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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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Melissa @CelluliteInvestigation January 20, 2010 at 1:28 PM

Cara, your post is so timely for me! I was just talking about this over the holidays with my family. I am forwarding this post to my brother right away. Thanks for all the practical info!
.-= Melissa @CelluliteInvestigation´s last blog ..Cellulite Stories, Declassified (Codename: The Analyst) =-.

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Amy January 20, 2010 at 3:34 PM

I love Cara’s blog! I just discovered it a week or two ago and it is already it the tool bar of blogs I check everyday. I’m doing GAPS too, and her levelheaded advice is helpful and encouraging. Thanks for introducing your readers to another great resource Ann Marie!

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FoodsHeal123 January 20, 2010 at 3:36 PM

Dear Cara,

I’ve heard about GAPS, and I’m interested in learning more. What do you use as your sources of carbs (“In the absence of soaked wheat, sprouted corn tortillas, potatoes, and brown rice I found other sources of carbohydrate that worked just fine.”)? Glad to hear that it’s working for you and your family!

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Cara @ Health Home and Happiness January 20, 2010 at 3:50 PM

I’m glad that this is encouraging! For carbs I use squash, cooked fruit and veggies. We do include some carbs with every meal, usually squash or apples.

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Janice @ SAHMville January 20, 2010 at 5:00 PM

I so appreciate this post right now. I’m researching and trying to wrap my mind around the GAPS diet. My 4yo DS is on the autism spectrum..not quite sure where because we’re undiagnosed. His vocabulary is fine, but he walks on tiptoes, hums a lot, flaps his arms, and repeats scenes of various tv shows over and over again. If GAPS could alleviate some of this and make him “fit in” better with other children, then the time and effort put into doing the diet would be so worth it. He’s getting to the age where other children are noticing that he’s “different” and it just hurts so badly to see him excluded. Thank you for such an inspiring post.

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Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home January 20, 2010 at 6:31 PM

Thanks, Cara, for such an excellent GAPS post! We’ve currently on Stage 1 Maker’s Diet, and adding in GAPS elements, like lots of bone broth and blended vegetable soups. We’ve noticed a lot of detoxification already and eagerly look forward to more healing through the diet. I’m still on the fence about whether we will go ahead and do the full GAPS diet… it really does seem like a lot of work, and difficult to do for an extended period of time when we’re constantly eating with or around other people (who don’t even eat like we do to begin with, forget when we’re on a special, restrictive diet!). I’m leaning towards it, though, as I really feel it would be helpful for my hubby and kids especially, and certainly wouldn’t hurt me either. Lots to think about. :)

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Elizabeth Walling January 20, 2010 at 8:36 PM

Wonderful post. I love to hear people’s experiences with the GAPS diet – and I love how the diet is about healing the body instead of just cutting out certain things for all time. With GAPS the idea is that someday (depending on how damaged your gut is) you’ll be eating normally (healthy normal, of course) without all the symptoms coming back. This is so opposite of most advice that just addressese symptoms intstead of the underlying problem.

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Michelle January 20, 2010 at 9:26 PM

I’ve been on the SCD diet for 4 years and have cured myself of a wide variety of issues. I’ve never felt better ! no cravings, no PMS, no hypoglycemia, no brain fog. My son has eczema so I have been moving him away from grains and voila ! it is going away as we kill the yeast. Maybe eczema is just from Candida.

Anyway, with GMO’s and Mosanto taking over the grain business, everyone can benefit from using substitutes. Kendall Conrad has the best cookbook for
incredible cakes and baked goods with almond flours – my son loves almond flour pancakes/waffles.

THANK YOU for sharing this. I was hoping someone would mention SCD along with GAP’s.

Michelle

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Robin January 20, 2010 at 10:35 PM

Hi! I just started SCD 10 days ago and haven’t gotten much better but am continuing with it for at least two months. (I have Still’s disease…an autoimmune condition which I don’t expect to go away right away). I am enjoying the foods!! …The simple taste of them and how easy it is to prepare food. Thank you for sharing this post, it will be another source of encouragement for me!

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tonya wise January 20, 2010 at 11:17 PM

Thank you! I knew we needed to do this diet but hadn’t started yet. Thank you for the help and encouragement:)

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sheila January 20, 2010 at 11:52 PM

Thanks for the post and educating people about GAPS. I have been on it since April ’09, and like you have created my own flexibility within it using both SCD and Nourishing Traditions. I used it to heal myself from a post partum infection, and it has totally healed me and made me healthier. We truly “are what we eat…”

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Erin January 21, 2010 at 1:25 AM

Very interesting post! Thanks for the info. Cara, I’m interested in your comment about flushed cheeks. I never knew this is a die-off reaction…can you explain? Thanks.

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Cara @ Health Home and Happiness January 21, 2010 at 12:13 PM

Janice,
Good for you for looking into GAPS! I would recommend trying it (obviously) and seeing what you think. I think that in addition to what you’re seeing in your son now, you may notice things that go away on GAPS that you didn’t even realize were problems. That’s what happened to me. A combination of formula feeding/vaccines/antibiotics in my childhood made it so that I had some small, but chronic, health problems that I really didn’t want to get worse or pass down to my children.

Stephanie,
I know what you mean about eating different foods. I do bring foods for us along, or we skip out on meal times. When people come over we usually do Mexican, so I do tortillas and rice along with GAPS-friendly foods. But my daughter already had food allergies so we had to do it anyway before GAPS. I don’t really find it to be much more work other than washing the juicer (lol!). It is a little more expensive, but God has provided for it for us (very inexpensive grassfed beef, an abundance of fish in Montana and fishing season coming up, venison from friends) I love the Maker’s Diet too, though.

Elizabeth,
That’s my favorite part about GAPS too; that it’s healing the body rather than something to stay on forever!

Michelle,
I’m going to have to check out that cookbook! I love how SCD and GAPS go together too. I prefer the whole-system approach of GAPS but if I need to cheat, I can do it with SCD and not completely undermine everything we’ve done. I love to hear of all the healing you’ve had on the diet!

Robin,
The foods are great, aren’t they? A nice simplicity. I’m glad you find them easy to prepare, I usually do too.

Tonya,
Glad to be an encouragement!

Sheila,
Love to hear of the healing you’ve had!

Erin,
Flushed cheeks seem to be a sign of toxins showing up in the body for some people. For my kids and I, every time we have a die-off reaction (the bad bacteria in the gut being starved to death or killed by probiotics, then releasing their toxins as they die) it shows up as bright red cheeks, like someone pinched us right on our cheekbones. This doesn’t happen to everyone, some people react differently. To me, it’s interesting to watch it work. On the other hand, if we get something we’re allergic to, we get dark circles under our eyes for my daughter and I, and my son gets eczema. Simplifying our diet has allowed me to notice subtle things like this rather than just thinking it was a chronic condition. To me, it’s a sign that the diet is doing something, so I find it encouraging.

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mom24 January 25, 2010 at 5:09 PM

We started GAPS 2 weeks ago and found the info on the Intro diet at the end of the first week. Had to take the weekend to wrap my mind around the another adjustment, but then we dug into soups & broths in every meal. The fruits & nuts & fruit juice (freshly pressed) in the first week had in fact given 3 of the 4 kids the runs – proof that they all need the Intro and the gut healing it provides.

But although I’ve never chopped so many veggies in my life, I am getting used to it and am learning shortcuts (like prepping as many pounds of veggies as I can in one day to last a few weeks) and my kids are never hungry (loads of coconut oil, lard, chicken fat and tallow for us in every meal!). The difficulties lie in taking them places, like church and precshool and birthday parties. Advanced prep is a must to make those things work and that’s the part that I’m not yet used to. Getting there though!

I am very excited about the premise of this diet! We tried a rotation diet after some blood testing 2 years ago but I got so stressed out about it that we failed totally after 4 months. But understanding how this diet works (after almost 3 years of slowly, slowly learning Nourishing Traditions) helps keep us accountable and gives me MUCH hope that my two food sensitive and irritable and itchy kids will someday be able to enjoy most of the properly prepared Nourishing Traditions foods.

I am so glad to have found this post and to see how many others are benefitting from this diet! What encouragement! Thx!!
Andrea

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Alicia November 23, 2011 at 10:48 PM

I’m wondering how things are going about 10 months later?

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Rachel January 30, 2010 at 9:46 PM

I just started GAPS, because I want to help my digestion (I have celiac) and try to help my immunity (I get sick with everything that goes around–this cold and flu season has been tough, even though I’m eating NT-style). Already, I’m so impressed! I lost four pounds the first week, and my moods have gotten so much better. Whenever I talk to my mom on the phone, she remarks how positive and energetic I sound. I originally committed to eating this way for 2 months, but I might do it longer if my body responds so well to eating this way.

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Cara @ Health Home and Happiness February 1, 2010 at 3:12 PM

Rachel, I wasn’t doing it for celiac, but I noticed the energy thing too! I thought I would have lower energy, but right away I had more. I think it helped my absorption of nutrients immediately.

Andrea, the diet is exciting! And about chopping veggies… I love my food processor! :)
.-= Cara @ Health Home and Happiness´s last blog ..Lifestyle and Breastmilk Supply =-.

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tonya wise February 8, 2010 at 12:31 AM

Hey, we just finished day 14 and I didn’t know the thing about dark rings under the eyes. My daughter has that in the last two days. Do you think this could be die off or is it always a sign of allergy?

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Cara @ Health Home and Happiness February 8, 2010 at 11:30 AM

I think it can be either. For us it’s sign of an allergy, but that changes person to person. With GAPS you have to do some guessing and checking with pulling things out of the diet then putting them back in. It sounds really unscientific, but you get to know your body (and your child’s) really well! You can ask for more info on the GAPS email group (link up in the article) they have tons of information there too.
.-= Cara @ Health Home and Happiness´s last blog ..Holistic Dentistry: Root Canals, Oral Allergy Syndrome, and Tooth Soap =-.

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Diet February 9, 2010 at 4:25 PM

Ok, I will also try this diet. If it will be good, I will post about it in my website :)
.-= Diet´s last blog ..Buy Cipro (Ciprofloxacin) online =-.

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tonya wise February 9, 2010 at 7:58 PM

Hey, its me again. Anybody have a stage one GAPS friendly soup recipe? I’m going in and out rather quickly of good and bad moods. Most the time bad:( starting to rue the day I started this but I know we need it. Just need something new to eat… So board I could cry…

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Cara @ Health Home and Happiness February 10, 2010 at 12:05 AM

We like cream of broccoli soup- just broccoli, garlic, stock, sea salt all whirred up with an immersion blender. Thankfully we were able to progress through the intro and add other foods (like avocados- yum!) quickly.
.-= Cara @ Health Home and Happiness´s last blog ..Holistic Dentistry: Root Canals, Oral Allergy Syndrome, and Tooth Soap =-.

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cooking chef March 1, 2010 at 11:46 AM

This is one of the most interesting articles about GAPS diet I’ve read. It’s great when someone knows the topic and shares knowledge. Thank you.
.-= cooking chef´s last blog ..Fried Brie =-.

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Sheila March 15, 2010 at 5:23 AM

I am so excited about this blog! I first heard about the GAPS diet from a friend from church as a help in addressing my 3 year old’s autism. He was recently diagnosed this fall as being on the mild end of the autism spectrum and I’ve started GAPS with him, imperfectly, and am looking to re-start it. I am so grateful for all the knowledge here and look forward to seeing our son continue to improve as we refine the diet. I really want to see how to get the whole family on this diet (we have a family of 6) but we are having trouble just affording the supplements for the one. We will get there, but are grateful for all the tips here and on other sites! Thank you and God bless!

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Elizabeth March 31, 2010 at 11:20 PM

Hello,

I’ve been curious about the GAPS diet and it’s role in curing candida overgrowth. Has it helped anyone with candida? It seems like it wouldn’t be able to because GAPS allows for carbs which helps to feed the candida. I’m hoping someone will chime in and say that it has helped their candida issues because this actually sounds like an easier diet than the one I was on where I ate things like egg drinks that had nothing but water, eggs, butter and cinnamon in them. Also, my die-off symptoms made me feel like I was in my first trimester and I could only take that for so long before falling off the wagon. I’m so glad I found this site.

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Amy August 19, 2011 at 3:00 PM

I’m curious about this too. Wondering what you found out since it’s been awhile…

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Mollie December 31, 2010 at 10:36 AM

Hi there,
This post is very helpful, thank you! I linked to it from my website, http://www.thealmondflower.com/ under the “SCD and GAPS Info” section. Following the diet has done amazing things for me, but it is a huge transition. I liked reading that you did it in steps and in ways that worked for you. My friend will love reading this as she’s trying to start the diet.

Thanks again!
Mollie

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Alison Miller January 26, 2011 at 7:09 PM

I started the GAPS diet 8 months ago. As each month goes on i am getting worse and worse. The distention is so bad i have been bed ridden for months and I have become SOO sensitive I cannot even add any other foods in. I still can not stool on my own and as I mentioned Im SO sensitive I cant take any supplements. Does any one out there have any words of advice for me. I have been to every doctor Western and Eastern medicine. I have done every test and every lab work possible. We have found things, like not enough good bacteria and too much bad, but my body wont allow me to work in any supplements. I am at such a loss, anyone please help

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cheeseslave January 30, 2011 at 9:07 AM

Are you taking probiotics? You say you can’t take supplements, does that include probiotics like Biokult?

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Alison Miller January 30, 2011 at 9:21 AM

I do take a probiotic and I also eat powerkraut.

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alyssa January 30, 2011 at 12:16 AM

Hi Alison, that sounds so distressing, I went to the GAPS website and found this, I hope you may find relief soon.
If the Full GAPS Diet is causing your symptoms to get worse with no gradual improvements, it is recommended to go back and follow the Introduction Diet.

The intoduction Diet can be found here:
http://www.gapsdiet.com/INTRODUCTION_DIET.html

please keep us updated
hugs, Alyssa

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Alison Miller January 30, 2011 at 9:24 AM

Ohhhh I will have to thinnk about that long and hard lol! It took me several months of pain and heartache to do the intro the first time around, I believe I am tramatized lol! Funny but not:) Thanks so much for taking the time to get back to me.

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Alicia November 23, 2011 at 10:55 PM

How are you doing?

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Donna Marie February 2, 2011 at 11:39 AM

Does anyone know the best places to buy some of the things needed for GAPS in bulk? ..especially almonds? I am doing this for 10 people and hope it won’t break the bank! We at least have access to raw milk and good eggs, and good beef. Has anyone ever done this with a large family?? I am trying to break all of this down in simple steps as I await the delivery of my book. Any tips would be appreciated!

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LeahS July 20, 2011 at 10:39 AM

I love Cara’s blog — very inspirational and useful information!

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riceinmay July 21, 2011 at 8:16 PM

Wow~ this is great info.

A couple of questions for those that have been on gaps:

I suspect a food allergy in my son. When we eat out, or he has food at someone elses house- he tends to feel really itchy within the next couple days.Also- he looks underweight. He’s an active kid- but I’d sure like to see more meat on his bones

I’d like to put my daughter on it because she was on IV antibiotics for 2 weeks as a newborn (blood infection). I can’t imagine that this didn’t harm her.

So my question is- I’ve never noticed an immediate negative response to when they eat. Will those become more noticeable if they are on a gaps- and help with their healing….or are they not “bad enough” to go on gaps?

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glutenfreelikeme July 14, 2012 at 9:45 AM

This is the first time I read that someone else was getting hypoglycemic spells! I get them at least once a day and haven’t figured a good way to stop it. I was hesitant that the GAPS diet might make it worst but reading this has really inspired me to go for it and give a try. I’m at the point where I thought my leaky gut was healing but based on the hypoglycemic spells i have assume its not as healed as I thought.

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