GAPS Diet Days 6-7: Gut Healing and a Social Life Don’t Mix

Cheating never ends well.  Not on your significant other.  Not on your gut healing protocol. This was my first weekend following the GAPS Introduction Diet, and it posed a number of challenges.  Saturday morning I needed to prepare foods to sustain me for a full-day hiking trip.  I filled my thermos with bone broth and packed my backpack full of soft boiled eggs, steamed vegetables, steamed meat and kefir.  Within five minutes of my friends picking me up, I began sipping my broth that made the whole car “smell like Thanksgiving.”  For the next hour, the conversation centered around my “super intense broth cleanse.”

So you can’t eat anything except bone broth? Are you going to have enough energy to go on a hike?

The questions kept coming.  Not that I blame my friends for being curious.  I am, after all, the only person my age I know who is embarking on the GAPS Introduction Diet.  And when I’m spending time with people who have no problem making late night Jack-in-the-Box runs or gulping down pints of Ben & Jerry’s when they have a craving, it’s no wonder they have a hard time understanding a concept as foreign as a gut healing protocol.  On the bright side, all their curiosity makes for a great opportunity to share my passion for healthy eating. I’m sure my friends now have more information than they’ve ever wanted about the benefits of broth made from grass-fed cow bones.

Post-hike, I rushed home to plan for Saturday night’s potluck.  This was my first time having dinner guests at my new place, so I was especially excited.  Friends arrived with beer and wine, shrimp and sausage gumbo over rice, salads tossed with balsamic vinaigrette, and a steaming tray of brownies with vanilla ice cream for dessert.  Oh the temptation!  It was hard to say “no” to the beautiful Spanish white my friends were sipping, but I held strong to my glass of sparkling water.  By the time dinner was served, however, my might was waning.  Tired of all the day’s questions, I snuck a bowl of my own GAPS-approved chicken soup, but I just couldn’t pass up the dried cherry and goat cheese salad.Chicken Soup and Salad

I scarfed down a couple of bites, hoping that a few raw veggies and some store-bought balsamic wouldn’t do too much damage.  I immediately regretted my decision.

Within minutes, I could feel my face my face getting red and a hot flash coming on.  My inside lower lip broke out in painful canker sores, and for the rest of the night, I had intense cravings for sugar and feelings of anxiety.  Let’s just say my body did a fine job of telling me exactly what it can and cannot have.

I made it through the rest of the night with no additional cheats, which was no easy feat when my friends starting offering tequila shots and mules (two of my favorites!)  I sure do appreciate my fun-loving friends.  But maybe a dinner party and night out dancing in the midst of the GAPS Introduction Diet wasn’t such a good idea.

I woke up Sunday morning feeling like I’d been hit by a truck.  I was physically exhausted, achy, lethargic, constipated and off balance.  Grateful for a steaming glass of bone broth, I dragged myself out of bed and did my best to be productive.  I did manage to visit my favorite vendors at the Hillcrest Farmers Market, and I felt good knowing that I was stocking up on nutrient dense foods to help cure my cheater hangover.  By 2 p.m. I was in serious need of a nap.  Whoa.  This strict GAPS Introduction Diet program is no joke.

So now I know.  No cheating allowed.  It’s simply not worth it.  I’ve always had a knack for learning lessons the hard way.

In many ways, the negative symptoms are a good thing.  They remind me why I committed to the GAPS Diet to begin with – to help alleviate food sensitivities and bring my body and mind back into healthy balance.  Clearly I still have a long way to go.

I have to admit that I get tired sometimes of being so committed to listening to and taking care of my body.  It would be one thing if I had a routine schedule and quiet home life with a strong support network of similar eaters. At least then someone might understand better what I’m going through. This is definitely not my life.  Many days I get up at 5 a.m. to surf, work all day, then run off to happy hour and a soccer game, only to crash into bed at 10:30 p.m. (on an early night).  No wonder I’m often exhausted!  And while the GAPS Diet has inspired me to spend more time at home, both cooking and writing, I enjoy my active life and it’s not something that I want to give up entirely.

Intensive gut healing protocols were simply not designed for twenty-somethings with a social life.  And let’s not even talk about what an attempt at planning a first date would look like.  Coffee, drinks and dinner are all out.  Maybe we could take a hike and each bring our own food?  And no, don’t mind me over here with my pre-hike serving of sauerkraut.  It’s totally normal… Right?

So what’s the balance point?

I want to continue being social, and I also want to stay 100% committed to healing my gut.  So I will continue to walk this weird, thin line between dinner parties and bone broth.

In scenarios like this weekend, I find myself getting frustrated about how sensitive I am to foods. I would love to be able to go out to one of San Diego’s famous craft breweries for some pizza and beer and not suffer stomach cramps and breakouts for weeks post. That said, I am grateful my body does such a good job of telling me what it doesn’t like.  And I am hopeful that all the healing work I’m doing now will benefit me for many healthy and happy years to come.

Some wise mentors of mine have said that their greatest personal challenges have helped to guide them down the path of their calling.  Maybe this is my calling: to support people in living happier, healthier lives.  My own hyper-sensitivities to stress, chemicals and toxins have only amplified my passion (call it obsession) for and knowledge of healthy eating and balanced living.  And now they have given me an opportunity to share my experiences here with any of you who might also be in need of empathy, humor and support as you set off on your own journeys to healing.

Day 6 Foods

Same as previous, with addition of two soft boiled eggs, since the sensitivity test for egg whites was unreactive.

Day 6 Symptoms

  • Slept fairly well, lots of dream activity
  • Dry skin on my face and inside my nostrils
  • Dry, itchy, flaky scalp
  • Eczema and itching around my eyes
  • Improvements in sinus congestion
  • Slight bloating in the lower abdomen, below my belly button
  • Menstrual cramps have subsided
  • Feeling emotionally drained after yesterday
  • Positive energy, feelings of internal strength
  • Increased mucus production after drinking kefir around 10 a.m.
  • Slightly puffy stomach after eating the two soft boiled eggs
  • Exercise sweat had strong odor
  • Instant outbreak of canker sores inside lower lip, hot face and brain fog after eating salad with balsamic vinaigrette
  • Strong sugar and salt cravings beginning at 10 p.m.
  • Negative thinking from 11 p.m. – 1 a.m.

Day 7 Foods

Same as previous, with addition of ghee and grass-fed cow milk yogurt from Drake Family Farms.  I wanted to only introduce gentle foods today (I figured I could handle dairy since I’ve been drinking kefir) as my body recovered from last night’s cheat.

Day 7 Symptoms

  • Woke up feeling hungover – heavy body and limbs, fatigued, headache, constipation, lethargic, losing balance easily, foggy thinking, feelings of frustration and sadness
  • Started feeling more alert around 10 a.m.
  • Introverted, lack of desire to socialize
  • Low energy
  • Sleepiness from 2-5 p.m.
  • Improved mood around 6 p.m.
  • Increased hunger
  • Cravings for high fat foods (yogurt)
  • Sore mouth and tongue