weeks 3 and 4

Finding my Feet: Weeks 3 and 4 on GAPS (second time around)

When I did GAPS in 2014 it was by the book, and documented step by step on this here blog. I attended numerous lunches and birthday dos, and even went to a hen party.

Stone. Cold. Sober.

And that was fine. I was in the zone. My buzz came from knowing I was healing my leaky gut. With each week that passed I knew I was becoming more and more healthy, and was utterly thrilled with the results.

I also had three teeny children aged 0-4, and averaged four hours sleep per night. Socialising wasn’t at the top of my agenda, and I could take or leave the booze.

Fast forward to now, and things are different

My children are 3, 5 and 8 – they are much more challenging, as well as home educated. Although I’ve stuck rigidly to the food side of GAPS Intro this time around, I just haven’t been able to say no to the social side.

Whilst reaching for the gin/wine bottle every night wasn’t doing me any favours, the release of seeing friends and having a few drinks is absolutely necessary. Living in a chronically stressful, pressure cooker environment is phenomenally hard, and escaping from it once in a while is beneficial for me.

Finding the elusive balance

When I re-embarked on GAPS a month ago, I was drinking too much and convinced that this was at the root of a lot of my problems. I only wish it was that simple! Unless you haven’t noticed, I’m ridiculously hard on myself, and tend to blame myself when things go pear shaped.

I’ve learnt this past month that GAPS is not a cure all for chronic stress, if the root of the stress doesn’t come from you. It will, without doubt, help you think clearer, especially if you’re coming from a starting point of poor health and a rubbish diet. Coming from my starting point however, it’s just not as cut and dry.

My solution

So, I’m fostering my own version of GAPS. Which entails eating stages 1-4 Intro Diet food, having one coffee a day if I fancy it, and a few drinks once a week max. The drinks will be either good quality vodka or gin mixed with fresh lime and soda, or home made water kefir or kombucha. No more wine loaded with sulphites, no more shop bought tonic water. If I’m drinking, those drinks will be completely natural. GAPS has broken my three or four times a week drinking habit, which is amazing.

This might seem lame to some, a cop out even, but I’m comfortable with this, and I think it’ll provide a good balance. It’s all very well and good saying that you don’t need alcohol to have a good time, but as long as it’s being enjoyed in moderation I don’t think it’s a problem.

To enhance my good gut bacteria as much as I possibly can, I have started taking a highly potent probiotic, and will be sharing regular updates to tell you if I’m feeling better for them.

All in all this journey of mine is about a path to better happiness, and I’m really excited about where I’m already at with it.

Watch this space!

 

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Second Week on the GAPS Intro Diet: What I Ate, How I Felt and the Effect it had on my Family 

Click on the coloured text for the background on how I’ve arrived at the need for GAPS for the second time in three years, and my first week on Intro blogs.

What I ate

Last week I moved through steps one and two of the six step Intro Diet quickly, because I didn’t have any digestive issues. No stomach cramps or problems going to the toilet. I was able to introduce eggs, avocado, home made sauerkraut, ghee, goats milk yoghurt, goats milk cream cheese and cows milk fermented double cream without any reactions.

This week I ate step three food, which was largely stock, soups, stews, boiled meat and the foods listed above. First thing in the morning I drink a pint of water. Then after being up for about an hour I change my water kefir grains and make my way through a litre, sometimes more – click here for more info on kefir. I also make a big jug of fresh herb and ginger tea to drink throughout the day. If I’m hungry for breakfast I eat scrambled eggs cooked in ghee with a big cup of stock. If I’m not too hungry (which is most days) I start drinking stock around 10am, and eat lunch around midday.

Lunches consist of boiled meat from the stock, sauerkraut and avocado drizzled with ghee. Dinners are slow cooked stews or blended soups. Check out this post on my other blog for recipe ideas.

I cannot recommend highly enough finding a cost effective way of sourcing bones for stock, either before starting GAPS or very shortly into it. I’m currently buying organic chicken carcasses for 75p at my local farmers market, and I’m going through six a week which enables me to drink 1.5-2L of stock each day and have plenty in the fridge for evening stews.

How I felt

Overall I felt great, and every time I saw anyone they commented on me having a glow and looking svelte. Sleep deprivation, due to the kids, has got really bad again though, which is understandably taking it’s toll. However, I was able to get up early ahead of the children a few times to crack on with writing, which I wasn’t able to do prior to going back on GAPS.

The weird leg rash has all but gone, and my skin is super clear.

The effect it had on my family

This is perhaps the hardest part. I naively thought I’d be so completely zen with the kids that my great mood would have started filtering down by now. Cards on the table: I haven’t been 100% zen, because challenging children are still, well, challenging. Whilst me doing this has undeniably been a good thing all round, it’s certainly not lead to such huge and noticeable improvements this quickly that I can shout from the rooftops about them. Change never happens fast, and I have to keep hold of this to remind myself that I’m doing a great thing for us all. Life will get easier right?!

My husband and I both had a booze free weekend, which was also fab. Clear headed, hangover free, uncaffeinated days really are a thing of beauty.

First Week on the GAPS Intro Diet: What I Ate, How I Felt and the Effect it had on my Family 

GAPS INTRO STAGE ONE

Day One: 1L water kefir, 1.5L chicken stock and lots fresh herb tea (made from boiling water and herbs grown in my garden and dried out at home).

I felt like I’d been knocked for six, but put that down to caffeine withdrawal. Had a cheeky afternoon nap while Freddy watched a film sitting on my lap and the girls watched a different film upstairs. That was basically how the day rolled, and I paid the price with a truly horrendous bedtime. I was not going win any parenting awards that day, but hey ho!

Day Two: 1L water kefir, 1.5L chicken stock, little bit of boiled meat from stock and herb tea, with a tbsp of loose leaf Oolong added.

Definitely felt more human, but wasn’t functioning at full capacity. We had another day at home, which certainly wasn’t easy, however I was much more able to step in to diffuse meltdowns and didn’t feel completely broken by the end of the day.

leg rash before and three days into GAPS

GAPS INTRO STAGE TWO

Day Three: 1L water kefir, 2L Chicken stock (twice with egg yolk) and herb/Oolong tea throughout the day, slow cooked brisket with garlic, onions, carrot and butternut squash in the evening.

I sprang out of bed at 5-something for the first time in months and realised I wasn’t grumpy. Also the strange rash that appeared on my left leg on 29/07 has massively gone down. It was very sore, itchy and inflamed but is noticeably better in all areas.

We had a lovely day with friends, and I was absolutely fine preparing food and not getting tempted to eat it. I did end up feeling a bit queasy after the stock with egg yolks so won’t be doing that again – it passed quickly though. My two girls had a sleepover in my eldest’s room and put themselves to bed, which is a total and utter miracle in itself!

Day Four: 1L water kefir, 1.5L chicken stock and herb/Oolong tea throughout the day and slow cooked pork blade with garlic, onions, turmeric and carrot in the evening.

Another early wake up, but rather than struggle to get out of bed I was more than happy to get up earlier than the rest of the house and did some editing work on my novel. I felt good today, although noticed a bit of nausea after drinking the tea, so will leave the Oolong out, as I’ve discovered it’s quite high in caffeine and I think I need a complete break from caffeine. Had some very challenging moments with my eldest daughter but managed to stay calm throughout, which is a huge achievement.

Day Five: 1L water kefir, 1L chicken stock and herb tea throughout the day. Soup for lunch made from stock and veggies out of last nights dinner with a little bit of boiled chicken and home made ghee drizzled over the top, boiled chicken and sauerkraut for dinner.

Didn’t have any nausea after drinking the tea, so I think staying off the Oolong for the time being is a good move. I found that I was hungrier today than I have been, but I realised that I drank less stock than other days, as I was out all afternoon, so that’s probably why. No reaction to the ghee or sauerkraut which I’m very happy about. The inflammation around the strange leg rash is completely gone, and the rash itself is now just a few spots. It’s been incredible watching it disappear each day, and to think the doctor prescribed steroid cream (which I didn’t use).

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Day Six: 1L water kefir, 1.5L chicken stock and herb tea in the morning. Boiled chicken, sauerkraut and ghee salad for lunch. Fasted from 1pm through to 11am.

Months ago my husband and I booked tickets to an outdoor festival and stay overnight in a hotel – it’s a rarity for us, so we weren’t about to miss out. I couldn’t take food and drinks into the event, so made sure I drank plenty of stock before heading out, and had a nice filling lunch before going in. Then I took it as a great opportunity to a little fast. Intermittent Fasting is incredibly beneficial for the body, check out what the fabulous Mark Sisson has to say on the matter in this detailed article.

GAPS INTRO STAGE THREE

Day Seven: breakfast out: plain poached egg yolks, avocado and smoked salmon. 1L water kefir, 1.5L chicken stock and herb tea throughout the afternoon. Beef shin casserole in the evening.

We went to a lovely breakfast restaurant at around 11am, and I ordered plain poached eggs and only ate the yolks, avocado and smoked salmon, along with fresh mint tea. I have to admit, seeing my husband tucking into his ‘Full American’ which is essentially an English breakfast with a stack of pancakes on the side, did make me envious. It looked so amazing. It was the first time I’ve looked at non-GAPS food and wanted to eat it, but of course didn’t.

Overall 

I’ve noticed a massive improvement in my mood, and am much more upbeat than I have been in a very long time. The food prep side hasn’t bothered me in the slightest, but I have come from a starting point of strict paleo anyway. I haven’t had any significant detox symptoms, largely I think because I haven’t eaten processed food or refined sugar for so long.

The best thing is that I’ve got so much more patience with the children, and am heaps calmer than I was this time two weeks ago. Hubby and I reconnected at the weekend too, and I’m confident that brighter days are here for our family now.

I moved quickly through the first two of the six stages of intro, and plan to eat stage three food for at least a week before moving onto stage four. I haven’t had any stomach or digestion issues, which is wonderful.

All in all I’m feeling great, long may it continue!

 

 

Back to GAPS I GO

Well hello there. It’s been a while since I posted to this blog, but a lot has happened since my first GAPS journey in 2014. I’m not sure where to start, so I’m going to give you a stream of consciousness update on where I am and how I got here. I’m going to add some links to my other blog, so click on the coloured or highlighted text for back stories.

Bottom line: I’m a 38yo sleep deprived, chronically stressed, mum of three. My children if they are on their own are awesome, not to mention oh so very beautiful, but collectively they are as challenging as all hell. I am very blessed to have a supportive husband, who is present when he’s here, but he has a demanding job and works long hours. Some days it’s fair to say that I start the countdown to bedtime before we’ve even had lunch.

Our eldest is high functioning autistic, and our other two are possibly on the spectrum as well. Our good days are what most would consider to be horrendous, and our bad days are too depressing to even repeat. My children fight. A lot. The noise levels inside my house are beyond ridiculous. They don’t talk, they yell. They’re like Mr. Noisy before he checks himself. They spend a lot of time crying, as do I. When the tears run out all that’s left is the ringing in my ears and white noise inside my head.

I had a tough childhood. Left home at 15 with nothing, and fought my way to get where I am. The first decade came with lots of boozing and drugs. I partied hard, and enjoyed it (mostly) at the time. Until I didn’t enjoy it. When I was 22 I had my first mental breakdown, and my eyes opened wide by a counsellor. She forced me to look at my childhood, full of abuse and bullying, and made me see that it wasn’t my fault. You can read more about that here if you like.

That’s the thing with adults who were bullied and abused as children. They often go into the world thinking everything was their fault somehow. It took a long time for me to realise that I was just a kid.

She also told me that I drank too much and partied too hard, but it fell on deaf ears at that point. Four years passed, and my mental state deteriorated. Then came breakdown number two and rock bottom proper. That’s when I looked the demons in the eye and started getting my shit together. Among other things back then, I learnt self-control when it came to the booze.

Less than two years after rock bottom I fell pregnant with my eldest. I was holier than thou during those nine months, and hardly drank for the year that I breastfed her. I then had two more kids in four years.

When my youngest was a newborn I embarked on my first GAPS journey, which was documented on this here blog. I stuck to it like glue and have never felt better. My energy levels were like nothing I have ever encountered, and I felt clear headed for the first time in my adult life. To sum it up: I felt well and happy, two things that do not come naturally to me.

The trouble is, when it comes to the drink, once you’ve crossed the line you’ve crossed it. I’ve been telling myself for a decade that I’m in control, and for a long time I was only drinking every now and then. Unfortunately this isn’t the case anymore. For months now I’ve been on a cycle of not drinking Monday to Wednesday, and drinking in some way Thursday to Saturday, as well as a lot of Sundays. For more months than I care to remember, at least one day of the weekend has involved being so hammered I’ve passed out. I could tell you a laundry list of things I’ve done in the last year that I’m not proud of, but what good will that do?

Bottom line: my drinking has gotten out of hand and my mental health has massively deteriorated. I need to take action to fix my broken self, so I’m no longer just swimming and surviving. So that I can thrive, and start being the in control mama that my wonderful children need me to be, which will absolutely help them to thrive too.

I’ve been eating well for a long time, and even had a halfhearted attempt at GAPS in January, but it’s just not enough. So it’s back to GAPS Intro proper for me. Step one was yesterday and so far so good. Not having any coffee was easier this time than it has been before, and I haven’t found the liquid diet of chicken stock and herb tea hard work. I am determined to succeed this time, and who knows, once I’m functioning at full capacity I might even enjoy being teetotal.

Wish me luck, and if you’re interested in following this new journey of mine, please subscribe.

Thanks for reading!

 

The Truth About GAPS: A 6 Month Update

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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:

Preparation
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.

Mindset

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.

Patience

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!  

Can Open, Worms Everywhere

 

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 🙂