This week, I made the absolutely crazy decision to put the whole family on the GAPS diet. Before I delve any further, let me pause here and thank my mother for the king of all kitchen appliances…..the instant pot! For without it, I would have lost my sanity completely.
What is the GAPS diet?
GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome. The diet was created by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, and addresses nutritional deficiencies in people who suffer from digestive disorders such as crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, IBS, IBD, severe constipation, candida, and more. It also addresses issues like autism, adhd, depression, anxiety, apraxia, learning delays, and other psychological problems that are plaguing people by the millions.
Did you know:
- In 2000 1 in 150 people had autism. In 2010 1 in 68 had autism, and the number just keeps rising. (source)
- 9.4% of children have been diagnosed with ADHD (source)
- The number of children ages 2-5 who have been diagnosed ADHD rose more than 50% from 2007 to 2008 (source)
- 16.2 million Americans had at least one major depressive episode last year. That is 6.7% or all US adults. (source)
- IBS affects 11% of the world’s population. (source)
The theory behind the GAPS diet is that so many of these issues are caused by a leaky gut. Essentially, the gut flora is made up of trillions of microbiomes. If a person is lacking in these beneficial goodies or over loaded in the bad guys, their gut may be damaged, allowing toxins to go undigested and leaking into the blood stream. This would cause a whole host of trouble in the body. The goal of the GAPS diet is to heal the gut, replenish the much needed good bacteria, and get the body in optimal working order.
Why are we doing this diet?
In a word….John. Over the last year, since we came home from Ethiopia, John has been having severe stomach pains as well as pain in the groin. Grace’s eczema has spread to her arms. Zeke is always catching a cold. Andy was formally diagnosed with high functioning autism. The other three were orphans and could use better gut health overall. I have to say though, I did this for A&T years ago, and as long as they eat gluten free, chemical/sugar free, they have regular bowels. Now Down syndrome bowel agony for us yo.
Back to John….he has been to doctor after doctor getting the ole colonoscopy, ultrasounds, etc. Nothing has showed up. This is good and bad. No cancers is good. No answers is bad. Our bio kids have developed severe food intolerances to so many foods over the last year, and honestly, we are open to anything that will help with the anxiety that is HFA (high functioning autism).
GAPS has A LOT of anecdotal evidence of success. I have been considering it for years and years…..and year.
So why not do this earlier?
It is a lot of work.
When I say a lot of work, I mean OH MY GOSH just give me a bed in the kitchen already.
To start GAPS, there is an intro phase. This is where we are at right now. The intro phase is very basic foods such as homemade broth, stewed grassfed meats, non-fibrous vegetables, and animal fats. The full list is here.
The intro phase is divided into six stages and can be completed in a month up to six months. It really is unique to each individual and the level of damage they have to their gut. We have moved through 2 phases this week.
What did we eat?
Soup….soup….more soup…..egg yolks
In order to make this higher carb, you must consume a lot of carrots and butternut squash. These are higher carbs veggies that are necessary for small children especially.
Fill a pot with carrots, a chopped butternut squash, chicken broth, a little grated ginger and cook til soft. Use an immersion blender to puree this mixture and serve with a drizzle of raw honey. My kids LOVE this and it is a great source of carbs.
When healing the gut, there may be a side effect of die off. This is the bad bacteria dying off, these nasty suckers do not want to die and will cause all sorts of havoc in your body to try to convince you to give in and give them the garbage foods that will keep them alive. We have had a few die-off symptoms. One kid peed their pants, one barfed, a few have been overly tired. Thankfully, they whisked right through those ugly symptoms within the first couple of days. John has had a lot less pain in his stomach, but also experienced more tired feelings than usual. It is coffee free….oh coffee.
Broth is literally a superfood that everyone needs in their life. The minerals and nutrients leeched from the bones of healthy animal sources provide so many health benefits to a person. The grannies from the old days were on to something with the ole chicken soup remedy. It wasn’t so much the chicken meat as all the delicious marrow, gut soothing collagen, and body healing nutrients that came from the chicken’s bones….and feet.
I don’t use feet.
Chicken feet are caaaareeeeeeeaaaaappppppy.
John brought me the feet a few years ago from a round of meat birds he had butchered. Oh my gosh, they are HUGE, and have claws, and are just creepy. I can’t ya’ll.
Bone broth is rich in gelatin and collagen which helps to heal the lining of the gut, soothe the stomach, and even help your hair and nails. It helps with joint pain, I have been drinking collagen for years to help with inflammation and joint pain. If I go a week without it, I am in agony and fatigue again.
What comes next?
After working through the initial intro phase (6 stages), you go on to eat the Full GAPS diet. This is grain free, sugar free, and full of probiotic rich food (hello fermented sauerkraut) that are meant to help restore and replenish your gut. While it is restrictive, the hopeful outcome is absolutely worth it to me.
- if John doesn’t suffer the extreme stomach pain anymore….worth it!
- if Andy is calmer and able to manage himself a bit better…..worth it!
- if Grace’s eczema could go away……worth it!
- if the kids have a strengthened immune system…..worth it!
- we will always be gluten free due to true celiacs in the house but if we could heal other intolerances and have dairy again……worth it! I need cheese.
- if I could be free of anxiety….worth it!
Really there are so many reasons why I have finally jumped into this diet. Medications, herbs, therapies, tests, and so sooooooo many other approaches to many of these problems haven’t worked. This is our last resort and I’m hopeful.
I’m hopeful and tired, because seriously cooking everything very particularly and in enough quantity to keep 8 people fed around the clock….yeah that’s a lot.
Cheers to good health!
Edit to add: I will have future posts with helpful hints, recipes, and progress updates.