How to Start the GAPS Diet

The GAPS Diet is an intense, but temporary healing protocol.  Starting the GAPS Diet can feel overwhelming but with a little preparation, you’ll be a broth-making, ferment-consuming, GAPS friendly meal planning machine!

To start the GAPS Diet follow these steps:

  1. Identify if you have a problem that GAPS can help with.  GAPS heals leaky gut. Click here to learn all the ways leaky gut can affect you.
  2. Learn what you can and cannot eat on the GAPS Diet.
  3. Read the GAPS Book so you have a good understanding of how this works – knowing how the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet works is key to maintaining compliance.
  4. Practice making key GAPS recipes:
    1. Chicken Broth and Beef Broth
    2. Sauerkraut: Just Cabbage and Salt (lactofermented recipe)
    3. GAPS Soups
  5. Make your own meal plan by taking notes from the GAPS book, or follow a pre-made meal plan to ensure you follow the GAPS Protocol correctly.
  6. Set a start date and start Full (less restrictive) GAPS.
  7. From Full GAPS, most people will want to do the intensely healing GAPS Introduction Diet. Read about how to transition onto the GAPS Intro diet here. 
  8. Plan on spending about 2 years on the GAPS Protocol for complex cases (fibromyalgia, autism, severe digestive issues).  Some people with more minor issues like minor eczema or minor food allergies see results and can come off the GAPS Diet after just a couple months.

Still need to do some more research on the GAPS Diet?

Read: The GAPS Diet: Everything You Need to Know

Starting GAPS For Autism and Chronic Conditions

Part of the reason that it’s so hard to start the GAPS diet is that by the time most people resort to GAPS, their quality of life has been severely impacted by a chronic condition of some sort.

For some it’s anxiety that puts you on high alert at all time.  Some people may be running to the bathroom or just *not feeling well* from IBS, crohn’s, or celiac.

For others, it’s having a child that requires constant supervision (and may or may not sleep or stay in one place!) due to autism or ADD.  Still others may have multiple food intolerances, and have to restrict the GAPS protocol even further.

I understand the overwhelm, but I also have seen the rapid improvements in autism, anxiety, eczema, IBS, and even food allergies, that’s why I’m here to help you start the GAPS diet!

Kids happy and healing on the GAPS Diet

Starting GAPS with kids, especially on the autism spectrum, is overwhelming but the rewards are so sweet!

Making the GAPS Diet Your New Automatic

It is difficult to change food habits at first, even if you fully believe in the healing power of food.  Eating is so much of a habit that it’s an automatic process, that when we change anything at all, it feels exhausting! Thankfully this doesn’t last long.

Give yourself time to transition onto GAPS. If you are going to do Intro GAPS or just full GAPS, I recommend giving yourself two to four weeks of ‘grace’ time.  In this time you try GAPS recipes and work towards being on GAPS, but you don’t worry about doing the protocol perfectly.

Sample page from the GAPS Introduction Diet Ebook

GAPS Introduction Diet Ebook Sample Page – everything is laid out for you with checklists to keep you on track.

Changing to eating GAPS food means changing many habits throughout the day- from what we buy at the grocery store, to how we plan our meals, to what we hand our child to eat while we’re on the phone (oh yeah, I’m totally guilty of that too).

Even if you’re used to eating ‘healthy’ you still have to re-train the automatic processes in your brain to reach for GAPS-compliant food.  Re-training your brain usually takes less than a month, so have faith! It’s only hard for a short amount of time, and then you’ll benefit from a lifetime of good gut health :)

You can help speed this process of making the GAPS diet your new normal along by immersing yourself in the GAPS world!  You can start with watching videos on the GAPS diet, following a meal plan that includes a grocery list, and limiting other life distractions.

As you start the GAPS diet, realize that changing what you eat means changing your habits.  The good news is that in just a few weeks, you will have a new habit! And this habit will be healing your body and brain.

Store-Bought Food You Can Have on the GAPS Diet

GAPS Is supposed to be all fresh foods… right?

Yes.  But.

Compared to even when the GAPS book came out in 2009, there are more and more healthy options that you can purchase from the store that will help you stay on the GAPS protocol.  You can click here to see some useful  packaged foods purchases that only contain GAPS-legal ingredients.

When you start the GAPS Intro Diet, you’ll be cooking nearly everything from scratch (frozen veggies can still be a lifesaver), but as you start the GAPS diet, being able to toss your kiddo an applesauce cup or give them a Lara Bar at the park when other kids are eating Oreos can be a lifesaver.

Kettle and Fire Broth can be used on Full GAPS (not intro)

Having a few cartons of pre-made broth, or meat on auto-delivery can keep you plugging along in the kitchen while you’re on the GAPS Diet protocol.

Some pre-made GAPS-Legal foods we love:

Before You Start the GAPS Diet, you may still have some questions

1.  Who should do the GAPS Diet?

Do you have symptoms of Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS)? Either chronic irritating things or an emergency situation that is making you virtually unable to function?

If you aren’t sure, read What is a GAPS Family here.

If you’re sure, but you need more info, sign up for the Free GAPS 101 Ebook.

2. Why Do the GAPS Diet?

GAPS is amazing for rebuilding the gut, but it isn’t the only way to cure health problems.  GAPS is ideal for people who have chronic lifelong conditions, and are drawn to a dietary protocol to heal them. Not everyone needs to do the GAPS diet. To see other healing, yet less restrictive, protocols click here. 

3.  Have you read the GAPS book?

If you want to do GAPS, you have to read the GAPS book.  There is a lot of information online for free, but you really risk accidentally reading someone’s bias (we all have them), or totally missing something super important.

The GAPS book gives the entire protocol, and also gives you an amazing understanding. Without knowing the ‘why’ it’s really hard to follow through completely with the ‘how’.

And 100% compliance on GAPS is super important, or all your hard work can be trashed.

Read the GAPS book

Read about compliance on GAPS

5.  How Long to See Results on the GAPS Diet?

I saw a HUGE ‘this is 100% worth continuing’ change in my daughter within 5 days of starting GAPS.  Everyone else I’ve known who has started GAPS, or even just gluten free, for health problems has seen enough of a difference to make you want to continue after 3-5 days, but I recommend you prepare yourself to give it 30 days.

You HAVE to give it 100% compliance.  One bite of rice will set you back to ground zero again. Your gut microbes don’t care if it’s the holidays, if you forgot and accidentally had a sip of your friend’s milkshake, or ate a few fries off your son’s plate.

After 30 days, you most likely will have completely adjusted to your new pattern of eating, and the habit forming won’t take nearly as much energy.  If you haven’t seen improvement in 30 days, I would see a practitioner, you may need a different course of action.

6.  Where Else Can You Find Help for the GAPS Diet?

For the GAPS intro, I’ve written the GAPS intro e-book, which walks you through starting the first stages of GAPS.

Making the GAPS Decision

Deciding to go on GAPS is life changing for many people, it was for us.  I first really felt *healthy* after doing GAPS for the first time, and my daughter came out of the ‘autism fog’ for the first time.  The experience of doing GAPS was 100% worth it for us, and that’s why I spend so much time writing about it here, I hope you find the same thing :)

Learn how to heal leaky gut

60-page ebook of all my best GAPS Diet (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) articles all in one place.

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