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GAPS(ish) Diet–9 Month Update

Well, friends, I thought I had written my last GAPS post, but I find that my healing journey did not end with deciding to “quit GAPS”. Shucks.

After writing that last post in October, I did some serious thinking about what I needed from a diet. My 6 months on GAPS had certainly taught me that food is more than physical nourishment. It is also emotional bonding, and spiritual union. I can sit down with my family or my friends at the same time and eat “together”, but if we are not dipping from the same pot then I find very little togetherness in the act. I can’t explain it, I’m sure it’s difficult to understand if you haven’t been there, and I’m sure there are some folks who don’t experience food that way at all. So perhaps you just have to trust me on this one when I say that GAPS, for me, was depressing and very isolating.

I decided that my first priority in my diet was the ability to share food, especially with my family. Second, since my emotional health was suffering and I had started an anti-depressant, I decided my next priority should be to find some joy in eating again. And my third priority was simply to reduce my pain level as much as possible, keeping the first two priorities in place.

Finally, while I wouldn’t call it a “priority”, there was the very real limitation of our household finances. I have a family of six to feed on an income that, according to national statistics, has frequently bordered on Poverty (I take issue with this label on a number of levels, but that’s a soapbox for another time….) I had ordered my priorities, but wasn’t quite sure that they could be achieved on our budget.

And so I embarked–we embarked–on a grand experiment. I dropped the parts of GAPS that felt rigid and legalistic–culturing veggies continuously, drinking broth every day. I gave up juicing, because I suspected all that carrot juice was feeding the SIBO in my gut. I ate things that weren’t GAPS legal, but that didn’t cause me pain. And I began to eat more of the things that cause me some minor pain and discomfort–a wider range of veggies, more eggs, and nut flours–and the rest of the family ate less of the things that caused me major pain and discomfort–gluten and dairy. And most nights, we ate together. I would supplement their meals with a loaf of bread or some rice, to stretch out the main dish a little more. And occasionally I would eat rice or beans as the grocery budget dwindled at the end of the month. So we ate this diet that hovered somewhere between GAPS and Paleo but not quite entirely either one. For a long time, I felt not-too-bad. At least, I didn’t feel any worse than I had on GAPS.

And then a number of things happened at once. I had a scope to check on the status of my colitis (results: 2 years of medication and restricted diets had not impacted the inflammation one little bit). Family life got busy and I missed several weeks in a row of yoga class. The holidays came and my stress level began to climb. And towards the end of December I began to feel truly horrible again. Where as before I was getting a small amount of symptomatic relief from my colitis medication, I began to get absolutely none. I was in bed with uncontrollable symptoms at least one day out of the week. I missed 90% of our carefully hand-picked holiday engagements (the ones we decided we most wanted to do) because I wasn’t well enough to leave the house. I was feeling discouraged, and very frustrated.

An extended discussion with my GI doc (who is truly awesome) revealed medical options that I wasn’t excited about–immuno-suppressant drugs, all of them quite toxic with risks of cancer and birth defects. All of them require some level of energetic input on my part–getting myself to an infusion clinic or giving myself shots or showing up for regular blood draws. I asked my GI doc if she’d be willing to explore an alternative treatment with me before beginning the immuno-suppressants. This treatment is so off the beaten path that I’m going to name it here by its most genteel name: human probiotic infusion. I’ll leave it up to you whether or not you want to Google that and find out what it really is.

My GI doc hasn’t committed yet, but she is researching and trying to jump through some hoops and hoping to help me out. This treatment is not even an approved UC treatment in the States. There are no doctors here offering this treatment for people like me, so her approval and help would be monumental.

My other option is to try 30 days of the Paleo Diet Auto-Immune Protocol. Somehow, agreeing to 30 days on the AI Protocol in hopes of simply improving symptoms feels more doable than an undetermined amount of time spent strictly following one restricted diet in search of complete healing.

All of these treatments have gains and losses associated with them. All of them are expensive in one way or another. I don’t like any of them. But I also don’t like being in pain, or missing my daughter’s piano recital.


I think what I’m coming to realize, after years with chronic illness and diet restrictions, is that healing does not come from any one thing, or at any one time. Well, I suppose it does sometimes but I think those cases should always have an asterisk and a footnote that says “Results not typical”. Rather, I’m beginning to see it as this series of ups and downs. I have times of plunging down into a treatment, seeking deeper healing, but then inevitably have to surface again to catch my breath. After a time, I’m able to plunge the depths again, a little bit deeper this time before resurfacing again. Usually the resurfacing finds me in a different place where the waters are a little bit shallower and the distance between the depths of healing and the resurfacing is not as great. I suppose it would be a quicker journey if I could hold my breath long enough to just stay down there and not have to resurface again, but the times spent in the depths are quite dark and lonely. For me, in my journey, the times of resurfacing are important for my emotional and spiritual health, just as the times of diving deep are important for my physical health. I’m learning that I don’t mind if it takes longer to reach the destination, if it means I get to enjoy the journey.

* photos of a day of food in my current quasi-GAPS diet (this was a particularly disciplined day–sauerkraut with every meal, soup for one meal, no rice, and no legumes): Sweet Potato and Beet Latkes with a fried egg and sauerkraut; Turkey Sloppy Joe over chopped iceberg lettuce with sauerkraut; Slow Cooked Apples; Chicken and Butternut Squash Soup; Banana Mush

Print Recipe

Turkey Sloppy Joes

The family enjoys this on hamburger buns, while I eat it over a bowl of shredded lettuce as a grain-free option. It would also be delicious over rice, for a gluten-free dinner.

Source: Erin at Plan to Eat

Course: GAPS/Paleo/SCD-Main (Chicken)

Serves: 6


  • 3 Tbs coconut oil or butter
  • 1/2 onion minced
  • 4 carrots minced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 1/2 pound organic ground turkey
  • 2 cans whole tomatoes with juice chopped
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 3 Tbs coconut aminos or tamari
  • 1/4 c sundried tomatoes chopped
  • 2 Tbs honey
  • 1 tsp ground coriander


  1. Melt the coconut oil in a large saute pan over med-high heat. Saute the onion, carrots, and garlic until softened. Add the ground turkey and cook until brown, chopping up the ground meat with a wooden spoon.
  2. In a bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Add to the saute pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until thickened, about 20-30 minutes.

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  • I am so glad I found your blog. I have been on a similar journey. I found out 3 years ago I have celiac disease. I was 39 and the damage to my gut from going so long undiagnosed is pretty extensive. I have a ton of food allergies/intolerances including gluten. I have leaky gut syndrome and now I Think I ma having trouble with my thyroid. It is has been a long 3 years.. filled ith chronic pain in my stomach and fatigue and host of other ailments. I have doing GAPS for 2 years now. I have to use the term “doing” loosely . Like you, I sort of put together my own version of gaps that I thought I could live with..-Paleo-ish, but with potatoes, gluten free , diary free, grain only once in a while, broth as much a I can stomach, cultured foods, honey or coconut sugar instead of sugar.Though I have seen some progress I have not achieved the level I was hoping for at this stage. I am now thinking I need to go back and do gaps 100% to the best of my abibity. It’s such a rigid diet and you are right it makes you feel very isolated and lonely but at this point I just want to be well again. I have never been able to make it through intro. I cave after a few days because my body goes through such detox. I get so sick and I am tired of being sick all the time. But anyway thank you for your blog. It helps to know there are others going through the same thing I am. Good luck on your journey to healing. I have believe it is possible and we will get there eventually.

    Paula-momof8 July 11, 2014 AT 12:27 pm
  • Oh this is disheartening. I’m truly discouraged tonight. I’ve got a gi appt on the 14th. Im praying for relief for you and I this side of heaven so we can love others well and serve strong!!!

    Shawnda January 10, 2014 AT 9:58 pm
  • Erin, I’m so sorry to read about your struggles with the diet. I can completely understand your disconnect from everyone. Especially when you have a difficult time with being happy with the diet and not sharing in the same meal as others around you. It can be very isolating. I am a pro hockey player and I find it isolating as well when I have to eat my special diet to perform at the highest physical level possible. In the summer I never get to share in the same meals or drink alcohol with everyone else. I currently started the gaps diet to help support my wife who had Lyme disease and I have found it difficult to manage. I guess the best advice I can give is that you have to stop psychologically thinking that life revolves around meals. We eat food to simply survive. We don’t live our lives around food. My wife and I don’t even plan meals together anymore. We eat separately when one is hungry. Who made the rule that we all must eat together at breakfast lunch and dinner? Simply eat when you are hungry and drink when you are thirsty and don’t plan your life around meals. We both get hungry at different times of the day because our bodies and schedules are so different. I am getting better at the gaps diet because my wife has found some better ways to prepare the food. She blogs about them sometimes at if your interested. Hope this helps.

    Greg January 10, 2014 AT 10:20 am
  • I have some of the same issues you do with my stomach and food issues. I’ve just started looking into taking Calcium bentonite clay and also diatomaceous earth daily. I think both would really help you. Read about each of them, look up the benefits and see if its right for you.
    – Lesli

    Lesli November 25, 2013 AT 3:47 pm
  • I love your approach on this topic – very sound advice – I pray that your health will improve – we have dietary issues with all 3 of our children and myself varying – developmental delays in eldest and younger with leaky gut – daughter with continual allergies… It makes life esp a family where hubby had not worked for most this year incredibly hard… i also am a believer in God created alot of these things so why are they bad…. this comes down to the question where are we sourcing our food, what is the environment like around our food and what other toxins are we putting in to our body… I feel at present there is so much of us dieting or trying to find the way to heal our gut – but we need to really get back to basics, source locally… I feel I often have my family behave like guinea pigs experimenting all the time trying to find the cure – but prehaps the answer is right in front of us :)

    debbie July 29, 2013 AT 6:14 am
  • Your description of struggling with food issues was beautifully written. Anyone dealing with an illness that is not curable but must be managed spends times in the deep waters of healing. So here is my prayer for you:
    May your resurfacing always be in shallow water and the depths of healing and resurfacing not as great. When you do have to dive into the healing waters may your journey be one of connection and oneness with the whole so that you feel filled with light and joy. May you carry this light and joy back with you when you resurface.
    Great beauty and art comes from the depths. I can see it here in your writing in that beautiful passage the starts with
    “After a time, I’m able to plunge the depths again, a little bit deeper this time before resurfacing again. Usually the resurfacing finds me in a different place where the waters are a little bit shallower and the distance between the depths of healing and the resurfacing is not as great. I suppose…..”
    Thank you for sharing it with us.

    Anne May 26, 2013 AT 12:54 pm
    • Anne, what a beautiful prayer. Thank you for sharing it with me, and thank you for your very kind words and wishes.

      Erin May 27, 2013 AT 1:45 pm
  • Wow, I just read all your updates on the GAPS diet, and I see that it was a very very stressful experience for you. I would like to venture to say that GAPS was not designed to be administered along with a huge dose of stress. It is my own personal theory (I’m by no means an expert) that what makes us sick is accumulated stress. Stress comes from many sources not the least of which is our screwed up SAD diet. I have heard that emotional stress affects the ability of your body to digest food. So being under a lot of stress while doing GAPS would seem to me to be counterproductive. Ideally, GAPS would be administered in a clinic type environment where the dieter would not have to cook or figure out what to feed everyone else at the same time and be doing nothing but resting!

    Anna April 16, 2013 AT 7:49 pm
  • Hi Erin,

    I can relate to the isolation you speak of which comes with a restrictive diet. I have had a similar experience with myself with the Failsafe diet, which I have been on (and off) for two years and I’d just like to share my experiences.

    After I had been on the diet for a few months my birthday came around. We went away for the weekend and I decided to have a “holiday” from the diet, drinking a bottle of champage, and eating some other illegal things. When I woke up on my birthday I felt near-suicidal, sick, ill and had probably one of the worst days of my life! So in the early days, it was not only my successes on the diet, but also these awful reactions, which prompted me to stay really strictly on the diet, which was at that stage, very restrictive.

    Luckily my partner is really supportive and happy to eat all the weird food with me, but when I went to visit anybody or joined a celebration it was just awful having to refuse everything. I agree with you that eating separate food at the same table does not create the same spiritual feeling of bonding and togetherness. There is something profound in the human ritual of “breaking bread together”. It is isolating, and I think unhealthy, to be excluded from it.

    After about a year on the diet all the deprivation started to send me a bit loopy. All I wanted to do was eat the things I wasn’t allowed to eat. I started to hate, and I mean HATE the sight of the legal foods. (To this day I do not have a positive relationship to pears, which play a large part in the diet.) I started cheating in a big way, eating giant blocks of chocolate and all sorts of illegal foods, and overall my diet, health and happiness declined.

    Finally, I too, decided to “go off the diet, but not really.” The main thing was that I MENTALLY went off the diet. I needed to get rid of those chronic feelings of deprivation, more so than my chronic sinus. I told myself, “I can eat anything I want.” It was so important to me that I had NO feeling of restriction whatsoever. When my family members would say, “Oh, can I make that, are you allowed that?” I would gently remind them, “I can eat anything, remember? Just make anything. I can eat anything now.” I needed to change my state of mind away from deprivation back to enjoyment of life.

    And I genuinely did let myself eat anything. I absolutely refused to deny myself things!!! What I found was that when I wasn’t feeling deprived, restricted and miserable, I would make a good choice for myself. I would have a little of an illegal food and feel happy with that, while I mostly ate legal foods. I listened to my intuition. I listened to my body. I made sure I felt happy and enjoyed what I was eating. As I went along, I found a happy middle ground. Sometimes I would react to foods, but increasingly I was able to eat what I wanted (which was in fact, mostly Failsafe) and I didn’t feel deprived. Life became enjoyable again.

    Then a few months ago, I came under a lot of stress. Job, family, a lot of things went haywire and I found myself under a lot of pressure. All of a sudden my food intolerance reactions went through the roof. Things which I had been able to handle for a year, suddenly caused drastic reactions. I have had to scale back and back and back to the most restrictive version of the diet. I have become desperate again, struggling with awful symptoms which have been gone for so long, but are now back with a vengeance. Apparently in times of stress our body’s ability to cope with these things declines. It may be due to increased inflammation – who knows?

    Yet, finding myself back on the restrictions, I can feel those old rebellious feelings of deprivation stirring again. What misery, to have to avoid this, avoid that, and avoid the other! I’m determined that I absolutely will not stay on a super-restrictive version of this, or any other diet, ever again. So when my reactions calm down, I’m sure I’ll be able to go back to my “middle path” again.

    I suppose what I’ve learned is that it’s a tightrope walk, and that we can learn to balance as time goes along. Sometimes we fall off, and sometimes we can go for a long time with success. But deprivation is never your friend.

    Lastly, I wonder if the Failsafe diet might not be helpful for you? I went on it initially to find the cause of my hayfever. To my astonishment I discovered not only the cause of my hayfever, but also that my lifelong depression was related to salicylates, and my acne disappeared if I excluded milk. The diet has changed my life for the better, despite my love-hate (mostly hate) relationship with it!

    Here are some links:

    I hope that you’ve gained something from the experiences I’ve shared! A problem shared is problem halved, as they say.

    Helen April 9, 2013 AT 7:08 pm
  • I’m sorry that you are suffering, but be assured that you are not alone in the swamp! You are so right when you say you have to find what is right for you in the healing process – we are all so unique – can’t be treated cookie cutter style.
    Google – Truly Gluten Free- Micki Rose. She claims that all grains have gluten and those most sensitive need to eliminate all grains.
    Another book to add to the pile – Ending the Vicious Cycle – Elaine Gottschall
    Also, have you considered spices being an issue for you?
    Bless you,

    Veronica February 28, 2013 AT 12:15 pm

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