Guest Post: How the GAPS Diet Is Helping Our Family

by Ann Marie Michaels on January 20, 2010

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Today I have a guest post from Cara at the Health, Home & Happiness blog.

I’m deeply impressed by what Cara is doing to nourish her family. So many people these days have kids with allergies, behavior problems, autism, ADD and ADHD. Most people don’t even question these problems. They just accept them.

Not Cara. She’s doing something about it. She has taken her children’s health to heart and has started a protocol called the GAPS Diet to help them heal. What I love about her blog is how she takes GAPS, what seems to many as a restrictive and very difficult diet, and made it accessible and do-able.

Read the guest post below, full of great information about how Cara was able to make the GAPS Diet work in their family. Then go and check out Cara’s blog — she is truly an inspiration. She’s not perfect, and she doesn’t try to be. But she is getting it done.

If you are considering doing the GAPS diet, don’t miss the following posts on Cara’s blog:

Starting GAPS
Modifying the Intro to Work for Us
Easy Almond Brittle (GAPS-friendly candy!)

Now here’s the post:

How We Implemented the Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet in Our Family

Encouraging You That the GAPS Diet Can Work in Yours

I was intrigued by GAPS when I heard of it, but as a product of this “quick fix” culture, I quickly dismissed it as being too much of a lifestyle change to bother with and moved on. After my search for a pill to pop to make all my problems go away yielded nothing, I took another good look at the Gut and Psychology Syndrome
diet and how it works with the gut to restore health within the body. I emailed relatives Kelly’s overview, talked to friends who are also interested in natural health, and decided that a grain-free cleanse would be good for our family and that I’d rather start it sooner than later.  Hubby didn’t want to join us on the diet, which I understand, so it’s just the kids and me.

Once I decided to commit to doing GAPS for a month (seemed much less overwhelming than the 2 years suggested), I got busy deciding exactly what we would need to start. During this time of reading Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride’s <Gut and Psychology Syndrome
, and Breaking The Vicious Cycle and scoping out the GAPS Yahoo Group, I also worked on stopped using grains in our cooking.

In the absence of soaked wheat, sprouted corn tortillas, potatoes, and brown rice I found other sources of carbohydrate that worked just fine. This made it not such a lifestyle change to go on GAPS all at once, and I didn’t feel like I “failed” if I accidentally included something that wasn’t allowed on GAPS.

I experimented with the GAPS-recommended probiotic during this time, and was surprised to see a die-off of bad bacteria happening (flushed cheeks) from the probiotic alone. This encouraged me even more to do a trial of the diet and see what happened.

Once I felt like I had a good enough understanding of the introduction portion of the GAPS diet, I picked a start date and made a bunch of chicken stock in preparation. While I do like the idea behind the GAPS Intro, I chose to modify it a bit for our family. I had become dependent on coconut oil to feel full while on the Nourishing Traditionsdiet, so I added that in right away, and I also added in some butternut squash as I was nervous that it was a little too low-carb for us, especially because I am breastfeeding.

We began feeling good immediately. I didn’t notice it until later, but my spells of hypoglycemia went away completely. My children both have been gaining weight well (as children should), and I lost a little, but without feeling too thin. I soon found that cutting grains and starches out of our diet wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be.

Some things that worked for implementing GAPS in our family:

  • After the intro, I was a little bit overwhelmed with not having anything that I keep stashed in my purse for my toddler, so I added in SCD-legal fruit leathers and bottled juice. Later on I bought a juicer and we haven’t had bottled juice since, but since we were stuck on the ‘cooked fruits’ phase, I needed something quick for when we were out. Not GAPS-legal, but SCD is what GAPS is based on, so I was comfortable with doing this and didn’t feel like it compromised the diet that much.
  • Frugal by nature, I bought minimally at first. To start the diet all I bought were books, probiotic, and an immersion blender. To make GAPS financially feasible for our family I stuck with organics according to importance as described in Food Renegade’s post, Eating Real Food on a Budget For us, that meant organic meat, organic apples, organic for juicing, and conventional broccoli, squash, mushrooms. Our coconut oil and eggs are organic, though not certified.
  • Soups with straws: My kids love drinking soup with straws. They see me sipping mine from a cup, and are eager to ‘share’ with a straw. Since soup is such an important part of the diet, this was a key part of it’s success with my little children.
  • Cooking in bulk: After the first couple weeks when I saw what foods were easily tolerated by everyone, I started buying and cooking in bulk. I’d make 3-5 lbs of meatballs at a time, 20 pounds of apples would be peeled, sliced, cooked, and kept in canning jars in the freezer, and butternut squash was peeled and cubed 15+ pounds at a time to cook in soup.
  • When we visit friends, we always bring food to share. It’s funny what other kids will eat when it came from someone else! Cooked peeled apples, meatballs, fresh juice, and squash fries are all favorites. When we’re around other kids who have food that isn’t allowed (like at Sunday school), I generally just take my kids somewhere else while they eat to avoid the frustration.
  • I had switched to natural soap and shampoo while in the ‘reading phase’ of starting GAPS. I love that GAPS encouraged me to take a second look at my ‘natural’ products like soap and shampoo. I found some pretty questionable ingredients in there! I wash hair with just baking soda and vinegar or an egg yolk, as described on Baden’s website, actually cleans surprisingly well. A friend made us some simple handmade soap without unwanted ingredients.
  • I waited to buy a juicer until I saw that we were really going to stick with GAPS.
  • After sticking with the diet for only a week, I quickly found that cheaters never prosper ~smile~ I tried ‘just a bite’ of soaked whole wheat bread and immediately felt awful. I honestly didn’t expect to react so severely. So if you can just stick out the diet for a few days or a week, your body will help you to keep on track.
  • Since my husband wasn’t doing GAPS and I still am the primary cook, I just mixed a huge batch of soaked wheat rolls and froze them uncooked individually. That way I could thaw and cook an individual wheat serving for sandwiches or dinner.
  • During the holidays we made a lot of macaroons for cookies, which were enjoyed by everyone.  And honestly, I’ve never let my children eat whatever everyone else was eating (food dye? MSG? absolutely not) so it wasn’t that different for them to have to say ‘no thank you’ to a few more things.

A couple weeks into GAPS I saw Ann Marie’s post about how they expected GAPS to work in only two months! I was surprised, because everything else I had read talked about being on the diet for years. So I tried GAPS-legal cheese, even though it had previously given me sinus infections and my son eczema, and was happily surprised that we had no reaction to it! It’s nice to enjoy cheese again.

In addition to cheese, some more things I love about GAPS:

  • I love that GAPS can work for a variety of ‘modern epidemics’ – Allergies, autism, autoimmune disorders, ADD, learning disabilities, gastrointestinal problems, yeast, and more.
  • I love that the whole family can be on the same (or similar, depending if you’re all advancing through the stages or not) diet, yet it works for a variety of problems.
  • I love that it supports gut health, which in turn supports the immune system, brain function, nutrient assimilation, and detoxification.
  • I love that GAPS challenged me to really look at all the possible sources of toxins in our home and to try new things in our diet.
  • I love that it truly gets to the root of the problem (poor absorption of nutrients in the gut)
  • I love that treatment can be done by normal peoplee using real food and that we can get real results without relying on technology, a regimen of toxic ‘medicine’, or supplements that aren’t financially realistic for most families.

We’ve been following the GAPS Diet since November. Since I feel that my gut has healed quite a bit, I’m allowing GAPS illegals on weekends now, but sticking to it Monday-Friday week since I think there’s still healing to be done. For the first month or so I would get a severe reaction if I went off of GAPS, but now it’s not nearly as bad, though I notice a difference still. I see this as evidence that my gut is healing, which I find fascinating and encouraging! I do keep the kids on GAPS full time still since they react strongly to non-GAPS foods (flushed cheeks, night wakings, tummy troubles).

It’s my hope that if you think your family could benefit the GAPS diet, you would be encouraged to give it a try, it’s really not as overwhelming as it looks in print.

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