It’s now been more than six months since I embarked on my GAPS journey. You can read about the beginning here, and some other interesting posts along the way here, here and here. For those learning about GAPS for the first time today, it is a two stage diet consisting entirely of natural foods. Stage one is the six step introduction diet (read about it in depth here) and the second stage is referred to as Full GAPS where you eat meat, fish, non-starchy veggies, fruit, natural probiotic rich foods and home fermented dairy. You are not allowed refined sugar, grains, starch or commercial dairy. The reason behind myself and my children doing GAPS is mainly down to food intolerance. GAPS has been known to cure all sorts of auto-immune disease and psychological problems though, for a full overview please visit the GAPS website.
I wanted to write a bit of a warts and all post to fit in with the theme of Sam’s truthful linky over at And Then The Fun Began. So let me start by saying that GAPS is not an easy diet, and anyone walking into it thinking they’ll get a quick fix is deluding themselves. It’s really hard work to begin with, but then it becomes every day life and much more simple to manage. You get into routines and good habits, and voila six months later it is just the way it is.
Here are my three no nonsense top tips for GAPS success:
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, GAPS is all about the prep work. When you’re on the intro diet you will need to drink 1½-2 litres of home made stock (or bone broth to our friends in the States) per day. The stock will nourish you and help to heal and seal your gut lining, thus making leaky gut syndrome a thing of the past. Without drinking enough, or trying to cheat by buying it, you will not achieve the desired results.
When I was first on the intro diet I made my stock with whole chickens, which got very expensive very quickly. Then I had a chat with the lovely ladies who run the meat stall (and own the farm) at our local farmers market and started buying chicken carcasses from them. For the paltry (or poultry) sum of 50p per two! I use four at a time to make about 3L of stock, and buy ten bags per fortnight which means I’m only spending £2.50 per week on my stock now. I also pick all the chicken off the bones afterwards and use it for lunches. I didn’t start doing this until about two months into GAPS, and I wish I’d done it from the start. I’d advise anyone thinking about GAPS to work out a stock making solution beforehand. NOTE: it is imperative that you make your stock from quality meat.
I’d also suggest buying yourself a decent flask, that way you can keep it full and help yourself all day if you’re at home or take it out on your travels.
In addition to the stock making, you will need to seek out good quality supplements. Again it’s essential not to skrimp in this department so source the best ones that you can afford – search online for great deals. Just in case you’re wondering I take Bio-Kult’s 14-strain probiotic, along with Red Krill Oil for an omega boost and Betaine HCL which helps to promote digestive enzymes. The kids all take Bio-Kult as well as fermented cod liver oil, supposedly the very best omega boost on the planet. It also costs £34 for a month’s supply and is why I only give it to them and take the cheaper stuff myself. Red Krill is a mere £20 for three months supply.
I’m not going to sugar coat it, you will need an iron will to get through you the early days, but after the first couple of weeks it all becomes second nature. Regular readers will know that I rushed through the intro diet in a month because I had friends in town and wanted to enjoy drinks and treats with them. The following week I felt physically ill, and it also put me in such a bad frame of mind I decided for my own sanity to go back to the very beginning and started again.
I’m glad my faux pas happened one month in and not three though because all my hard work went to waste. I had naively thought I could cut corners but there is no cheating on GAPS. Second time around something just clicked and rather than trying to race through it I vowed to take things slowly and enjoy the healing process. Which I’ve managed to do for the most part, but lets face it I’m not a saint and have had the odd bite of hubby’s brownie along the way.
If you are considering GAPS then it’s likely to be because you’re suffering from health problems. Chances are it took many years for those issues to build up and they aren’t going to disappear overnight. You must have full faith in GAPS, and the patience to stick it out even if it takes two years. As I said at the beginning of this post GAPS is not a quick fix, but there have been some pretty much instant benefits for me (see next heading). Seeing improvements in the kids has been the best thing though, and being able to introduce so many previously banished foods back into 5yo’s diet has been nothing short of amazing.
A lot of my own intolerance symptoms are gone, and I’ve indulged recently in a Food Festival and a trip to a Food Market where I ate things without questioning every single ingredient. I even had a small glass of wine at the festival, with no ill effects. I wouldn’t do this every week, but every now and then is fine, and I’ll definitely be having a few G&T’s over Xmas!
For me, there were benefits evident right from the start
Gorgeous Skin: As a sufferer of PCOS I’ve battled with acne since I was a teenager, but almost as soon as I started GAPS I’ve enjoyed clear, glowing beautiful skin. I get complimented on it all the time.
Energy: I started GAPS when baby boy was 8 weeks old. I don’t think I’ve slept for longer than three hours since he was born, and at the mo he is often up every hour through the night. I can honestly say though that I have never had so much energy.
Clear head: as well as having more energy than most people I know who get adequate sleep and don’t have three kids, I can’t remember the last time I felt this clear headed. I’ve managed to write a book and am gearing up to self-publish it very soon. I know without doubt that I owe it to GAPS.
So there you have it, the truth about GAPS. It is not for the feint hearted or weak willed, but I know it will all be worth it in the long term!
My eldest has had issues with food since she was a newborn baby and reacted to cows dairy coming through my breast milk. We received very little support from the GP, especially after RAST bloods came back normal. In Spring 2012 at our wits end with eczema, bad behaviour and poor sleep, we had her tested for food intolerance by a private allergy nurse. She diagnosed a long list, including corn and all its many derivatives, cows dairy and egg. We began an exclusion diet in the hope that we could start reintroducing problem foods three months later. This was not the case for us. We had several failed attempts which lead to ‘flare ups’ – cue out of control eczema (especially on the face), awful behaviour and waking up to ten times a night. The best course of action was to be super strict with her diet and not give her anything at all on the banned list.
Two years and a whole lot of heartache later when I took baby boy for his 8 week check, I ended up discussing all this with the health visitor. She was appalled at the lack of support and referred us herself to the Gastro-Paediatrics team. In August my newly turned five year old underwent a general anaesthetic and had a colonoscopy and endoscopy performed. We were told they’d be looking for Coeliacs, Colitis, Crohns, EGID; you name it they would find it if were to be found. At our recent follow up appointment we were told that all tests were negative. There is one last test we are waiting on to check for fructose/sucrose malabsorption, but all the others indicate there is nothing ‘medically wrong’.
Although my girls had been on Full GAPS since May, 5yo had to eat a gluten containing diet in the run up to the tests. We had a particularly rough time while she was on the gluten. She was full of rage and although she isn’t officially allergic to it, I’ll be keeping all three of my kids as far from it as I can. Incidentally, since having the results back we have reintroduced egg and she appears to be tolerating it now. I’ve also been giving her home made ghee, yoghurt and sour cream, made from buffalo or goats milk (often raw milk that I buy from a local farmers market).
Overall our girl is doing much better now. She sleeps most nights which makes *all* the difference, and can be reasoned with easier than before. She’s a total ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ character though. In the same hour (or space of five minutes) she can be demanding, selfish, greedy, unpleasant, caring, considerate and wonderful. It often feels like she saves the best bits for anyone and everyone else outside of her immediate family. Us mere mortals get pinched, punched and proverbially kicked in the teeth on a daily basis (especially her poor sister).
I’m going to set the cat among the pigeons here. What if her problems aren’t being caused by standard allergic reactions to food, but by a toxic overload and leaky gut syndrome? What if the super clean diet of cooked from scratch organic goodness she has been eating all her life is the only thing saving her from an ASD diagnosis? It’s no secret that ASD and food sensitivities go hand in hand. I’m starting to think that my hubby and I have been tearing ourselves into pieces looking in all the wrong places. This documentary is fascinating, if you have a spare 50 minutes I’d recommend watching it.
Here’s the thing: I’ve been defying logic all my life. When I left home at 15½ my step father spat “you’ll be pregnant and living in a hovel by the time you’re 16”. Quite the opposite is true, but I have had to work bloody hard to get to where I am. I have had to question almost everything I’ve ever been told, trust my instincts and take the risks that most people just aren’t prepared to take. This situation is no exception.
My daughter fits the bill for several Autistic Spectrum Disorders, but I cannot go down that road until I have at least given GAPS a proper go. Hubby and I have a lot to think about, because there is no way we could put a five year old on the Intro Diet while she is at school. We would need to be in a position for me to not have to work, so that I could home educate her. For the time being having a diet so rich in natural and probiotic foods will definitely be helping her immensely. As will her daily supplements of Bio-Kult and fermented cod liver oil.
I truly believe in GAPS and knowing what an amazing effect GAPS has had over my own life, it would be insane to not try and use it for the benefit of my children. Dr. Campbell-McBride claims to have successfully reversed her own child’s autism, and there are testimonies all over the internet from parents who have done the same. I hope to add my family to the ever growing list of success stories.
What are your views on GAPS? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section🙂
After writing this post about how well the baby was doing with his food and sleep it all went to pot again. The very same day that I pressed publish he reverted back to waking up every couple of hours, and for the past week he has been up between four and six times every night wanting milk. This of course has a knock on affect to how hungry he is for his breakfast, and he doesn’t eat a huge amount because he has a belly full of the good stuff. It’s a tricky cycle to break when you live in a noisy house and don’t want to wake your other two kids up. We’ve fallen into bad habits I guess, and I’m sure if Gina Ford could see me in the middle of the night whipping bubs out of his cot before he starts screaming the house down, and putting him straight on the boob she would be rolling her eyes and tut tutting at me!
This week has been particuarly brutal so far because the poor little mite has a nasty cold. The kind where thick snot streams out of his nose after every sneeze, and his breathing sounds like an old man’s. Last night was our worst yet – I had been asleep for about half an hour when baby boy woke for the first time (10:33pm to be exact). I fed him and tried to settle him back down in his cot but he would not go back to sleep. He finally settled in the bed between hubby and I, but was awake again before midnight. Cue the second feed. This continued a few more times, and the next time I looked at the clock it was almost 4am. I finally settled him back in his cot, and he was up for one more feed between then and getting up for the day at 6:40am.
When I talk to my friends about this level of sleep deprivation they can hardly believe I am able to function. I can hardly believe it myself some days. I’ve said it before and will continue to say it again and again though – I put it down mainly to my super clean diet. GAPS really has changed my life, and I would seriously recommend reading Dr. Campbell McBride’s book to anyone sitting on the fence, thinking they need to make their eating habits healthier.
When asked the question “how are you feeling” my response is genuinely “good, thanks” because I am. Although I must admit today was a two coffee day. A girl’s gotta have some vices right?
It’s been well over a month since I wrote about starting the weaning process for my then 24 week old. Shortly after that he got sick so weaning went on hold for about a week, and it’s now been a month since he’s been properly eating food.
First time round with my 5yo I did what all the books say to do, and her first meal was baby rice mixed with breast milk. She was not impressed with it at all and spat most of it back out. She also point blank refused to be spoonfed which forced us down the traditional baby led weaning road – toast slices, soft fruit and veg. She loved weetabix back then and we’d crumble them up, mix it with a little rice milk and create tiny truffle-like balls for her to easily pop into her mouth.
I think BLW scared me initially for obvious reasons – the mess, the fear of choking, the mess, worrying that she’d not be eating enough, oh and did I mention the mess? You get used to it though, and after a short while it became part of our routine. I think it’s great for their fine motor skills, and encouraging them to eat real food early on.
Second time round we went straight for Paleo BLW (no grains, dairy or refined sugar) and 2yo’s first meals were big chunks of tender meat that had been in the oven for hours, along with slices of avocado and roasted root veg. Again she was very opposed to being spoonfed and wanted to do it all herself. Even now she won’t let me feed her, no matter how hard I try to gee her along sometimes.
I don’t know why I thought things would be different third time round. I guess if I’m honest I got caught up in the hype of ‘boys being easier’ which is what everyone loves to tell you when you’ve got girls already and a blue bubba. I’ve been told time and again where food is concerned that boys aren’t fussy and will just take it in whatever form it comes. Clearly they have never met my son. He is as bloody minded and determined as his sisters and absolutely refuses to be spoonfed too. He is also the messiest eater I have ever encountered!
I pureed soups and stews for about a week until it became apparent that it was a lost cause. Now he just has his food in big chunks on his high chair tray. The mesh feeder in the photo above is a life saver as it helps to ensure he’s actually eating the food and not just covering himself in it.
Here’s a typical GAPS menu for a 6-7 month old baby:
Tender meat from stew or casserole
Boiled chicken from my stock
Roasted root veg
Chunks of avocado
Home made apple or pear puree, mixed with home made yoghurt and/or raw egg yolk
Squished berries or grapes
Home made jelly
Baby boy is almost 7 months now and overall weaning is going well. He’s also (dare I say it) finally sleeping a bit better after a torturous month of waking up on average five times a night! He loves his food and is a joy to watch eat. The only problem I find is that I can’t get much into him when we’re out and about, so am trying to be home most mealtimes. I bought some empty Ella’s Kitchen type pouches so I can put my own food inside, but he hasn’t mastered them yet. Once he has it’ll all get much easier I’m sure🙂
For my family the most difficult part of a grain free diet is breakfast. Eggs score high in the GAPS and Paleo world, but until very recently 5yo was not tolerating egg at all. Over the last couple of months I’ve been gently reintroducing them into her diet and she appears (touch wood!!) to be ok with them. This is great news for our mornings, as it opens up doors to recipes like this one! A very simple, yet exceptionally tasty and filling, grain free scone.
Not only were the girls able to help make these, but once served they got to cut them and spread on their condiments. This food is not only nutrient dense but really fun. It enhances fine motor skills, and keeps little hands busy. What’s not to like?!
Ingredients for 8 decent scones:
4 large free range eggs
100g coconut flour
160ml milk (I use cultured goat milk)
80ml coconut oil
– preheat your oven to 175c and prep a baking tray
– whiz or whisk together all ingredients except the flour
– once fully combined slowly stir in the flour until you have a thick, sloppy batter
– bake for 20 mins, allow to cool then serve with whatever takes your fancy* and store in the fridge
*my girls have been enjoying blueberry compote (as per this recipe), and home made goats sour cream
When hubby and I first went Paleo two and a half years ago, we got really into bulletproof coffee. It entails chucking a black Americano into the whizzer, along with a big knob of unsalted butter and a dash of coconut oil. Sounds a bit weird but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! Trust me, this drink is better than any skinny latte Starbucks could whip you up. I drank them daily for months and loved the kick start to my morning. The combination of caffeine and good fats not only tastes amazing, but is magical for getting the metabolism going. This drink satisfies me until lunchtime.
Around Xmas 2012 I knew I’d developed new food intolerances, so went to see our allergy nurse a few days before new years. She delivered a huge blow: I’d need to exclude coffee, cocoa, cashew nuts and butter. I didn’t know about the wonders of ghee back then, which is butter that has been clarified and the milk proteins removed. What would I do without my caffeine crutch; my chocolate pick me ups and my favourite nuts?!
I was super strict with my elimination diet for a couple of months, at which point I was able to start reintroducing the problem foods. Then I had to be careful not to overdo them. Shortly after this I became intolerant of a handful of other things, and had to do another diet. This is why I’m on GAPS – elimination diets are boring and annoying in equal measure. Hopefully once my gut lining is healed and my good gut bacteria is winning against the bad, food intolerance will become a thing of the past!
So anyhoooo, on with the recipes for mine and baby boy’s current breakfast of choice!
Make yourself a black coffee, then pour it into your blender. Add 30g of unsalted butter or 2 tbsp of home made ghee and a tbsp of coconut oil. Feel free to add a dash of honey if you need some sweetness. A little drop of vanilla is also fab. Whiz on high for a few seconds and voila – the perfect coffee (in my humble opinion anyway!)
Baby boy is doing well with his weaning. For his breakfast every morning, he’s been having carrot juice which he absolutely loves! Yesterday’s concoction was half a carrot, a slice of apple, half an apricot and a few shreds of cabbage. We don’t have a juicer so the way I make this is by chucking all ingredients into the blender, covering with about 50ml of water and whizzing on high until fully combined. I then pass it through a fine mesh sieve and am left with juice that looks like the photo above.