Confused on how to heal your leaky gut? The GAPS diet might be a great way to start . . .
In looking at effective diets to combat leaky gut, we came across the GAPS diet. GAPS—which stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome—is a diet designed to heal the lining of the gut and subsequently treat chronic inflammatory conditions in the digestive tract. It seeks to remove difficult-to-digest foods from the diet and replace them with nutrient-dense healing foods to encourage healing of the intestinal lining. The concept of “heal and seal” is evident in the first of the two phases the diet calls for. The Introduction phase consists of six stages, starting out with primarily broths, boiled meats and vegetables in phase 1, then slowly introducing more cooked meats, raw vegetables, and lastly fruits through stage 6. The second phase of the GAPS diet is referred to as the “Full GAPS diet,” which consists of similar foods, but is definitely more flexible than the first restrictive phase. Find more detail on GAPS here. In an effort to heal some of our health conditions—ranging from hormonal imbalances to allergies and asthma—we decided to embark on the GAPS diet. Below is an outline designed to take you through our journey (which we are still undergoing, currently on stage 4) in hopes that you too might be able to benefit as well should you decide to give it a try.
Stage 1 of the GAPS Diet:
Stage 1 of the GAPS Introduction diet consists primarily of boiled meats, broths, and vegetables. Being rich in amino acids, bone broth is incredibly powerful in healing and strengthening connective tissue and serving to promote the rapidly growing cells of the gut lining. It aids in digestion and helps soothe inflammation in the gut. During this stage, it’s very common for “die-off” reactions to occur, which are caused by the poisons that toxins within the body release when they are being discarded. Symptoms can include lethargy, nausea, diarrhea, and skin rashes. Our diet during stage 1 (which lasted about a week) included things like 1) Soup with turnip or squash noodles, bok choy, spinach, kale, onion, (lamb, chicken, beef, or turkey) and chicken broth. 2) Carrot, pumpkin, and squash soups.
Stage 2 consists primarily of the foods in stage 1, however with the slow introduction of things like avocados, raw egg yolks, coconut oil, and ghee. I’d like to emphasize that these foods should be introduced slowly, given that your body might have averse reactions to them. Furthermore, as someone who was repulsed by the idea of eating raw eggs, I bit the bullet and actually found them to be quite good when incorporated in shakes that includes boiled spinach, water, and honey.
Stage 3 consists of all the foods from stages 2 and 1, with the introduction of nut butter, almond and coconut flours, and some new vegetables such as asparagus, cabbage, and celery (however they all must be cooked) in addition to fermented vegetables like sauerkraut.
The best part of stage 3 is being able to use coconut flour to make GAPS pancakes / muffins (which includes eggs, coconut flour, honey, almond butter, and squash or pumpkin). We also opted to make our own organic almond butter which is recommended when first introducing nut butters. Once again, I’d like to re-emphasize the slow introduction of these foods, given that too much can overload your stomach. I made this mistake by having too many coconut muffins, which resulted in bloating and heartburn for the rest of the day.
Stage 4 of GAPS consists of all the foods in the previous stages, with the introduction of carrot juice, grilled and roasted meats, and extra virgin olive oil. Once we knew we could consume olive oil, the first few dishes we made were scrambled and sunny-side-up eggs, chicken salad with homemade mayo, and stove-top cooked scallops. Another one of my new favorite food variations in this stage was oven-baked squash with coconut oil. You can say that I’ve become quite the squash-enthusiast, experimenting with squash chunks, slices, and fries, baked with either chicken broth, coconut oil, or honey.
Stages 5 & 6
Stage 5 begins to introduce fruits (mangoes, applesauce, pear sauce, and tomatoes) and vegetable juices. Stage 6 includes raw apples, bananas, berries, cherries, coconut milk, dates, and kiwi. We combined stages 5 and 6 given that they’re pretty similar, and just monitored our body’s response to each new food variation. A tip to remember in both stages is to not eat fruit when you’re hungry, as you need to watch your sugar intake (which can be a lot harder when faced with a hungry stomach and a fridge full of sweet fruit). Moderation in these stages is key, and remember to keep your main dishes similar to the previous stages.