Over the following two to three weeks since I wrote the above paragraph I began eating steadily more kefir with freeze-dried fruit. I steered back away from the bananas and used maqui powder and raspberries more often instead. This has proven to be satisfying, convenient, and I think free of negative side-effects. However, I did have a slow increase of inflammatory pain over those few weeks (as I get to on my entry for July 14th), but I’m doubtful it is caused by the kefir and berries. It seems more likely that it is a lack of something else.
The Plantain Chip Experiment
The inflammatory pain continues to improve since I began moderating my strawberry consumption, with the exception of the three days I was eating plantain chips. Yes, eating two bags of plantain chips over three days did cause the inflammatory pain to return. It came on the second day of eating the chips, and it was worst on the fourth day, the day after I’d actually stopped eating them. So there is definitely a delay in the response, but not by long. By the fifth day the pain was going down again.
At this point the inflammatory pain is now down to a low again. Last night I was actually able to sit on my feet while being massaged for something like forty minutes without even noticing that my knees were bent so tightly for all that time. I only noticed after I got up; my knees were a little stiff.
Needless to say, the improvement in my joint health from going off starches has been worth it. I am exercising much more than I have in the past couple years and I am gaining strength again because I’m actually being physically active. I’m glad I did the experiment with the plantain chips because that confirmed that (1) starches are related to the inflammatory pain, and (2) plantain chips were definitely what was keeping my stool a nice texture (as my stools were great for about the same three days that my inflammatory pain was worst).
2½ Months on GAPS
The Return of the Inflammation
July 14th 2021
Over the course of the past couple weeks I’ve had an increase in inflammatory pain. It’s been a fairly slow and steady increase, but it seems like I’ve “lost” about half the progress I’d made. I’m baffled as to why. I have not reintroduced starches. However, I have stopped using the red light therapy as it is too hot and humid to wish to put a bunch of lights on me (even only vaguely warm, red L.E.D. lights). I also have continued to be egg-free and I now wonder if the yolks were affecting part of my cure. For this reason, I’ve decided that I will try reintroducing yolks today.
July 16th 2021
The inflammatory pain is at an all-time high since starting GAPs; so bad it is hard to walk and hard to type. I ate three yolks two days ago but I noticed no difference from that. I tried using the red light and I did notice an improvement within a couple hours of using it, which surprised me.
Yesterday I did two suspicious things: I had two kombucha instead of one, and I had an entire package of freeze-dried beets. I suspect the kombucha more strongly as that provides an explanation for the slow increase in inflammation over the past few weeks as I’ve been consuming more over time as a way to ensure I get enough magnesium citrate.