GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome, and is a temporary healing protocol that heals your gut. The point of healing your gut is to return to eating a variety of real foods without any negative symptoms, including carbs and grains.
I did the GAPS diet for a full 10 months and experienced a lot of cleansing and healing during that time. At the end of the 10 months, I started to notice some negative symptoms associated with (what I now see) being too low carb. I think it was simply by body’s way of saying: I’m done with GAPS, feed me more carbs!
But that makes me wonder. What about people who are on the GAPS diet right now? How do they make sure they don’t go too low carb? Well, I have the answer. You need to pay attention to your GAPS diet and make sure you’re getting enough of the right carbalicious GAPS foods.
I am glad I did the GAPS diet, because I gave my body so much nourishment during that time with probiotics, cultured vegetables, broths of many kinds, and quality fats like coconut oil, ghee, and butter, and good quality meats like grass-fed beef and pastured poultry.
Recently, I have had a major shift in my diet as I have finished GAPS. After 10 months on GAPS, it was simply time for my body to be done. I had healed! Plus, if you force your body to stay grain-free for too long, you can actually reverse some of your positive changes. Make sure you listen to your body.
What symptoms are telling you it’s time to be done with GAPS?
I can only relate what was happening with my own body as I neared the end of my GAPS diet time. Up until the 8 month mark on GAPS, I had been feeling great. Looking back, I can see that I had done pretty well with getting enough carbs the first 2-3 months on GAPS, but after that I started going lower and lower carb. So essentially, after about 6 months being low-carb without realizing it, I started having the symptoms like these outlined by Matt Stone.
I started craving grains and carbs after wanting nothing to do with them for nearly the entire time I was on GAPS. I started having trouble sleeping. My basal temperatures were too low when waking, as in being nearly 97.0. I also started gaining weight back and needing naps in the afternoon again from extreme fatigue.
Ann Marie has also talked about why she ditched low carb, and it was for similar reasons. Be careful not to go too low carb, no matter what diet you are practicing!
So why I do I care how many carbs you are getting on GAPS? Because if I had been able to get enough carbs, then I probably would have not experienced those negative symptoms at the end of my GAPS stint. If you get enough carbs on GAPS, then you can maintain all the benefits without the added complications of going too low carb.
How do I get enough carbs?
It’s easy for me to say that I can get enough carbs now. After all, I can have a bowl of buckwheat for breakfast and I’m good to go! But what do you do if you’re on GAPS and you want to eat enough carbs?
First, make sure to follow along with Cara’s ebook if you are starting GAPS or doing the GAPS Intro diet. She is very careful to include plenty of carbs in her meal plan for the 30 days on GAPS Intro Diet ebook, so that you won’t be low carb or go into ketosis (not having enough glycogen).
Secondly, let’s take a look at the GAPS diet list of foods and see what we can do. There is the official list of GAPS legal foods here. If you look at it, you will see some excellent sources of carbohydrates available.
Here are my 8 recommendations for staying out of the low carb zone on GAPS, the first four pertaining to being on the full GAPS diet and the last two pertaining to when you have been on GAPS for a substantial amount of time.
- Beans: To keep your carb count up high enough, I suggest eating plenty of white navy beans, lentils, and lima beans. I don’t know about you, but when I was on GAPS I still feared eating too many beans, because I was worried I wouldn’t digest them well. I waited several months, so they tasted amazing by the time I finally incorporated them.
Bottom line: Don’t be afraid of beans. They are included in the full GAPS diet for a reason: they give you nourishment and plenty of carbohydrates to use for energy while you avoid grains and starches.
- Fruit: Fruit can be really helpful in getting your carb count high enough. On GAPS, it is recommended that you eat plain fruit between meals because fruit sugar is digested differently than other foods. Make sure you have at least 2 pieces of fruit every day on GAPS, preferably in the morning or early afternoon to avoid blood sugar issues at night.
Fruit highest in carbs are as follows: bananas, dried fruit, figs, mangos, pomegranates, grapes, cherries, tangerines, pineapples, pears, kiwis, oranges, and plums.
- Vegetables: Have plenty of vegetables. I found that this was easy at the beginning of the GAPS diet, because I was making soups with lots of vegetables in them. But after I got to the full GAPS diet, I started drinking plain broth in a cup with my meals and neglected to cook veggies often enough.
I had an easy time getting in green salads, so I didn’t want for raw vegetables. But cooked veggies were a struggle. So put your effort there if you struggle like me with steaming veggies!
- Coconut meat: Notice that I didn’t say coconut oil or coconut cream! Those are healthy fats, but not very high in carbs. However, shredded coconut, coconut meat, coconut flour, and even coconut water can give you a decent amount of carbohydrates to burn while on the GAPS diet.
Plus, you get the benefit of how tasty coconut is, and easy to incorporate into GAPS cooking. I try to use coconut flour as much as possible in my baking, to help with carb levels. You can see some of my coconut flour creations like this cake or this quickbread.
- Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and seeds are allowed in abundance on the GAPS diet. However, do be careful not to consume too many nuts/seeds, so you don’t throw your balance of omega 3 and omega 6 fats into a bad ratio. The best way is to know which nuts and seeds have the highest omega 6 fats, like pine nuts, walnuts, pecans, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), and so on. Try to avoid these, but don’t stress about it too much. I’m still going to have pecan pie when I feel like it!
The best nuts, listed from the lowest omega 6 levels and upward, are macadamias, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios, and almonds. So your best choice is macadamia nuts (which happily go nicely with GAPS white chocolate!)
- Honey: Honey is the sweetener of choice while on the GAPS diet. I tend to think of sugar as “bad”, so I sometimes fell into the trap of limiting my honey intake because honey was a treat. But if you read the GAPS materials and books, you’ll find that even Dr. Natascha herself recommends ginger honey tea during stage 1 of GAPS Intro diet!
So again, don’t stress about eating as little honey as possible. Have some every day in some way, in an amount that feels good to your body. You’ll be upping your carb intake at the same time. Win win!
And after you have been on GAPS for a good amount of time:
- Potatoes: Potatoes were one of the first starchy vegetables I tried when I reached the 10 month mark doing GAPS. I didn’t have any digestive upset after trying them, so I proceeded to use them once or twice a week in my family’s meals. I also found that I did best with red potatoes or yukon gold potatoes. Russet potatoes were noticeably slightly difficult to digest, but gradually got easier as I occasionally tried them again.
- Bananas (NOT spotted): As you know, the only bananas allowed on GAPS are fully ripened, or overripe, bananas that have spotted peels and have converted most of their starch to simpler sugars. As you feel able, try eating bananas that are less and less spotted and just greenish-yellow, or simply ripe. This means the starch content is higher. You can see how well you digest them, and gradually train your body to get used to them again.
Either way, bananas are a high carb fruit that is perfect for getting your carb count up on the GAPS diet so you don’t go too low carb.
Edited to add: Bonus way to increase carbs on GAPS: dairy. Yogurt, kefir, and raw milk (if you can tolerate it) are good sources of carbohydrates. Thanks for the comment that pointed this out!
So there you go. There are several ways to avoid going too low carb, even when you are grain free and on the GAPS diet. I also highly recommend this ebook on how to do the GAPS Intro diet, and this ebook on how to eat happily with low stress. Both have helped me tremendously!
Eventually you will transition out of GAPS and have things like the lovely grains and pseudograins pictured: sprouted wheat, sprouted spelt flour, buckwheat, quinoa. I have also tried oatmeal and rice with success. Keep it up!
I would love to hear from any of you who are successfully raising your basal temperatures while increasing carb intake on the GAPS diet. I heard one person on my Facebook page talk about her success, so I’d love to hear from more of you!
Edited to add: My perspective on low carb GAPS is that it doesn’t work long term, for a significant amount of people. For me, it took about 6 months of being too low carb and I got negative symptoms. However, if it does work for you long term, then keep doing it! I know of at least two people who have thrived on low carb GAPS, one of which has autism which is a specific situation that low carb GAPS seems to work for. This post is intended to ring a bell for people like me who have experienced negative symptoms going too low carb. Remember, above all else: listen to your own body!