You’ve decided to take the plunge and do the ultimate gut-healing diet: the GAPS intro diet. You’ve done your research and all the prep and you’re ready to go. But there are a few errors folks make on the GAPS intro diet. Read below so you don’t fall prey to these common mistakes.
First: what is the GAPS intro diet?
If you’re not familiar with the GAPS intro diet, I’ll give you a quick rundown.
GAPS intro is a temporary, intensive healing diet that can heal everything from food allergies, to autoimmune conditions, to autism, ADHD, and related behavioral disorders. “GAPS” stands for gut and psychology syndrome and was created by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride as a means of healing psychological and developmental disorders.
GAPS intro eliminates grains, starches, and sugars, and involves six stages, beginning with soups made with slow-cooked meats and veggies, as well as fermented veggies and dairy, then working up to eventually adding in fresh vegetables and fruits.
Our family is currently doing the GAPS intro diet for the third time (I think it’s great to do it once a year!), and we have healed our son’s behavioral disorders, plus a number of food sensitivities for us all. It’s truly been life-changing for our family, but we’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way. Learn from my mistakes so you don’t make them!
Get the book here.
Eight mistakes you’re making on the GAPS intro diet
Avoid these mistakes to improve healing and make better progress on GAPS intro!
1. You’re eating bone broth.
Yep, you heard that right. You’re not supposed to eat bone broth on the GAPS intro diet, at least not until later stages and much healing has been done.
Wait- what? Isn’t broth the main food to eat on GAPS intro? Nope, it turns out, you should be eating meat stock, not bone broth. Long-cooked bone broth releases free glutamates and is tougher on the gut, while shorter cooked meat stock is gentler and more healing to the gut.
To make meat stock, use meaty, bone-in cuts of meat like whole chickens (read how to make a poached chicken for meat stock here), chicken thighs, drumsticks, and wings, whole wild-caught fish, and steaks or roasts. The key to meat stock is that you are cooking meat along with the bones, which will include the cartilage and yield a nicely-gelling stock.
Place your meat in a large stock pot and fill with water. You can add salt if you’d like. Bring to a boil on the stovetop, then turn down to a simmer for another two or three hours, until meat is tender. You can then use the cooked meat and stock in another pot to create a soup by adding veggies.
I typically remove the stock and some meat, leaving some meaty, cartilage-y bones behind, then add more water and make another round of stock to stretch it further. Once you’ve picked the bones clean, you can freeze them for use later on in the diet, or toss them.
2. You’re skipping a therapeutic probiotic.
While homemade fermented foods like sauerkraut are a staple in the GAPS intro diet, it’s imperative that you also use a high-quality, therapeutic probiotic. You simply cannot get enough strains of probiotics in a concentrated enough amount to make the same impact with food as you can with a good probiotic.
Need help choosing a good probiotic? Learn how to choose a good probiotic here.
I’ve tried a number of probiotics. Seriously, a lot of different ones. There is one brand I trust above all others to really make an impact on our gut health, which is Smidge. In the past, our family has used a gentle probiotic from Smidge, called Sensitive Probiotic Powder. It’s an excellent choice, particularly for very sensitive individuals. It’s highly concentrated, so it’s very effective, but is completely allergen-free and uses gentler strains for gentle gut improvement.
During our first time doing intro, I used a popular probiotic suggested for the GAPS diet, but since it was in capsule form, it was hard to get our little ones to take it, plus we went through it very quickly. I kept having to order more, which ended up being very costly in the long run. Smidge’s probiotics are a little pricey up front, but they last our family all through intro, plus months beyond. They are actually the cheapest probiotics I’ve found per dose for our family, as well as the most effective, so they’re worth their weight in gold, if you ask me.
Get Smidge here.
3. You’re not consuming enough meat stock.
I always tell myself we’re going to drink our meat stock all day, every day on the GAPS intro diet, yet it never seems to go that way. The kids get sick of it and start complaining. We run out. It’s just hard to drink enough stock.
But you’ve got to if you want to get all you were meant to get out of GAPS. I aim for soup at least three times a day at meals, which means we’re all getting around a cup of stock in, as well as a cup of plain stock before and between meals for 3-4 more cups a day.
I’ve found that if I use plenty of real salt, it tastes better and the kids are more likely to drink it, and once we introduce ghee, that helps with flavor sometimes too.
My best trick for getting the kids to drink stock, though, is stainless steel straws. They just prefer sipping through the straws rather than chugging straight from the mug. I generally put it in stainless steel cups as well, which seems to help too.
4. You’re moving too quickly.
Slow and steady is the name of the game; let’s not forget the story of the tortoise and the hare.
I know it’s so hard to be patient when you’re so restricted, but if you can dig in and find the strength to go nice and slow, you will experience so much more healing than if you move too quickly.
Particularly, stages one and two are incredibly healing for the gut. Spending a good week or more on these two stages can heal and seal the gut, allowing you to heal food allergies in short order.
I find that once we add juicing (which is highly detoxifying), fresh veggies, and nut-based foods, we start moving rather quickly and want more and more tasty foods, which is fine, and the ultimate goal… but staying satisfied with the super healing soups as long as you can manage will prove more beneficial in the long run.
5. You’re eating too much honey.
That one time, when we did GAPS intro the first time and I gorged on honey and made myself super sick? That wasn’t fun. At all.
It’s so hard when you’re having terrible die off (bacteria, yeast, and parasites begin to die off as you starve them and heal your gut- it’s a painful, but very beneficial process). You crave all the foods that will feed harmful pathogens. They don’t want to die and they cause you to crave the foods they need to survive.
This can lead to eating way too much honey or other foods that are technically allowed on the GAPS intro diet, but should only be consumed in small amounts. While it’s very helpful to have a little raw honey in tea or gummies here and there to stabilize the blood sugar, that’s all it should be used for and should not be eaten by the spoonful. I’m saying that for a friend. I’ve never done that.
6. You’re not supporting detox.
When die off happens, it does not feel good. There’s no way around it. It may result in headaches, tummy aches, skin rashes, and even puking.
It’s necessary to get the toxins out of your body to heal, though.
If you’re not supporting your detox pathways, you will feel worse, and those toxins will just re-circulate in your body, rather than leaving.
There are a few primary ways your body detoxes: through the skin, the sinuses, kidneys/bladder, and the bowels. You must do what you can to help these systems along. Here’s how:
- Skin- take detox baths, with water as hot as you can stand, adding epsom salts, bentonite clay, apple cider vinegar, or baking soda. I typically use 2 cups of epsom salts per bath, or one cup along with another cup of one of the other ingredients.
- Sinuses- try not to swallow the mucus that builds up in the sinuses, and, instead, do your best to blow it out. A neti pot can be helpful, as well as saline nasal sprays to loosen mucus. Additionally, I’m finding that using herbs like astragalus, echinacea, and ginger root are helping to clear my sinuses.
For sinus issues that threaten to become an infection, try these remedies to stop it in its tracks.
- Urination- Drink plenty of filtered, room temperature water. You may add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to further support detoxification. Drinking your stock in between meals will also help keep the toxins moving through the kidneys and bladder.
- Bowels- you must use the bathroom, preferably once or more per day. There is no way around it, if you’re not pooping, your bowels become filled with toxins, which then re-enter the bloodstream. Support bowel function using the suggestions in the following section.
7. You’re not pooping.
You will not get the healing you deserve if you’re not pooping. Your body cannot appropriately deal with toxins if they’re not being moved out through your bowels. In order to keep your bowels moving:
- eat plenty of fat via coconut oil, lard and other animal fats, creme fraiche (aka sour cream), avocados, and other GAPS intro-allowed fats
- ease up on high-protein dairy like kefir and yogurt in the case of constipation
- eat coconut candies
- consider enemas
- try magnesium
- take a good probiotic
8. You go too low carb.
GAPS is, by default, low carb. When you remove grains, starches, and sugars, you will be lowing your carb intake.
However, you may feel worse than you have to by going too low carb. Going too low carb can also cause adrenal fatigue, which is not desirable.
To avoid going too low carb, I make a soup every day with carrots and butternut squash, two of the highest carb veggies allowed on the GAPS intro diet. Peas, rutabegas, and turnips are also good options.
While ketosis (a function your body enters when it begins burning fat instead of carbs for energy) can be therapeutic, especially for those suffering from seizures and other neurological disorders, and can help with weight loss, it may cause more damage than good long-term, so be mindful of how you feel and adjust your carb intake accordingly.
Being too low carb is especially harmful for breastfeeding and pregnant mamas, because it restricts nutrients for baby, and encourages detoxification.
Have you made these mistakes on the GAPS intro diet? Have no fear! It’s not too late to adjust and receive ultimate healing.
Have you found another magnesium supplement that is GAPS legal? This link no longer works to the Corganic site. Thanks for this great article!!!
Hey Kristen. Sorry about that. Corganic is now offering this excellent magnesium.
I’m not sure if this supplement is GAPS legal, but I’m *extremely* sensitive to supplements and did quite a bit of research to find a high quality magnesium supplement. This is the one I found that works well for me: Advanced Magnesium (by InnovixLabs). I purchase it on Amazon. Good luck!
Cristina Polk says
What do you do if your child refuses to drink the stock?
Hi it in everything you can: blended soups, gummies, etc. 🙂
Cheri Nielsen says
Thank you for sharing your tips. I’m starting the gaps diet tomorrow and found your article very helpful.
Hope it’s going well Cheri!
Hello! I was wondering when to start taking supplements (probiotics , fermented cod liver oil, vitamins)? At what day should be allowed to take them?
We take most of our supplements every morning.
I am very interested in starting the GAPS diet. What books do you recommend for someone like me. I been trbeen doing research but I find it overwhelming.
Any help would be appreciated.
The GAPS diet book is a necessity, as well as the Heal Your Gut Cookbook!
Which “Heal Your Gut” cookbook is this specifically?
It’s called “The Heal Your Gut Cookbook.”
Thank you for sharing your tips, but according to an interview with Dr. Natasha, I don’t think part of #2 is true (that the food source isn’t the more concentrated probiotic), although the intro diet does introduce a bottled therapeutic probiotic in the later stages. Just today I was listening to Dr. Natasha being interview by Dr. Mercola and they two of them specifically say that there are trillions of CFU’s (in even a teaspoon) of fermented food versus billions in the bottled probiotics. The video interview is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DG0HldVSkzU&t=3217s —-and the topic of probiotics starts at 40 minutes into the video. This is something new I just learned myself today — I always thought the bottled ones were more concentrated.. That’s not to say they might not contain more varied strains than a single source of fermented foods does (Dr. Natasha and Dr. Mercola didn’t broach that particular point), but as far as power and concentration of a strain—the food product takes the cake.
Thanks for sharing that!
Jojo took a teaspoon of chicken broth and it triggered his reflux, why?
Sensitivities can result from a number of things, depending on what an animal was fed or if there are allergies to a particular type of meat/protein. I would try a different meat stock (NOT bone broth) and be sure the animal is pasture-fed.
Thank you for writting this post. I started gaps intro late july 2017, and this week i restarted the intro. First time around, i ate way too much honey and after the first month of doing intro, i had so much fruit. Loved watermelon, bananas, grapes. I thought if was ok becuz its gaps allowed but i stopped having broth daily and my itchy throat was back and skin broke out in the shower again. I have cheated on full gaps the past 3 months, so im starting over. Today is day four of intro stage 2 and the keto flu hit hard core. Had to crawl on all fours this morning. I did take a magnesium pill and some anti nausea. Im laying in bed now and i think i feel good enough to take a detox bath.
I really want to succeed this time around,and I’m being very careful with how much honey i will have from now on. I have eczema on my feet, im 27 and for the past few years i have gotten more food intolerances than i did as a teen.
Hang in there Alysa! Hope you get through the worst of it soon!
My nine months old baby has severe eczema since he was two months old, I also had hpylori and gastritis right before pregnancy and now again i started to have serious digestive issues, i breast feed my baby and i started with gaps intro but I couldn’t continue coz I started to feel weakness and my blood sugar dropped, so i quit the diet , i want to start the diet again but don’t know how to start coz there are a lot of gaps legal foods that i can’t digest. And one more thing can i start the supplements from the beginning of diet or start them later, and can i give my infant cod liver oil, probiotics and vitd drops?
Hi Aisha. I really encourage you to get the GAPS book by Dr. Natasha. You don’t start supplements until later on in intro (stage three or four I think). Probiotics and extra virgin cod liver oil would be wonderful for your baby. You can read here about the probiotic that cleared up my little guy’s eczema: https://thefamilythathealstogether.com/how-we-healed-my-sons-eczema-rash-quickly-without-changing-his-diet/
At that age, baby needs only a minute amount, or you could start with the infant version and then move to the adult version when you finish that.
Are you supposed to continue with detox baths on Full GAPS diet as well?
Yes, always do the baths when able. We’re always around pollutants, so baths will help us decrease our toxic overload.
Just be aware. I stopped detox baths with my children because I discovered that our porcelain bathtub has lead. You can do castor oil packs if you cannot do baths or even a foot soak (although my kids would never sit for a foot soak)
Hi, thank you for this helpful article!
I’m doing the GAPS diet and I’m feeling not the greatest over all. I’m assuming it’s because of the die off stage. I’m particularly not feeling well after I eat some avocado even though I normally tolerate it very well. Would you have an explematiin for me about this? Thank you!
When you react to a food you’ve newly introduced during introduced, it’s suggested to remove the food and try again in a week or two. Hope you feel better soon! GAPS is not for the faint of heart, but it’s worth it!
Julia Kazul says
Thank you for sharing your story! I have a wonderful 2 year old son with food allergies and eczema and more than anything I want to help him (and our family) heal. However I also have a 5 year old and thought it would be really tough and isolating to just give the GAPS diet to my 2 year old. I was so encouraged to learn your whole family does it together once a year! How long do all of you stay on it and how long were each of your kids separately on it? I’m also exclusively breastfeeding a 5 month old so I will not follow it completely for now but II absolutely love your idea of healing (and praying) together. Thank you!
I’ve never put any of my children through the diet individually. The amount of time we spend on it varies, but it’s usually around a month. Everyone is individual and may need a prolonged time on the diet for healing, however.
Have you seen this post? -> https://thefamilythathealstogether.com/how-we-healed-my-sons-eczema-rash-quickly-without-changing-his-diet/ I wrote about how a probiotic healed my son’s eczema… twice. It hasn’t come back since.
I found this article helpful as I look forward to healing my Rosacea and adult acne. Plus, digestive problems. However, I am a bit concerned as this is detox and I have one kidney that does not operate so well. The last thing I want to do is overload it. Any suggestions? Also worried about lack of carbs. I am definitely more of a carb than fat person. I have 2 autoimmune diseases that seem to be asymptomatic and I already follow the AIP. That diet is restrictive enough. I worry about the mental aspect of it as it’s taking this much to a much higher level. Thoughts on that as well? Thank you!
Hi Jenna. Everyone is different. I find that I feel best with lots of fat, moderate carbs, and plenty of protein. I have found that the ketosis that GAPS induces seems to provide a lot of healing for me as well. You’ll just have to experiment and see what works best for you.
Started on GAPS a few years ago and was doing better. I sought another healing protocol through The Reference Point clinic in Fremont, CA. They helped me SO much. I stopped the GAPS diet and have been doing well for several years. I had lots of stress and an intestinal flare up over a week ago and ended up in ER with the pain. I’m now home and starting over on the GAPS diet, since I no longer live in CA. The best to everyone here.
#2 doesn’t even make any sense. Taking a probiotic in comparison to kefir or sauerkraut is like throwing a single grain of sand on a beach.
Good probiotics might have CFU counts of MAYBE 50 million whereas a single teaspoon of kefir has a CFU count of around 3.2 BILLION. Kefir also has up to 40 different strains of beneficial bacteria not just a handful.
That is absolutely false. The probiotic I recommend most often, GutPro, has 25 billion + organisms in the smallest dosage, and another GAPS-approved probiotic, Biokult, has 2 billion per capsule. So, *good* probiotics is a relative term, I guess, but it sounds like you’ve not tried a *good* probiotic, as most that you can find at health stores are fairly weak and ineffective, with poorly chosen strains (which also matters!).
Another thought, if you’re trying these high-quality probiotics and not getting much of a response it may mean your gut is in pretty good condition. Yay!!
However, by comparison, for me even the Biokult is too much for my system. I have horrible die-off even when I take a tiny amount of the Biokult powder (after cracking open a capsule) and mix it with water and then only take a sip of the water, as suggested by like Natasha Campbell-McBride. Even *that* is too much for me. So everyone’s gut may need something different, may be in better or worse shape.
Many people in my situation stop taking probiotics if they have a die-off reaction thinking it’s some sort of allergic reaction, but it probably means their guts aren’t in the greatest condition (like mine) and they just need to keep diluting the probiotic until they can take it on a (close to) daily basis and then start to build up from there (daily, then twice a day, etc.).
For those folks with the same struggle, I’ve I found a high-quality probiotic that has an even lower CFU count than Biokult: MaryRuth’s Organic Daily Liquid Probiotic (Plant-Based). I purchase it on Amazon. This probiotic has only 10 million CFU. The recommended dose is 3mL (60 drops), and I’m still only able to take 1 drop of this and wait a few days for the die-off to pass before taking another drop. As the die-off subsides I will slowly increase the dosage until one day my gut can handle the 25+ billion CFU good stuff.
Everyone has to decide for themselves what state their gut is in and what level of probiotic they can handle. Doing GAPS is tricky sometimes. Good luck to us all. =)
Valid point Jaclyn but i was actually low on my count for kefir…
According to this microbiology professor who has studied it extensively it contains up to 10 Billion CFUs per MILLILITER…5 milliliters is a teaspoon, meaning a single teaspoon of kefir has 50 Billion CFUs and extrapolating that to tablespoon means 150 Billion CFUs…extrapolating that further to ounces and you are in the trillions…
So while 25 Billion is a decent amount, it still pales in comaprison to homemade kefir…
But on that thought have you ever thought of taking those capsules and using it to make your own kefir? I successfully did this with Align at one point just to see if it would work and it worked exceptionally well…
No point paying for probiotics when you can just make them in a probiotic factory yourself…
My 5 eat old is high functioning autistic. I am nursing a 3.5 month old. I suspect I have SIBO and I do have chronic fatigue. We have been doing fermented foods for some time now and have already in the past had die off from that temporarily. We also do 24 hour yogurt. I feel no choice but to start the intro and pray it works and maybe my son will improve. However I had read not to do the intro while nursing because I can detox into my milk but I cannot cook two different meals (for myself, I already eat grain free to reduce my symptoms). Should I Just add sweet potato and maybe crispy nuts to my daily intake to keep up my milk supply and not detox? Any advice would be helpful. And how much yogurt should I allow a day once I take it away and then re introduce it to my son?
Christy L Garau says
Thank you so much for this article. I have been studying the GAPS diet for 2 months now, and progressively introducing the foods that will be the staple on the diet so that the kids are used to them. I’m super nervous and these tips on mistakes were SOOOO helpful and gave me a boost of encouragement and confidence!
I’m so glad to hear that Christy! That’s a great plan. 🙂