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 🙂

How Are You Feeling?

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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?

 

My GAPS Intro Survival Kit

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Preparation is the key to success on GAPS, especially on the Intro Diet

As I mentioned over on my other blog I went to a tea party hen do on Saturday. My soon to be married friend is almost six months pregnant, so her mates thought it would be nice to throw her a toned down gathering to celebrate. It was a lovely little party, and they had gone to such a lot of trouble for her.

I had spoken to my friend about GAPS when I first started Intro at the end of April, but got in touch with her specifically about it a few weeks back. I was starting to panic about this do, and also her wedding. Having allowed myself to be caught out previously, and paying the price by going back to the start of the Intro Diet, I didn’t want anything else like that to happen this time round. I told her that I’d be bringing my own food and flask of stock, and asked her to let her friends know so they didn’t think I was rude or weird!

Here’s what I took with me: 
1l flask of chicken stock
Tupperware containing boiled chicken
Big salad of salmon gravadlax, sauerkraut and a whole avocado
Pure organic peppermint tea bags

The wedding itself is in three weeks time, and fortunately for me the meal is a hog roast so I’ll be able to eat meat and some of the salad by then. I’ll have to take stock with me of course, and also a bag of food for the train journeys and breakfast at the hotel. Nuts are now back in my diet (step four of six as of today, woo hoo!), so I’ll take a big bag of cashews, as well as a whole jar of sauerkraut, Tupperware of boiled chicken and a few boiled eggs.

I’m still feeling a bit nervous about it truth be told, but I’m sure it’ll be completely fine. I’ve said it before, and it was reiterated by Natalie Lamb in her guest post – preparation is everything when you’re on GAPS 🙂

Linking up to the #HealthHop over at Pink Oddy
pinkoddy

 

A Few Of My Favourite Things

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A chef once told me that a meal is only as good as the ingredients that go into it, and I’ve always kept that thought close when cooking. It’s really important for me to have a good stock of quality items in my cupboards and fridge in order to effortlessly create tasty food. Here are some of my fave essentials in no particular order:

– organic unsalted butter, the beginning of so many delicious dishes

– 100% cocoa powder, or better yet raw cacao. It’s fabulous to always have on hand to ensure cakes and brownies are never far away if desired

– vanilla bean extract, as above. Very important to buy extract and not essence, organic if possible as it contains more of the good stuff

– unrefined muscavado sugar, perfect for adding a touch of sweetness. A tablespoonful is often all that’s needed in a cake that will be serving 6

– coconut flour, my newest friend in the kitchen. A versatile alternative to grain based flours, opening up doors for making bread, pancakes, etc

– tinned coconut milk, for use in both sweet and savoury dishes. It’s important to find one that’s just coconut and water otherwise it can be loaded with E numbers and unnecessary extra ingredients

– coconut oil, I use this every day in my coffee and most days when cooking, again in sweet and savoury dishes alike, also for greasing purposes

– organic tomato purée, a little goes a long way in stews and casseroles

– balsamic vinegar, a staple in many of my slow cooked recipes

– anchovy paste, one of my secret ingredients. Awesome for coating red meat to give it an amazing flavour

– cider vinegar, bought from our farmers market it’s true local produce

– tamarind paste, from the international shop near us. This is a must for cooking curries from scratch. International shops are a goldmine for many obscure ingredients that would cost a fortune in a supermarket or health food shop

– tamari, wheat free soya sauce

– hazelnut & almond butters, a delightful alternative to the peanut variety

– organic forest honey, totally delicious natural sweetener from bees that have not been fed sugar and antibiotics

– Thai fish sauce (nam pla), the tangy, salty base of most of my oriental dishes

 

Going primal…

I’ve been getting more and more ‘primal’ in my eating habits since the birth of my second daughter two months ago. Largely driven by me wanting to shed the baby weight whilst needing to eat loads and keep my energy levels up for breastfeeding all at once. By simply eliminating grains and keeping my sugar intake to a minimum the baby weight is indeed being shed, but more importantly, I can’t remember the last time I felt so good!

There are many sites already out there on the subject of ‘primal’ and ‘paleo’ lifestyles so I won’t bore you too much with my personal opinions, but I shall be sharing tasty recipes as and when I create them. Enjoy, and please let me know what you think.