You’re thinking you might benefit from “healing your gut” and you’re ready to cut grains and more out of your life.
How long is this going to take?
Is it a long weekend without toast in the morning, maybe a few weeks to really cleanse, a couple months, or are we looking at “bread behind bars” for (gulp) even longer than that?
Let’s just say you and your Sunday cup of joe won’t be dipping toast anytime soon – at least not bread made with grain-based flour.
The good news is that while some people commit to gut-healing diets like GAPS for two or more years, every situation is unique.
What You Can Learn in Just a Few Days
Anyone can eat a restrictive diet for 3 days. Right?
A tip: Don’t choose to start during your busiest week of the year. Don’t try a new diet (of any kind) when you have a social gathering during the first week or need to travel away from home.
Eating whole foods (especially a diet like gluten-free or grain-free) is hardest exponentially when you are at the mercy of others to feed you.
Restaurants won’t stick to the plan. Neither will your friends at a party.
Social temptations will be awful, and it’s way too easy to rationalize, “I just started. I haven’t invested much yet. I’ll just start again next week…”
Before you even get going, you’re off track.
But if you can get the first 3-5 days of a new diet under your belt (literally), you will:
- Learn how difficult it’s going to feel (depending on how restrictive you’re going, the first 2-3 days might be easy, and then once you’ve run out of the easy options, the next few days will be where the rubber meets the road)
- Figure out some recipes and strategies to keep the offending foods out
- Talk yourself back into doing it a number of times, helping to convince yourself it’s worth it
- And the biggie: For many people (not all), you’ll notice some sort of positive physical result within a week if the healing diet is a good fit for you
For example, my husband found relief from 2 months of chronic diarrhea after only 2 days of going grain-free, dairy-free and legume-free.
Was that a big change? A lot to give up?
Was it very hard for just a few days?
In fact, just a week or two after starting our dietary experiment (which was pretty unscripted and without much informational support), I was already sharing super simple grain free meal plans that anyone could utilize. No fancy ingredients. Just normal, whole foods recipes, sans grains. You’d be surprised how easy it is for a few weeks if you keep your focus.
Seeing quick results was dramatic and had a huge impact on motivation to continue.
If you’re seeking to heal your gut because of digestive distress, skin problems, fatigue, or other symptoms, it’s possible – but not definite – that you really will see changes within a week.
The Bad News
If you don’t, it doesn’t mean you don’t need to heal your gut. It doesn’t even mean that you need to tweak the system.
It might just mean you need more time, so a quickie test is not a litmus test – but if you can see an improvement, the motivation gained is priceless. You’ll be ready to continue.
If you don’t see any change in your health or well being so quickly, don’t despair. You’re not out anything just because you didn’t learn something the first week.
Most people would recommend sticking with an elimination diet meal plan for at least a month to really know if getting rid of that food will make a difference for you.
For starters, elimination diets are really, really hard. It’s so easy to make a little mistake, to eat a food that unbeknownst to you includes an ingredient you’re trying to avoid.
Every time you have a little slip up, it can be like starting over – resetting the timer on your experiment. So you have to give yourself some time to really get it down.
For example, the gluten proteins that aggravate many guts in our time (up to 1/3, according to Dr. Tom O’Bryan in an interview I listened to years ago) stay in one’s system for 90 days. Most people who are sensitive to gluten will see positive improvements in whatever is bothering them before that – but it may take up to 3 months of perfect adherence to the elimination.
How to Know When the End is in Sight
I’m thinking that you all aren’t looking for the name of the test that goes beyond a colonoscopy into the small intestine that could physically take a peek at your villi – not exactly what you want to nail eczema or a tummy ache.
Beyond that, though, it’s really a system of guess and check, like elementary school math.
If you see improvements by eliminating foods, it makes sense to eliminate those foods, right?
Because our bodies have been exposed to these foods for years and years, it also makes sense to give the body a good long rest from them – months, not days.
If you take a solid rest for months then try to reintroduce the food, watch for your symptoms to return. Again, common sense says that if your eczema flares up, your diarrhea or stomach pain returns, you suddenly feel fatigued – it’s better for your body to continue cutting out the foods.
Some folks will find that their body never re-acclimates to certain foods. They may be “sensitive” to something like gluten whether a blood test says they are or not. It’s common sense – if a food causes you to hurt, cut it out.
On the other hand, other people will find that cutting out grains or dairy or both for a length of time allows their gut the healing rest it needs to be able to tolerate the offensive foods again.
You’ll know which category you fall into when you eat the banned food again.
Let me close by nodding seriously, looking you in the eye, placing my hand on your shoulder, and saying, “I know.”
I know it isn’t easy to experiment with your diet, to watch the way your body reacts, and to make decisions based on what can be very subjective data.
I know you’d rather just eat what you want.
I know it’s a lot easier to have a doctor tell you what to do rather than try to figure out good health for yourself.
And that’s an option all of us have.
But if you’d rather cut out some foods than take a pill…
If you’d rather feel better instead of hearing doc say, “Inconclusive…”
If you’d rather attempt to heal your gut instead of just keeping on the way you’re going…
Then you’ll need a little scientist’s attitude and some perseverance.
‘Cause improving your own nutrition ain’t ever easy, whether you’re simply deciding to cut processed foods for health’s sake or seeking to take a major step with a gut healing diet.
But you’re tough.
You can do this.
Take a minute to check out the first post in this duo for more info on what it means to heal your gut + some resources from my site and others to make it a little easier to handle.
If GAPS is on your list, you’ll appreciate Cara’s wisdom and experience in the GAPS Starter Package she’s put together, or the grain-free meal plans for a variety of diets: