By now, I have mentioned the GAPS diet several times on this blog. In this post, I want to talk a bit more in depth about my experience with it, especially how I felt when trying to adhere to its limits on ingesting carbohydrates.
What is GAPS
Gut and Psychology Syndrome, commonly referred to as GAPS, is a special kind of healing diet that is supposed to help your gut recover after a long period of unhealthy eating habits. The important thing about GAPS is that it’s temporary. It’s not a diet you follow for the rest of your life but rather a temporary treatment that will make your digestive system act normal again. After completing GAPS, you are supposed to gradually go back to eating a variety of foods that include both carbs and grains. If your gut is healthy then eating those foods shouldn’t cause any negative side effects. That’s the goal of GAPS.
My journey with GAPS
My GAPS diet lasted for a full 10 months. I decided to try GAPS after I became too scared to eat anything substantial because of the fear I would feel bad afterward. And it was one of the best decisions I made in my life. My body was cleansing and I felt much better.
However, after about 10 months have passed, I observed some negative symptoms that made me worry I was doing something wrong. It took me some time but I finally put the two together: my symptoms were a result of not eating enough carbs. My body was literally trying to tell me that GAPS had done everything it could and now it was time to go back to eating carbs.
So that made me want to research more about how to eat a healthy amount of carbs while on GAPS diet. This post is the result of my research. I hope that other people who might struggle like I did will find this helpful.
I absolutely do not regret doing GAPS. My body was healthier and I had more energy because I wasn’t eating any foods that were heavy on my digestive system. By completing GAPS, I gave my body the strength to eat all the foods it wanted (healthy real foods, of course!). The GAPS diet forced me to incorporate more probiotics, healthy broths, organic vegetables and dairy, and many more into my regular diet. These habits will stay with me long after GAPS.
But after the 10 months, I knew that it was time to finish my GAPS journey. I was healed and nothing else could be done. By continuing to do GAPS for too long you can actually even reverse its beneficial effects! So the bottom line is: you need to listen to what your body is telling you.
At the beginning of my GAPS diet, I was pretty doing pretty well when it came to getting enough carbs in my diet. It was only after about three or four months that I first started limiting my carbs intake on my own. I realize now that I was actually being too low-carb and the effects could be seen after another six months when I had the first realization that maybe it’s time to be done with GAPS. The symptoms I was having were similar to what Matt Stone was warning about in his book.
My craving for carbs was getting ridiculously strong even though I had no trouble with avoiding them for many months before. I took my basal temperatures every day and my waking temperatures were getting lower. I had trouble sleeping and needed to supplement my sleep with afternoon naps. My quality of life severely deteriorated in a short time.
I searched around for some information and found out that the reason Ann Marie ditched low carb, was because she had similar symptoms to mine. That was my first clue that the carbs were the reason behind all this.
That’s why I want to advise people against going too low carb when on GAPS or you might experience the same negative effects as I did. I hope this post can act as a short guide about how to eat enough carbs when doing GAPS diet.
How to eat enough carbs?
It’s easy to go overboard when limiting carbs. We have come to seem like the root of all evil, the one thing that keeps us from losing weight. But in order to get proper nutrition, we need to be aware that carbs are just as important to our bodies as proteins and vitamins. Good quality carbs like whole grains are vital to the body’s proper functioning. However, these good carbs can sometimes be hard to digest if your gut is not working well. Hence, the GAPS diet.
Firstly, if you are starting GAPS (or considering it), then I highly recommend you read Cara’s ebook. She wrote a great GAPS Intro diet that includes plenty of easy to digest carbs for your first 30 days into the GAPS. Being too low carb won’t do you any good and it might even cause you to go into ketosis due to the body not having enough glycogen.
Secondly, study the GAPS diet list of foods very carefully. That’s the list of foods that are officially allowed when doing the GAPS. There are actually some very good carbohydrate sources in there. I chose some of them and outlined them below:
Carb sources when doing the full GAPS diet (no straying from the official guidelines):
- FRUIT. Fruits are full of good and healthy sugar (fructose) that should be regularly digested. It’s the most natural source of sugar you can find. And many fruit are actually upping your carb intake. GAPS diet official recommendation is to eat two pieces of fruit between meals, preferably in the morning or early afternoon.
Fruit to eat: bananas, figs, mangos, grapes, cherries, pomegranates, tangerines, oranges, pineapples, pears, kiwis, plums, dried fruit.
- BEANS. White navy beans, lima beans, and lentils are all good sources of carbs. I was skeptical at first, fearing that they would be difficult to digest but I was wrong! They taste amazing and can be easily incorporated into a variety of meals. Experiment with beans to see which ones work best for you. There’s a reason they are on the official GAPS food list. They will give you the energy you need without having to reach for typical carbs, like grains and starches.
- VEGETABLES. Seems like a cliché but it really works. Raw veggies, steamed veggies, cooked veggies, baked veggies,… they all taste amazing if you’re just willing to give them a try. My absolute favorites are cream vegetable soups (like pumpkin soup, tomato soup, or carrot soup) and vegetables baked in the oven with plenty of herbs and spices.
- COCONUT MEAT. Yes, meat. Not coconut oil or coconut cream – these are very good sources of healthy fat but not carbs. However, shredded coconut, coconut flour, and even coconut water have a decent amount of carbs in them that will give you the power to go on and thrive on your GAPS diet. Coconut flour is especially very easy to incorporate in all those recipes where you would normally use regular wheat flour.
Carb sources when you have been on GAPS for several months:
- NUTS AND SEEDS. Nuts and seeds can be eaten on the GAPS diet but it is important to remember that eating too much of them at once can cause your omega 3 and omega 6 fats ratio to go out of balance. The general rule is that you should avoid nuts and seeds high in omega 6 fats (walnuts, pine nuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, etc.) and try to choose low omega 6 fats nuts (macadamias, hazelnuts, cashews, almonds, and pistachios). They are not only good sources of healthy fat but also contain a substantial amount of carbs!
- HONEY. The GAPS recommends choosing honey as the sweetener of choice. Yes, it’s sugar but it also has plenty of other beneficial properties. Ginger honey tea is even advised when you first start GAPS! So don’t worry about eating too much honey, you can have some every day if you feel like it and don’t experience any negative effects. It will also help you stay away from going too low carb.
- POTATOES. I first tried eating potatoes again after I reached the 10 months mark on GAPS. I digested them surprisingly well so I quickly decided to incorporate them back into my regular menu. Yukon gold potatoes were by far the easiest on my stomach while russet potatoes took a little more time to get used to. They are a great source of carbs so feel free to try them out. Remember to start from a small amount first!
- FRESH BANANAS. Bananas are allowed on GAPS from the start but they need to be fully ripened or even overripe because they are easier to digest that way (less starch and more simple sugar). But as you get more and more used to the GAPS diet, it’s said that even fresh bananas should be ok to digest by now. These are bananas that have a light, slightly greenish, color and no brown spots. They contain plenty of good carbs so try them out little by little. Bananas are a perfect way of increasing your carb intake.
Edit: As someone in the comments pointed out, another great source of carbs on GAPS is simply dairy. Raw milk, kefir, and yogurt are healthy probiotics that will give you a nice carb boost as well.
As you can see, it is not that difficult to eat enough carbs even when doing the GAPS diet. You just need to remember to include the foods mentioned above in your diet regularly and not only when you start feeling the carb withdrawal effects! Prevention is key!
Again, I need to recommend this ebook on how to do the GAPS Intro diet. It’s a great source of information for GAPS beginners and it has immensely helped me on my own GAPS journey.
And remember that eventually, you will need to be able to eat all these other carbs, like whole flour, buckwheat, quinoa, and so on. All you need to do is just successfully complete your GAPS diet and your gut will be healed and ready to go!
And just as the last note I want to add that this post is a reflection of my own personal experience with GAPS. From my research, I have found out that the low carb trap affects a significant number of people but that doesn’t mean that it will also affect you. If you are doing low carbs GAPS and feel that it is working for you then keep doing it! Everybody’s bodies are different and you might never experience the same side effects as I did. Just watch out for any negative symptoms and remember to always listen to what your body is telling you!