Individuals who want to follow the GAPS nutritional protocol, do it for many reasons, some have relatively less severe issues and others are experiencing serious and debilitating diseases. However, all these difficulties, whether they are categorized as severe or as minor, all stem from imbalanced gut flora and leaky gut, according to Dr. Natasha, the founder of the GAPS program. There is an explanation for the GAPS diet die-off that individuals experience when they are on the diet.
One of the main pillars in the GAPS diet is consuming fermented vegetables and fermented dairy. These are probiotic foods that are teeming with beneficial bacteria which will compete with the pathogenic microbes in the gut flora and start killing them. During this process, these bad microbes will release toxins that can cause many types of symptoms, such as, headaches, skin problems such as eczema, diarrhea, and many more.
Anyone following the GAPS diet should introduce the new list of foods (and supplements), such as fermented vegetables, fermented dairy, probiotics, and other foods specific to this diet, in small amounts to see if there is a die-off reaction and how severe it might be. Almost everyone will experience a different degree of die-off, depending on how bad their gut dysbiosis is. In other words, the more imbalanced the gut flora is, the more likely severe reactions are going to be experienced.
The GAPS diet die-off can also be caused by other foods than the ones mentioned previously. Many “GAPSters” who have severe gastrointestinal disorders (ex., Crohn’s and Celiac diseases) can’t tolerate any plant-based food.
Therefore, they follow the No Plant GAPS diet which will deprive many pathogenic microbes of carbohydrate sources they rely on and these microbes start dying and releasing toxins that will cause die-off reactions. Juicing is included in one of the stages of the diet. It is implemented as a detoxification tool and can also cause some type of die-off symptoms.
Coconut oil is very beneficial and has potent anti-microbial properties which also can cause die-off reactions. With all of these foods mentioned, make sure not to overdo it and always start with a small amount to see if your body will agree with it.
The last thing I would like to mention regarding the GAPS diet die-off symptoms is to not confuse it with food intolerance. Individuals who follow this diet have “leaky gut” disorders, therefore, food intolerance is almost inevitable. Many will mix it up with the die-off symptoms, so what is the difference?
Food intolerance occurs when partially digested food goes through the leaky gut into the bloodstream. The immune system cannot recognize the partially-digested food particles thus attacking it creating what is called allergies, food intolerances, or any other reactions you may have to food.
Regarding food intolerance, as you follow the GAPS diet and start to heal the gut wall, food intolerance will disappear. In the meantime, you can either avoid whatever food causing the reaction and introduce it later in small amounts to see if your body can handle it.
The same thing goes for the GAPS diet die-off reactions. You can introduce fermented foods in very small amounts and gradually work your way up. Listen to your body and don't ignore all these signs your body is giving you.