cooking · food · GAPS Diet · healing gut · recipe · Uncategorized

GAPS Intro Diet Carrot “noodle” Soup


Ahhhh soup, it is the basis of your GAPS diet experience.  You will eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner….and then eat it some more.  That rich broth will be working all the time to heal and seal you while providing your skin with the most anti-aging beneficial glycine and collagen.  Think of that good stuff while you force yourself to overcome soup over load.

You have limited ingredients to use on GAPS Intro Stage 1.  However, limited ingredients doesn’t have to mean boring and tasteless.  Here is a soup that I made for our crew that even the Dad raved about(and he hates butternut squash).

Carrot Chicken Noodle Soup

  • 1 whole chicken shredded
  • 3 quarts of broth (from that chicken you just shredded, preferably with fat from the chicken… need AlL THE FATS)
  • 2lbs of carrots cut into noodle shape. I use a spiral cutter for mine.
  • 2 onions
  • 1 butternut squash (peeled and diced)
  • 1 TBS of minced garlic
  • salt to taste

Combine all but the carrot noodles into the stock pot, cook til the squash has softened a bit, add the carrot noodles.  Serve when everything is softened and the flavors are on point.  It isn’t an award winning soup, but it is fun and tasty and gets the job done.  You can pour a little sauerkraut juice from fermented sauerkraut on top.  Intro stage says only a teaspoon or two.

After a couple of days of chopped veggies, meats, and broth soups….my kids were happy to see some “noodles.”

cooking · GAPS Diet · healing gut · nutrition · Uncategorized

Gaps Diet Week 1 (Kids and All)


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.

How-to GAPS

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.

Squash Soup

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.

Why Broth?

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.

food · healing gut · nutrition

How To Make Nourishing Bone Broth

Have you ever heard that soup can cure the common cold?  That is actually a statement based on truth, only it isn’t your run of the mill canned soup, but a nourishing long cooked mineral filled brothy soup.  A broth made from bone is a nutritional powerhouse.

Homemade stock contains minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, trace minerals, and so many more that come in a form that the body can easily absorb…FOOD!  It also contains glucosamine and chondroitin, you know those heavily esteemed and often expensive supplements that are on the shelves of every nutrition aisle. 

Stock or broth on the grocery store shelf is not the same as homemade, but thankfully with the invention of the crock pot, homemade is super cheap and easy.  Here is how you do it:

  • Brown 4-5 good beef bones (with a little meat on them) up in a skillet.
  • Put the browned bones, 2 cloves of garlic, and the tasty tidbits from the pan into the crockpot.
  • Add enough filtered water to fill the crockpot (I have a 6 qt. crockpot).
  • Add 2 TBS of Apple Cider Vinegar to the mix to help leach out the minerals from the bones.
  • Turn on low and let cook for 24 hours.

I usually start my broth at 10am so that the next morning I am ready to strain and such. 

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After 24 hours strain your broth. I usually do this into a large soup pot, put the lid on, and put it in the fridge to cool. Once chilled in the fridge you will see fat that has risen to the top. Skim that off to use for cooking or discard it. Now…

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You will have this wonderfully nutritious gelatin broth. The gelatin is a great digestive aid to heal the gut. Don’t worry though, once heated, it turns back into a liquid. I often heat it, add a little celtic sea salt, and serve it up to drink. We’re weird like that though. This broth can be used to make lots of different soups, soups that will taste so out of this world you will want to slap your Momma…just kidding, never slap your Momma she’s to precious. Seriously though, it is delicious.

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Even baby girl thinks so.

Down syndrome · healing gut

Down syndrome and Healing Digestion

If you are the parent of a child with Down syndrome, you have likely dealt with or heard other’s lament on their struggles with a very specific digestive issue.  When I first took my kids to the pediatrician, she asked me right out, what kind of medicine I wanted for constipation.  It is widely assumed that all children suffer from this, and the idea behind that isdue to low muscle tone.  We struggled with this when we brought the kids home from the orphanage at ages 5 and 6.  It was so bad that one of my children would not “go” for a week, and then they would sit in the bathroom and cry big raging sobs when “it” happened.  They would also have a lot of passing of blood.  My other child would not “go” for a very long time, get completely and painfully distended in the gut, and then be very sluggish.  It was so sad and concerning to me as their mother.  I was determined to find an answer, and not one that acted as a band aid to the problem, but a true cure.

I can happily say that I found that cure, and both children are medication free.   Both children have no problems going to the bathroom every single day.  They also do not have the insane eczema that caused them to literally peel big peely pieces of skin (Tanner does still have a mild dry skin just not nearly as severe), and they both are much much less sluggish. 

So how did we heal their gut?

It wasn’t easy to heal them, and it caused some friction whenever we would go out.  We spent a year of intensive work, and then the last two years keeping most of our tactics but in a relaxed way.  We are diligent, it takes effort, it takes consistency, but it is completely worth it.  So here is what we have done, and it has worked wonderfully.

1.  Hydration
         When we met our children, we had to literally fight them from drinking the water from an outdoor pool that had a dead bird in it.  When inside, we fought them to keep them from drinking water in the potted plants.  We were told that we shouldn’t give them any of our water, and were blamed for Tanner’s stomach ailings.  They were extremely dehydrated.  However, when we finally were in control of their diet, they refused to drink water.  It didn’t make any sense, but we remedied that.  Both children are highly motivated by food, so we just required that they drink water before eating.  We still do this today.  Before each meal and snack, they drink their water, and they absolutely do not fight us anymore.  Often they will request water now.  Hydration is extremely important to keep our organs functioning, especially the bowel.  We all need to be properly hydrated.  Our kids drink about 24+ ounces of filtered water each day aside from their milk, kefir, and smoothies.

2. Diet
        This is a big one.  The one that most people do not want to do, the one that is the absolute most work, and the one that I believe has helped tremendously.  About six months after our kids came home, we took them off of gluten.  They do eat gluten now, so no I’m not saying gluten is a big NO.  I also removed all refined sugars and processed foods.  Believe it or not, Anna had quite the addiction to sweets.  We couldn’t give her any water (granted the water is a source of sickness over there), but we did watch them give her candy bars and ice creams.  She was given treats when she would perform (she has quite the memory), and thus she was addicted. 
        Neither of the children would eat vegetables.  However, that is part of our lives.  We eat vegetables, they are essential and needed for our bodies to perform in the most optimum way.  I suppose they thought that eventually they would get junk.  I didn’t buy junk though.  There was nothing in the house that wasn’t healthy.  This is a struggle for some people, but change doesn’t happen without a little work and sacrifice.  Eventually they figured out that this was the food we were going to eat.  We do not eat out very often.  This helped tremendously, for whenever the kids did have the opportunity to eat processed junk, we had at least a weeks fight to get them to go back and accept our diet. 
         Today, our kids LOVE kale smoothies, kale chips, and even sauteed kale.  They eat salads happily.  They stand in the garden and request tomatoes from the vine.  Honestly there are very few foods that they give us grief over (broccoli for Tanner), but they still eat it.  Most things they thoroughly enjoy.  They have no qualms eating salmon, spinach, quinoa, and bananas for lunch.  They play in their play kitchen and cook oatmeal, because steel cut oats or 9 grain mix is on the menu for breakfast 4 times a week.  They use a lot of butter in their play kitchen, as does mommy in hers.  They eat coconut oil every day.  Coconut oil is very beneficial, and I use it liberally in their diet.  I get mine fairly cheap from vitacost.  I know there are better versions out there, but I’m not made of money, and we have to do the best we can with what we have.
 Our basic diet (for us all not just the kids).

  • lots of veggies (that fiber gets the bowels going and cleans the colon)
  • lots of healthy fats and oils such as coconut oil and butter for cooking as these are more stable for the heat and lots of olive oil for salads.  I’m also learning to render tallow from our grassfed cow.
  • whole milk (our kids drink non-homogenized milk since we can’t source raw milk in our area, but once we buy a cow, they will be drinking lots of raw dairy)
  • NO refined sugar, we use raw honey, maple syrup (John just made some), stevia that I made, and sometimes sucanat or rapadura.
  • NO refined grains.  They eat steel cut oats that I buy in 50lb quantities, rolled oats for homemade granola and such (also bought in 50lb quantities, it’s cheaper), rye, wheat, brown rice, quinoa, etc.  I’ve recently been soaking these things to reduce the phytic acid, but that is only recently, and they’ve been recovered for a long time now.
  • lots of meat and eggs, meat is good for you, red meat is high is B vitamins, and eggs are a super food.  We bought a grassfed cow to stock our freezer and make meat more affordable, and we have our own chickens to provide eggs. 
  • cultured things such as kefir, yogurt, and soured veggies help the gut flora by providing much needed probiotics to balance the bacteria

That is basically it.  We have been very diligent to take food with us in order to keep their diets pure.  Sometimes that has meant saying no to a table full of cakes and other processed foods.  Thankfully the kids (even Andy) love the treats I make.  Now that they are healed, and do not give us to much trouble eating healthy, we allow the occasional junk slippage.  They are not missing out though, they still get burgers, pizza, cake, candy, and fries.  It is just made by mom with ingredients that nourish our bodies instead of robbing them of valuable nutrients. 

3.  Exercise
        We all need exercise.  Low muscle tone and Down syndrome seemingly go hand in hand.  We believe that muscle can be built and conditioned though.  Exercise is essential, it gets the blood flowing to the intestines, it releases endorphins, and it builds our bodies.  Exercise tones and strengthens your intestinal tract by increasing the blood flow to the intestines and causing more powerful contractions in the intestinal wall that gets the poop out more easily.  (Yup I said poop cause that’s what it is and that’s what causes so much trouble).  Our kids didn’t like to exercise initially.  Anna would cry walking across the parking lot to the store.  She wanted to sit.  We don’t have cable and limit television, so sitting quickly became boring, especially when I would interrupt her self-stimming.  I believe her gut and lack of prior activity also caused her to not want to move much, who wants to move when your belly hurts ya know.  Now, they exercise with me.  Each morning we workout (well I do and they like to copy me), and Anna says “exercise is pun.”  I have PCOS, and need the exercise, plus I wouldn’t ask the kids to do anything that I wouldn’t, so why not exercise together.  Kids see our habits and activity.  Both of my children with Down syndrome can climb the monkey bars, play outside for hours, help Dad bring wood to the house in the winter, jump around the yard or on their mini trampoline, and ride bikes.  They are very active, and do not tire out like they used to.  Our insistence that they be active has really built up their stamina, and provided them with not only well working bowels, but the ability to go and enjoy being a kid.  They are not held back by physical limitations only to watch other kids play.

That’s it in a nutshell.  It’s all about being hydrated, eating a REAL food diet, and getting active.  I believe that each of these things are incredibly important for keeping the constipation at bay, and having overall good health. We did not see results right away, it took about six months.  I’m not saying this is the answer for everyone, nor that it would work for everyone.  I am saying that I have two children with Down syndrome who are not biologically related, who had different bowel issues, and it works for both of them. 

Does it require a lot of work and diligence?  Yes. 

Do I sometimes have to be the meany who says no?  Yes.

 Are my kids taking medications with possible even more damaging side effects? No. 

Are my kids sobbing in the bathroom from the pain and agony of constipation? NOPE!

To me that is what makes it worth being “mean” sometimes, for me that is what makes it worth being in the kitchen for a few hours, and for me that is what makes it worth being seen as the crazy mom who is “robbing” my children of their entitled childhood junk food.  I get out in the yard and play with my children, I am constantly creating flavorful and healthy fun foods for my children, and I am developing a healthy life and healthy habits in my children.  My children can enjoy their childhood instead of suffering stomach pains from constipation, nausea from laxatives (hey I’ve taken them I know they stink), and sluggishness from overall feeling bad.  So I’d say I’m not really robbing them of anything.  It is possible to live without constipation and have Down syndrome, we have two kids who are living proof.