There are an increasing number of people who for one reason or another becoming either gluten or dairy free, or both. To meet the need, supermarkets now have an ever increasing range of 'Free from' foods. Many people are familiar with these aisles. When I tell people that we are dairy and gluten free, they automatically assume that we can eat any product labelled gluten/dairy free. They are often very surprised when I explain to them that actually, the GAPS diet is not about swapping conventional dairy/wheat products for processed alternatives, but rather, a completely new way of looking at food.
What do I mean?
Well, for the GAPs diet, we don't just swap out milk and then consume any alternative. We look closely at the alternative and evaluate each product separately for its merits or otherwise. Take coconut milk for example. Many cans of coconut milk are not the pure substance. They have other added ingredients like Guar Gum. Therefore I look for either Blue Dragon brand, or Biona as I know they are pure coconut milk with no added nasties. Many think we can drink Soy milk. But Soy has many drawbacks - despite being touted as healthy by many. Here Dr. Axe explains the problem - basically it contains phytoestrogens which mimic the bodies own hormones and can cause problems. Take almond milk, and you will find it is not pure almonds, but again has other ingredients added that on a healing diet we can't consume and that's without considering the source of the almonds and whether unsoaked nuts are good for us.
For the GAPs diet, we can have alternatives...but they've got to be pure -which means either finding something that is pure - or yep ..making it ourselves, which actually works out cheaper in the long run, but is still expensive and very time consuming! So one tends to avoid it - especially if you are doing such a diet on a budget with a family. Four people drinking lots of coconut milk? Then watch the price of your groceries rocket sky high! We tend to keep these things for a rare treat.
So how do we get round the problem? In our family we do invest time and money fermenting our own milk (into milk kefir) or fermented cream (sour cream). I make daily batches. These fermented dairy alternatives are actually worth investing in as they supply the body with essential probiotics, encouraging the growth of good bacteria in our bowels, which helps to keep our bowels healthy and therefore the rest of the body can work better too. They also taste delicious too. If you didn't see my post on recipes for milk kefir, see it here. On the rare occasion we have hot cocoa or coffee we use a slab of butter as the 'milk' substitute. This actually makes a creamy beverage, though it still looks like 'black' coffee.
What about wheat alternatives?
Well if you examine the labels on the 'free from' cakes and biscuits, you will see too that actually they are no different from the ones in the conventional aisle in that they too include all manner of 'other' ingredients that are far from natural - including sugar. Therefore on the GAPS diet or anyone who is serious about their health will want to avoid them and make their own. Dr. Natasha cites families who have tried to improve their children's behaviour using 'free from' foods but had seen little difference, but once they changed to truly free from foods- i.e. made them themselves with GAPs legal foods, they often saw dramatic changes. Once again, these things take time and do cost more. so in our family we again keep them for rare treats. If you want recipes for the most easy treats I have found (or invented), see the 'snacks and treats' link on the side-bar.
How do we cope without these things?
Well it has taken time. When we first started the diet 18 months ago (wow - that time has gone fast!), we found the transition very hard and I was constantly trying to come up with home-made alternatives to all the foods we used to eat. Two things changed that: firstly realising that I was introducing foods too quickly and we were reacting, and secondly, as time has gone on we have adjusted to the point where we are no longer so attracted to the foods we used to eat. I'm not saying I wouldn't love a home-made pizza with tomato and cheese (two of the things we have yet to introduce as we suspect husband might have reacted to either of them), but we can suffice very comfortably on mainly meat, veg and fat and fruit and fermented dairy. We feel full and satiated.
It's still not easy being 'different'. On Sunday there was tea after the evening service and although we wouldn't normally stay, we got talking (with bank holiday the next day). Round came the delicious smells of carrot cake and ginger cake and then plates of chocolate biscuits. Once more we found ourselves explaining that we couldn't eat them. Then came questions, well what can we eat? Couldn't we bring our own food to eat? It sounded really strange to have to say that well - we could, but we just don't eat like that any more - we rarely have snacks - only if I've had a bit of extra time to make them, and we wouldn't eat that late at night.... but it sounded lame, and there were other things to talk about. Son1 tried explain that we eat a lot of broth and soup - well you can imagine the looks he got!
Talking about the Sons - they need medals. They politely turn down these tasty morsels and genuinely (well it seems genuine!) say that they wouldn't like them anymore. Time will tell, but for now I know we still have our chocolate supply in the freezer and the mention of chocolate in any form lightens their eyes!
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. A member of the medical profession should be consulted about all matters relating to your health. This information is for advice only.