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When Paleo Isn’t Enough & Why I’m Doing GAPS Again

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by Angela Gallardo in Articles

I started my second round on GAPS this week! For those unfamiliar, it’s a gut-healing protocol/elimination-style diet (this is the book the program is based on). My first round was for 7ish months from 2015-2016. Dr. Campbell-McBride encourages at least a year on the program so I had vowed I would feel things out and go back to it at some point in the future.

I’ve been sharing my day-to-day over on Instagram and the most common question I’ve received is “why are you doing GAPS again?” So I thought I’d share some background on why I did it the first time, how it helped my symptoms, and why I’ve chosen to do it again.

Why GAPS?

I’d eaten Paleo for 1 1/2 years when I decided to try GAPS. I had already gone low-FODMAPs and then did a brief stint on AIP about 8 months into Paleo. I knew low-FODMAPs was helping but AIP just didn’t feel right. I felt *nothing* when reintro-ing most foods. And eggs and dairy were still unsuccessful.

I’d heard about GAPS but was so burnt out after AIP that I had hesitated to try another elimination diet. Sadly, ultra-strict adherence to Paleo was the only thing that kept *most* of my GI symptoms at bay, and even that wasn’t a sure thing. I felt great compared to how crappy I did previously, but I still didn’t feel like I was thriving. I started with an acupuncturist working to improve my fertility in 2015 and she recommended GAPS based on my symptoms.

Note: if strict adherence to Paleo is what it takes for you to feel “ok,” there’s a good chance that a more individualized program is required to heal your body.

With what seemed like a primary condition of endometriosis (it’s what took me into surgery in 2014 and started me on serious Paleo), AIP had seemed like the best route. Endometriosis is thought to be auto-immune, after all. But over time, I’ve come to believe that the driving force behind everything I’ve dealt with physically has been leaky gut due to the parasite infection I contracted years ago in Honduras and the accompanying rounds of antibiotics I took shortly after in an effort to eradicate it.

For most, healing the gut will be the cornerstone in improved health. It improves your immune system, lowers inflammation, helps to balance hormones, and boosts assimilation of nutrients. All *very important things* when it comes to fighting and preventing degenerative disease.

GAPS focuses primarily on pulling out those foods that are most commonly irritating to the gut and/or hard to digest. Then slowly reintroducing them back in one at a time. It’s heavy in nutrient foods like bone broth, fermented foods, healthy fats, and lots of vegetables. FYI, those of you with more serious autoimmune conditions (hashimotos, grave’s, lyme, psoriasis, etc), I encourage you to look more closely at the AIP diet.

The Results

The first time on GAPS, I saw many, many changes in my everyday symptoms and they happened FAST. Most noticeable were:

  • the keratosis pilaris on my arms nearly 100% gone
  • most all food intolerances gone (eggs, woop!)
  • able to tolerate most low-lactose dairy
  • GI distress just a few days a month around my cycle (compared to previously ~10 days/month)
  • able to tolerate most FODMAPs, aside from starchy carbs (more on this below)
  • sleeping 8 hours without waking to pee multiple times, I.E. improved kidney/bladder health (you do not know how awesome this is until you go without it for yearrrrsss)
  • disappearance of the hormonal acne that had plagued my chin and mouth area
  • dramatic decrease in joint pain (which ironically had also taken me the AIP route but was achieved with GAPS, hurray)

Note that these things had stuck around despite a pretty strict adherence to Paleo. Paleo had given me increased energy, more regular periods, better blood sugar, control over food cravings, and more. But it was not fully healing my gut or getting me to where I wanted to be with my health.

Why GAPS again?

Although my life is night and day compared to before the first round, I’ve decided to do it again because if just 7 months can give me the progress I saw last time, I can only imagine what another 7 months (or more) can do!

My primary goals on this second round of GAPS are:

  1. Introduce more starchy carb sources. While I can now eat many FODMAPs that I couldn’t previously (yay, avocados!), those fun Paleo foods like sweet potatoes, yucca, and plantain have been off limits. They back me up something fierce — I was IBS-C for those curious — and cause severe bloating.
  2. Improved fertility. A few small imperfections are hanging around in my monthly cycle and I’d love to get things rolling a little more smoothly (I’ll spare you the details here). GAPS is such a nutrient-dense program that I know that it will not only improve my hormone balance but also better-prepare my body for pregnancy whenever the time comes.
  3. Enjoy non-Paleo foods on occasion. Yep, you heard that right. My favorites are corn chips, sushi, and the less occasional avocado toast with Canyon Bakehouse country white. I choose Paleo 95% of the time because it makes me feel great and I know it’s best for my body. But that other 5% keeps me sane and reminds me that this lifestyle is a choice, not deprivation. If I can enjoy these non-Paleo foods every couple of weeks in a dinner out and not feel *any* GI or joint pain repercussions, I’ll be a very happy camper.

Have you considered GAPS?

If you’ve been tempted to do GAPS (or any other healing protocol), come on over to Instagram and follow me on this second round. I’m sharing my daily meals, plus talking about how I’m modifying it slightly to fit my body and make it wayyy less overwhelming. I can’t stress enough how life-changing an elimination-style diet is. You learn so much about yourself and your body, which translates into making huge strides in better health.

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