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Boy, it’s been a while since I’ve checked in about GAPS!  The good news is that in a relatively short amount of time, my body has become much happier.  After stalling at Stage 2 for what seemed like years, I experienced a bit of a quantum leap and subsequent stages went by quickly.  I’ve now finished introducing most Stage 5 foods, and am gearing up for Stage 6 – and there’s no indication that I’ll have any problems at this point, as long as I stick to foods that are legal for those on the full GAPS diet.

This is great news!  It means, among other things, that when I forget to pack a lunch I don’t have to starve.  This afternoon, halfway through a long rehearsal, I found myself really hungry and without any pre-packed food.  After a quick trip to the deli counter at my co-op, I returned with a poached chicken breast and a golden beet & kale salad – featuring raw vegetables, ladies and gentlemen, all of which went down just fine, thank you very much.

The kale was a big step, and the fact that I seem to have digested it without incident means that less-fibrous raw lettuce (a Stage 5 food that I haven’t officially introduced yet) won’t be a problem.  This is a very good thing, and just in time for summer; I don’t have to slave over hot soup during the dog days of August – I’ll be able to enjoy cool salads and smoothies again.  Ah, smoothies!  I’d almost forgotten about you!

And maybe in the next week or two I’ll work up to these absolutely luscious, completely GAPS-legal brownies from Cheeseslave – holla!

So, as I near the end of the introduction phase of GAPS, I can absolutely say that it has been worth it.  It has not been easy; that I’ll admit.  Although I haven’t blogged much about this side of it, the introduction phase dredged up some significant healing crises for me over the last six weeks: I endured some of the worst depression and anxiety I’ve ever experienced, plus a crazy case of hives across my back and chest that burned and itched for days and days.  Even though these were painful experiences, I knew their origins and knew that some powerful healing was taking place through the diet, so there was no question that I would stick with it.  As a pleasant side effect, I’ve lost almost 15 pounds and feel more energetic.  I recommend the diet highly to anyone who thinks they might benefit from it, and would be glad to provide support for those who are ready to take the plunge themselves.  Feel free to comment here, or contact me privately (see the About page).

Full GAPS (and Cheeseslave brownies), here I come!

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Wow, heading into Week 6 already…all of a sudden it seems to be going fast.  Over the last week I’ve had much better success re-introducing foods, and am feeling confident that the rest of my re-introductions will go smoothly.  Last week avocado made the grade, and over the weekend I had to do some creative eating and all of it panned out well.

I spent the weekend in Austin with a dear friend (the same dear friend that drove quite a ways to see me for my birthday on Tuesday) and brought a grocery bag of GAPS-friendly foods to eat: a thermos of chicken-veggie soup, a container of homemade yogurt, the rest of my fermented salmon, plus jars of ghee and raw honey.  On Saturday evening I attended a game night with some friends of friends, and there was quite a spread of delicious-looking foods.  Nothing was GAPS intro-friendly, however (why would it be?) and at some point I eyed the black olives.  Hm…I thought.  Well, they’re not raw, they’re cured.  And olives are pretty fatty, and not very fibrous.  I gave it a try, and ended up eating seven big fat olives with no problems.  Then on Sunday I ran out of the food I had brought with me for the weekend, and scoured Central Market for something from the prepared foods aisle – grilled salmon and asparagus was the best I could find, and those both went down just fine, even without probiotics or broth to go with them.  I think my body is starting to heal!

So this week I’m finally breaking out of my soup rut, and trying some solid foods that I can eat on their own – with sides of broth and probiotic, of course, but not necessarily mixed right in.  This post from Keeper of the Home, called “Recipes and Ideas for What to Eat on the GAPS Introduction Diet” has inspired me to try some more daring ideas, like maybe stuffed mushrooms or meatloaf – exciting, right?  Right now there’s a small butternut squash cooking in the oven, to be used for the Stage 3 pancake re-introduction (more below), and also for the squash meatball recipe that got me salivating on that Keeper of the Home post.  If I end up handling the squash okay, I feel like it’ll open up my options quite a bit.  It’s also one of my very favorite foods, so no complaints there.

The Stage 3 pancake also includes nut butter.  The first time I re-introduced nut butter it was an awful failure, but it was very early on (day 3?) and the nuts had not been soaked so I’m sure they were full of anti-nutrients.  This time around I was careful to buy pecan butter from a source I trust (Artisana, which makes exquisite nut butters including my beloved coconut butter) so if it’s a failure, I’ll know that my body just isn’t ready for it.

I’m a little confused as to why, in Stage 3, a relatively complex food like the pancake is introduced.  Of the three ingredients (egg, nut butter and winter squash) only one has been previously re-introduced, and it occurs to me that if the re-introduction doesn’t go well, I won’t be exactly sure how to attribute the problem.  So, I’m reintro-ing winter squash separately, first.

Also, in a bold move, I bought two apples and a banana over the weekend.  Whole eggs seem to be giving me a problem still (although the yolks seem fine) so ripe banana may have to be tried as an egg alternative in the pancake.  And the apples…well I suppose it’s just wishful thinking more than anything else.  I might slice one reeeally thinly and saute it in a ton of ghee…and see what happens.

Overall I’m feeling better than I have been for the last two weeks, although I can’t say that I feel all the way better.  More resilient, though, for sure.  So we carry on.

This week has been all about mood – mine has plummeted.  I was slightly heartened to hear on the GAPS Guide blog that others are experiencing a similar mood dip in their fourth week, but it is no fun at all, friends.  I haven’t had much energy for blogging, or really for much of anything.  The secret, I’m told, is to take lots of die-off baths; I’ve been neglecting this practice, but start back up tonight and should take one bath a day to try and clear some of the toxins that are contributing to my state of mind.  Popular die-off baths use sea salt, baking soda, apple cider vinegar, or epsom salts and are rotated each day.  I’ll start back up with baking soda tonight, and then rotate through each one for the rest of the week.

In the meantime, I finally re-introduced the last food in Stage 2, and by Wednesday I will start Stage 3.  I’m starting to think it’s very important to stay steady, and keep introducing foods rather than my tendency, which has been to get overly-confident and add foods too quickly, then retreat and stay stagnant at a “safe” stage for too long.  Time for consistency!  Back to my GAPS Intro Chart.

Last week I made sauerkraut so I could have a big batch of the juice for my probiotic; with only a scant tablespoon of sea salt for a quart of cabbage, I thought quickly and subbed in the juice of one lemon for the rest of the salt.  I figured the acidity would do the same job as the salt, of providing an acidic environment for the probiotic bacteria to develop.  I think it did the trick, and now I have almost a quart of sauerkraut juice to continue the gut healing.

How’s it going for everyone else?

Photo courtesy of John Morgan and Flickr Creative Commons licensing.

Just a friendly reminder for those of you riding the GAPS train: go slow.  I have been heeding this advice very well for the last couple of weeks, but alas, yesterday I got cocky and figured my body was ready for some bold moves.  One teaspoonful of sauerkraut mixed into my soup – surely I was ready for such a step?

The answer to that question, my body quickly and firmly told me, is NOT A CHANCE IN H – E – DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS.  Hours of abdominal pain and cramping ensued, all the way from my stomach to…well, all the way down.  I couldn’t stand up straight, or walk without pain.  In the middle of the night I spent an hour either curled up in my bed willing the intestinal cramping to go away, or in the bathroom hoping for relief.  It was not a great night.

Now, I have to admit this experience has left me with mixed feelings: on one hand, I took it as another indication that my body is in need of some serious healing.  Many GAPS people say that if they veer off the diet too soon after starting, they really pay for it.  I now concur with this assessment, entirely.  And I feel sure that I’m on the right path to healing, based on so much of what I’ve read and been told by those who have stuck with it and let the diet do its work.

On the other hand, I’m starting to wonder when my body will ever be able to handle “real” food again.  I mean, sauerkraut?  A teaspoonful?  I never would have imagined such a terrible reaction, and almost a month into the diet I hoped I would be further along.  Will I still be slurping soup in six months, regretting just about any solid food that passes between my lips?  Maybe I’m psyching myself out.  I knew this was a long-term diet, with the intro lasting weeks or even months, and a usual term of two years on the full GAPS diet.  I guess I just underestimated how damaged my gut really was, and how long it would take to get past soup.

But this is what I signed up for, so I’m reminding myself to go slow.  One new food every four days, no matter what.  Here’s to the journey!

I don’t know why, but this picture just makes me giggle.  My little egg looks a hungry baby slurping up its yolk!  Okay, that sounds a little gross now that it’s out there…I’ll move on.  (But behold that beautiful, thick, deep orange yolk!  That’s a sign of a nutrient-rich egg!)

Week 3 rocked, with all re-introductions going very well!  In addition to my broth, sauerkraut juice, and cooked meat and veggies; I can now eat homemade yogurt, raw egg yolks, casseroles (meat and veggies separate from broth), and now – dunh dunh DUUUUHN! – soft-boiled eggs!  It’s a banner day, friends.

Now, I just ate the above-pictured egg, and although it went down with no pain at all (unlike the poached eggs I tried to eat at the end of my first week on the diet) I still need to wait and see if any symptoms develop over the next few days.

Number one symptom for me, oddly enough, is cellulite.  I always had cellulite on my thighs, all my life – even when I was at my skinniest with only had 130 pounds on my 5’10” frame.  It vexed and perplexed me to no end, being the primary reason why anyone rarely sees me in a bathing suit.  But three years ago I went through a period of cutting out a lot of foods as an experiment, and I found much to my surprise that cutting eggs from my diet also cut the cellulite from my thighs!  I later learned that this is a common reaction to food intolerances; not necessarily cellulite, but “false fat“.  It’s pretty fascinating, and worth a quick read.

This is exactly the kind of unexpected gift of my many food experiments over the years: a steadily growing awareness of my body’s signals with regards to its food.  Besides producing cellulite, for example, in the past I’ve also found that eating eggs produced fierce sugar cravings.  Strange, right?  But definitely worth knowing.  Some people take the attitude of “I don’t wanna know”, but really, I can’t tell you how empowering it is to learn to listen to my body, and choose to follow what it’s telling me.

So, what’s next?  Well, I’ve had trouble figuring out the fermented fish, the last re-introduction on Stage 2…and for now I’m going to skip it.  I did buy a beautiful piece of Sockeye salmon this weekend, and if I can figure out how to ferment it by today or tomorrow then it will go in the rotation, but otherwise I am, with cautious optimism, moving on to Stage 3 foods.

First up, actual sauerkraut and not just the juice.  I know, I know!  Let’s not get too overheated with excitement!  All kidding aside I am excited about this step, because it signals the first raw food I’ll have had in quite a while and of course many people think sauerkraut is just about the healthiest food on the planet, being so chock-full of probiotics and digestive enzymes as well as a host of vitamins that are enhanced by the fermentation process.  So sauerkraut goes in next, followed by avocado.  Avocado did not go well when I tried to re-introduce it in the first week, but l.ooking back I did it too quickly and ate too much of it.  So 1 teaspoon at a time will hopefully do the trick

It’s really helpful to summarize my progress once a week, so thanks for reading!  If you’re on the diet, let me know where you are and how it’s going.  I love the community that I’m finding around GAPS!

Have you started the intro diet yet?  Are you thinking hard about it, but not sure you’re ready to jump in?  Well, after a shaky start I finally feel like I’ve got the hang of things, and I’ve learned some tricks that are really making things easier.  I thought I’d share, and I’d love to hear your ideas too!  Please leave a comment if you have a trick that makes your GAPS journey less overwhelming.

Here are 5 ways to make intro easier: Read the rest of this entry »

Well, Week 2 is over and it went much better than the previous week!  The key? Go slow.  Last week I took the time to let my body rest in Stage 1, soaking up the bone broths and a small amount of probiotics.  Near the end of the week I (re-) introduced my first Stage 2 food, ghee or clarified butter, and my body has responded very well!  The smooth introduction gave me some confidence to continue introducing foods, but I promised myself that I would only introduce one food every four days.  This structure has helped me to stay focused, and I even devised a chart to help me track my progress so I don’t forget where I am in the diet, reintroduce too quickly, and end up losing clarity again on which food is causing what symptom. Read the rest of this entry »

“And I’m up on the airplane…nearer my God to thee…I start making a deal…inspired by gravity…”

The Indigo Girls song “Airplane” was my mental accompaniment today as I crossed a couple thousand miles to Texas.  I’m not excited, but I’m not bitching either; it’s needed work and I’m glad for the opportunity.  It does mean that I will be away from home while Eric and his folks finalize the plans for our house remodel, and pack up the house.  In six weeks I’ll come home to a torn apart house!  What a trip.

My nutritional accompaniment on this fine day was an old Quik Stop thermos of stewed chicken and vegetables, soaked with just enough sauerkraut juice to keep the mixture moist but not liquid – you know, no liquids get through security!  I was given great advice to separately pack some 2 oz bottles of broth in a quart-sized bag (broth shooters!) but didn’t get around to it so I made the best of what I had.

Fortunately, I find that I’m not nearly as hungry on GAPS as I was before.  I get through the day just fine on about 4 bowls of soup, and if I have to wait an hour or two after the first hunger pangs, I’m not ravenous or panicky.  Awesome!

On Monday I mentioned that I would be trying a new food that day: the GAPS pancake, made of nut butter, butternut squash and egg and fried in ghee.  Oh friends, let me tell you, I had one small pancake (about 3-4 inches in diameter) and went down like a ton of bricks, literally!  It sat angrily in my stomach for hours and hours, causing cramps and bloating and all sorts of havoc.  It was quite unpleasant, but it also very educational, as it made very clear that my gut is in bad shape and really needs this healing protocol.  There will be no breezing through the introduction diet for me!  At this point I’ve taken out all additions; I’m back to soup and probiotic juice, and I expect that I’ll be lucky to return from Texas with anything more than Stage 2 foods introduced.  I’m making peace with that possibility – after all, there’s no point in doing this diet if I’m not going to do it right!

BONUS: I got to my hotel tonight, and found out that I’ve actually been placed in an apartment with a full kitchen!  This is such a huge relief, friends.  I was working hard to surrender to several weeks of very creative cookery, but what a blessing to have a stove and pots and pans and dishes!  The GAPS gods are on my side.  (Fingers crossed that it’s not a cruel joke!)

Well friends, I am now 8 days into the GAPS introduction diet.  How’s it going so far?  I never dreamed it would be so easy to eat the same thing over and over again – but when it’s something as delicious and comforting as homemade chicken soup, steeped in flavorful broth and surrounded by fresh onion, carrot, squash and garlic, sprinkled with sea salt and lemon juice…it really is delightful.  I can’t say I don’t miss other foods, but this really is just about the easiest way to start out a restrictive new regimen.

Added to the daily soups, starting on Day 2 last week, were raw egg yolks.  These weren’t just any eggs, of course; these are pastured eggs from our local co-op, with dark orange, thick and sturdy yolks.  Mixed into a bowl of soup, the raw yolk distributes and turns the liquid to gorgeous, creamy, yellow goodness.  Wow.  That has been a revelation.

Another revelation?  Whole garlic cloves simmered in chicken broth.  O.M.G. Last week Eric and I stopped by the Asian market down the street, where he loves to pick up these baggies of peeled whole garlic cloves – $1.50 for a good pint of ’em.  Now, I’m not crazy about garlic (I hope this doesn’t disqualify me from my dream of someday becoming a gourmet chef!) – I find the taste to usually be harsh, and too much cooked in the wrong way will give me heartburn for days.  But I know that garlic is an incredibly healing food and recommended during the GAPS intro diet, so I threw some whole cloves into my chicken soup.  A half-hour later I popped one into my mouth and absolutely relished the mellow creamy texture that spread across my tongue.  Heaven!  I am keen to try this in other applications as well, maybe as a garlic-mayonnaise spread?  Or simmered with leeks and mushrooms in stock, then immersion blended into a creamy garlic soup?  Hm.  Much to look forward to.

This food has been so comforting that I find myself reluctant to introduce new foods.  I did give avocado a try on Days 3 & 4, but amazingly, within an hour it was clear that my body wasn’t ready for it!  I would never have guessed. Introducing small amounts of raw milk kefir and ghee (clarified butter) went better, and I’m hopeful that I won’t encounter any delayed reactions.

The next food to introduce is small thin pancakes, made with nut butter, egg and butternut squash and fried in ghee.  I have all the ingredients for it, but I notice I’m half-eager and half-reluctant to try.  I’d almost rather believe that it’s a future possibility, than find out that it’s not.  Isn’t that interesting?  Regardless, I am going to try it either today or tomorrow.  I’ll let y’all know how it goes.

On Wednesday I fly to Texas to begin my six weeks there, and the reality of tending to this diet while in a hotel room armed with only a mini-fridge and a slow cooker (the microwave will NOT be used) is growing more daunting by the minute.  Honestly, beyond slow-cooked soup and refrigerated (commercial but good-quality) sauerkraut, I really don’t know how it’s going to work.  Again, I’ll report as I go along.  My latest idea is that maybe, by wrapping glass jars in towels and setting on a heating pad, I can make yogurt in the room.  Yes, I know you can buy yogurt in the stores, but for the GAPS diet you have to make your own so that you can ferment it a long time (24 hours at least) to ensure that all or most of the lactose has been eaten up by the beneficial flora.  C’est la vie.

Well, here’s to the adventure!

{photo credit}

Today a gluten-intolerant friend of mine shared the following sentiment with me:

“I am teetering on the edge of having the courage to start [GAPS]….  Honestly, I think it should take less courage to try this diet on the very good chance that it WILL improve my health, than to…deal with [gluten sensitivity] for the rest of our lives!!”

And yet, curiously enough, it’s often overwhelming to consider trying something new.  After all, living with a food allergy/sensitivity has already taken a tremendous amount of energy.  We’ve had to read ingredient labels incessantly, give up some of our favorite foods (cold cereal for me – wah!), become a high-maintenance dinner guest, and listen to so many people wonder how we ever do without the foods that make us sick, that make us hurt, that make our bodies not work as well as they should.

It’s already taken a lot, and maybe, we think, maybe it’s easier just to live like this than to take on even more restrictions!  Even if it’s not forever.  Even if it might heal us for good so that we don’t have to be that high-maintenance guest or bring our magnifying glass to the grocery store anymore.  Even with all that, is it worth it?

I get it, friends, I really do.  And I wonder, if you’re thinking about trying GAPS (or something else, for that matter), let’s lay out all the fears and obstacles right now.  Are you worried that you won’t be able to stick with it?  That you don’t have the time to cook homemade foods?  That you’ll be hungry, or unsatisfied?  Or maybe the idea of die-off symptoms is scary all by itself?

I want to hear all this stuff from you. It’s often helpful to just get it all out, to let yourself whine and worry and express all that stuff that’s keeping you from moving forward.  And really, by getting it all out, who knows what could happen next?  Maybe courage.  Maybe comradeship.  Maybe clarity.  Who knows?

The Author

This is a site about saying yes to life - written by a multi-passionate rock star who loves to take life between her fists and kiss it full on the mouth.

"Make my boy realize that, at the end of the everlasting why, there is a yes. And a yes and a yes!"
- Mr. Emerson,
A Room With A View