Saturday, November 12, 2011

GAPS and our family

Since embarking on this adventure, many of you have asked me about the GAPS diet so I thought I'd just write a not so little blog post about it.

Basically, GAPS is about rest and healing for the gut, and slowly introducing fermented foods to refill it with good bacteria. Bone broth is very important in this process. The gist is, when you heal the gut lining, issues such as irritable bowel, reflux, ADD, autism, food allergies, and a host of other problems, can be eliminated. For some people it can happen quickly, for others it can take years. Most people are on this diet for 6 months-2 years before reintroducing foods not allowed on the GAPS menu. A sick digestive system decreases immunity and causes psychological disorders, hence the acronym for “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” People are starting to find out that there is a big connection—a lot of times when a kid has autism, he/she also has some kind of digestive/intestinal problem. It makes sense because Riley has struggled with ADD, reflux and other tummy troubles for several years, in addition to being overweight.

As far as what’s allowed and not allowed…

There is a long list of “avoid” and “recommended” but for the most part, no grains, sugar, starch or lactose. These are not easily digested and can cause all kinds of problems. Yogurt and some cheeses and a couple different legumes are allowed. Mostly we eat meats, fruits and vegetables, nuts, eggs, animal fats and lacto-fermented foods. Soups, stews and chilis are a frequent occurrence (which is perfect for this time of year!) Anything bread-like is made with coconut flour or almond flour, and local raw honey (which is great for seasonal allergies, another nuisance of ours) is used instead of sugar.

I first learned about GAPS when my friend Heather and her family went on it, mostly for her husband’s sake, but she and her daughter (and now her son) joined with him and now they are in better health than ever. She has done a ton of research and through personal experience become quite the expert on nutrition. Her blog has a wealth of information about real food, among other topics such as parenting. When I read her posts, it all made so much sense to me and I felt like I was discovering the cure for many of Riley’s ails. I knew it was what he needed, bought the book and skimmed through; it just took us a long time to finally take the plunge. Here are links to a couple of her posts about GAPS (instead of just copy-and-pasting everything she says):

A lot of people ask why I am dieting since I don’t need to lose weight. I’m not going to lose weight because I don’t have it to lose. Riley will because he has it to lose, even while eating the same things as I am. Plenty of high calorie foods and staying away from grains and sugar has left me feeling great and with smoother digestion. It has taken a big commitment on my part to cook almost all our meals from scratch, but it’s worth it. We are already seeing benefits after only 2 weeks. Riley has lost 10lbs without exercise or pills or counting calories, Josiah is eating vegetables which he would never touch before, Julia’s behavior has improved (not that it was terrible before, she is just incredibly more pleasant and agreeable), and doing this together has strengthened our bond as a family. I’ve felt the urge to start this diet for several months now but was too scared. What I think pushed me over the edge (besides the fact that Riley got desperate for change) was the revelation that we are one flesh, my body is his and his mine, which led to the conviction that it didn’t matter that I could eat whatever I wanted w/o gaining weight or having apparent health issues… he needed my support. And if him getting better meant I had to give up some of my favorite foods, well, it’s as if I had to do it for myself, and that was a commitment that I needed to make as an act of love.

So why would want to remove grains? After all, they’re cheap and yummy and filling! The simplest answer is there is nothing you can get from grains that you can’t find in a more easily digestible form somewhere else. There is so much sugar and grain and additives in practically everything that comes in a bag or box or restaurant these days, it’s ridiculous. Which on one hand, makes it harder to only eat what we are allowed, but on the other side it’s so simple. Removing everything GAPS-illegal from my kitchen has simplified things a lot. It has taken some new creativity and different ways of doing things, but we are getting used to it. Life-changing in difficult yet rewarding ways!

Right now we are doing the full GAPS menu, and the tentative plan is to do “Intro” starting in January (more intensive stage of GAPS, starting with just broth and meat and veggies, slowly introducing eggs, cultured dairy, nuts, fruits, etc. when they are well tolerated). We expect to be on the diet for at least 6 months, possibly 2 years or longer.

I’ve found most of my new recipes from Heather’s website and, although searching “grain-free recipes” on Google will produce even more. Many of the meals we ate before the diet are still allowed; some have just required a little tweaking of the ingredients.

Feel free to ask any other questions you may have!