Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Making it Through the GAPS Introduction Diet

Hello hello! 

It's been a crazy few months - both starting the GAPS diet and applying for a job. Neither of those may sound like that big of a deal but, they were both were incredibly intense! The job was intense because I had a month to work on the application, and it was very bureaucratic and involved preparing many materials. I then spent the next month preparing a lesson presentation and two rounds of interviews! Thank goodness it is over and hopefully I will get the job. Should be hearing soon! 

But you are probably here to read about the GAPS diet. What horrible timing it was that I started the GAPS Introduction Diet at the same time I heard this job was available. The first few weeks of the Introduction Diet, I was completely lethargic. Fortunately, I have a loving boyfriend who cooked and cleaned for me during this time. He basically did as much as he could for me, because I could barely function. I did make it to work everyday but I was miserable and came home and just laid on the couch all night. After three weeks of being miserable and being stuck on stage 2 because the introduction of nuts caused irritation in my gut, I went to see the doctor. What he told me is really helpful! 

My doctor's guide to going through the GAPS Introduction Diet:

Go through the stages, adding foods as you can. If you react to a food, skip that item but keeping progressing. Try adding skipped items until you can tolerate them. The stages of the Introduction Diet are more like a guideline. The important thing is to at least stick to the full GAPS diet, eating lots of broths and other recommended foods. He said I was going through starvation due to being too low carb, and encouraged me to add fruit to my diet and continue to eat lots of squashes. He emphasized that taking probiotics is essential for regulating the digestion. 

Symptoms on the GAPS Intro Diet:

  1. Carb Withdrawls: This is sometimes referred to as the Atkins flu - feeling tired and achy due to an extreme drop in carb intake. Supposedly, it takes your body about a month to switch from relying on carbs to relying on ketones for energy. I was so low carb, without any fruit that I could barely function. Things that helped: 
    • Eating GAPS legal squashes as they have some starch, but not too much to overload your body with hard to digest disaccharides. Adding lots of fats such as butter or coconut oil is recommended. I especially liked Kabocha squash with coconut oil and salt. 
    • Drinking tea with honey. If fruit is hard to digest, as it was for me the first few weeks (especially raw), honey is a good way to get some carbs in your system. 
  2. Bacterial Die Off: As you starve the bacteria from the removal of carbs, the dead bacteria are basically poison that your body has to eliminate. For  me, this meant lethargy, brain fog, and nausea. I find when I don't follow the GAPS diet well enough (drinking too much alcohol, not eating enough fermented foods and broths) that these symptoms flare up again. Things that helped:
    • Take lots of probiotics and eat lots of fermented foods! The good bacteria are essentially for removing the dead bad bacteria. I find it helps to eat fermented foods with each meal, but don't always get myself to do this. For supplemental probiotics, you want to take a brand that has at least 10 strains of probiotics, with at least 8 billion organisms in a serving. Read the GAPS book for more on this. 
    • Drink lots of water! Flush the suckers out of your body.
  3. General detoxifying: As you begin to eat only healing, non-toxic foods, your body will begin to do what I think of as "catching-up" with its house keeping. From what I've been told, once you are not overloading your body with toxins on a daily basis, your body begins releasing old toxins that it was forced to store in fat because it couldn't process them all. I don't fully understand this, because it seems like you would just be processing the maximum amount of toxins until you got them all out, but, apparently it is common to feel worse when you first start detoxifying. For me, I feel lethargic and have brain fog. Sometimes I feel very irritable depending on how intense the detoxing is. Things that helped:
    1. Again, drink a lot of water to flush out toxins! 
    2. Detoxifying baths or foot baths will help take the burden off your body! I felt that the foot baths helped calm me, and made falling asleep for this life longer insomniac much easier. I felt noticeably better after just a 30 minute foot bath. I usually used Epsom salts with blends of essential oils. I like lavender and ylang-ylang. 
    3. Juicing fresh fruits was very helpful for me during the first month of GAPS. I added carrot juice earlier than it arrived in the stages. Fresh juice gives a lot of people diarrhea, but I have the opposite problem, so I added it ASAP. this helps pull out toxins. 

After the visit with my doctor, I backed off nuts for awhile, but tried other foods on stage 3. By that time, I was so bored with the foods in the first few stages, I basically just started eating everything I could tolerate on the full diet. I immediately got my energy back and felt better than ever! After a week or so, I tried nuts again. I seemed to be able to tolerate them in smaller doses, but not when binging on tons of nut products. My favorite things to eat are nut based muffins or cupcakes and bananas with peanut butter. I've been taking 50-100 billion probiotic organisms a day, and my gut and whole body are feeling much better. 

A Helpful GAPS Introduction Resource: 
One helpful resource for getting started with the GAPS Introduction Diet is an e-book put together by a mother who helped her family heal on GAPS. She lays out meal plans for each stage of the diet, so for those who feel overwhelmed, it's nice to follow. I got ideas from her book, but did not follow it exactly. From her book, I was inspired to take foot baths (not having a bath tub), and I found those very helpful! My favorite food idea I got from her was making meatballs, to which I added some liver for extra health benefits! My one criticism of the book is that it is written by a stay at home mom, so it doesn't always work well for a busy working professional doing the diet for herself (me). For example, she recommended when you go through carb withdrawals to drink some juice and take a nap. I don't always have that luxury while at work, though I wish I did! I fully support stay at home moms, I'm just saying that my work routine doesn't quite work with advice like that. 

Music That Helps Me Get Through It:
Camera Obscura's new album Desire Lines makes for great cooking music! It's mellow, atmospheric, and charming as per usual for this band. On the first few listens, I don't have any favorite songs and don't love it the way I loved some of their past music, however, it's a solid album for some easy going listening. 

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