Written by Kate Tietje, Contributing Writer
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been talking a lot about adrenal fatigue here, and one of the potential remedies Stephanie has mentioned is the GAPS diet. Please go back and read her post on preparing for the GAPS diet to learn more about it, if you haven’t seen it yet!
I’ll admit it: the GAPS diet is not the easiest in the world. But once you’ve done it a couple of times, it really is not that bad. Knowing some tips and tricks for getting enough to eat definitely helps, as does having a bunch of GAPS-friendly recipes.
But there’s a special issue to consider right now, for many of us (me included): what if you’re pregnant? Is GAPS safe? Beneficial? Is it even doable while you’re pregnant?
The answer may surprise you: Yes, it is! GAPS is a definite shift in eating habits. And it may feel hard to get enough. But rest assured, GAPS is completely safe and beneficial during pregnancy.
Image by vividexpressions
Safety: Will My Baby Get What He Needs?
This is the most common concern, and one that most doctors would share with you. Most doctors would not recommend doing any sort of limited diet while pregnant, and would definitely not want you to be completely grain-free, unless you had a medical condition requiring it (which, if you have GAPS symptoms, you might…but many doctors don’t believe in that, either).
It’s important to ask, though: what do I get from grains that I cannot get from other foods?
Grains are a primary source of carbohydrates, which you certainly do need. But you can also get carbs from fruits, vegetables, honey, beans, and certain dairy products (some are allowed on GAPS). There is no difference, really, between the carbs in grains and the carbs in these other foods. Sweeter foods, like fruit, are rather high in carbs.
It’s important to note that there are different “versions” of GAPS: full GAPS, and different stages of the introduction diet. If you are pregnant, you must do the full version in order to get enough nutrients. Foods like hard cheeses, yogurt, kefir, most fruits, white beans, etc. (the most carb-heavy foods) are allowed on full GAPS, but not on most of the intro stages. It is not safe or recommended to do intro while pregnant. In fact, depending on your gut health, you may even choose to consume raw milk during pregnancy, as well (which is typically not allowed on the diet until you are transitioning off of it).
What other nutrients are found in grains? According to the food pyramid, B vitamins (namely folate) and fiber are the other important nutrients in grains. Fiber can be found in beans (and isn’t really as important as we think it is; that is another subject entirely!), and the B vitamins in grains are typically synthetic, added during the fortification process. (That isn’t true if you sprout and grind your own grains, but most women don’t do that.) B vitamins can be found in many other sources, like leafy greens (primary source), but also various animal products, kombucha, and lots more. And from these sources, where they occur naturally, they’re much better absorbed.
So, there’s no nutrient in grains that you can’t get from other foods. Therefore, you’re not depriving your developing baby of anything.
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How Can I Eat Enough?
This is really a concern for everyone on GAPS, not just pregnant women. But of course pregnant women need more than most, so it’s especially a concern.
Sticking to full GAPS only will definitely help. Cutting out all dairy and fruit will not leave many options. You will need a lot more meat than usual. But as pregnant women really need a lot of protein anyway, this is actually a good thing: you’ll definitely get a lot!
A daily meal plan might look like this:
- Lemon-water and a hearty meat-and-veggie soup for breakfast (and maybe a smoothie with yogurt or kefir too); or eggs cooked in coconut oil or ghee
- Muffins made with nut flour for snack
- Meat with veggies for lunch, and fermented food (pickles, sauerkraut, kombucha)
- An apple with peanut butter for snack
- A thick stew and a salad for dinner
- Cheese and pickles for bedtime snack
This would likely be enough food, and plenty of fat/protein. Don’t be afraid to add extra fat to soups. Pancakes or muffins made with nut flours can be extremely high in both fat and protein, as well. You will probably really need to eat all of those snacks in a day, and maybe even more. Having jerky around, or almond flour muffins, or extra soup/stew is always a good idea, so that you can eat whenever you are hungry. A few slices of cheese is always a good snack. Crackers made from almond flour and topped with cheese, canned wild salmon, or chicken liver pate is always a good snack too.
Eat when you are hungry, and make sure you have plenty of options, and you will be okay.
What if I’m Nauseous?
Starting GAPS in early pregnancy might present its own challenges: what if you feel too nauseous to eat much? GAPS can also exacerbate nausea because of the die-off symptoms.
Stick to lots of soups and fresh-squeezed juices (we like apple-carrot juice). Make almond flour crackers if nibbling something dry helps you to feel better.
Take Epsom salt baths in order to minimize die-off symptoms; it could help you relax and maybe reduce your morning sickness, too.
Just go slow. Eat whatever sounds good to you, even if it isn’t strictly GAPS-legal (unless it’s, you know, donuts, ice cream, pop, etc.!). I craved sprouted grains when I was newly pregnant, and lots of fresh vegetables. I ate a lot of cold sandwiches, plain grilled chicken, and salads. Completely GAPS-legal? No. Close enough when I was nauseous? Yes.
The Bottom Line
GAPS is completely doable in pregnancy. Just make sure you share your diet plan with your doctor or midwife, so that they know what’s going on and can advise you as necessary. Eat when you’re hungry and make sure you have plenty of options around. You’re not depriving your baby at all. In fact, because you’re consuming so much protein, fermented foods, and a lack of junk, you’re giving your baby an excellent start in life! (Don’t forget your fermented cod liver oil, too!)
Have you done GAPS or another special diet during pregnancy? What was your experience?
Top image by mbaylor
Disclaimer: I am not a certified medical professional of any kind and am not qualified to give you medical advice. My goal is to help to educate and inspire you to take responsibility for your own family's health and make informed choices of your own, not to consult you on medical treatment. Especially during pregnancy, always consult your own midwife or health practitioner before making decisions regarding medical treatments of any kind.