My Children eating a simple GAPS lunch of beef patties, clementines, and homemade pickles
Judging by the amount of emails asking, I take it that my readers are curious about what we’re doing on GAPS right now and what we’ve done over the past year of this GAPS journey. I’m going to try to answer all the common questions I get about GAPS.
How did we start GAPS?
To be honest (I don’t really have the ability to not be honest- what you see is what you get here!) I was adamantly avoiding GAPS for about 3-4 months after I learned that it could help my child. “Too low carb,” I thought. “That is ridiculous! No grains? Who does that to a toddler?”. So first we tried GFCF (gluten free and casein free), she was already mostly dairy free because she got congested with milk (even raw milk).
With GFCF we saw huge huge improvement within 48 hours. My child suddenly made eye contact, had the ability to learn, was interacting socially, and had very much improved with her balance. But sadly after about a week she started regressing, fairly quickly. I knew that GAPS was the next step, and encouraged by the initial results we got with dietary intervention, I was ready to start.
We started GAPS with the introduction diet (starting with chicken stock and boiled meat and vegetables and slowly adding in more advanced foods like cooked peeled fruit, eggs, then raw pureed fruits and veggies, baked and fried meats, nuts, and cultured dairy) and progressed through the steps, waiting to make sure new foods did not bring on a reaction. She was stuck on cooked veggies and fruit for a few months, which baffled me because I thought she was digesting those fine prior to GAPS. Her symptoms for not tolerating a food was usually night terrors, but it seems that everyone is different in this area.
I did the GAPS intro with her, I like to try out any ‘experiment’ I do on my child myself to make sure it’s okay. I felt great on the diet, so I didn’t worry about having her on it. I was able to progress through the stages much more quickly than she was, and I healed my dairy allergy in the process in only 2 months. My breastfeeding son (11 months at this time) also went through the diet with us, and his babyhood eczema hasn’t been seen again since we went on GAPS.
What about dairy?
On ‘Full GAPS’ (the diet after intro is called full GAPS, some people only do this part of the diet and still see great success) cultured dairy is allowed. This includes 24-hour yogurt, hard cheeses and butter. After healing our initial dairy allergy (my daughter’s went away quickly too, but I was nervous about trying dairy with her so I waited about 4-5 months) we did introduce butter, yogurt, kefir, and cheese, and we were excited about it! We kept them in for about 6 months and then as a trial I took both kids back off dairy and they started sleeping better,
How long until you saw a difference?
As I noted above, just by reducing gluten and casein we saw a huge difference in my daughter with autism. But then she regressed. She stopped regressing within a few days of being on GAPS. For the rest of our family we see a difference within 3-5 days.
Is GAPS safe while pregnant or breastfeeding?
GAPS is a very healthy ‘clean’ diet and I feel like it would be a great pregnancy diet! I would just do what’s called ‘full gaps’ and take it really slow introducing probiotics. The intro (as opposed to full gaps) is a little to restrictive for what I’m comfortable doing while pregnant or breastfeeding, but that’s a decision you have to make for yourself. By delaying things that trigger die offs (coconut oil, probiotic, fermented foods, limiting carbs) you can lessen the impact it would have on your baby in utero or nursling. As with everything on this site, this is not medical advice, please consult with your healthcare provider before making any dietary changes, especially in pregnancy.
My child’s doctor wants them on GAPS, but I’m still breastfeeding. Do I need to go on it too?
Yes, the proteins (and possibly carbohydrates- I’m not sure on this one) will go through your gut, into your bloodstream and into your milk.
How long are you going to stay on GAPS? How long do you have to stay on GAPS? Is it something permanent?
I don’t stay on GAPS all the time, though I do keep my ASD child on it at all times. I anticipate that she will be on it for at least another two years (she has been on it for over a year now). The goal of GAPS is to heal the gut, and once the gut is healed non-GAPS food will be tolerated. In my case, I saw this as my milk allergy went away even when I was off of GAPS for months.
I understand! The Pecanbread Site has a really good article on picky eaters and SCD (SCD is what GAPS is based on)
Both my children started eating everything within a few days of being on SCD/GAPS. If there is *anything* that they will eat to keep their calories up enough (applesauce? squash fries? avocado?) then you might just try it for a week and see how it goes. Kids who need SCD/GAPS often have sensory problems, and they can actually refuse food to the point of harming themselves, so I don’t recommend the “they’ll eat if they get hungry enough” approach that others do, but I think that SCD can help with picky eating :)
How much does it cost to be on GAPS?
By eliminating grains and potatoes, GAPS often is a more expensive diet. It can be less expensive by finding local sources of grassfed beef, using lentils and beans, and eating more seasonally. When our whole family is on GAPS our grocery bill stays the same, as we are eliminating any junk food impulse buys. But if you already are down to bare bones with no impulse buys and eating whole grains, your grocery bill will go up, as meat and vegetables are more expensive than grains. This will also depend on how much organic you buy, if you are shopping around, how much you pay for milk, meat, and eggs, and whether you eat more meat or more beans and lentils.
I have 4 kids and they typically eat a LOT of food. I’m prepping for GAPS intro right now and am wondering if I should expect their food intake go down somewhat once we’re into full GAPS and they are able to utilize more of the nutrients in their food, or should I expect to have to double all your recipes?
Children often are very hungry for the first 6-8 weeks on the diet; my toddler ate as much as I did the first 6 weeks or so she was on the diet. Her appetite has since calmed down, she is still a great eater but can now go hours between meals rather than requiring constant huge meals and snacks. Yes, the food is more nutrient dense, and children are often less picky while on GAPS/SCD so less food gets wasted. A common day for my 4-year-old is 2-3 eggs, scrambled + a piece of fruit for breakfast, 3-5 grain free crackers or half a grain free muffin for snack, a palm-sized (her palm size) meat patty + a serving of lactofermented vegetables (1 small pickle, 1/4 cup of sauerkraut) and another piece of fruit for lunch, a handful (her hand size) of nuts and dried fruit as an afternoon snack, two servings of meat (palm sized) + 1/2 cup cooked veggies + 1/2 cup squash fries (cooked in coconut oil) for dinner.
The Grain Free Meal Plan serves 4, and yes, I would expect to have to double most recipes for your crew. You could experiment with doubling the main dish and keeping the sides and snacks the same if you wanted.
Can you lose weight on GAPS?
Yes! I personally have found GAPS to be ‘weight norming’ – ie my children gain steadily (as they should!) while on GAPS while I lose to a certain amount and then hold there. For me that is about 135 pounds at 5’8″, which is a healthy weight for me. I personally do not watch my carb intake at all; I easily will eat 4-5 pieces of fruit + honey as a sweetener as often as I desire on GAPS and I still lose weight to a certain point. Along these lines, I have had issues with hypoglycemia my whole life, and that is never an issue on GAPS, even without limiting my carbs.
Are you going to come out with a dairy/egg/egg white/coconut/nut free version of the Grain Free Meal Plan?
As I mentioned above, I have recently put my children back on a dairy free trial of GAPS (we still use ghee), so I have had a chance to expand my dairy free recipes greatly. Starting in March at least 75% of the recipes in the Grain Free Meal Plan will have a dairy free options, though I am still including options for using cultured dairy for those who can. As far as other allergens go, I will see what I can do, but I do not have much experience cooking without eggs, nuts, coconut, or other allergens so it will take me more time to get recipes that work.
Do you have enough energy?
I felt like I had more energy on GAPS. I felt great the whole time I was on it, though I never really had a huge die off. I feel better on GAPS.
Is it expensive?
Yes. Not to scare you off, but because you’re eliminating potatoes and grains from the diet, and I really think the meat you eat needs to be organic, it is more expensive than not being on GAPS. We are a single-income family, and my husband is in construction so the income we do have right now isn’t huge (being honest…) and we still made it work, but it takes some planning. You can see some things that have worked for us in Paying Cash for Groceries and 10 ways to Find More Grocery Money
Is it time consuming?
No. It takes some planning, but it’s not too bad. Mostly, you can’t just grab something quickly when you’re out- I don’t think there is any prepared food even at our health food store that is GAPS friendly. I quickly learned that before doing errands I needed to hack a squash in half and stick it in the oven (at 250 degrees) so something was ready when we came home. I bulk cooked meat balls, apples, and dehydrated lots of fruit at one time. It requires organization, but I didn’t find it took really any more time than regular cooking from scratch.
Do you miss grains?
I’m not going to lie… I like bread. I didn’t find that I had overwhelming cravings for starches, though. There are lots of good foods you can eat on GAPS. So, I found that I was easily able to adapt to the diet but I don’t think I’d choose to be on it for the rest of my life without a good reason.
Can you cheat?
Cheating is complicated and it involves knowing your body and understanding your reactions. You do need to be strict- fanatical adherence is I believe how it’s said in Breaking The Vicious Cycle, on a day-to-day basis, or you won’t have any healing. Cheating needs to be thought through and deliberate (I know this sounds bizarre… just go with me on this). We had ‘good luck’ cheating with SCD-legal foods, as I described in the post on Cheeseslave’s blog. SCD legal foods don’t contain the carbohydrates that are going to feed the bad bacteria.
I tried cheating with *just a bite* of soaked whole wheat bread about a week into the diet, and reacted to it immediately; raised pulse, nausea, other tummy troubles. I was surprised that would make so much of a difference. I tried again after about 3 weeks onto the diet, and enough healing had taken place that I could cheat and feel not great, but not awful. At this point I decided to just do GAPS 5 days a week, and be ‘off’ on the weekends. After a couple months of this on for 5 days, off for 2, I did another full 3 weeks on, and then was done.
More about cheating: I found that it did no good if I ate even a tiny bit of ‘illegal’ on the days that I was supposed to be doing GAPS. It took me a full 24 hours of only eating GAPS foods to feel like I was actually on GAPS (feeling scattered, bloated with the illegal foods). For this reason, I’d encourage you to not bother with doing ‘mostly GAPS’ and then write off the diet as ‘not working’- it’s not going to work unless you’re not letting any trace of illegal carbohydrate into your diet. I’m sure there are plenty of people who can’t handle cheating at all. I didn’t consider myself to be in dire need of GAPS, but was doing it more as a cleanse, so it wasn’t going to affect me as much.
What about going to other people’s houses?
See the ‘Cheating’ section, above. I elected to keep the kids on GAPS food, since I couldn’t really tell how they handled non-GAPS food on occasion, so I just brought food along for them, plus some to share. They were stuck on the only-cooked-fruit stage for quite a while, and I’ll admit that I did occasionally microwave fruit to ‘cook’ it easily at other people’s houses. Because food allergies, special diets, and picky kids are so common now, it wasn’t a big deal at all to bring different food. I’d usually just bring some sort of fruit and some sort of meat so it wasn’t too messy. If a former-favorite (pizza) was being served, I’d be sure to bring something they really liked, like fruit leathers and not stress if that’s all they ate that meal.
What supplements do you take?
We started out taking Biokult. My prenatal (which I otherwise LOVE) isn’t GAPS friendly so I stopped taking that (I’m breastfeeding). We did juicing, which I consider to be a supplement of sorts. We eventually got Salty Cod Liver Oil from Green Pasture. I switched over to SCDophilous for our probiotic once Bio-Kult ran out. There is some controversy about BioKult; some of the bacteria in it are not legal on SCD, and there is some sort of corn derivative in it. I think after reading about this I’m more comfortable with the SCDophilous, but there is no doubt that BioKult has helped many people. That’s it. I’m not a big supplement person.