Intro and Full GAPS Explained

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Onward and upward with our GAPS series! Today, I am going to talk about the overall goals and differences of the two phases of the GAPS diet. If you’re brand new to our series, please catch up by reading Why I’m On The GAPS Diet and Demystifying the GAPS Diet (what it is).

The GAPS diet actually has two phases — the Intro and the Full.

The Intro GAPS Diet

Intro Diet is restrictive, focusing on a limited choice of foods that are all very easy to digest and nourishing to soothe an often inflamed and tender digestive system. In the six stages of Intro, a person moves from stage to stage by introducing new foods as long as the foods can be tolerated.

Intro is typically done before Full and probably lasts around a month, depending on the person. (Some people don’t do it at all, while some stay on it for months.)

Intro is sort of a jump-start to healing. However, it can be a quite intense detoxification phase — what is also known as “die-off.” The bad organisms (viruses, pathogens, bad bacteria, fungi, undesirable yeasts) in the gut are perishing and giving off toxins on the way out. This is how they fight back.

Unfortunately, these released toxins cause increased allergies, rashes, headaches, fatigue… basically bad stuff that can be quite difficult to go through. On top of that, some people also suffer with extreme boredom from food and/or lack of energy.

I don’t believe lack of energy is a necessary component of Intro. In my experience, it seems that lack of energy (if not from “die-off”) really comes about when our family members lose interest in the few foods that are allowed and go without. ;)

Sometimes, Intro is so difficult that some people choose to go through it more quickly or they skip it entirely and go to the Full GAPS diet. I’ve noticed as I read more and more, and experience more and more, that there’s really no one-size-fits-all.

GAPS Intro ebook

What foods are allowed on Intro? Here’s the Intro Diet Explained by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. This is not a substitute for the book, however. If you’re going to implement GAPS, the book is required reading.

An excellent resource, complete with step-by-step meal plans for all six stages of GAPS is the What Can I Eat Now? 30 Days on Intro eBook from Cara at Health, Home, and Happiness.

The Full GAPS Diet

Full GAPS is less restrictive than Intro, but still eliminates all sugars (grains, sweeteners except raw honey, and starchy vegetables). It includes nourishing foods like fermented foods, fermented dairy, broth, meats, nuts, seeds, pastured animal fats, coconut oil, olive oil, and non-starchy vegetables. The person with severe gut issues often has trouble on Full GAPS — they have so many food allergies or reactions that they’re having to limit the Full GAPS diet and make their own kind of Intro diet.

The Full GAPS diet should be followed for a longer period of time. Dr. Natasha recommends at least two years, but I know of people who’ve done it for 6 weeks. It really depends on the severity and need for gut healing.

People come off Full GAPS by introducing select sprouted “grains” like buckwheat and quinoa, eating only small amounts and seeing what can be tolerated without an onset of symptoms.

What foods are allowed on Full GAPS? Here’s the allowed foods list. Help with implementing GAPS and serving appetizing meals is worth its weight in gold! Check out the meal plans from Cara at Health, Home, and Happiness.

Understanding the Purpose and Timing of GAPS

No matter Intro or Full, GAPS is not meant to be a permanent diet. It is meant for healing so that a person’s gut health is restored to being able to eat most, if not all, foods. This doesn’t always happen for everyone, especially those who have severe issues. But, I think for most people, the goal is to get off GAPS with a healthy gut and go back to “normal.” Those are the stories I tend to hear most — people who did GAPS for 6 weeks or 6 months or 2 years and then moved on to a more typical traditional diet.

Each person has to figure out where they fit. If a person is struggling with GAPS, not making progress, or needing special support, I think it would be helpful to find a GAPS practitioner. In upcoming posts, we’re going to talk about complimentary therapies, too — like NAET.

What’s Next?

In my next post, I’m going to share how we approached Intro and Full. Then I’ll address common questions and answers about the GAPS Intro diet. After that, there’s just so much more coming. Please subscribe to my blog to catch all the upcoming GAPS series posts.

Thoughts?

Would you add anything to this overview of the two components of GAPS? What are your experiences with each? How did you decide to do one or the other? Please share any of your thoughts. :)

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Comments

  1. says

    I definitely did best doing “full” GAPS first, then doing intro once I had learned the ropes a little bit. I still had die-off symptoms, but I didn’t have enough cooking fundamentals to jump straight into intro!

    I would also counsel people to eat fresh fruit if you can tolerate it. I always shied away from eating grapes, apples, etc because I wanted to be eating a lot of nourishing bone broth, but I found that I was too low-carb a lot of the time and I think eating more fruit would have helped me.

    One last tip: get a juicer. You will love it!

    May everyone find strength and healing!
    Sarah

  2. Carol says

    Yes Wardee very helpful. I also appreciate what Sarah just posted about about eating more fruits to help fight off the low carb issues. I haven’t started the diet yet, but one thing that has been a concern to me is the low-carb part of the diet.

    Sarah is right a juicer is wonderful!

    Thanks Wardee, Carol

    • says

      Carol — GAPS is not supposed to be low-carb. We will talk about this more. In our family, we get low energy if we’re not eating enough veggies for carbohydrates. And honey and fruit, too, though less of those. Salads are lower calorie than squash fries or baked squash or steamed cabbage. We struggle on only salad but do much better on the higher energy vegetables. They’re essential!

      • Carol says

        Thanks Wardee….this has been such a big concern of mine. I’m looking forward to hearing more.

        Keep bringing it on, carol ;o)

        • Katie G. says

          I’m just finishing the intro diet, and I did find I was getting tired of my food choices, but overall the experience was good! I decided to go straight to intro because I was already pretty much grain free. I noticed digestive problems when I had grains. Also with the carb thing, remember that this also varies. I was noticing that I would get more white on my tongue than normal and gain a few pounds if I had more than a little fruit or more than one bowl of squash soup. One must always listen to their body.

  3. says

    I did full GAPS for several months, and then I did Intro. I personally think it is less traumatic on the body, especially if you are going from SAD or a diet high in grains and fiber, to do it that way. For one thing people can feel quite ill with flu-like symptoms and another thing that we don’t like to talk about is some (many) of us are dependent on fiber (instead of the right gut bacteria) and everything stops dead in its track – if you know what I mean. :-) In Dr. Natasha’s FAQ she has clarified that some people don’t need to do Introduction, and she says it is okay to do full GAPS first, then Intro at a later time, or not at all. For people with severe digestive problems, like diarrhea she does recommend doing Introduction first. Something else I like to recommend to families with small children if the family is determined to start out with Intro – mom and/or dad should start first. That way they won’t be flat out with die off, what some refer to as “carb flu” while the kids are feeling the same. One of the ladies I interviewed on my Blog Talk Radio show shared how chaotic it was when her and her husband and kids started on Intro all together. We giggled about it because it happens often, of course it wasn’t funny when she went through it, but thinking back on it…

  4. Audra says

    My family has been on GAPS for 4 months now. The children have adapted and done very well on it. We all feel more energetic and less foggy (unless I go through a wave of die off). Intro took us (particularly me) a long time–maybe 3-3 1/2 months. Even now I have GAPS legal foods that I have to avoid (such as almonds and lard) or I’ll get joint pain and an exasperating compulsive desire to stretch my shoulders, neck, and sometimes fingers and toes (has anybody else ever dealt with this?). My face is also a barometer for me. When I break out badly now, it seems to be because I’ve eaten a food that causes inflamation in my gut because I’m not ready for it (at first it was from a lot of die off). Last but not least, my best friend on this diet has been kefir. I crave it. It has facilitated needed die off, so I’ve had to be careful and back off on it ocassionally, but it fills my tummy and gives me a boost when nothing else does. I think the B vitamins it contains have been helpful for me, too (since grains are a no-no). In fact, I’ve been without kefir this week and have felt like I wasn’t going to make it through (more emotional and hungry—a bad combination!)

  5. Chris says

    FYI ~ Caroline’s GAPS chocolate chip recipe calls for using Baker’s Unsweetened Chocolate. Unfortunately, this is a Genetically-Modified food product produced by Kraft/Philip Morris. See reference: http://opposingdigits.com/forums/post-62.html
    Dagoba and Sunspire both make organic unsweetened chocolate bars. Green & Black also offers an organic extra-dark chocolate bar that may be used in other recipes not GAPS related.

  6. says

    I just ordered the Idiot’s Guide to Fermenting Foods today from Amazon and can’t wait to learn more about it. I have a laundry list of symptoms and am thinking seriously of starting the GAPS diet to see if that helps. Thanks for all your great information!

Trackbacks

  1. […] fall my family and I took the plunge into the GAPS diet including a 30 day cycle on the Intro phase. Although I am a traditional foods enthusiast, I felt a little nervous going into the GAPS Intro. […]

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