I have a real treat today with a panel of women who have successfully used the GAPS diet for themselves and their families.
First we have Cara from Home Health Happiness. Cara is a huge blessing to those on the GAPS diet because she has an awesome meal plan as well as an ebook walking you through the intro diet! Joining her are bloggers Sarah Smith, who blogs at Nourished and Nurtured and Heather who blogs at Mommypotamus, Both blogs are beautiful. Thanks, ladies, for being willing to share with us!
Why were you interested in the GAPS diet to begin with and how long have you and/or your family been on the GAPS diet?
At first, I didn’t pay much attention to the diet as we were already eating a nutrient-dense diet. Over time, though, I realized that the GAPS diet was something that could really help my family. My husband has always had sinus problems (including many courses of antibiotics during his adult years and two sinus surgeries back when we still trusted mainstream medicine). My husband also had some persistent eczema on his forearms (nothing major, but enough to be annoying). I was experiencing quite a bit of joint pain, especially in one shoulder, that made it hard to pick up the baby, push kids on the swings, and exercise. My daughter (who was 3.5 years old when we started GAPS) had always had a depressed immune system and poor weight gain.We have now been on the diet for 14 months Sarah
I was interested in the GAPS diet for my daughter with autism/developmental delays. We had tried the GFCF (gluten free casein free) diet first, and saw tremendous improvement at first, but unfortunately she regressed shortly after starting the diet. I had seen how dietary changes could help her, so I decided to try GAPS even though it seemed like such a restrictive diet at first. I opted to go on the intro portion of the diet with her, because I like to try out any ‘wild and crazy’ things I do for my children before experimenting on them. This was in November of 2009, and she’s been on the GAPS diet for nearly 2 years now. I’ve gone off and on, as has my typically developing nearly 3-year-old son, as we really are a ‘GAPS family Cara
Hmmm. I have to say I was actively NOT interested in GAPS for at least six months before we started. Shortly after my real food “conversion” six years ago I got a little, er, dogmatic about my approach to food for awhile. Could I push harder? Ask my family to give up their beloved homemade sourdough? In the end I decided no.
And then, my husband – aka Daddypotamus – decided we should become a GAPS family! He was experiencing a lot of focus issues at work and was really stressed about it. He was a major carb fiend and even though most of it was properly prepared, the corn chip highs and blood sugar crashes were getting the best of him. That was seven months ago. Heather.
How was the transition to the GAPS diet? Did you do the introduction diet?
We started with the Full GAPS Diet, and the transition to GAPS was not too terribly difficult. It did take a few weeks to get comfortable with what foods we should keep on-hand, such as snacks and freezer meals.
We did the introduction diet after being on the Full GAPS diet for a couple months. The introduction diet was much more difficult, as it is so restrictive. I was exclusively nursing an 8-month-old at the time (which means that I technically shouldn’t have even done the intro since it is not recommended for pregnant or nursing mothers), and I had a very hard time getting enough calories and not feeling like I was starving. The intro was also very difficult for my daughter, and she was begging to eat anything other than soup.
But we made it through the intro, and overall it seems to really accelerate healing. My husband and I both did intro again a few months later (with a few modifications), and had very good results. It was also much easier the second time around, and we were happy to see how far we have progressed since we were able to transition to the different stages of intro much quicker the second time. Sarah
The transition to the GAPS diet wasn’t as hard as I expected. We did start with the introduction diet, but I was breastfeeding (information on GAPS while breastfeeding) my 1-year-old quite a bit still so I used lots of squash and some cooked apples for extra carbs. The kids enjoyed the soups, they sipped a lot of broth out of my cup a lot. I was amazed at how much my then 3-year-old ate; once we introduced eggs she would eat 6 eggs in a sitting! We were doing this essentially as my baby was starting to eat solids, so he’s only known mostly GAPS food his whole life. Cara
The day my husband came home and told me he wanted to start GAPS was the actual day we started. It’s called the leap before you look approach and I don’t recommend it. Daddypotamus started going through withdrawal almost immediately and I was totally stressed because I had NO IDEA how to cook GAPS friendly meals. This is the point at which Cara swooped in – cape and all – and rescued my tookus. Well, not actually. But when I signed up for her meal plan it pretty much felt exactly like that.
About six weeks later we went back and did intro. I wrote about some of the unique and unexpected benefits here. Heather
What results have you seen or experienced from doing GAPS?
Within the first month, my husband’s sinuses and eczema greatly improved, and my joint pain was completely gone! My daughter’s weight gain has improved dramatically, and her immune system is the much better as well. My husband and I do still have occasional recurrences (usually when we’ve been trying to introduce non-GAPS foods back into our diet), but overall things are much better. Sarah
I’ve seen great benefits not only in my daughter, who we are doing the diet for primarily, but also for myself and my son. I was honestly surprised- I had started the diet not expecting much from it, but knowing that I wanted to give anything a try that could help my daughter. I’ve seen my dairy allergy healed, my son’s eczema completely cleared, and best of all my daughter is improving greatly each month we stay on the diet. Specifically, she sleeps well, her attention span has increased greatly (she couldn’t even pay attention to 30 seconds of being read to from childrens’ books when we started, and now she enjoys reading book after book and even will attempt to read them back to me. Cara
Within three months we were spending 80% less on supplements and Daddypotamus’ weird, crusty scalp issue had completely cleared. By six months he’d lost 45 pounds (now 50), my daughter who had no symptoms at all had a yeast attack her face in a Billy the Kid-style last stand (you can guess who won!), and I discovered that my capacity to absorb iron has increased dramatically due to improved gut flora. Heather
What were the challenges of the GAPS diet for you personally?
This is kind of lame, but I was afraid I’d never have a decent recipe to post again. I mean, I’m a REAL FOOD blogger. I am supposed to know how to make good food! Turns out, though, I was worried for nothing. By whittling things back down to the basics GAPS has actually made me a better cook. My focus is satisfaction, pure and simple . . . and there is plenty of that to be had in my house. Heather
GAPS diet to be overwhelming, since it is so much cooking, and the cooking is different from what I was used to doing (that’s why I created the meal plans- to hopefully make it less overwhelming for YOU!). Now I don’t find the diet to be very difficult, the only thing that is bothersome now is explaining to other people that my children can’t eat what they’re serving, but people seem to be becoming more and more aware and open to restricted diets. Cara
We initially ate way too many nuts on GAPS, but over time have learned better things to eat. We’ve learned that nuts are pretty hard to digest, so we use them sparingly now.
Living without raw milk was very difficult for my daughter. She abstained for about 4 months, and then we went through the full dairy progression outlined by Natasha Campbell McBride. We very slowly introduced raw milk back into our diets, with no ill effects. This has been wonderful for my husband and daughter as they are now drinking raw milk daily. I got so used to drinking raw milk kefir that I prefer it to milk now.
Each time we have tried to reintroduce a few non-GAPS foods into our diets (like potatoes), it has been very hard to acknowledge that we are not ready and to re-commit ourselves to strict GAPS. Sarah
What advice do you have for others considering trying the GAPS diet for themselves or for a family member?
Gaps should not be undertaken lightly. It can be a huge lifestyle change. That being said, though, GAPS can really help you take control of your health and can have amazing results. Take plenty of time to learn all you can about how to do the diet, and if possible, find people who can help with questions along the way.
Start with the Full GAPS Diet for a few weeks (or months) before doing the intro diet. I think starting with the intro diet right away would be totally overwhelming, plus the die-off symptoms would be much more pronounced.
Plan to spend several weeks transitioning to the Full GAPS Diet, rather than trying to start all at once, especially if you are starting from the typical American diet that relies heavily on processed foods.
Take advantage of leftovers! Make double-batches so you don’t have to cook so often.
Give away or throw away non-GAPS foods. No one needs to be constantly testing their willpower by looking at yummy foods they cannot eat. Sarah
My advice would be to commit to a short period of time- even if it’s just 3 days (I had a friend do this recently) and see how you feel. We committed to 30 days at first, and I saw improvements in all three of us, so I knew the diet worked and that was enough motivation to continue it as we needed to. Cara
I don’t get anything for saying this, but it’s really the most helpful piece of advice I have: Sign up for a month of Cara’s meal plan. The worst thing about starting GAPS is eating the same thing over and over because you only know 5 GAPS-friendly recipes. It comes with shopping lists and prep reminders, too, which was a huge help to me as I worked on developing a new rhythm in my kitchen. Heather
Special thanks to all three of you! You are greatly appreciated. Readers, please add your stories and advice too!