How To Start GAPS

December 1, 2010

...or, What I Wish Someone Had Told Me in April 2010
by Sarabeth Matilsky

This is obviously biased by my family's experiences, but I'm hopeful that it will help you as you craft your own, unique health-promoting GAPS diet plan. This article will be updated as needed--please send me suggestions!)

(As of March 2013, I have posted a comprehensive list of How We Eat Now, with lots of recipes: )

--First, learn to make broth, sauerkraut, and soup, and get familiar with GAPS-legal and -illegal foods.

--Second, start the GAPS "Intro": eat broths, soups, well-cooked (boiled) veggies and meats, and slowly, steadily begin to introduce probiotic foods and other easier-to-digest foods.

--Third, stay here awhile. Maybe even for many months. Natasha Campbell-McBride says, "GAPS patients can spend a long or short time at each sub-stage of the Intro diet, but the third stage is most crucial: once you're eating meat stocks, [fats,] stews, meats, ferments, eggs, and well-cooked veggies, you don't technically have to go on in order to be healthy. This stage is the most gentle on the digestive system. You can eat this way indefinitely, rebuilding enterocytes, rebuilding the gut lining, before continuing on into full GAPS.” (Dairy, in our case, was definitely more useful to introduce (and more nourishing) than fruits, nuts, sweet veggies, or honey.)

--Meals won't look like they did before GAPS. There doesn't have to be "breakfast" foods that are different from lunch or dinner foods. Get used to eating soup and sauerkraut for breakfast.


Here are all the Books, articles, websites, etc. that I Wish I'd Known About:


--Here is how I build a GAPS meal, mid-Intro (you can subtract foods you aren't eating yet, like dairy):

1. We have a fermented veggie to start the meal, maybe 1/4-1/2 cup per person.

2. We each have a small cup of broth with most meals, unless we are eating soup.

3. I make sure each meal contains plenty of fat (for cooking: lard, ghee, coconut oil, beef tallow, chicken fat, duck fat, etc.; for dressings: extra-virgin olive oil).

4. I cook a veggie or two or three (cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, kale, etc.), if there isn't many in other dishes, and saute it thoroughly (sometimes steaming before sauteeing) in lots and lots of fat. We each get maybe ½ cup or more of this.

5. We have some kind of meat (beef, pork, lamb, fish, chicken, duck, sausages, etc.) with at least two meals per day. When we don't have meat, we usually have eggs. (I'm trying to use organ meats for the main meat course at least once or twice per week.)

6. We have a small cup of young coconut kefir or dairy kefir with each meal.

-We each have a cup of green juice (lettuce, celery, cucumber, and often cabbage) once per day.
-We each have a dose of fermented cod liver oil once or twice per day.
-Some of us eat a bit of raw liver once per day.
-We're starting with a tsp. of raw, cultured butter once per day, and will increase this until we're eating lots of it, many times per day, followed by other dairy.

--Other Stuff I Wish I'd Known:

Cravings are different than hunger, and really, they will someday go away. Eat coconut oil when you're craving sweets, and eat enough fat so that you're not hungry, and give yourself kudos when you fail to bring any crappy food into the house. If it's not there, it's much harder to eat it.

Things may initially get worse before they get better; stay strong!

It may be super hard to get your child to switch to GAPS, or to eat, period. Behavior Modification may not even begin to address this. I've written a separate article about this; please check the GAPS resource list I've compiled, above.

GAPS is ideally a super-high-fat diet. Re-learn everything you thought you knew about food, and try to eat as much fat as you can. Food should be _dripping_ with fat. Eat as much as you can, animal fats in particular. Work up slowly, if your digestion is currently compromised.

Nuts, fruits, honey, and sweet (carrots, winter squash, beets) and raw vegetables are HARD to digest, and may need to be avoided by many GAPS patients for a long time.

Fermented foods are crucial; eat as many as you can, some with every meal!

Healing the gut is a Really Long Term Project, and although it doesn't have to take over your life, it may.

You may end up changing your diet almost completely, which is a really stressful thing to do! Be gentle with yourself, and your kids, but also firm: this is the most awesome thing you can do for your health, so don't compromise on this.

If you've been eating a standard American diet, complete with lots of bread products, don't imagine that GAPS will provide you with one-for-one substitutions. There was no way my son's all-grain, all-bread, all-the-time diet could be replicated on GAPS; even though nuts are GAPS legal, they are hard to digest, and can end up becoming a GAPS "junk" food--standing in for the really nourishing foods.

Focus on maximally nourishing foods, a balance between meats and veggies and fats and ferments, in every meal.

Treat snacks as mini-meals--ideally containing ferments, meats, veggies and fats.

Die off can be severe, even for a family who is relatively 'healthy' and has been eating gluten-free, or paleo, or whole foods for quite a while.

Churyl adds: "Prepare for intro like preparing for a baby or post-op... take time
off work, make food ahead of time, arrange for childcare, cleaning help."

"Watch youtubes on how to use your knife, how to make water and dairy kefir, how to ANYTHING...

It can be normal to be constipated for months. Learn how to do enemas, which are gentler than laxatives.


Other Thoughts:

You are, without a doubt, the most fantastic parent your child could have. You are, because you ARE. You are the most wonderful partner to your spouse--because that's what you do. And you have to be the most nicest, supportive fan of yourself, because you are all you've got.

You can strive to do GAPS "perfectly," but it's not about perfection. It's about loving yourself and being kind to yourself for the path that you're on, and knowing that you will make mistakes, and this doesn't make you a bad person, since otherwise we'd all be bad!

You have more challenges than most, almost certainly, if you're reading this list. And as you put your head down, and push forward, it's not about the mistakes. It's about the love you put into it--really!--and how you get up, again and again, when you fall down.

Someone gave me some good advice some months ago, when it was SO hard: to stop reading any lists or books or anything, and just work with what I had for awhile, to keep single-minded and moving forward without trying to synthesize anything new.

I try, and then forget, and then remember again: that all along this crazy cloudy path, we can find bits of the sun peeking through.


--I wish I'd had all these recipes in one place:

How to Make Sauerkraut:
How to Make Kimchee:
How to Make Really Simple Cucumber Pickkles:
How to Make Really Good Cucumber Pickles:…
How to Make Broth:
How to Make GAPS Soup:
How to Make Ghee:
How to Make Yogurt:
How to Make Dairy Kefir:
How to Make Coconut Water Kefir (YCK):…
How to Make Raw Butter:
How to Turn Cheap Meat into an Easy Breakfast:
How to Make Roast Chicken: