Surviving a Die-Off GAPS Reaction

by Integra Naturopathics on July 1, 2012

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Guest Post! Today we are bringing back Kerri, from Off the Grain. Kerri has been going through the GAPS diet for the past few months to heal her chronic hives. She talks to us today about her experience with a typical GAPS die off reaction and how to move beyond the challenges of this nutritional therapy.

We’ve all heard the saying “it gets worse before it gets better”. I’ve heard this saying numerous times when reading about detoxes and cleanses. The same holds true for the GAPS diet. As much as we would love to imagine the GAPS diet being similar to riding a bike in a field of flowers, unfortunately for those going through the intro phase, it often seems more like going on one of those cave adventures. You know the ones where if you turn your flashlight off it goes pitch black, and you are just hoping your guide knows the way to the exit?

The last time I was in Mexico I went on one of those cave adventure excursions, and let me tell you – living the GAPS intro is a lot like my experience through one of these caves. You know there is in fact a light at the end of the tunnel, and you know your guide will get you there, but along the way there’s a lot of tight squeezes, bumps, its more mentally and physically demanding than you thought, and you don’t dare touch anything you’re not suppose to!  You are relying on trust that there is in fact an exit at the end and you don’t get stuck somewhere you can’t get out!

GAPS is hard enough as it is to start. To begin with you are only allowed bone broth, boiled meats and certain boiled vegetables. It’s very restrictive. But that isn’t even the hardest part. What is? The die-off effect. It’s the whole “I feel worse than when I started” effect. Your body begins to experience serious side effects as pathogenic bacteria die off and gut flora rebalances. What can happen during a die off effect is symptoms can actually worsen. As the toxins die off and get filtered through our bodies we can react to them, worsening our symptoms temporarily. Some people may even show new symptoms of irritability such as a cold or flu like symptoms, fatigue, brain fog, headaches etc. This will also be particularily true for those who loose weight during the intial phases of GAPS. If you are anything like me, you may drop a good 10 lbs or more. This can be a wonderful thing if you are packing on a few extra, but since toxins live in our fat cells, as fat gets filtered through the body we often will react to the toxins living within. I always noticed my symptoms worsened on days the scale would shift.  But as your digestive system begins to heal, your reactions will lessen, and if you are like me, your weight will also eventually plateau.

Die off reactions and the process of healing the gut are very individual. I definitely experienced a bad die off reaction at the beginning of GAPS. By day 2 my symptoms cleared almost 99%, by day 3 and 4 they came back full force 120% stronger than what they were when I started. There is the possibility that at that point I ate, touched, breathed something I am still allergic too, but I do believe a lot of it was due to the die off reaction. Boy did I have horrible brain fog! I think I took my purse into a meeting instead of my notepad, I was putting food in the freezer instead of the fridge…and I never knew what day it was. A few days later, my symptoms began to clear again, however I did experience a roller coaster of ups and downs for multiple weeks following. Some days good, some days bad. Sometimes I would react for no known reason, and other times it was to something I obviously ate I shouldn’t have.

So how do we survive this initial die-off reaction? Push through knowing it isn’t going to last long. Have a buddy, or someone who supports what you are doing, and call them if you need to, even if you are crying. Sometimes an extra hand to hold is just what you need to push through. My other piece of advice is to make sure you are not consuming anything outside of stage 1. Follow stage 1 diligently until the die-off goes away and you are ready to proceed further. It is also a good idea to keep a food diary, so if you do eat something outside of what you are recommended to eat, you can detect if you react to it or not. If you need to ask your ND “will I get better?” Go ahead and do it! They will be your biggest supporters of all.

Now being on GAPS for over 2 months, I’m happy to say I’ve reached the light at the end of the tunnel. My hives are actually gone. I will say, I am one of the lucky ones.  My symptoms cleared quickly, unfortunately for some it takes longer. But the point I really want to make is not to stress too much about the die off reaction, it will clear, and don’t stress too much over days that feel like regression, your body is healing on the inside, even if some days you can’t feel it on the outside. And if you have to seek alternative therapies or medicine such as acupuncture etc. to help with your reactions, that is fine as well. It’s about finding what works for you.

So back to my cave analogy. If you’ve every been in a natural water cave, you know it is the cleanest most pure water you have ever seen. Everything is so beautiful, so clean, so fresh, so untouched. When we commit to a GAPS diet we are doing so to return our bodies to their most purest form, healthy and clean of toxic build up. We are striving for a beautiful, functional body, and we are hoping for them to return to exactly how nature intended, just like the caves. To achieve this, however, we must tread carefully, not to disrupt the process.

For the original article, click here.

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