It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish what type of reaction you feel when you begin GAPS. Is it die-off, detox, food sensitivity, retracing, or just a temporary digestive reaction? Let me help you understand your reactions on the GAPS Diet, and how to handle each type. 

Die-off is generally preceded by a probiotic food or capsule of probiotic, especially if it’s a new type or larger quantity. This can happen with even 1 drop – or less – in some individuals!

Detox may come up in response to something like a detox bath, juicing, or chelating. It’s the trickiest to untangle because it can sometimes come up out of the blue, when the body builds enough energy to tackle a pocket of stored toxicity.

Digestive reactions are periodic and temporary – like heartburn, bloating, or loose stools once or twice in a row. If you’re experiencing them often, learn more about if you need more stomach acid or fat digestion support.

Food sensitivity will have a specific reaction that is the same each time (intestinal pain, agitation, rash, sleepiness). For food sensitivities, the best way to know is through a food journal because they are sometimes delayed by a few days. 

Histamine reactions are so complex that I’ve got an entire article dedicated to them. They tend to show up shortly after eating, which can help you distinguish them from food sensitivities.

Oxalate dumping is a mysterious category. It can include brain fog and fatigue, but often shows up as sandy diarrhea, gritty eye goop, joint pain, gout, or vulvar pain. Learn more about oxalates symptoms and solutions here. 

Retracing is when your body is working back through chronic issues or illnesses you had in the past to repair things properly. It may bring up the old symptoms as it clears the hidden remnants. Often these are infections or viral issues you had many years ago and thought you were done with. Examples are yeast infections, UTI’s, ear infections, sinus infections, respiratory issues, or pain around an old injury.

How to Handle Reactions on the GAPS Diet

Die-off Reactions

Die-off reactions on the GAPS Diet tend to exacerbate your typical symptoms, but die-off can also bring in new feelings of fatigue, being foggy-headed or spacey, stool changes, moodiness, or skin eruptions and rashes. 

The microbes that are excreting toxins into our body are what creates our initial symptoms, so when they die off in large numbers, all their toxic gunk is excreted at once. This is also known medically as a Herxheimer reaction. 

Symptoms of die-off can be lessened by:

  • Taking one or two capsules of Activated Charcoal to bind to the toxins (do not take this near medications)
  • Performing a water enema to rapidly release toxicity from the bowel
  • Soaking in a detox bath
  • Resting and napping

If you experience extreme die-off symptoms you are overdriving your body’s ability to process the toxicity released. You cannot rush through this – it will just recirculate and settle elsewhere if it can’t be peed and pooped out quickly enough.  

It’s imperative that you stop or greatly reduce the food or probiotic capsule that caused the reaction. Allow the reaction to calm, then restart with about fifty percent less than the original amount. Repeat this process as many times as is needed to find the level that keeps your symptoms manageable.

Detox Reactions

Detox reactions on the GAPS Diet have symptoms that often look very similar to die-off, but they aren’t in response to a food or supplement, unless it was a detoxification supplement. 

Symptoms of detox can be lessened by:

  • Taking one or two capsules of Activated Charcoal to bind to the toxins (do not take this near medications)
  • Performing a water enema or coffee enema to rapidly release toxicity from the bowel
  • Soaking in a detox bath (if this is not what caused the symptom to begin with)
  • Sauna
  • Resting and napping
  • Walking barefoot on grass or dirt for 5-20 minutes (especially helpful when the symptoms are caused by a bath that was too strong)

If you experience extreme detox symptoms you are overdriving your body’s ability to process the toxicity released. You cannot rush through this – it will just recirculate and settle elsewhere if it can’t be peed, pooped, or sweated out quickly enough. Cut back on what you were doing that led to the reaction.

Digestive Reactions

You will generally be able to ride out minor temporary digestive reactions on the GAPS Diet and no intervention may be needed. If you need specific support, consider:

  • For heartburn you may drink a solution of 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda in 1/2 cup of water. This acts similarly to drugstore antacids, without any other weird ingredients.
  • If heartburn is a periodic issue, consider keeping the supplement called Gastrazyme from Biotics Research on hand. You can chew 1-2 capsules as needed for temporary relief.
  • For indigestion or tummy aches, drink herbal tea of peppermint or ginger, or rub a digestive blend of high-quality essential oils on your belly, such as DiGize by Young Living.
  • For gas pain, lay on your belly for 30 seconds, then get up. The compression and release of your intestines will usually move the gas bubble. 
  • Review the articles I’ve written on constipation or diarrhea, if they are ongoing issues. 

Food Sensitivity Reactions

Food sensitivity reactions on the GAPS Diet can crop up with any food, but the most common are eggs, cow’s milk, tree nuts, peanuts, fish, or shellfish.

When you identify a food sensitivity, you will leave it out of your diet for about six weeks. Try a small amount again and see if the reaction persists. If so, leave it out again for six weeks before retrying. This cycle may repeat for many months and when enough healing has taken place, you’ll be surprised that you tolerate the food again. 

Retracing Reactions

If at all possible, resist using medications for these symptoms. Remember that your body is amazing and self-healing! There are many alternative options to consider, so please reach out to a natural healthcare practitioner right away for nutrient or herbal suggestions to support your body in overcoming the issue. Homeopathy can also be a wonderful tool. 

Allow your body to have a fever because fevers are an important tool of the immune system. Fevers up to 103.1° Fahrenheit (39.5° Celsius) are safe and do not reducing. Let the fever do its work. If a fever exceeds 103.1°, dissolve one small tablet of plain aspirin in a glass of water, then take a few spoons of the water, and take your temperature again in a few minutes. Repeat the process until your fever is down to 103.1° so you will retain the benefits of fever, while staying in a safe zone.

It’s very important to rest, stay off of all electronics, and nurture yourself when you are ill. The body must turn all its energy inward to work efficiently. Attempting to maintain everyday activities will prolong the illness.


Understanding what to look for and how to handle these reactions on the GAPS Diet will give you confidence on your journey. Turning around your health on the GAPS Protocol is a non-linear process, so you can expect that you’ll experience some of these reactions on your way to your goals. 

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