It’s that time again!   I’ve gotten quite the accumulation of questions to answer from reader emails and comments, so without further ado …

Hi Megh. I LOVE your blog. I’m 4 weeks into the GAPS intro diet and I’ve been scouring the internet to read other people’s experiences. My husband is not doing the diet with me, so I’ve been feeling pretty alone and deprived. I’m on GAPS to try to treat my fatigue, asthma, and digestive issues and just a general autoimmunity that seems to be present.

I spent two weeks on Stage 1 and I’ve now been on Stage 2 for two weeks. I’m currently working with Chris Kresser and he suggested that I stay on each stage until I see significant improvement in my symptoms. I’m not seeing much improvement yet, but I’m determined to stick with this and see if it can help me feel better.

My question for you is about spices. I’m starting to get bored with my food and I think it’s because everything has the same base of onions, garlic, carrots, and black pepper. I just picked up some fresh thyme, rosemary, oregano and mint at the market this weekend hoping that some more herbs will help make it feel like there’s variety. Did you have any problems or reactions from spices? I’m not sure where to start with introducing those and if I should just introduce one at a time to be on the safe side. I’m currently staying away from nightshades as part of this experiment, so anything with chilis is out. Thanks for your advice on this!

 

Wow, thanks so much!

You sound like you are very well informed going into this — that is such a good thing.  We took a long time on the intro stages too, and I think it was a really good thing to have done.  And if it helps at all to keep you going on this, I’ll tell you that my husband’s periodic asthma hasn’t flared at all since he started GAPS, and my own digestive issues are doing very well, although they flare out of control whenever I eat onions or garlic … and I know what you mean about getting bored with them on IntroI wonder, in fact, if I didn’t overdo the onions on intro, because I never seemed to have problems with them before, but I ate A LOT of caramelized onions on intro, because it was basically the only “sweet” thing I could have …

Anywho, I would think maybe you could mix things up a bit with the veggies — maybe add well-cooked celery, or celery root (which is slightly less fibrous than the stems) or fennel?  What about beets, green beans, or mushrooms?  Can you do hard squashes?  We are eating a good amount of those now that it’s fall.  I think that most veggies are ok on intro, as long as they’re well cooked, and as long as you don’t have reactions to them — I clearly should have taken it more moderately with onions myself!!  :)   I think avoiding nightshades, and also cruciferous veggies (of which there are a lot — cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, turnips, just to name a few …) is probably an excellent idea in intro.  (I wrote a little bit more about veggies here.)

But adding in herbs I think is a wonderful thing.  Herbs have a ton of nutrition packed into them, that’s partly why they’re so flavorful I think.  I personally don’t understand there to be a whole lot of difference between fresh and dried herbs in terms of how they should work on GAPS — the fresh ones probably have more nutrition, but unless you’re growing them yourself, it’s hard and expensive to keep them for long and use them on a consistent basis.  I don’t think introducing them one at a time to see how you react is a bad idea at all — herbs can be very potent medicine, so your body may respond to them differently.

Personally I’m a big fan of the ones you mentioned, plus basil, marjoram, tarragon, sage, parsley, dill, and chives, fresh or dried, and cilantro, but I usually only use that last one fresh because the flavor just gets lost dried — cilantro can be a potent heavy-metal detoxer, tho, so be careful.  Bay leaves are a big flavor booster for stock;  I never use fresh ones of that, even on the first days of Intro.

Once you’ve introduced those, you might try adding some spices — cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, or cardamom are all nice warming, autumnal and winter-type spices;  fennel seed, anise, cumin, and turmeric also add quite a big punch — useful to make Indian-type dishes, or ground meat that tastes more like sausage.  Cumin can be quite spicy, but I don’t believe it’s a nightshade, so that might give you some possibilities for some “heat”.  You might also want to try to use the zest from the lemons (assuming they’re organic) that you use for the morning wake-up water (generally it’s a good idea to zest them before you use them for juice tho), it adds a ton of lemony flavor to things, a little bit goes a long way.  You can get a special “zester” or use a microplaner, or even a box grater for this — you just want the yellow part, none of the white of the rind.

I hope that this gives you some ideas, and isn’t too overwhelming!

In terms of when to move between stages, this was really one of the biggest questions that we had as well.  It’s definitely hard to figure out when you’re “ready”.  We decided we’d just introduce one new food each day, to make sure we didn’t have a reaction, but we didn’t introduce any new foods on days that we felt really awful, or were having a reaction to something;  but once we’d introduced all the new foods at a certain stage, we’d move on to the next one.  So it ended up taking a couple of weeks for us to get through each of the first several stages.

As for doing things on your own, I know where you are coming from.  When I have often done in the past, when I’ve come up with a new dietary strategy or orientation or program, is that I have tried it out on myself as an experiment for a while, just to see how it goes.  I usually end up cooking meals that my husband and I can both eat, but he can add to them to make them more to his taste preferences — so when I was vegetarian (and I was a vegetarian from the beginning of our relationship), he would add meat to a lot of our meals;  when I cut out grains, he could make a side of rice or noodles or bread;  when I stopped all dairy products except ghee, he would still add sour cream to soups, eat cheese for lunch, and cottage cheese for snacks.  He’s been pretty happy that I stopped being a vegetarian, tho — he says I cook delicious meat dishes!  :)   Lucky for me with GAPS, he could probably eat soup EVERY SINGLE DAY and be a happy boy … so it wasn’t that big of a deal in certain respects.

After I’d been on GAPS for about 3 months, he had seen how well I was doing on it, and it wasn’t that much to convince him to do Intro with me.  I had gone into full GAPS straight out, and waited to do Intro because I knew it was going to be hard.  And it definitely made it much more bearable to get through, doing it together.  But we talk about food A LOT — in part that’s why I write this blog, because he reads it and has a better sense of where I’m coming from, since sometimes I write things out much more clearly than I explain them talking!

Every relationship is different, and you both have to decide what works in terms of your food choices.  I would encourage you to do whatever you can to keep your husband informed about what your doing, why, and what you’re feeling.  He may not choose to follow the same path — and from what I’ve learned working with my husband on his diet — the same path may not be right for him.  But if you’re talking to each other about your paths, you can travel them together.

 

What is well-prepared gristle?

 

Well, in my opinion, gristle becomes something magical when it’s cooked low and slow, and the tough fibrous muscle and connective tissue breaks down into and succulent fat and gelatin.  On the other hand, I would say that poorly-prepared gristle would be a piece of tough meat that is cooked hot and fast, like you would a piece of NY strip or a very tender filet.

 

I’m seriously trying to learn to eat liver. I’ve made chicken liver pate with bacon to hide the flavor, but I still could not eat it without gagging. Suggestions? Advice?

 

Hmm… now that’s an interesting idea — bacon is quite yummy!  Although I’ve made pancetta (similar to bacon) in a skillet that had just had liver cooked in it last, and that was so not a pleasant thing at all … so I’m wondering if liver just spoils bacon …

I don’t know if I’m the best person to ask about this;  I always loved liver as a child.  It was only when I was about 10, and my mom food poisoned the entire family with Christmas turkey (of which I had basically eaten as much of the liver as my mom would share with me – she also loved (and still loves) liver), and then puked it all up, that I had an intense food aversion to it for about 15 years or so.  (I also happily had a food aversion to gummy bears after that as well!)  When I finally started regularly eating liver again last year, I think my body decided that the whole traumatic event with liver had been replaced by my traumatic years as a vegetarian, and came to the conclusion that liver seriously wasn’t all that bad.  At least I didn’t get an upset stomach thinking about it.

I can’t say that I really like liver these days, especially when I take it in pill form.  Ironically, when I first made my pâté with chives and tarragon, the first taste of it brought back an intense taste/smell memory of sitting on a beach in Portugal with my travelling companion friend eating a vegetarian pâté she’d randomly found in a store in Lisbon.  (I know, what a life!  My life is so much less glamorous nowadays!)  For some reason, that taste memory made my mind think that it was tasty stuff.

Ironically, for the few days that I had serious appetite issues, one of the few things I could sometimes get down without gagging was pâté … :)   My body is so funny sometimes …

The best advice I think I can give, tho, is make sure to soak the raw liver well in an acidic solution before you cook it or eat it.  I’ve used whey, lemon juice, and pickle juice in the past, tho I wouldn’t recommend the pickle juice.  You can drain it after a day and add new liquid, and then repeat for several days, leaving it in the fridge for the solution to pull out the organ-i-ness as much as possible.  After this, some people even press the meat to press out any excess liquid.  I usually just thoroughly dry them with paper towels, tho, and after salting and peppering them, fry them in a VERY hot skillet with plenty of lard.  This can be dangerous because of the spattering oil, but if you can get that deep brown sear on the outside, and still leave them pink on the inside, the flavor is seriously “golden”.  Or at least as “golden” as liver can get!!

Some people like to mix finely chopped liver into ground beef.  (Apparently it’s particularly workable in chili.)  I’ve tried this on a number of occasions, and I don’t hardly even taste it, but my husband objects vociferously.  He will accept liver as part of a nicely fried sausage mixture, tho, or liverwurst, so sometimes I manage to get him to eat some that way.  I also sometimes convince him to take dessicated organ meat supplements, which are largely liver, from Dr. Rons, who sources all their organ meats from grass-fed NZ cows.

Other than that, I say, plug your nose, with a clothes pin if necessary, have a big glass of water or other gulp-able liquid nearby (I hear water with lime juice is particularly helpful), and some strong-tasting and delicious food to chase it, and then “fake it until you make it” as much as you can …

You might be better starting with the raw liver “pills” before pâté even, altho I know that sounds even more appalling;  at least with them, the liver goes straight down the throat, it’s so slippery and pliable that you can seriously swallow a whole lot more of it in one gulp than you would think would be possible without choking.  There’s a little residual flavor left in the mouth, but it’s not like pâté where it’s sticky and gets stuck in little places around the mouth and all over the tongue.  With the “pills”, the residual flavor can very quickly get rinsed away with a few drinks and bites of yumminess, because it’s just liquid left from the soaking liquid, there’s no fatty residue like you get with pâté.

 

I know you’re written about poop, so this shouldn’t be too crazy of a question, but do you know if there is supposed to be no undigested food in our poop?

 

I generally say, if I’m noticing recognizable things coming out, then it’s probably something I should avoid;  as I see it, it figures that if we’re not digesting it, it’s not contributing any nutrients to our diets, and it could be feeding pathological bacteria.  If it’s not causing me any major reactions, I generally won’t avoid it the same way that I’ll avoid things like soy — so if I do happen to get it on a menu at a restaurant, or someone else feeds it to me, I’ll go ahead and eat it.  But I try not to eat it very often.

 

The other GAPS thing that’s on my mind right now is what’s going to happen when we have visitors and do some traveling. … I was thinking that basically I would try to stick to meat and cooked vegetables. Of course still avoid grains, legumes, fruit, starches, and sugar, and probably raw vegetables as well. But not worry about the broth, or the probiotic vegetable juice, or the method of food preparation. I guess I’ll have to play it by ear and just see what’s available. I don’t want a few days of non-GAPS Stage 2-3 eating to completely set me back. I know when I get back home I’ll probably go back to Stage 2 for awhile to get back on track.

 

Yeah, traveling and visiting people can be really hard.  Personally, I take all my own food pretty much wherever I go, even cocktail parties so I’m not tempted if I get hungry (for some reason art historians end up at a lot of cocktail parties … it can be somewhat socially painful!).  But when traveling, or over the holidays, taking my own food is worth it for me, because feeling as bad as I will if I fall off the wagon will ruin the time I want to spend visiting with friends and family.  (Because it’s happened … too many times.)  Sometimes it can get a little weird, but I’m usually with at least some people who have already experienced my being miserable when I didn’t stick to my diet, and they’d rather I be weird than sick.  But you really don’t know how you’ll do until you go through it, and it can be useful to know just how bad it will get if you’re forced into a situation where you have to eat off your plan.  I wish you good luck figuring out how to work it, and let me know how it goes.  And don’t be ashamed to say and ask for what you need — just because someone doesn’t understand why you’re doing something doesn’t mean they shouldn’t respect your intelligence in deciding to do it.

 

 

If you’ve got a GAPS-, or Paleo-, or gut flora-based question, or frankly any random question, post it in the comments, and we can work on it together!  You can also email me @ yolkskefirandgristle {at} gmail *dot* com.

 

GAPS Q&A Volume 1

GAPS Q&A Volume 2

Photo Credit:  walknboston on Flickr.

 

This post is part of Monday Mania, Fat Tuesday, and Traditional Tuesdays.

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10 Responses to GAPS Q&A: Volume 3

  1. Sarah says:

    I also like liver, and my preferred preparation is to carmelize onions in bacon grease (maybe with some pieces of bacon) and then quickly sear the liver on both sides, then turn it off and cover it until it cooks a little more. Season with salt and red pepper flakes. Delish!

  2. Lili says:

    I like the idea of soaking the raw liver in whey for few days. My mother always soaked it in raw milk, and that’s what I do as well.

    • Megh says:

      Oh, yes, I think that’s how I got the idea for the whey — someone said they soaked theirs in milk … I’ve actually just finally started reintroducing milk lately (yay!!), I should really try soaking the next batch of liver in milk, see how it goes.

  3. Alison says:

    Hi Megh, I am embarassed to say I am just now reading your blog. I’ve seen you around and you’ve even commented on my blog, and let me just say I’ve been voraciously reading your blog today, especially all your info about magnesium, super helpful!! Thanks for all the info!

    Alison

    • Megh says:

      Welcome!! Thank you so much! I’m so glad it’s helpful. And thank you for commenting — I realized after looking at your blog that it’s been too long since I looked at it — so good to find kindred spirits out there.

  4. Baffled says:

    I realize that you aren’t a doc but I’m going to ask anyway. My gall bladder was surgically removed several years ago. Are there any digestive enzymes that I should be taking due to the lack of my internal organ?

    • BeccaOH says:

      I’m in the same boat. Mine was taken out in 99 before I even turned 30. I once had a chiropractor tell me that I definitely should take enzymes since my GB is gone, but I forget what he recommended and don’t go to him anymore. I’m also terrible at keeping up on any supplements.

    • Megh says:

      This is something that I have absolutely no experience with — I guess I will have to look some stuff up for the next Q&A! Thanks for commenting!

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