As we go through the stages of the GAPS Introduction Diet, it can be a little confusing to tell when we are ready to add more to our diets. The good thing is that we can always go back if it doesn’t work out! It’s important to pay attention to your symptoms and your healing.
Dr. Natasha recommends moving through intro quickly. My 30-day Intro Ebook has you spend only a few days on each stage for this reason. Every day or two, you will be trying new foods and watching for reactions.
If you do have reactions (don’t forget your Symptom and Food Reaction Chart so that you can spot these reactions), you will want to go back to the previous stage for another few days, or a week. If you’re having reactions to some new foods but not others, then you can go ahead and skip one or two things and then move on through the stages.
How and Why Should I Go Back a Stage?
If you are trying to push ahead, and none of it is working for you… it’s probably time to go back! A good way to tell that it’s time to go back a stage is if you just felt better overall on the previous stage.
When you go back a stage, you can simply pick and choose your favorite recipes from the previous stages, or you can start from the first day on the previous stage, and follow the ebook as written.
Can I move on, but skip a food that’s causing problems?
Yes! Especially when your gut has been a mess for a while, you may have persistent food intolerances even to mostly-hypoallergnic intro food.
Skipping those foods, but continuing to add in the other nourishing foods from the GAPS Introduction diet gives your body the nutrients it needs to continue building a healthy gut and populating it with healthy bacteria.
These are common foods that people find they still are sensitive to, and skip for a time:
- Egg yolks
- Tomatoes, or other nightshades and black pepper (especially autoimmune people)
- Certain meats (some can only do chicken, some only bison, some need to rotate and not have one type of meat more than once a week)
- Sauerkraut or fermented foods (try a more mild probiotic, or even a prebiotic if this continues to be a problem)
Why doesn’t this work the same for everyone?
Because everyone’s body heals at a different rate, has a unique history. Some people (children especially) will respond well to GAPS and start healing seemingly overnight! Those with a more complex medical history, and who have had more time for the body to be ‘stuck’ may need to take more time.
Some individuals dealing with things like seizure disorders, autism, and severe digestion issues may need to stay on some stages longer than others.
Personally, I was able to heal my milk allergy just running through the introduction diet quickly, in about 4 weeks. Some people get stuck on a certain stage, especially introducing honey and fruit or eggs.
Symptoms to watch for:
Symptoms can be behavioral or physical, watch for anything that went away and then comes back including:
- Brain Fog
- Upset Stomach
- Yeast rashes
- Aggressive behavior
- Loss of eye contact (and other autism symptoms)
- Stimming (another autism symptom)
What is a healing crisis vs food reaction?
Again, this is going to be hard to tell, and why charting is so important! There is some trial and error with these, but here are some general guidelines.
If you start smaller and gradually persist with what you had a reaction to (juicing, epsom salt baths) and your symptoms improve over time, it was a healing crisis and supporting your body with healing. If you persist with what you had a reaction to, even in smaller doses, and your reactions get worse over time, it is an allergy/intolerance/sensitivity.
More about the Healing Crisis
In the case of a healing crisis, your body may be using a food (primarily juicing, adding probiotics, olive oil, coconut, fresh herbs, or epsom salt baths) to clear out old toxins. In its excitement of having access to this ‘missing link’ that your body needed to clear out the toxins that had build up in your system, your body may decide to dump a bunch of toxins for your newly-effecient digestive system to get rid of.
Your detoxification system is normally in your gut, and so when we’ve had gut problems, it’s not uncommon that we have a buildup of toxins in our body. We don’t need a seperate detox program – the GAPS diet, with its nutrient-dense foods and gut healing supports our body’s natural ability to do this.
In addition, if our gut is populated with pathogenic bacteria (hint: most GAPS people’s are) we’ve gotta kill them off. And as they die, they give one last blast of the chemicals that were making us sick. This is going to happen to a certain extent, and may explain why you’re more tired the more you’re healing. This is a ‘die off reaction’.
BUT, sometimes this is too intense. If you see a super uncomfortable rash (your body trying to detox through the skin), runny nose (detoxing through mucus), or headaches/pain, this might be too severe of a die off reaction/healing crisis.
The solution: Take a charcoal capsule or two (kids: Mix it in food, it’s gnarly black but it doesn’t have a strong taste), it will help absorb the junk in your gut and you should start feeling better soon.
Read more: What is a Healing Crisis?
When should I try a problematic food again?
If you noticed that egg yolks, for example, were causing you tiredness and foggyness when you introduced them in stage one, give your body another 5-10 days to heal and then try them again, in a small amount.
The minimum amount of time between trying a problematic food is 4 days, since it generally takes 3 days for your body to ‘clear out’ the allergic response and symptoms. If you try it before the previous symptoms have cleared, you can’t tell what the reaction is from.
You don’t want to take longer than 10 days* to re-try a food, because we don’t want to unnecessarily restrict our diets! Dietary restriction can be stressful, and stress can cause… leaky gut!
Have faith! Your body did, in fact, grow from just one little cell into a full-fledged person! It is quite capable of repairing a little gut lining ;)
*Except in the case of an anaphylactic reaction that involved the airway – we don’t ever re-try foods we’ve had an anaphylactic reaction to unless under the supervision of a qualified medical professional and in a hospital setting.
If after 10 days you try the food again, and it still doesn’t work, you can hold off until you’ve progressed through the last stages of the GAPS Introduction Diet before trying again.
What if I get stuck on a stage?
If you get stuck, and you’ve been on a stage for more than double the recommended amount of time you have 3 options:
- You can try outside supports and alternative treatments, while staying on the stage. Sometimes homeopathics**, aromatherapy, amino acids, chiropractic, eastern medicine, meditation, CBD oil, emotional release, going out of cell/wifi range, and more.If you do these treatments, make sure that nothing you are ingesting is off the GAPS protocol, or you will undo your work at rebalancing and healing your gut. The exception being prebiotic like Inulin, which sometimes is helpful for tough cases, but is not technically allowed on GAPS.
- You can move on anyway, and see if your body can catch up. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut, and we need to just move on and stop obsessing. Throw out your symptom chart, spend lots of time around friends and in the outdoors, and go focus energies elsewhere.This is easier to do if you prep a bunch of soup and GAPS-friendly foods- don’t completely toss out GAPS, but get out of the kitchen and into life and take the focus off food for a week. Book a vacation to a favorite destination if you can.
- You can stay on the stage, or go backwards, and see if you can get some more healing. For us, we do better without carbs, so we just skipped the fruit and having much juice on stage 5 and continued on a GAPS/Keto combination.** If you try homeopathics, have them dilute the remedy in water, or just give you the essence. homeopathics are typically remedies in sugar pills, which even in that tiny amount will feed pathogenic bacteria that we’re trying to starve out.
Further reading on the GAPS Diet: