I officially started the gut-healing protocol called GAPS in February 2012, first going through the strict intro phase and then gradually adding in more foods until I was on the least strict version of the diet. I put my 3 year old (at the time) boy on the diet as well since he seemed to have some gut dysbiosis and food sensitivities.
The diet has been healing for us both, though I don’t think either of us have perfectly functioning guts now (I know I don’t). But we are better.
So why quit the diet?
The answer to this is multifaceted. For my son, it mostly had to do with carbohydrates, because I think he needs more than I do. I started allowing some starches/grains back into his diet months ago. He was clearly hungry for them, and I was worried about his large consumption of nut-based foods because nuts just aren’t supposed to be eaten in such great amounts. His diet seemed unbalanced, and adding some starches back in has helped.
For me it’s partly been about carbs. I knew I needed to get enough. I know it’s possible to get enough on GAPS, but I never really got into the swing of preparing enough carbohydrate foods for my meals. I think I did okay for most of my time on GAPS, but by mid-winter I was bored of cooking. I was bored of food.
Yes, I could have tried new recipes. In fact, I recently bought a new cookbook just on soups. But still, I’m just not in full swing of getting enough carbs right now. Or enough food in general. I’m not getting enough calories. I would guess I’m getting under 2000 a day right now (that’s enough if I want to just sit around all day, but not if I want to have energy and be active) just because I am bored with food. Bored with cooking. Well, maybe I’m just feeling lazy and don’t want to prepare food three times a day, every day, plus snack. Regardless of the reason for my eating less, the point is that I am. People need plenty of calories and carbohydrates to support the thyroid and metabolism. If these two things are not functioning well, it is hard for the body to heal. Which would make doing GAPS kind of pointless.
Specifically, I want to add grains back to my diet. The reason might surprise some people–I want them for their nutrients. I had heard so many times from the Paleo community that grains are not a nutrient-dense food, so why bother eating them? But they are actually quite rich in nutrients and many grains are great sources for magnesium and folate–two nutrients I have a hard time getting enough of. They are good sources for many vitamins, especially B vitamins, and many minerals. They are considered to be less nutrient dense only because they have more calories per serving…but if you need more calories like I do, this is a good thing!
With so many of my needs pointing to grains, it seems silly not to try to add them back into my diet. After 13 months on GAPS, I am trying to do just this. I did not get off to a very smart start, though. I recently decided to do a special diet challenge to get my body ready for pregnancy. After almost seven weeks of zero GAPS cheats whatsoever, I got so “hungry” that one day I told my husband to bring home a take and bake pizza from Papa Murphy’s. That pizza tasted so good, and I devoured three slices. Not too long afterwards, I felt horrible. Worse than I ever did with any cheats I have had while on GAPS. The problem wasn’t that I had eaten a non-GAPS food. The problem was that I had eaten a non-real food! I looked up the pizza ingredients online and was utterly horrified what was in it: GMO soy oil, preservatives and artificial ingredients! In restaurant pizza!! Well, I should have known better than to eat inexpensive chain pizza.
I’ve been trying other starches rather unmethodically. I seem to be fine with rice, potatoes and quinoa. Popcorn seems okay, fried taco shells do not. I might be a tiny bit bloated, but it doesn’t give me any discomfort. It’s a trade off for now. I need what grains provide. I will keep my consumption of them on the low side for now, and try to go for the more easily digested types. I’ll have days that I still only eat GAPS foods, not only to give my gut a rest, but because I’ve become so accustomed to this way of eating that it’s actually easier in a way. I’ll still eat a lot of nourishing soups (I have a whole cookbook of them to explore!) and grains will be traditionally prepared as much as possible.
Maybe going on with GAPS would be okay, if I could be more disciplined. I would have to eat lots of greens and organ meats and seafood to replace the nutrients I am missing in grains. I could eat a ton more vegetables for extra carbs. I’m sure that would be very healthy for me. But I just haven’t been managing it. I will continue trying to get more veggies and organ meats into my diet, but in the meantime, I am not going to deprive myself of the nutrition I need–especially when I am hoping to get pregnant soon.
I don’t know if this is truly the end of my GAPS journey. We’ll see what happens. All I know is that right now food suddenly seems more interesting, and I’m not hungry anymore.