What’s the deal with sweets on the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Diet?
There are a few different ways to look at this question.
Dr. Natasha says that 85% of our food intake should be healing nourishing foods like meat, vegetables, and fats. The remaining 15% is where sweets and baked goods come in.
In simple terms, that’s about one average serving of sweets per day- it’s not dessert for lunch, dinner, and a sweet snack. But it’s also not depriving yourself of anything sweet ever.
As you start or work toward GAPS, you may rely more heavily on sweets and baked goods just to get used to the diet. That’s ok, it’s just not ideal. But it’s ok, and if it’s the only way you will realistically stay on GAPS, it’s going to be better for your body to have multiple GAPS friendly baked goods a day than it is to have a food that your body is reacting to (wheat, gluten, etc).
On the GAPS Intro, there is a little fuzziness on the issue of honey. In the GAPS Book Dr Natasha allows honey stirred into tea from the beginning, and mixed with butter to control blood sugar crashes. In previous versions of the intro, honey wasn’t allowed at all until the end or after. We always do intro without any honey, my daughter had trouble with sugar in the past, so we wanted to make sure the sugar in honey wasn’t irritating her gut as it was trying to heal or feeding any pathogens.
You might be like I was prior to GAPS and think that you could never go low carb, since your blood sugar crashes and you start to get dizzy or pass out. I was like this for 26 years, and then one intense run through intro, and my body figured out how to regulate its blood sugar without a constant source of carbs. This has been so freeing to me- I used to have to eat right as I woke up, and at regular intervals, or I would get light headed and eventually pass out. Now, while eating on a predictable schedule is good, I no longer have to worry about my body shutting down if I don’t.
Obligatory reminder: I’m a mom, not a healthcare professional. Always talk to your healthcare professional before you eat or don’t eat anything new.
Losing your Sweet Tooth
As you progress on GAPS, you may lose your sweet tooth. I sure did (and I was the kid who, ahem, would buy a Snickers and Peanut M&Ms from the vending machine for lunch every day in high school). Now that we’re done with GAPS we eat fruit daily, usually as ‘dessert’ with lunch and dinner, and we make something sweet like banana bread, cake, or pie on Saturdays. But there isn’t the overwhelming craving for sweet things that we had before.
The first year on GAPS we ate a lot of macaroons, nutbutter brownies, jello, and custard. But it slowly lost its appeal. We’ve been off GAPS for over 6 months now, and the sweet cravings still haven’t come back. I attribute the intense cravings for sweets that people either to not getting enough calories overall, so your body is crying out for fast energy, or to pathogenic bacteria that rely on refined carbohydrates to function and have invaded your gut. We talk about the gut-brain connection and how pathogens can send out chemicals that make it to your brain, requesting more of the very food that is preventing you from healing.
So, overall, you’re not being ‘better at GAPS’ if you never eat any baked good- having some fun and celebration with food is good for the mood and good for the body. But if you are better off without it, work on getting healed enough that you can enjoy sweets sometimes. And for most people on GAPS, it’s okay to include a sweet treat weekly, if not daily.
See the recipes we made here: Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, Apricot Almond Bars, Spiced Apple Crisp, and Apple Cinnamon Doughnuts. And read more about what the GAPS book says about sweets here.
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Great article. I really struggled at first with sweet cravings and not having something daily. It made starting GAPS a lot harder when I tried to NOT have any sweets.
I’m glad it’s helpful! :) Some things are hard (intro is hard!) but thankfully usually with healthy eating your body naturally starts craving the best stuff. So it’s ok to make reasonable baked goods until your body decides it would rather have meat and veggies :)
Thankyou for this Cara, I had a huge sweet tooth which began to go away with intro. But after having fruit it’s come back and I’m really craving sugar of any sort. So I’ve been having lots of sweet baked things to try to satisfy it. This has reminded me that maybe my gut wasn’t fully clear of the bacteria that want sugar before I introduced fruit. It’s also helped me realise that some treats are ok, so the guilt of eating them can hopefully lessen! Might help my food boredom too!
Cara, I appreciate this post. I am newly diagnosed with IBD and have been on SCD/GAPS for about a month. The diet is really helping me, but it’s also pretty challenging. As a jam maker and blogger, a big part of my identity has been about sugar (that’s changing!) and I’m used to having sweets every day. I know I need to rely less heavily on the treats allowed by SCD/GAPS, but I’m still in that place you describe: If that’s what’s helping me stay on the diet, I’m going to eat some “legal” sweets and not freak out too much about it. I mean, my diet is 90% better than it was, my condition is improving, and I’m adjusting to the changes a little bit at a time. Anyway, I only recently found your blog and wanted to say that I value your sane voice in what, for me, is a brand new dietary landscape. Thank you!
Our favorite “sweet” treat is being assembled right now by eldest daughter (we’re on stage 4 of GAPS intro): cooked butternut squash, coconut oil, almond butter, and raw egg all mashed together into a yummy warm pudding! Other additions that we use: fermented dates (processed into a paste that we mix with almond butter to make “goodie balls” which we’ll roll in coconut as soon as we can have that :), homemade yogurt, and ghee.
I never would have thought I would lose my cravings for sweets. But I have. Actually, I don’t crave anything. Recently we were at a birthday party and there wasn’t really anything there that I could eat, and you know what? I didn’t care. I wasn’t starving. I didn’t feel pulled towards the cake and ice cream. When we go to church fellowship dinners, I used to plan and make sure I brought things I could eat, but now, if there is nothing for me to eat, I can easily wait until I get home. I guess I just don’t live to eat anymore. The love affair with eating is over. I still enjoy eating, but I’m not addicted to eating anything. I used to marvel at societies that don’t have 3 square meals per day plus snacks, but now I realize that is just a cultural thing, not a necessity.
Me too. It’s nice, right? To not have to follow pathogenic flora’s wishes?
I like to cook, but I see it more as a creative outlet more than anything right now.
Hi, I have a real sweet tooth and crave it all the time, so I have been making gaps desserts as well as the Gaps food I am not getting past the sugar cravings yet and give into it. I have candida so its not good to give into sugar. I am getting bored with the food I cook to I need some inspiration. Thanks for your artical and website I love it.
I’ve found that, for me, all of the substitutes for baked goods are a huge disappointment. It’s better for me to not have anything than to try and eat something made with squash or pumpkin puree. Part of the problem is that I’ve always been a “foodie” and I’m a great baker with the now-forbidden wheat. It will be a year next month since I spent a month on GAPS Intro, followed by 90% compliance of whole food eating since then. I say 90% because when we had our kitchen renovated in December, we had to eat restaurant foods for almost a month and there were a lot of slip ups!
The health issues that caused me to do GAPS have returned with a vengeance since the month of restaurant eating yet I can’t seem to find the strength to do Intro again.
I have found in cutting out most any processed food, I missed the “snacks” I munch on in the evening. It was not that I was hungry or craving them; it is just what I do in the evening. Though, I didn’t eat a lot of sweets except my coca-cola; I liked more salty snacks as crackers and chips. I found out after only a short break from potato chips, I did not like them at all. I bought some on a short trip; I could not eat them. I was happy! I haven’t quit liking coca-cola. I still liked a candy bar I ate last week; but it made me feel sick. I think I overdid the chocolate last week thinking I will never get to have anymore. It was too much for my system after not eating anything except homemade chocolate chip pumpkin muffins or homemade chocolate chip cookies using raw honey. I will be happy when I can eat the pancakes and scrambled eggs in stage 3. I am planning on us starting stage 2 tomorrow. My daughter is stuck on stage 1 because I am preparing her food. She won’t be able to pick up week 2 until Sunday or Monday. I think she needs whey, sour cream and yogurt. She texted me yesterday to tell me everyone wants me to make them soup.
We are 6 months into GAPS . I’d love to add some baked goods into the mix for occasional treats, but my son still can’t handle fruit or sugars well. When he has them he has cognitive and behavioral problems. I don’t want to make treats for the rest of the family that he can’t have. I know your daughter had similar issues with sugar. How did you handle this?
I used stevia :) I’ll link to my ‘sweetened with stevia’ recipe board on pinterest for you. I found it easier to sweeten gelatins and popsicles with stevia so we ate more of those.
Thank you so much for this post – I’ve been feeling guilty that my sweets cravings didn’t instantly disappear! Thanks so much.
Thank you for your comment about intro being hard. I’m only on day 6 and craving sweets so bad! Well, actually anything that I can’t have that remotely sounds “fun”. I knew I was an emotional eater but did not realize the extent of it until I can’t have food (of any kind really!) to comfort me. I did not realize how strongly food was tied to my moods and emotions. My body physically is doing fairly well (low energy mainly) but I have a general lack of joy or even happiness. Am doing this by myself and not with the family so that may play a role as well. This is for my own depression healing and also a “test” for my husband to see if he would ever agree to our daughters going on it. Thank you for your encouragement that it will be all worth it and I will crave the food I’m am forcing right now!
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