Gearing Up for GAPS Intro

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GAPS Intro: Round 3.

The first time you go through the GAPS Introduction Diet, you spend a lot of time preparing; preparing meat stock in advance and freezing it up, preparing sauerkraut and other fermented veggies, preparing meal ideas, preparing lists and lists and lists, preparing to write down daily everything that went in and everything that went out …  You’re nervous and not sure exactly what to expect, but also very excited and full of hope that you will experience great healing and a reduction of troublesome symptoms.

The second time you go through Intro (if you do), you kind-of know what to expect.  You know there will be die-off, you know it may involve puking and other bodily fluids, but mostly you know you’ll feel tired and run-down, you know you’ll get sick of drinking broth and would kill for a cookie at some point … but you also have already experienced that moment when you feel better than you’ve ever felt, giving you motivation to continue.  Or, in the case of doing GAPS with your children, it’s that moment when they feel better or when you see the fog of autism lifting.  And again, you have the hope of further healing.

When you come around to GAPS Intro Round Three (if you do), you’re a pro.  You know what to expect.  Yep, likely going to be some puking (but maybe not!!! Maybe you’ve finally got the gut in a better place!!), likely going to feel miserable for a time (but hopefully a shorter period of time), and you still hold out hope that you will reach an even deeper layer of healing.

As we prepare to start the Introduction Diet for our third time, I’m starting to brace myself mentally for the challenge.  I had fully planned to do the Introduction Diet with my boys as I had done the last two times.  My resolve is starting to waiver slightly.

The reason that we all did the Introduction Diet together in the past was to make sure all of the food in the house was legal for that stage of Intro.  If, for example, the boys were on Intro, but I was on Full GAPS, there would be fruit and baked items in the house that they couldn’t have.  And trust me, no matter where I hid it, whether it was on the roof of the house or buried in the backyard, they would find it.  The last time we did Intro, my little guy would climb 4 shelves in the pantry in order to get to the honey (which was legal, of course, from the beginning) and then he’d sit down with a giant spoon and dig in.

The trouble with all doing Intro together is that we all went through the stages of die-off together.  So when they were feeling short-tempered, miserable and whiny, so was I.  And I find that when I go through die-off, I feel slightly “autistic” in that my sensory system is in total overload.  So add sound-sensitivity to a tired, cooked-out mother when her kids are going through the whiny, screaming phase, and you’ve got a good time all around!

Hence, why I hesitate to do Intro again with them.  The first two times it was novel.  This third time I just don’t know if I have the strength.

Either way, I will increase the amounts of soups and broths that I eat, along with them, increase my probiotics and fermented foods, and in general go through the stages with them with a few exceptions.  The only problem that I’m facing now is: where do I hide MY food? 😉

How to Prepare For the Introduction Diet

It doesn’t really matter whether you are coming to the Introduction Diet from a different special diet first, like the GFCF diet or Paleo diet, or if you have already started Full GAPS and are now trying the Intro Diet, or if you are coming from the standard American diet.  If you have already been on the GAPS diet, obviously it will be easier for you to make this transition, and hopefully, you will also have less of the die-off symptoms.  But it is possible to start right away with the Introduction Diet from any other way of eating.  Working with a GAPS Practitioner is recommended, as it makes this transition easier and you will find methods of healing that you may have overlooked.

The following is the way that I am preparing for us to start “Intro Diet Round 3”:

  • Make meat stock – If you are personally going to be on the Introduction Diet (or even if you’re just having your kids do it), it is always a good idea to make large pots of meat stock ahead of time and freeze it up.  You will be going through A LOT of meat stock, and even if you make a pot of it a day while you’re on Intro, sometimes it’s nice to just have some in the freezer that you can use as back-up if you’re having a rough day.  Make a variety of flavors, like chicken, beef, lamb, pork, game, varieties of poultry and fish.
  • Make sauerkraut – Fermented vegetables take a little while to ferment, and you don’t want to reach in your pantry and realize that you are all out and have to wait several days for more to ferment.  Start now by fermenting your vegetables.  Sauerkraut is a good place to start, but you can also make a variety of different fermented vegetables.  I also like to make kraut juice to use in the beginning of the Intro Diet.
  • Make a plan – Having some meal/snack ideas in a list on your fridge can be very helpful while on Intro.  It becomes very easy to get in a negative frame of mind where you’re saying, “We can’t eat anything“; when you’re feeling that way, it helps to look at the list on your fridge at all the things you can eat.  Also, it helps around mealtime when your inspiration is low and you can’t think of anything to make.  When I do Intro, I usually make weekly meal plans and weekly lists, depending on the stage we are at that week.  It also helps with shopping for the week.
  • Plan your supplements – Dr. Natasha recommends a few supplements while you are starting GAPS.  Make sure that you’ve looked over the supplements that you need, that you’ve ordered them, and that you actually have them when you’re ready to start them.  I found that it helps to make an individualized plan for each person on the diet with their individual supplements (and essential oils) and the dosages; then I laminate it and place it on our fridge.  My husband and I are both involved in giving the boys their supplements; by laminating it, then my husband is able to check off with a dry erase marker when he gives them their supplements, which prevents us from doubling up and also lets me know what they’ve had so far.
  • Read the book – Even if you’ve read Gut and Psychology Syndrome before, it helps to read through it again before starting Intro, because I guarantee there are things that you’ve likely forgotten or gotten away from, or you’ll find different things that you can improve on.
  • Make a checklist – As you read through the book, make a checklist of things that you need to work on or things you need to remember.  Especially when it comes to detoxing and cleaning up your environment, it helps to go through your house again and make sure that nothing toxic has snuck back in.  Completely removing everything toxic in your home can take time, effort, and some cost is involved, so I’ve found that it’s a process.  Make a checklist of things you still need to work on, and try hard to keep working on it.  This is another area where it can help to have a GAPS Practitioner, as they will have a checklist for you already ready to go and will also have lists of healthy alternatives for you.
  • Detox baths – There are several different things you can add to your detox baths, like baking soda, magnesium flakes, sea salt, etc.  It helps to make a list of the seven days of the week and add what detox bath you should take that day.  That way you can remember what kind of detox bath you took last and know which item to rotate in next.
  • Find some new recipes – Thank you, Google!  It’s always a good idea to keep looking for new recipes to keep things interesting and keep you from getting bored with the food you’re eating.  You’d be amazed how many different ways you can make soup on stage two! If you haven’t already, you may want to invest in a GAPS Cookbook like the Heal Your Gut Cookbook by Hilary Boynton and Mary Brackett.
  • Get a journal – This does not have to be anything fancy; a simple spiral notebook is enough.  But it is a good idea to have one.  If you have a food reaction while going through the Introduction Diet, it may not be a reaction from something you just ate.  I could have been a couple of hours before, or a couple of days before, even a week or more before.  You’ll never be able to find a pattern in what you ate unless you write it down.  Also, it’s a good idea to write down what supplements you took that day; did you increase the dose of your probiotic? Also, write down any changes in symptoms.  For example, if you are doing the Diet because of skin problems like eczema or other rashes, did the rash change at all?  Is it gone now, or did it come back?  Then you are able to look for patterns related to what you ate, a detox bath, etc.  With autism, it’s good to note any changes in behavior, sleep patterns, night wetting, etc.  For example, we usually have categories such as “stimming”, “aggression”, “calm”, “focused”, and so on and then rate each category from “1 to 4”, with “4” being severe.  The last time we did Intro we made it even easier by assigning each category with a color.  Red was a bad day, yellow was OK (or maybe his baseline), and green was a good day or improvement in symptoms.  Another thing to take note of in the journal is bowel movements.  Sounds like fun, documenting how often they poop and what it looks like, but this step is really important.  When the days start blending together, it can be hard to remember when was the last time your little guy pooped until you stop and think, “Oh, yeah, has it been a few days now?”  Also, if they are having a change in their stools (diarrhea to constipation or vice versa), you are able to recognize this.  Are they reacting to a food, or maybe is it just detox?  You can see patterns only if you write it down.
  • Plan something fun – Going through Intro is hard work on everyone, not just the patient but the person doing all the preparations.  Try to plan ways to relax while you do it; also, it is SO IMPORTANT to make sure everyone gets plenty of sleep while they heal.  You’ll find that your kids who haven’t taken naps in years suddenly need them again.  YOU need them again.  Schedule plenty of time for sleep!  Also, try to find ways to make Intro more fun; involve your kids in food preparation.  Serve food in fun bowls.  Get crazy straws for drinking broth through.  Think of fun things ahead of time to keep your kids involved.  This is a great thing to plan ahead of time because while you go through the first steps of Intro, it’s hard to come up with new ideas.
  • Strengthen your resolve now – You need to be firm on the Introduction Diet.  There are going to be times (maybe quite often) when you want to give in, you want to quit, you want to sneak a food in before it’s been introduced.  You need to steel your resolve NOW, before you start Introduction, about what you want to accomplish by doing the Intro Diet and how you’re going to make that work.  Stick with the protocol; think of the healing that you are going to accomplish.  Remember that often symptoms will get initially better and then may get MUCH WORSE.  They may never get better at all in the beginning.  But if you stick with it, healing will occur on the other side.  Some of us (and our children) are very sick, and the older we are, the more layers of toxins we have built up in our body.  Healing will occur slowly, and we may feel like it’s not occurring at all.  DO NOT GIVE UP.  Recently I read the experience of a mom in one of the GAPS groups who commented how it took a couple of months of regression in her son’s symptoms (imagine the anxiety she felt!), but when they came out on the other side, she had a different child.  With my oldest son, we were on our second round of Intro (about 8 months into the diet) when he had days with absolutely NO symptoms of autism.  Each time we do the Intro Diet, we reach a new level of healing.  We’re peeling layers away; sometimes there’s just a lot of layers to peel.

Preparation is key with any diet that we attempt to take on; the GAPS Introduction Diet is no different.  The more prepared that you are, the better your chances of success.  Try to find a good support team to help you through it.  If you don’t have support from family or friends, there are communities online, both on Facebook and a great Yahoo! group.  These are places where you can ask questions or just vent, and people will help you.  Also, if you find that you are struggling with implementing the diet or you’re not sure that you’re on the right track with new symptoms that are popping up, there is also always the option of working with a GAPS Practitioner. 

As we go through our third round of the Introduction Diet, I will be posting on different obstacles we encounter and recipes that we are using.  I hope by doing this that it may help you as you begin the GAPS Introduction Diet.  I plan to start the Intro Diet the end of this month with my family.  In the couple of weeks before then, I will also be posting articles on different things that I am using to prepare, or articles that may help you as you start to implement the GAPS Diet.  Please feel free to email me if there is something specific that you would like to see or that you have a question about, and I would be more than willing to help you!

~ Alicia

{Originally posted October 9, 2014}

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