The problem with a very strict diet like GAPS diet is if you get one crucial food wrong, it could compromise the whole diet. My one crucial mistake came in the form of commercial yogurt.
Right off the bat, GAPS diet stressed the importance of taking probiotics with every meal. Probiotics promote the growth of good bacteria in the stomach, which helps restore the healthy gut flora. GAPS diet allows 2 types of probiotics: dairy-based, such as yogurt and kefir, and vegetable-based, like sauerkraut or other fermented vegetables. But the catch is, they have to be 100% natural, and the only way to ensure that is to make your own.
I considered making homemade yogurt because when I asked D what sauerkraut tastes like, he said I wouldn’t like it. But making homemade yogurt is a bit tricky (at least to me). Kefir would’ve been easier to make but I don’t have kefir grains or kefir starter kit to culture. So to make the long story short, I bought a commercial plain yogurt.
I thought it would be okay and won’t be a major offense against the GAPS diet protocol. I was wrong.
Practically every dairy in Northern America has Dept. of Agriculture instructions for making commercial yoghurt. They may start with liquid milk straight from the cow (pasteurized) or they may start with milk solids. However, at the beginning, they ADD additional milk solids. This automatically increases the lactose content… Because of the additional lactose added at the beginning of the process, the yoghurt often contains at this stage as much, and probably more, lactose than a glass of milk would… The companies also use a very short incubation time which is not even sufficient to convert normal milk lactose completely. [SOURCE]
I was diligently boiling meat stocks, living on mostly soups for days and taking a spoonful of commercial yogurt every single meal. And I thought I was doing great, having almost no die-off symptoms. What I didn’t realize is that I was feeding myself with the something that is prohibited when one has a gut problem – lactose.
I was close to moving to Stage 4, but after learning this, I suddenly felt that all the other 3 stages had been failures. I mean, I already have issues with eating non-organic meat, poultry and vegetables to begin with. And then I found out I was also giving myself lactose, albeit unknowingly. Eating non-organic food was probably still forgivable, but consuming lactose - a disaccharide sugar – is not (or am I just being paranoid?).
This completely turns everything around. Despite the bland-tasting food, the sickening soups, the extra expenses and time in preparing a separate meal for myself, I love the GAPS diet. I feel good, I have more energy, my stomach has never felt so light, the bloated feeling was gone, and (yes, girls) I lost a few inches off the waistline. I truly believe that the GAPS diet has a great potential in treating my autoimmune condition. But this potential can only be achieved if I do the diet properly.
This is the reason why I want to do it right, as close as I can, from the start. The right foods, the right probiotics, the right way of cooking. The sacrifices of being on GAPS diet are not small. This isn’t just about not eating grains, or sweets or dairy products. This is about throwing away most of your regular meals and eating habits that you probably grew up with out of the window. This is not just about restraint but discipline, a complete and cathartic overhaul of your diet and lifestyle, as far as food is concerned.
If I will be making these sacrifices, and I have for the past week now, I want to make sure that I’m reaching the full potential of this diet. Otherwise, I don’t see the point. If my mistake of taking commercial yogurt means I am bringing in more lactose into my system and will compromise the effectiveness of the GAPS diet, I think it makes sense to stop. For now, at least, until I can get a proper probiotics, and maybe more organic foods.
I’m not quitting, I’ll be starting over.
But this doesn’t mean that I’ll start eating regular foods again. No, that would be counterproductive, because I believe that somehow the healing of my gut has started. So the plan is to switch to a less stringent diet that I’ve mentioned before: Paleo AIP Diet (this deserves a separate post) and go back to GAPS Diet when I have the right food supplies (actually, it’s only the probiotics that’s problematic, but it is a crucial one).
Why not just continue with the GAPS diet?
I’m on Stage 4 right now, meaning I can eat roasted or baked meat, chicken and fish. If I stop taking probiotics, this stage of the GAPS diet and beyond are just similar to Paleo AIP, with only a few additional prohibited foods. Actually, Paleo AIP also allows probiotics, but the non dairy-based and it doesn’t require soup in every meal. The switch will be painless, almost imperceptible and the changes will be minimal. Although, for some reasons, I feel the Paleo AIP is less strict and has a more variety of allowed foods to choose from. Or maybe it’s not the food choices but the allowed methods of cooking that offers more room.
I’ll make a comparison and we’ll see.