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Most people look at GAPS Intro and see a very strict protocol. And it certainly is at first: only meats and vegetables. Not even fruits or starches. Even AIP (the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol) allows fruits and starches. And for those who must be on the early stages of Intro for a long time, this can be very daunting. That is why I wrote Healing Patiently, after all.
But in many ways, the strict protocol makes allowances that other elimination/healing diets do not. Foods are allowed to be added back in relatively quickly, even foods like eggs and nuts. Once reaching Full GAPS, one must maintain there for awhile, but at least it is similar to Paleo. True, starches are still not allowed, which can make baking a trick. But certain legumes and fermented dairy are allowed, if tolerated, which certainly is something!
Another way in which GAPS is more lenient, and in this case in a way that I do not agree with, is that nightshades are allowed from the early stages of Intro.
What are Nighshades?
Nightshades are a family of plants, most notably potatoes, eggplant, peppers (and all their spices, but not black pepper), and tomatoes.
As Dr. Sarah Ballantyne discusses, nightshades contain saponins which may contribute to leaky gut. Naturally, if one is on GAPS this is exactly what they are trying to fix! Furthermore, capsaicin (the component that makes peppers hot) can be irritating for many tissues.
Symptoms associated with nightshade sensitivity can include sore or stiff joints and rashes (like my eczema). These are the more obvious ones. However, since it is possible for nightshades to contribute to leaky gut, many symptoms of leaky gut may show up in reaction to nightshades if you are sensitive.
Nightshades on GAPS
Potatoes are not even allowed on Full GAPS, but the others (minus spices, which are Stage 5) are allowed from the beginning if well cooked.
Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, the creator of the GAPS diet, does not specifically talk about nightshades. As they are not mentioned in the context of Intro, nor are they particularly fiberous, most people add them from the beginning. I have seen many lists and recipes using tomatoes or eggplant in the first few stages. And while I highly respect Dr. Campbell-McBride’s work, I think this oversight is a mistake.
It’s the type of oversight that makes me glad I found The Elimination Diet before GAPS (read about my time on that diet here). I was classic GAPS when I started my real food journey – eczema, acne, digestive problems, fatigue, brain fog, etc. And I needed GAPS for many of those. But if I had started with GAPS, my skin would never have cleared. I don’t know what I would have resorted to. Because, as I talk about frequently on this blog, I have a sensitivity to nightshades (although GAPS has healed this!).
And it is not just me. A lot of people have weird sensitivities and allergies to foods that are in everything and are even healthy for others. And it can be so frustrating to have to eliminate something that is in every real food, paleo, and GAPS recipe (especially now that potatoes are Whole30!). But nightshades are a much more common problem that most people realize, and it is very difficult to discover this when they are generally considered to be so healthy.
I do recommend those with joint or skin problems try going without nightshades for a short while. Especially those with skin issues that are not caused by consuming gluten, eggs, or dairy (which tend to be common culprits).
So if taking tomatoes out of your diet is just too much at the beginning, fine. That is your choice (all of this is!). You can always try later if needed. But if you need to eliminate them, I promise it is possible! And if you are sensitive, your body will thank you.
Looking for recipes? Every recipe on How We Flourish is nightshade-free!
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