Updated: Dec 15, 2020
Many people fear the GAPS Introduction Diet. It can be overwhelming. It can be scary. Many are terrified of how ill they will be from the detox in the beginning. These are all rational concerns. The GAPS Introduction diet is not for the faint of heart. I want to be raw and real with you and share my experience on a messy road to healing on my own journey on the Introduction Diet.
Some people prepare before doing GAPS Intro. I went right into it with no preparation and did this all right before my birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. When people tell me that the thought of the Introduction Diet is very overwhelming, trust me, I hear you. I was in your shoes once, but instead of preparing weeks ahead by stocking up on ferments and meat stock, I just dove in cold-turkey. I went from living a diet high on processed foods, boxed macaroni and cheese, and daily stops at fast food restaurants to going face first into GAPS intro. This is a huge life-change for many, including myself. My body went from relying heavily on carbohydrates and sugar to completely eliminating these from my diet. If I can conquer GAPS intro, you can do it too. To read more on my GAPS story click here. I will share some photos of when I was very ill before GAPS in this post. You can see my after-GAPS photo at the bottom of this post.
By the end of day one on Intro, I was feeling pretty rough. I could not believe how quickly the detox started. I was eating my meat stock soups, but the migraines came on strong. Day two I felt very weak and tired. I am certain my blood sugar was crashing, but I was a woman on a mission. That mission was to heal the root cause of my issues. Day 3 & 4 is when the detox really started to hit me. I felt like I could not move. I had no energy to get up off the couch or even take a shower. I have a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old. I cannot even remember how I got by during this time. If I can remember, they both got a lot of screen time during this period of when mommy was super sick on the couch. My husband, Tim, was forced to step up his game and take over when he would get home from work. Often times he would work the weekend or work late, so in a way I felt like a single parent trying to navigate this. It was a mess. My house was in shambles. I felt like my world was crumbling around me. I was clinging to the hope that GAPS gave me, and I knew I had to push through.
I struggled when I started the protocol mentally. I found myself mourning the loss of old habits, old ways of eating, old comforts. It literally felt like I was going through a horrible break-up, but with food! I remember crying wondering if I would ever be able to eat “normal” food again. Little did I know, as things progressed my mentality would easily be changed and healed. I also struggled with the food and the meat stock. During those first couple of weeks on Intro, I had a period of a few days where I could not even look or smell meat stock without gagging. I forced myself to drink it, but it was definitely forced entry. It was so real. I honestly thought I would vomit if I drank stock again. After a couple of days this sensation subsided and I was in the clear again.
As I moved to stage 2 and started introducing some egg yolk, I was ecstatic just to have something to give me a little bit of extra nourishment. Then sadly, I reacted to egg yolks. I would get terrible burning diarrhea, anxiety, the whole shebang. And it was bad. So, then I had to go back to stage 1. I kept playing this dance of going back and forth between the stages. I would try to do a new vegetable cooked well in my soup; I would react. I tried cooked zucchini, peeled and seeds removed, I reacted terribly. I remember we went to my in-laws’ house for the weekend (which was a terrible idea at the time- but mom guilt is real). We took all of the kids to a bounce-house park, and I remember running in and out of the bathroom feeling nauseated like I was going to throw up and having fiery burning diarrhea after trying zucchini. Sorry if I am being too graphic, I’ll try my best not to be, but like I said I want to be raw with all of you. So, then we took zucchini out of the picture. We tested other vegetables; I would react. It got to one point where we thought that maybe I was reacting to chicken stock and we had to back off on this as well. We played this back-and-forth dance for a very long time. I was beyond frustrated as at this point it felt like I was reacting to every new food I tried.
I was very good about doing my detox baths every night and more if needed if I was having a bad day. Around 6 weeks on Intro, I remember looking at myself in the mirror and noticing how emaciated I was. You could see my rib cage and my collar bones protruded through my skin. My boobs were completely gone. And my butt literally had no meat left on it, it looked like lifeless wilting flubber. I remember crying to my husband about how sick I looked. If someone who did not know me would have seen me, they would have assumed I was an anorexic. My body weight before I got sick was 148 pounds, I am 5’7”. On GAPS Intro, I got down to 109 pounds in a very short time. None of my “skinny” clothes from back in high school fit me. I was so tired of hearing people tell me how sick I looked and that I was too thin and how worried they were. If someone said something to me one more time about my appearance, I was going to lose it. I was sad and I was depressed. I was losing hope. I was desperate to be able to eat any new food and not have a reaction. My GAPS practitioner was there every step of the way to help push through. To be honest, I do not know if I would have stayed with it had it not been for her encouragement and honesty each and every step of the way.
This game of trying to take one step forward and then having to take two steps back continued for months. I was battling this war going on inside my head asking myself, “Am I a lost cause?” “Am I that mystery case that GAPS won’t heal?” “Am I healing at all?” “Is this even working?” This emotional battle was a huge struggle for me. What I didn’t realize is that it was all interconnected to this war going on in my microbiome all pieced together in intricate little parts.
I had so many bad days on Intro. The good days were far and few between. I had weird new symptoms come up as time went on. I had a yeast infection flares for no apparent reason other than die-off, which I was able to manage naturally. I had another experience where I was not sleeping well due to high-anxiety. I had a weekend where I was convinced, I had a UTI. I had pressure on my bladder and kept feeling like I had to urinate. I later concluded that my body was heavily detoxing at that time. I had another 2-week experience where I was very ill. I was severely congested and had a horrible cough that I could not kick. I am very much convinced that this was painting a picture of my healing journey and while I was in the thick of it, I had not even realized the healing that was already taking place.
I spent at minimum, 6 months on Stage 1 & 2 of Intro. It was a very very long 6 months. I was
pretty tired of eating soup all of the time, but eating soup was not going to hinder my journey. I remember when I started introducing GAPS pancakes on stage 3, it was the BEST thing in the entire world. Something other than soup!!! I was still reacting to peanut butter, but thankfully almond butter was not a problem. I was slowly able to work in some new vegetables. Everything was very slow in this process. Sometimes I would still have to take a step back, investigate, and then push forward again. But slowly and surely (very slowly), I started to see progress of healing. I finally reached that “Aha” moment where I realized that I actually was having healing happen.
After 8 months on the Introduction Diet, I was able to successfully move on to the Full GAPS diet. I am still very cautious and careful with introducing a new food and I am still cautious with new raw vegetables. But all other foods, even ones I used to react to terribly (like peanut butter, etc), I can now handle with flying colors! As my body healed, I was able to gain weight again and I now maintain a healthy body weight. My anxiety is merely non-existent. I can function at ease and my symptoms no longer consume my mind and my day taking away precious time from my husband and our beautiful babies. I still am living and healing on Full GAPS and my journey is not over yet.
I wish I could paint a clearer picture for you to be able to peak into my world on the Introduction Diet and how hard it was for me. Each person and their journey and depth of healing is different. How long you stay on Intro is completely bio-individual. Some people cruise through it, others can stay on intro for years. I’m still healing. I am still on this journey. I know often on social media we get these different portrayals that there are people that have travelled these healing journeys as if they were a walk in the park and once they’ve done it they never have any issues ever again. That was not me. I have always been this bundle of mysteries. My journey of healing is still well underway.
Even though I have been doing this for some time, my journey is not over. I have periods of feeling fantastic and without a care in the world. Then I still have moments or off-days where my body is still detoxing. This is the typical course of healing. It is not a straight and narrow path. Healing is messy and discombobulated. But at the end of the day, all of the stress, the ups and downs, the emotional dysfunction… it was all beyond worth it to see how far I’ve come. Looking back at how sick I was before GAPS and how my body was just wilting away, to where I am now… I am a completely different person. I’ve been able to heal many different aspects of my health, my anxiety, my body. This damage that has been going on inside of me did not just happen overnight, it was present at birth and I just continued to pour fuel on the ambers, until finally things just went up in flames. So here I am now, 29 years later, still trying to water and foster the healing the roots in the soil, the groundwork of which this was all laid. I am fully confident I will get there in time as I have already come so far. My life has been forever changed on GAPS. I strongly believe yours will too. I am here to support you on your journey, please reach out anytime, we are in this together.
Through GAPS I have already been able to:
· Heal numerous food intolerances and sensitivities
· Heal digestive symptoms, chronic gastritis, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) diagnosis
· Be able to absorb nutrients and maintain a normal body weight
· Resolve mental health issues: panic attacks & severe anxiety
· Eliminate my PTSD from trauma from my illness
· Eliminate menstrual pain & PMS
· Regulate my thyroid
· Spend time with my family and friends again, go on walks, being able to socialize and enjoy life not living in fear or being consumed by my symptoms