What kinds of carbs are allowed on the GAPS Diet?

by brenda on February 13, 2012

Yesterday, I wrote GAPS is not a Low Carb Diet. Today, I thought I’d share with you everything I know (ha! ;) ) about what carbohydrates are allowed on the GAPS Diet and which ones are not.

In Gut and Psychology Syndrome, Dr. Natasha talks about the three most common molecules that make up carbohydrates: glucose, fructose galactose, sucrose, lactose and maltose. She explains that some are monosaccharides and some are disaccharides.

Monosaccharides

These are the carbohydrates that are allowed on GAPS. They are mono meaning single sugars. They do not require the body to work very hard to make use of them. Then “can easily penetrate the gut lining, they do not need digestion. (Gut and Psychology Syndrome p. 101). If you’ve got Chrone’s, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Ulcerative Colitis, Celiac, or simply constipation or diarrhea without a diagnosis, these are the carbohydrates that you need to be consuming.

Monosaccharides include:

Glucose: This is our primary source of energy and our body’s preferred type of carbohydrate. Our brain thrives on glucose and relies on it almost exclusively. If we do not have enough glucose (or our body is not able to make use of the glucose we consume), our self control and decision making abilities are negatively impacted.

Foods that contain glucose include (but are not limited to):

Summer Squash, Oranges, Celery, Raspberries, Pineapple, Grapefruit, Nectarines, Lettuce, Pork, Asparagus, Blackberries, Carrots, Broccoli, Crab, Limes, Green Beans, Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprouts, Avocados, Turnips, Onions, Peppers, Parsley, Paprika, Spinach, Sauerkraut, Eggs, Mustard, Chili Powder, Mushrooms, Oregano, Apple Cider Vinegar, Artichokes, Cinnamon, Cloves, Ginger, Curry Powder, Basil, Turnips, Green Peas, Swiss Cheese, Sunflower Seeds, Dried Coconut, Fish, Turmeric, Pistachios, Almonds, Sesame Seeds, Cashews, Peanuts, Hazlenuts, Pine Nuts, Cashews, Macadamia Nuts, Walnuts, Pecans, Eggplant, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Radishes, Onions

Fructose: This is primarily found in fruits and is found in many plants.

Foods that contain fructose include (but are not limited to):

Apples, Peaches, Bananas, Citrus Fruits, Pears, Melons, Berries, Dried Fruits, Honey, Fruit jellies and jams, Eggplant, Red Cabbage, Green Beans, Fennel, Carrots, Kohlrabi, Pumpkins, Leeks, Peppers, Tomatoes, Turnips, Cabbage, Onions, Brussels Sprouts, Radishes, Cucumbers, Asparagus, Lettuce, Summer Squash, Celery, Green Beans, Broccoli, Butternut Squash, Mushrooms, Beets, Peas, Spinach, Artichokes, Pistachios, Almonds, Cashews, Hazelnuts, Sesame Seeds Pine Nuts, Macadamia Nuts, Walnuts, Pecans, Dried Coconut, Peanuts, Lentils, Crab, Chicken, Pork, Eggs, Parmesan Cheese, Balsamic Vinegar, Apple Cider Vinegar, Paprika, Chili Powder, Ground Ginger, Cinnamon, Oregano, Cloves, Basil, Mustard, Curry Powder

Galactose This is primarily found in milk products, though not exclusively. Studies show that galactose has to be converted to glucose in the body (by enzymes, including lactose) in order for the human body to metabolize it. However, studies also show that human breast milk contains galactose that is not turned into glucose in the body. Interesting, huh? ;)

Foods that contain galactose include (but are not limited to):
Celery, Beets, Spinach, Peas, Cherries, Plums, Kiwi, Melons, Peaches, Blackberries, Avocados, Figs, Navy Beans, Eggs, Parmesan Cheese, Honey, Basil, Paprika, Curry Powder, Ground Ginger, Oregano, Cloves, Mustard, Yogurt, Kefir, Sour Cream
Then Dr. Natasha moves on to explain what Disaccharides are.

Disaccharides

These are double sugars. The 3 most common disaccharides (which Dr. Natasha focuses on) are: sucrose, lactose and maltose. These sugars take a lot of work to digest. I drew this picture at the Weston Price Conference this last November, as I sat in the front row and listened to Dr. Natasha speak:
She explained that in order to digest these double sugars, we need to have healthy enterocytes. There are little hairs (villi) on the enterocytes, called brush border enzymes. People with leaky gut (who need GAPS) do not have these enzymes. These enzymes are responsible for splitting the double sugars, making it possible to digest them. If the body cannot digest sugars, they sit in the gut and provide perfect food for viruses, bacteria, Candida and fungi, which then produce toxic substances in the body. Then, the gut wall is damaged even further and the body is poisoned. This is the whole point of the GAPS Diet: healing the enterocytes so that they can break down disaccharides once again. She explains that even healthy people have a hard time digesting starches (grains, potatoes) and that the undigested starch turns into Maltose (another double sugar). This is not just happening in people with Leaky Gut–it is happening to everyone. Maltose must be split by the enterocytes, or it, too, will sit in the gut and feed pathogens, viruses and fungi. Dr. Natasha said “Clinical practice shows that when the gut has been given a long enough period without double sugars and starch, it has a good chance of recovery.” These are the carbohydrates that people should avoid if they are on the GAPS Diet:
Sucrose This provides a quick spike in blood sugar. It was once a luxury food, but since the 1930′s it has been widely available in the United States, parts of Europe, the Caribbean Islands, and later, other countries. It produces an increased risk for chronic diseases, many negative health effects, and tooth decay.
Foods that contain sucrose include (but are not limited to):
White Sugar, Brown Sugar, Processed Sweets, Pure Maple Syrup
Note: Some fruits contain sucrose (pineapple, mango, bananas), but at a rate of 10 g per cup versus 200 g per cup in white table sugar. Dr. Natasha says to eat fruit only when it is RIPE. A brown banana will have the sucrose broken down–a green banana will be difficult for the body to digest. Dried dates contain 35 g of sucrose per cup (In other words, you’d have to eat about a pound of dates in order to get as much sucrose as you get in 1/3 of a cup of white sugar!! While it is possible–especially if you coat them in chocolatethat’s a lot of dates!!).
Lactose This is primarily found in milk products. Lactose requires the enzyme lactase in order to be digested. The gut needs to have healthy, functioning villi in order to produce lactase.
Foods that contain lactase include (but are not limited to):
Milk, Cream, Cottage Cheese, Mozzarella, Cream Cheese
Maltose This is produced in the gut when amylase (produced by a healthy pancreas) breaks down starch. It is also found in some grains, like barley (this is why barley is used for brewing).
Foods that contain maltose include (but are not limited to):
Grains, Pistachios, Sweet Potatoes, Corn Syrup
Dr. Natasha warns about carbohydrates from processed foods: “When we eat them in their natural untampered form, the carbohydrates in them get absorbed slowly, producing a gradual increase in blood glucose, which our bodies are designed to handle” (p. 106 Gut and Psychology Syndrome). She explains that our body works very hard to keep a perfect level of blood glucose going on–not too high, not too low. If we eat foods that increase our blood glucose too quickly, we may end up in a state of Hyperglycemia or Hypoglycemia (the crash after the high). Hyperglycemia can lead to “hyperactive and manic tendencies and self-stimulation.” Hypoglycemia “makes them feel unwell, often with a headache, bad mood, tantrums, aggression, and general fatigue with excessive sweating” (p. 106, Gut and Psychology Syndrome).
Processed carbohydrates, she says, feed the pathogenic bacteria and fungi in the gut. She said “The more processed carbohydrates–with or without gluten–you give your GAPS child or adult, the more “toxic” he or she will become and the more autistic, schizophrenic, hyperactive or other symptoms you will see” (page 108, Gut and Psychology Syndrome). These processed carbohydrates, Dr. Natasha explains, also weaken the immune system, making GAPS patients more susceptible to all kinds of diseases (because they compromise the white blood cells, etc.).
In short, eating monosaccharides is ok on GAPS (depending on what stage you are at), but disaccharides and processed carbohydrates are not allowed. GAPS is not intended to be a low carb diet, but if you truly want to see healing, you need to stick with the carbs that the body can process easily.

Are you on GAPS? What are your favorite carbs?

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  • Amanda Maness

    Oh! Sadness! I’ve been on GAPS for 8 months now and didn’t realize that pistachios are technically a no-no. It wasn’t in the lists, so I assumed it would be with the “nut” category. :( One more thing for me to keep in mind as I set myself back on track with the diet. I’ve followed “the letter of the diet” and not “the spirit of the diet” for awhile and it’s time to jump back into the broth and sauerkraut with both feet!

  • Anna Ramos

    So informative!

  • Fleur

    Thanks, this is helpful and easy to understand.

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