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 🙂

Three Monthiversary on the GAPS Intro Diet

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It’s been four months now since I read a book that changed my life Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) by Dr. Campbell McBride. The premise being that all psychological issues start in the gut as a result of disproportionate levels of bad gut bacteria and leaky gut. For a busy mum of three who averages two novels a year, I found the time to read this in just two days.

It was fascinating and made so much sense to me. I’ve suffered with food intolerance forever, and have been playing merry go round with elimination diets for years now. The book claims that there is a permanent solution to cure intolerance and allergies for good (as well as a whole host of other, far more debilitating conditions). First up you follow the six step GAPS Intro Diet to heal to seal the gut lining, followed by the super strict Full GAPS Diet until symptoms are a thing of the past. Please click the hyperlinks for more details about what it entails.

This completely natural way of eating has no wiggle room. You aren’t allowed grains, shop bought dairy, starchy veg, refined sugars or anything processed at all. You need to be eating lots of home made probiotic rich fermented foods such as sauerkraut, yoghurt and kefir. It would take commitment, organisation skills and a whole lotta faith. It wouldn’t be easy, but the good stuff never is! I’ve always loved a challenge* anyway.

After a month of research and preparation I took the plunge and started GAPS Intro. Three months later, a few mistakes made along the way and a fair bit of emotional turbulence I’m still going strong. I am convinced I have done the right thing, and my body is healing. It’s not going to happen overnight, and even if I’m still on the intro diet come Christmas time then it certainly won’t be doing me any harm.

If I was giving advice to someone considering GAPS, it would go a little something like this…

– always be one step ahead of where you think you are, preparation is the key to success.

– listen carefully to your body for reactions and lay off foods if you think they are not agreeing with you. I tried introducing natural sugar into my diet several times before I was finally successful, which has only been in the last week. I’m now eating fresh fruit daily, and my frozen fudge or avocado ice cream or cupcakes (recipes to follow) as a treat after dinner.

– be prepared to change the way you think about something a lot!

– complete denial of all the things you love will only make you miserable! I had a coffee as a birthday treat last week, and didn’t react adversely. Seeing as my nights have been brutal with baby waking up five or six times a night this week, I figure I need some help. One coffee a day will not hurt me

– don’t set targets and allow yourself as much time as your body needs to heal. I originally thought I could race through intro in a month, then go onto full GAPS. I went from feeling utterly fab to totally crap, and went back to the very start of the intro diet and following it to the letter. In trying to cheat I essentially wasted six weeks!

– buy the very best ingredients you can afford, especially in the earliest days of intro where you are mainly drinking stock. You need the nourishment from what comes out of the bones and if those bones are from factory farmed animals, they are going to be full of chemicals, antibiotics and goodness knows what else.

– ditto supplements. I can highly recommend the 14 strand advanced probiotic by Bio Kult as well as Green Pastures fermented cod liver oil

– regular internal cleansing will provide a well needed boost!

If you have any kind of autoimmune disease, thyroid dysfunction, food intolerance or have a child that does, I would urge you to read the GAPS book and at least have a think about the diet. You have nothing to lose, and potentially everything gain 🙂

 

*this post contains affiliated links. For my full disclosure policy please click here

Weaning my baby the GAPS way

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My boy is 23 weeks old on Friday, and a very hungry baby. He would happily feed all day given half the chance, and his eyes have been following hubby and I intently while we eat for a while now. Although he isn’t quite six months, I decided to start weaning him onto solids last Wednesday. I say solids, but actually first off it’s the same clear stock that I’ve bee drinking all this time.

I’m following Dr. Campbell-McBride’s GAPS 10 week weaning guidelines, and because he’s under six months have decided to do two weeks on week one. So my little fella had a few teaspoons of stock on his first day, and I’ve been increasing the amount each day.
Today he’s had 100ml three times, and he absolutely loves the stuff! He grabs at the beaker and sucks furiously on the teat. He drank about half this way, and I held the cup up to his mouth with the lid off for the other half.

Both my girls were quite difficult to wean, so it would be fab for him to be nice and easy. Next on the list is freshly pressed carrot juice and home made yoghurt, which we’re going to try tomorrow. Can’t believe how fast my littlest is growing up!

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Guest Post by Natalie Lamb Part 2: Probiotics

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Following Natalie Lamb’s super helpful Q&A post on the GAPS Intro Diet last week, she has kindly written the following for us all about Probiotics. Thank you so much Natalie! 

Probiotics are live bacteria. We all house trillions of different bacteria in our bodies. Those considered beneficial play an essential role as our first line of defence, in supporting efficient digestive function and supporting immunity. More than 2000 years ago Hippocrates said that “all disease begins in the gut”. I feel this is still relevant today and believe too that means that optimal health throughout the whole body must also begin in the gut. A number of factors can compromise an optimal balance of beneficial bacteria throughout the body, including antibiotic therapy, infection, stress, travel or a period of unhealthy nutrition. Gut flora imbalances can also be indicated in numerous symptoms that may at first not be seen to be related to the gut such as fatigue, poor concentration, anxiety, low mood, headaches etc.

An effective solution is to supplement the microflora by taking a probiotic to restore the balance. Probiotics have been defined as ‘live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host’. Traditionally we consumed fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and pickles on a daily basis. Now days we tend to use probiotic supplements offering a standardised dose in an easy to consume capsule.

Bio-Kult is a unique multi-strain probiotic with 14 strains of beneficial bacteria. A multi-strain probiotic has been shown to be able to exert more positive benefits and reach more areas of the gut, therefore being able to help a more diverse range of digestive disorders. The Bio-Kult dosage we recommend on the box is 1-2 capsules once or twice a day. As part of the GAPS diet Natasha Campbell McBride recommends Bio-Kult is built up slowly starting with a very small amount (such as 1/4 capsule or less for 3-5 days) and observe for any ‘die-off’ symptoms. We understand that effective dosage will differ between individuals, be dependent on their level of dysbiosis and the condition or imbalance being addressed. Whilst eradicating pathogenic overgrowth from the body, one may experience a side effect known as ‘die off’ which could be more severe when commencing probiotic intake with a higher dose. Bio-Kult gives flexibility to vary the dosage as required. Natasha only recommends the higher dose for a short period of say 6 months, when you can then to drop to a lower maintenance dose. As you can appreciate Bio-Kult is a very popular product and is used successfully by many people other than those solely on the GAPS diet. We believe that it is the greater number of strains in a product that are more important than the Bio-Kult is an extremely stable probiotic.

Bio-Kult is manufactured using the latest techniques. The beneficial bacteria themselves are encapsulated (with a protective coating) during a freeze drying process. This process protects the bacteria while on the shelf and means that it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. We have undertaken a study to show that Bio-Kult can survive in a harsh acidic environment such as that of the stomach. The Bio-Kult blister packs offer further protection against moisture and extremes of temperature. An external laboratory undertakes regular rigorous stability testing on so unlike some other companies we are able to guarantee stability and count until the end of the two year shelf life when kept at room temperature up to 25 degrees C, opposed to at time of manufacture.

Natalie Lamb is the Technical Adviser for Bio Kult Probiotics. For further information please visit http://bio-kult.com

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A Set Back & A Step Back

As I’ve mentioned over on my other blog, my little family had a very busy long weekend catching up with lots of friends. On the Friday I packed a massive picnic lunch for everyone, and ensured the whole thing was GAPS friendly. For dinner we went to the Gourmet Burger Kitchen, where I had a ‘naked’ burger (no bun) with fresh avocado and a big salad. On the Saturday our friends came here, and I cooked a massive lunch all GAPS friendly and did the same on Sunday when we entertained again.

The spanner in my works is that on Friday and Saturday there was wine, and I really wanted some! Although I didn’t have much (three glasses between the two days) I think it was three glasses too many. I’ve also been really enjoying sweet treats, and although they are super healthy and only made from nuts and fruit, I think I overdid it. To top it all off, my stock drinking was minimal among all the socialising. Subsequently my skin isn’t looking quite as clear, my head is fuzzy and my stomach is bloated. Unlike two weeks ago when I was feeling fabulous.

Reading about Natalie Lamb’s GAPS experience has made me think I subconsciously rushed through the latter steps of the intro diet because I wanted to make life easier for when our friends were in town. I’m at the same time rather mad with myself, and trying not to beat myself up too much. We had such a lovely time, and boy did those vinos and treats taste gooooooood! Never one to dwell on the problems, I’ve already analysed it all and come up with some solutions.

Firstly a full booze-ban, indefinitely. I’ve written in depth about my past, and how I abused alcohol almost to the point of no return in my teens and twenties. Fortunately I didn’t quite cross the line, and taught myself how to enjoy a social drink. I never wanted to be that person who couldn’t have a drink or two. For the purpose of GAPS though, I think it’s imperative I just say no. It’ll just slow my healing down otherwise, and I cannot bare the thought of alcohol ruining this for me.

Secondly, I am weaning myself off coffee. Yep you heard me correctly. As much as I love my coffee, I just don’t want to rely on the black stuff anymore. I cut down to one cup pre-GAPS, and this week I’ll slowly reduce the amount in that cup down to nothing. Hopefully I’ll avoid the horrendous withdrawal headaches that I got last time by doing so. I had to remove coffee from my diet two years ago as I’d become intolerant of it, but after a strict three month exclusion was able to reintroduce it. I needed it back then, as hadn’t learnt to cope as well as I do now with sleep deprivation.

Thirdly, no sweet treats for the time being. As sweet as it’s going to get for me is my delicious nut bread sans dried fruit.

So essentially I am going back to Step Four Intro and staying there until I start feeling those wonderful positive GAPS effects that I was so greatly benefiting from! I know I can do this, and won’t be beaten by a minor set back 🙂

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The Prompt (I realised by accident that this post fits in with Sara’s Prompt this week: Are rules meant to be broken?)

 

 

Guest Post from Natalie Lamb: GAPS Practitioner

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Natalie Lamb


I am super excited about my first guest post, written by Natalie Lamb. A lady that is not only a GAPS Practitioner and therefore knows the diet inside and out, but someone that has done the diet herself. I sent Natalie a list of questions, which she has kindly answered. I have found them really helpful, I hope you do too! 

Why did you start the GAPS diet? (health issues, food intolerance, etc)
Working as the Technical Advisor for Bio-Kult probiotics we regularly get enquiries from people on the GAPS diet.  To be able to fully support our customers I undertook the GAPS practitioner training.  As a qualified Nutritional Therapist and having read the GAPS book I was able to sign up to the course.  Having suffered IBS type symptoms in the past I was keen to support my gut in the best way I could.  Having previously come off a vegetarian diet, reduced my alcohol intake and starting to take a daily probiotic I had already improved my symptoms greatly but was still keen to try the diet for myself.

The GAPS diet really resonates with me as I feel it is a very natural way of eating.  It utilises traditional ways of growing, purchasing and preparing real food.  As someone who has also suffered from adrenal exhaustion I find the closeness to nature and connection to where my food comes from therapeutic in itself.

How long did it take you to complete the intro diet?
I spent nearly 3 months working my way through the 6 stages of the introduction diet.  I reached stage 6 at around the end of the first month.  I really enjoyed every stage, experimenting with new foods and different methods of preparation.  There were so many new recipes to try that I didn’t get bored of the foods nor did I see the choice limiting.  With such a high intake of protein and fat I rarely found myself hungry and in fact ate smaller portions than I may have done previously.

How long was your road to recovery?
From the first week I experienced a flat stomach with no bloating.  With all the hours of food preparation needed with the diet I was surprised during the whole 3 months at how much energy I had!  After week 1 and 2 I experienced 2 half day episodes of mild thrush and cystitis.  A problem I wasn’t currently experiencing.  However, I understand this could be explained as the possible Candida and E. coli leaving the body for good!

What did you find most difficult, and how did you overcome it?
I found travelling away with work and social events most difficult.  Exhibition venues are notorious for their limited lunch array of pre-packed sandwiches!  I purchased a few large thermos flasks before starting the diet so I was able to take home made stock with me to the hotel room!  I armed myself with a cool bag and some supplies such avocado’s, tomatoes and hard boiled eggs!  Most restaurants were happy to serve meat or fish with vegetables and no sauce if requested – although we had to walk past the collection of Chinese, Indian, Mexican and Italians!  I also made it through 2 hen do weekends full of alcohol and refined carbs!  As the champagne flowed I enjoyed sipping on a cup of stock or a fresh mint tea!  The other hens were all in amazement at my will power but were also all very interested in the GAPS diet, with many experiencing gut issues themselves.  I would say the most important thing is to be organised, well prepared and one step ahead.

What are your essential GAPS store cupboard ingredients?

  • Himalayan rock salt for fermenting
  • Local organic apple cider vinegar to help with meat digestion and to encourage nutrients to leach from the bones when making stock
  • Ground almonds for making pancakes, bread and cake towards the end of the diet – my sugar and gluten free cakes with homemade sour cream went down a treat on several social events!
  • Coconut oil for cooking and body care – my scrambled eggs have never tasted so good!

Please tell us your top tips for success for children on GAPS
I would suggest getting the children involved in some of the food preparation. Perhaps get them involved in growing in the garden, farm visits or pick your own, having a range of colourful vegetables and making pancakes or breads in animal shapes for example.  Eating together as a family and all enjoying the food I would imagine would make the diet more exciting opposed to a chore.  If all else fails I would suggest trying to at least feed them some homemade stock daily and giving them a little of a multi-strain probiotic in a drink.  Once the gut starts to improve a little then food choices may be easier to change.

Any other pearls of wisdom, please share 🙂
To limit the risk of failure I would suggest you familiarise yourself with exactly what the diet entails before you embark on your journey.  I would advise you to research where you can buy organic supplies locally, buy or borrow equipment you may need and experiment with making staple foods.  I spoke with my local organic farm who agreed to save the bones of the pigs or lamb they slaughtered each Wednesday when I required them.  They were keen for me to utilise the bones that they currently have to pay to be discarded!  I arranged extra freezer space with several kind neighbours.  Borrowed extra kilner jars from a friend to bulk store homemade sauerkraut and fermented veg.  I borrowed an extra slow cooker and bought a meat cleaver so I was able to utilise larger bones and have an abundance of pre-prepared stock in the fridge.

I would also advice joining a local GAPS group or finding some like-minded people nearby to share recipes and meals with.  I had several friends experimenting with fermentation and one with a baby who was experiencing colic.  We would regularly get together to get excited about GAPS food which kept me motivated.

But most of all enjoy the new range of real foods and sense of wellbeing!

Thank you so much Natalie, for your great advice. Stay tuned for Natalie’s second guest post next week all about probiotics. 

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