Avoid These 5 GAPS Diet Mistakes


I get a lot of emails from people asking if GAPS is right for them or if it’s even feasible for them to begin the GAPS diet protocol.

I’ve been doing research into real food nutrition and metabolic health for three years now, and everything I’ve learned has taught me that balance is one of the most important keys we can implement for our health.

I don’t ever recommend strict diets like GAPS lightly. Keeping things simple and doable is extremely important to me.
However, many of us are coming from a place where our bodies need healing. In this case, the GAPS protocol can be highly beneficial. But common mistakes may be holding you back from your full healing potential on the GAPS diet.

GAPS Diet Mistake #1: Too Many PUFAs

The typical Western diet is drenched in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). These fats accumulate in the body’s tissues and can cause many health problems (including inflammation and suppressed thyroid function). The only way to allow your body to detoxify from a build-up of PUFAs is to strictly limit your intake (which is honestly not too difficult) and eating mostly saturated fats instead (which tend to displace the PUFAs in your tissues).

Why is this a problem on GAPS? Because many people rely heavily on seeds, nuts and nut flours while on the GAPS diet. 
Most seeds, nuts and nut flours are very high in PUFAs. Polyunsaturated fats–even those in nuts–tend to oxidize very easily, both outside and inside the body. While the fats in nuts are obviously an improvement compared to the fats in vegetable oils like corn and soy (which are also mostly PUFAs), they can still be overeaten.
Seeds, nuts and nut flours are fine in moderation while on GAPS. But eating them daily and especially several times a day might actually be holding you back from healing completely.

If you want to eat more nuts, choose from those with a lower PUFA content, like macadamia nuts, hazelnuts and cashews.

GAPS Diet Mistake #2: Not Enough Carbs

Again, this is about balance. GAPS is a healing protocol, and carbs play a specific role in helping the body rebuild. Without enough carbohydrates, the body tends to overtax the adrenal system and will eventually suppress thyroid function. This tends to signal the body to break down its own tissue for energy rather than rebuild.  On GAPS, restoring the integrity of the gut wall is crucial, so signaling the body to rebuild is vitally important.
Eating carbohydrates with protein and fat allows the body to take full advantage of the building materials in your food. This way you will use the amino acids and fatty acids from the food you eat to rebuild and replenish cells.
While it’s true that starches and grains are not allowed on GAPS, vegetables, fresh juice, fruit and honey most certainly are. Take full advantage of this and be sure to include at least some carbohydrates with every meal.
If you are concerned about blood sugar, you can eat smaller more frequent meals, and also be sure to eat protein and fat with your carbohydrates. This will help restore natural blood sugar regulation.

GAPS Diet Mistake #3: Not Enough Food

This is extremely important. Stimulating metabolic function is mandatory if you want to heal your gut. Thyroid function and gut health go hand in hand–you can’t have one without the other. Eating plenty of GAPS legal food will restore both. The GAPS diet can feel restrictive and it may feel difficult to find enough food to eat during the day. But right now more than ever your body needs food. It needs energy to heal and nutrients to replenish cells. So eat up!

GAPS Diet Mistake #4: The Wrong Proteins (Too Much Meat)

Don’t get me wrong: good quality meat can be a healthy addition to the GAPS diet. But relying too much on muscle meat for your protein overloads your body with inflammatory amino acids and will cause imbalances. Eating plenty of bone broth (gelatin), organ meats and whole eggs will help counteract this effect and give you a proper balance of amino acids. Soups are excellent because they balance meat and broth intake together (plus they taste amazing!).
I cannot overstate how incredibly healing bone broth and gelatin can be during the GAPS diet. They are an absolute necessity.

GAPS Diet Mistake #5: Too Many Probiotics, Not Enough Prebiotics

I know a lot of folks who spend a small fortune on probiotics during GAPS. I do not know if this is necessary for everyone. You can pummel your system with probiotics, but if those friendly bacteria don’t have the energy they need to colonize, then your efforts may be in vain. Probiotics need prebiotics to thrive and repopulate your gut with healthy bacteria. Get plenty of prebiotics by eating vegetables and fruit, whose fiber actually feeds friendly bacteria in the gut.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday and Fight Back Friday.

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  1. Thanks for being a beacon in the onslaught of GAPS posts. These tips are vital to achieving long-term success.

    • Thanks for saying that, Mindi. I’ve been thinking about these things for a while, but with all the talk about GAPS lately it seemed like the right time to actually write a post about it. I do think that considering the tips above might help people stick with the protocol long-term and get better results.

    • Yeah, it’s really easy to fall back on those nuts, especially when you’re used to eating a lot of baked goods. It’s tempting to just duplicate them with nut flours and whatnot.

      Thanks for sharing, Tiffany! :)

  2. I have the GAPS book and Internal Bliss, but not the GAPS Guide… does the guide lay out meal plan-type things, or is this why there are classes like the one being offered (reversing food allergies)? We’re doing full GAPS right now but plan on doing the intro next month… it’s so daunting.

    • Erica, I like the GAPS guide because it makes the practical application of GAPS simple and easy to understand. But it does not include meal plans or an extensive recipe list.

      I think Ann Marie’s class is going to be extremely helpful in this area, because it will give you the skills and knowledge to apply GAPS principles to your eating habits. It’s definitely more difficult to stick with GAPS if you don’t have a large variety of recipes and cooking methods to depend on.

  3. I cant agree more with you regarding bone broths.
    they are so deeply nourishing, and the perfect solution to the problem of getting enough nutriuents when it’s cold, without overloading on carbs.
    Gelatin and other disolved nutrients in the brooth pass directly into the blood stream when they enter the stomach, historically these have been considered perfect foods for infants, invalids and nursing mothers.

  4. Can my daughter really sustain a GAPS diet when she has anaphylactic allergies to all nuts, including tree nuts? Also high allergy to gluten, dairy, soy, coconut, sesame, and sunflower?

    • Well, gluten, dairy and soy would not be a problem because those aren’t part of the GAPS diet anyway. The nuts and coconut allergies would definitely limit some of the recipes you can use during GAPS, but there would still be a large variety of meals you can make with GAPS-legal foods like fruit, eggs, soups, and meat.

  5. Thanks for this post. I’ve been on GAPS for seven months and have recently been experiencing extreme fatigue and tiredness. I’m searching for the reason, and I think that you’ve hit upon it: not eating enough carbs. I try to avoid eating too many sweets, and have been relying on veggies plus 1-2 pieces of fruit per day (and the occasional baked good). I haven’t been eating the allowed lentils or white beans either. I’ll try adding more carbs and see if that helps. Thanks again.

    • I really think this tip might help a lot of people on GAPS. I know for myself personally, letting myself to eat more carbs (and especially more fruit) allowed me to achieve much better health than without them. My moods and my energy are a lot more stable now.

      The thing with eating low-carb is that it tends to stimulate the adrenal glands and the thyroid in the beginning. This often results in feeling more energetic at first, but when these eventually down regulate, energy levels typically drop and fatigue sets in.

      If you plan on adding carbs back in, it can be helpful to do it slowly. Try adding a little more throughout the day (not all at once). Doing this will usually prevent the “carb hangover” a lot of people experience when they start raising their carbohydrate intake.

      • Yes, it will be strange to try eating more fruit after years of reducing sugar consumption to the point where I only eat a little bit of fruit. But I’m glad to hear that it worked for you. I experimented a little bit with eating some fruit or a macaroon whenever the extreme fatigue was setting in yesterday. It seemed to really help as I perked right up after a bit. Thanks for the warning about carb hangover. I’ve never heard of it and will try to avoid it.

  6. YES! Those are the exact problems I was experiencing! I’m making a white bean and kale soup and can’t wait to do a coconut lentil soup next. I was starting to get really grouchy, and my boyfriend and I both noticed. Fresh vegetable juice and a bit of fruit has been so satisfying. Thanks for laying it all out so clearly. GAPS is helping my stomach so much, I don’t want to abandon it.

    • Glad you’re seeing the benefits! I really think GAPS has the capacity to help with digestive problems (and even way beyond), but it definitely helps to maximize that healing potential by listening to biofeedback and adjusting the diet to make it easier to apply it long-term.

  7. Very good and useful blog; thank you :-)
    Re Mistake #4, the wrong proteins:
    I think eggs, too, should be eaten only moderately, by some people at least. After three weeks with 3 eggs a day, I had the most violent flare-up of rheumatoid arthritis I’ve ever experienced. Reducing my egg consumption again has cleared that.
    Schwarzbein explains in a newsletter that the egg protein is difficult to digest, and may provoke an inflammation process if eaten every day(http://www.schwarzbeinprinciple.com/pgs/newsletters/SP_Newsletter_InfDig_Part1.pdf).
    I have been wondering if it’s actually only the whites that are hard to digest??

    • I remember reading that from Schwarzbein. I don’t know if it is something that’s a problem for everyone, but it’s worth considering. I do think that the allergens and inflammatory proteins are mostly concentrated in the white, so eating mostly egg yolks (if you’re eating a lot of eggs) may be the solution to that.

  8. Thanks so much for this wonderful blog! I have another concern. Can a vegan go on a Gaps diet? If yes, are lentils safe for him?

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