I am currently transitioning off the GAPS diet! I cannot express how excited I am about this. I have been strictly following the program for one year. This is actually twice as long as I expected to be on it. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride says that GAPS patients need to adhere to the diet for at least 1 1/2 to 2 years. Sometimes life gets in the way. It is also important to listen to cues from your body.
For the past couple of months, I have been suffering from low energy levels and feeling tired most of the day. I may not get the recommended 9-10 hours of sleep every night, but I do try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night. I am trying to do better than this and setting a bedtime for myself to get between 8-9 hours of sleep even on work nights. This is more of a challenge for me since I work longer hours when I am traveling. Fitting in dinner along with other activities makes it difficult to get much more sleep. Despite getting an adequate amount of sleep on most nights, I feel dead tired during the day. I feel like a zombie, just going through the motions. I started to wonder if something is really wrong with me.
When I first began the diet, I thought that GAPS is the answer to most health problems and most people are what Dr. Campbell-McBride refers to as “GAPS patients.” I have since changed my mind and have decided that it is not the solution to every health ailment and that it may actually harm some people.
I began researching to see if other people how low energy on the GAPS diet. It turns out I am not alone. Other people have had the same complaints as me. Dr. Thomas Cowan has worked with such people and has recommended they add soaked or fermented grains back into their diet. The GAPS diet is not a low carb diet. It is based on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), so certain carbohydrate foods are restricted. Foods higher in carbohydrates allowed on the diet include, but are not limited to: lentils, white navy beans, lima beans, fruit, any kind of squash, and certain root vegetables like celeriac, carrots and beets. If one or some of these foods are not included with every meal, the GAPS diet can become unintentionally low carb.
When people start restricting one of the three macronutrients (fat, protein, carbohydrates), they eventually run into issues. I can personally attest to this as I have restricted any one of them at some point. Before I started making changes to my diet, I was eating a very low protein and low fat diet. This attributed to a number of health problems I developed. More recently, I have been restricting my carbohydrates and as a result I was fatigued most of the time. Traditional cultures around the world have a wide variety of diets. One thing they all have in common is they do not eat refined carbohydrates, sugar and highly processed vegetable oils. Their foods are far more nutrient dense than modernized cultures around the world. Some of the cultures are very high in carbohydrates and some are very low. What they do right is they eat what is local and available to them. They do not intentionally restrict any food group (and I am talking about real food, of course!).
My plan was to transition off the diet in a couple weeks. My energy levels were so low that I did not think I could make it another day without some non-GAPS legal food. I ran across the street to the local grocery store and bought the best quality ice cream with the least ingredients I could find. I settled with the Talenti brand Tahitian vanilla bean gelato. After eating the entire pint, I felt like a new person! I had much more energy than just an hour before. I did the same thing for the next couple of days. I would not recommend this as a regular practice as the cream and milk are not grassfed, organic or raw and the sugar is not organic. However, it gave me the energy I needed to make it through the rest of the week without digestive distress.
Once I made it back home, I introduced fermented potatoes with my meals. I did not seem to have any symptoms from introducing this food. The past couple days I have eaten potato skins with all kind of goodness in them: pulled pork, bacon, sour cream, cheddar cheese and green onions. I did not suffer from any digestive distress, they gave me tons of energy and made me happy, of course .
I am going to introduce fermented buckwheat next and make pancakes. Once I know I can tolerate these, I will introduce fermented quinoa and millet, as Dr. Campbell-McBride recommends when coming off the diet. I cannot wait to eat real sourdough bread! When I was at my local Weston A. Price chapter conference a few weeks ago, I tried a few bites of different sourdough breads and I did not suffer from any of my regular digestive symptoms. I believe this is one more sign my body was giving me that I am ready for other foods.
When I first began the GAPS diet, I thought it was the answer to just about every modern health problem. I have since changed my mind. Some people need grains and other carbohydrates in order to thrive. I belive I am one of those people. I remember when I was on the paleo diet before starting GAPS, I was eating sweet potatoes, potatoes, drinking raw goat’s milk and cheese, occasionally indulging with sushi, rice and gluten free pizza. I had a ton of energy then, even when I got little sleep. Cravings have been plaguing me for a while for potatoes, white rice, cream, milk and real sourdough bread. After reflecting on this, I think my body was trying to tell me that I needed these foods to provide me the energy and nutrients I need.
Here is one thing I want you to take away: LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!! God designed our bodies to tell us when something is not working. No matter what diet advice you hear (and there is a lot out there, so no wonder it is confusing!), do your own research, pray, reflect, and listen to the signs your body is giving you.