Mind the Gaps Diet
A few bumps in the path!
We started stage 4 optimistically. The fellows are now consuming cream and butter freely. So now they can have a bowl of sour cream with a dribble of honey for pudding! Oh, pudding!
We have gradually moved from sauerkraut juice to actual sauerkraut cabbage and that was doing well until the second day of stage 4 when I had more yoghurt for breakfast than usual, had more sauerkraut than usual and upped my dose of sour cream to two teaspoons. I thought I might have overdone it but wasn't ready for what happened. Two hours after eating I suddenly developed severe ectopic heart beats. It came suddenly and four plus hours later it went as suddenly as it came. I have no other explanation other than die-off, but did go and have an ECG in case, but was declared all right. I now realise that the palpitations I had on stage 2 and 3 were due to the probiotic food. This is really a learning curve as you find how your body responds to different things. So I will now go very carefully with the fermented goodies. I do think that having two strong cups of camomile tea helped as it went half an hour after drinking it and after a repeat performance four days later, I took the tea quickly and they went!
We have also started taking the probiotic (Biokult) before breakfast.
The following day was not so good either as Husband and I introduced carrot juice, while the lads had one teaspoon of yoghurt as they had already taken carrot juice. By the evening I had stomach cramps and needed the bathroom, so I suspect carrot juice and will keep it out for a while.
I made our first almond bread with just butter, ground almonds and eggs. You have to laugh. I made it into almond 'cakes', which looked very desirable to our sweet teeth, except they have no sugar in. The first day, I cut one into quarters and we had a bit each. It wasn't brilliant, but it was a new texture and we got quite excited, except Son 2 said it tasted of marzipan which he dislikes! The next day we had half each. We had to laugh at the peculiarity of our situation - I said they could only have a mouthful each to test it. Husband said one cake was a mouthful to him! So there we were feasting on a few small crumbs
For my second attempt I tried Cara Comini's recipe in her book 'What can I eat now, 30 days on the GAPS intro diet'. only I added a tiny bit of coconut oil - this nut bake recipe is very versatile. These have squash in them and they rose nicely and looked delicious! I showed them to Son 2, who disparagingly said 'You forgot to put the chocolate in!' I despair!! Never-the-less he ate his tiny portion slathered in sour cream and a drop of honey!
We really enjoyed our roast lamb with roast carrots and roast squash on Sunday. I did cheat and only used the juices and fat from the roast to make a thin gravy - so it tasted like normal. Plus I put fresh mint in the gravy which was almost like mint sauce!! It was a welcome relief after the 'sameness' of many of our meals.
Unfortunately on our fourth day on stage four, Husband got a stomach bug. So that will delay us a bit. We have decided to let the Sons go on to stage 5 so they can have stewed apple to lighten their diet.
Husband ate a normal breakfast of three soft boiled eggs and a cup of chicken broth, but then felt gradually worse. He had another mug of broth at lunchtime and began to feel better, but his symptoms didn't subside so he stopped all broth and just drank water. The second day he felt better and just had chicken broth for breakfast and lunch, followed by a stage one soup for tea. The next day he returned to work, having stage 2 food and he will gradually work back up to where he was over the next couple of days.
Good news is that Son 1 realises he is concentrating better on his work, and that is amazing as it has been an enormous issue for him for years, but we are all noticing the difference and enjoying it! What used to take up to three hours is taking just one! For a fourteen year old he is amazing - the moodiness has gone, he's bright and cheerful and amazingly cracking jokes! This Son never used to know when a joke was made, let alone tell one himself - so he's constantly fooling me and catching me out to his great delight. In addition, he's decided he likes writing essays!
So it's painful, but starting to bear fruit.
Hopefully we'll all be on Stage 5 soon!
The path's looking a little easier just now.
Stage 3 took us 5 days as I needed to catch up after my set-back last week. Generally speaking things definitely got easier all round. I was more organised in the kitchen, plus the normal back-to-school routine helped put a feeling of normality back into our lives.
We have settled into a routine of having scrambled eggs or squash pancakes for breakfast. We just can't afford more eggs than 2 each at the moment, while our meat consumption is so high. So we have them all in one meal. We have a bowl of left-over soup to follow. We are going to try and have one egg-free day a week to avoid egg allergy and intend to have home-made sausages on those days.
Tea is a proper meal, and we turn the stock into (a lot of) gravy to pour over the meat. We sometimes have a little more in a mug if it's particularly runny.
Lunch is usually some cold (or reheated) meat and a bowl of soup. Son 1 and I actually enjoy some soup mid-morning to tied us over until lunchtime. Son 2 doesn't want more than he has to have, but will make himself some poached fish if he is starving (which isn't very often now).
We have varied the stages a little and have omitted the fermented fish as we don't think any of us will ever want to eat it. Also, as our Avocado wasn't ripe in time, we've decided to move on to Stage 4 and add it in when it's ripe.
The budget is holding out at the moment but we are not doing the diet all organically. We use a butcher who specialises in local meats and supplement with some items (e.g. free range pork mince) from Abel and Cole, who also supply our cold-pressed honey. We are using organic eggs, from Lidl, currently prices at £1.49 per half dozen. Once we are through intro I intend to go back to the free range eggs we purchased in the health food shop - we know where they come from.
By shopping around I know where to find the best organic veg. deals and get organic carrots, cauliflower, broccoli and mushrooms, but squash and leeks we buy non-organic at best price we can find. We have a small local farm shop selling vegetables which I use sometimes too.
Dr. Natasha says pasture-raised meat is best but not essential, whereas organic vegetables produce better results, so we are buying as many organic vegetables as we can source for a reasonable price. I always look in the 'close to sell by date' bin in the supermarkets first before starting my shopping and often scoop some bargains.
I need to get more adventurous wit the vegetables as we tend to still be sticking with onions, leeks, carrots, squash, peas, broccoli and cauliflower.
After four days we decided to try moving onto Stage 4.
Seems like we've a long way to go and it's bit grim on so few foods!
Having started on Sunday, we all progressed to stage 2 on Tuesday with no digestive issues. However I had a rough first week with several sudden trips to the bathroom. I stayed on stage 2 whilst this was going on. So I had the conundrum that many seem to have trying to work out what is due to die-off from the probiotics or what is due to a reaction to a new food or how much is just toxin clearing. There was no clear cut answer, but I couldn’t see any pattern developing with what I eaten and it suddenly cleared on the 9th day.
We all picked up on Thursday and woke with better appetites (despite getting fed up with soup and mushy vegetables!) and more energy.
We tended to be really starving first thing in the morning, but that has improved so much that I don’t notice it now on day 9. I found that a teaspoon of coconut oil with a bit of honey tied me over while we made breakfast, otherwise the low blood sugar levels made me feel quite weak.
So we spent two days on stage 1 and four days on stage 2.
So how do we feel?
Husband and I both agree we can be tired without feeling heavy-eyed/headed. We wake feeling fresher and have more energy. The lads don’t complain of being tired anymore.
Husband and I have both lost a lot of weight. Not that I think anyone would put oneself through such a strict diet just to lose weight! Husband has lost 6lbs in the week and myself 5lb. They say you only lose the weight you need to lose to become your natural weight and size whatever that be, thin or stocky (on the GAPs diet). This is not a starvation diet. We can eat as much of the allowed foods as we like. We are focusing on healing the gut so that the nutrients we eat actually are absorbed properly by the body.
Amazingly we haven’t craved for much, probably because we had weaned ourselves off of a lot of carbs before starting. We have fond thoughts of sweet things, but don’t feel the need for them. Our food is satisfying. Naturally we all delight in a new food when it’s introduced (eggs and sour cream being the favourite at the moment), but I’m surprised that Son1 is keen to try scrambled eggs which he hated before, and Son 2 wants pancakes that he’s never been keen on. Even Husband said he wouldn’t mind a pancake (these are squash and egg pancakes fried in butter) with butter and sour cream on top and honey (OK, old habits die hard!)
I think we are over the hardest part now. We don’t enjoy soup three times a day, but we have learnt to accept it and it’s made easier with a widening range of vegetables.
Basically Stage 1 is hard because you are so limited in what you can eat. Stage 2 improves if you can tolerate eggs, which we all can. But we are all looking forward to the next stages - especially stage 64, as the fellows joke, when they can have cocoa back!! I did say we had a sweet tooth!
We are now 9 days into the introduction diet. I can't yet say I'm a 'pro' but I am learning some things which I hope to share with you here.
They say the GAPS diet is hard work and boy, it's hard work! I don't mind the cooking so much - it's actually easier as it's mainly broth and meat and vegetables, but it's the planning ahead and the WASHING UP! No, we haven't got a dish washer and don't want one due to the toxins they introduce into the home, but after each meal there seems to be a mountain of saucepans and broth containers!
AND they are all GREASY! Not the bit I enjoy the most!
It gets trickier as more foods are added. Last night I suddenly realised they were eating more sour cream and we wouldn't have enough for tomorrow. So I a made rush to make it (not that it takes long, but it was bed-time!) wishing I'd thought about it earlier in the day. It's made harder as those three can take the sour cream, but I need yoghurt. The fridge is full of little containers!
It does seem to be getting easier now. A new rhythm is emerging to our days!
So some practical ideas!
BUY ENOUGH CONTAINERS - preferably glass jars, or BPA free plastic boxes to store both broth and meat. I find that glass is easier to clean and doesn't leave a smell of plastic on the food.
PLAN WELL AHEAD especially at weekends and onto work on Monday morning. Buy in bulk. I think I've tended to get little bits of shopping here and there and ended up visiting the shops three times more than normal. Meat is alright as I go the butchers once a week, it's not local. But I tended not to buy enough veg.
MAKE SOUP IN BULK
I have used my slow cooker to make the meat broth, but then I've kept it in batches in the fridge, just cooking up a little each time and making fresh soup. Now I'm going to make a batch of both, convert it immediately into soup and store batches of it ready to heat up and I hope this will cut down on a lot of meal prep and washing up.
ENLIST THE HELP OF THE CHILDREN
My children are used to helping, but don't usually actually cook much (other than sweet things!!). They help dry up, but now I need them to start cooking more. This will be good for them (so I keep telling them). Son 2 was quite pleased that he can make his own scrambled eggs this morning. OK not a big deal, but good for starters! Breakfast went a lot more smoothly and was ready quicker. I didn't realised how ignorant they are of the geography of the kitchen. 'Where are the jugs?', or how lacking in kitchen know-how 'I've spilt something!' 'What should you do then?' Blank looks! Seems like I've neglected a part of their education and done too much for them, but I doubt I'm alone in this!
I have one sheet for each member of the family on which I note each new food as it is introduced and how much probiotic they are taking, be it fermented dairy or sauerkraut. Keeping it up is time-consuming, but if they do react to something the information is all there.
VARY THE MEATS
We tended to just have chicken pieces and minced beef made into meat balls for the first four days and we got sick of it. Adding in other joints has made it easier. Pork chops on the bone, lamb shoulder and beef brisket cooked with marrow bones have been delicious. Do remember to put take as much fat and cartilage from the bones as you can and add it into the soups. I blend these bits with a little water and add them in lump free so no-one knows they are there, or they would say 'YUK!'
We also ate a lot more fish - especially fresh mackerel for breakfast. Herrings had too many bones. Or we bought wild caught frozen salmon, all of which were quick to prepare.
It does get easier and more automatic though!
Stage 2: No gravy! But our favourite meal so far! Broth was in a mug on the side.
Stage 1: 2 days
Seeing as we started the GAPS diet a day earlier than planned, we had church to take our minds off the lack of decent food, which did help. Even so, by mid-afternoon Son 1 was saying he didn't think he could take any more bone broth and he picked at his tea - but ate it.
I didn't know how much food to make and felt by the end of the day that I had underestimated a little.
Having said that, there is only so much meat broth you can drink (unless you love it!). I cooked it in my 3.5l slow cooker and did two batches and we probably used one and a half parts, supplemented with water to top up the stock when I made the soups.
Meat wise we definitely need meat at each meal to fill us up and plenty of carbs. Seeing as we are limited by allowed foods and our preference to squash (not our favourite) and carrots, these two must be alternated! On Day 1 we had fish for breakfast, chicken for lunch and plain veg. soup for tea. Cold chicken was offered for tea but only Son 1 had any.
For day 2 Husband and Son1 had fish, myself and son 2 just had veg. soup and were starving by 10.30, so had another helping. Lunch was better, with minced beef and loads of veg. Tea was soup laced with pureed squash so they couldn't taste it and chicken either hot or cold.
We do feel a little tired, but so far nothing noteworthy. I think we have spared ourselves some of the symptoms of change in diet, by having come down gradually over the last 2 weeks. If anything it has only made them all a bit loopy.
Stage 2 - day 3 onward
Day 3 has been more of a challenge. Son 2 woke not wanting to eat and saying he would be sick if he had to eat any more meat broth! He also felt 'like a jelly' so I decided the low carbs was getting to him and gave him some pureed cooking apple ahead of schedule (should be stage 5, but others recommend this strategy) with his (newly introduced) raw organic egg yolk mixed in. This perked him up and he ate some dinner and tea, but I gave him less broth. I (wife) overdid the sauerkraut juice and know about it, so will reduce that as from tomorrow for me. The others seem fine so far.
With our sweet teeth we are really struggling with no puddings, so I cheated a little and whisked all our raw eggs portions (1 each) into a whitish froth with a tiny bit of honey and we ate it to end the day as a 'creamy pudding'. This recipe is in the official GAPS book on page 205 - called Russian custard. To us it was delicious!
Minced beef is definitely our favourite meat, either just as it is, or made into meat balls and/or added to soup.
We're going to the butchers tomorrow to see if we can find a different cut of meat for variety. Making each meal a bit different is a challenge as we soon seem to tire of the same textures and flavours.
Yes, it does look a little up hill at the moment, standing as we are at the foot of the intro diet hill. I'm hoping that when we get to the top of the incline we'll begin to feel more comfortable in our new way of eating and will have begun to feel some benefits.
We have now had 3 days of eating purely GAPS foods.
It hasn't been easy transitioning to grain and dairy free. Breakfasts have been the hardest.
Husband settled for 3 eggs. Sons gingerly tried nut butter pancake and sour cream and declared them ok. I tried stewed apple with a couple of eggs stirred in as I took it off the heat, with sour cream and honey. Fine, except I was starving by 10.30. Altogether it made an awful lot of washing up!
Today we cleared the last GAPs legal foods that we can' t eat on the intro ... cocoa powder, sausages (gluten free from Abel and Cole), eggs (hopefully we'll meet again in a few days time) and nuts/seeds.
So we had a slap up dinner of sausages, mashed swede, carrots and cabbage, fried eggs and gravy made of chicken broth with mushrooms and leeks pureed in. Pudding was wonderful, wonderful chocolate muffins from Megan's cook book (http://eatbeautiful.net/), with chocolate sauce poured over the top, made from the carob chip recipe from 'Nourishing Traditions'. (Only we used cocoa instead!)
I'd have taken a photo but we ate them warm straight out of the oven so you'll have to use your imagination!
Sons are coping amazing well and being very up-beat about it all. So much so they asked if we could start a day earlier ('To get it over with sooner!')
Their only complaint so far is 'Do we have to have BONE BROTH with everything? REALLLY?'
So when re-assured that they could eat meat as meat, and not in soup, they were only a little consoled. 'That's still only meat, veg and BONE BROTH!' 'How long until we can eat those muffins again?'
Husband is wonderful. No complaints and enjoying the food he is presented with cheerfully.
My biggest fear is running out of food and having to make them wait three hours for the next batch of BONE BROTH! Our blood sugar levels seem to drop very quickly unless we have lots of squash/carrots and meat. The fridge is stuffed with vegetables and chicken stock and the freezer with meat. I still think I will be knocking up soup all day long.
I might even enjoy the break from endless baking. We are already eating a much wider range of foods than we would ever have touched if we hadn't been doing GAPS - swede and squash for starters and actually, they are not that bad!
Tomorrow we still plan to have our normal big Sunday dinner - boiled chicken instead of roast, with mashed squash, brussel sprouts, broccoli, and gravy made with boiled onions and broth pureed together. Pudding (chocolate!) will be sadly missed. I think peppermint tea might taste quite delicious!
We are a little in trepidation of how to get through a week or so eating such a limited rage of foods, but are so encouraged by other people blogs/web-sites who have proved it can be done. It does just take that spirit of adventure and willingness to step outside the comfort zone.
We have bravely set our date! The 8th February 2016.
We are bravely getting ready. The cupboards are empty of all enticing goodies. The cupboard that was full of chocolate is slowly but reluctantly being emptied into our mouths, all dreading the 'last piece' ('But not for ever, eh Mum?')
I have my action plan - thanks to Cara of Health, Home and Happiness and her book 'What can I eat now 30 days on the GAPS introduction diet'.
The flour packets are all gone - but we are still feasting on Megan's wonderful chocolate cake! (See below)
The milk is going fast though we are allowing ourselves to drink raw milk until it runs out on Tuesday.
Oh how I missed my morning cup of hot milk and water today (silver tea)! Cold water just isn't the same. I didn't realise what a comfort drink it was.
Breakfast runs out tomorrow so we are going on to full gaps breakfasts as of then.
The lads and I have been reducing carbs all last week and eating more fat and soups. Husband has got to keep going to work this week, so he has reduced less so far.
And our bodies are starting to groan! I keep feeling nauseas and have had diarrhoea, as has Son 2 and we have had headaches. Son1 feels very tired. It's hard to watch them groaning and feeling off colour. I did warn them it would happen.
'Is it going to be like this all the time on this diet?' says son 2. We joke that we get GAPS in our times of feeling nauseas.
Son 1 is very silent on the subject so far, but is enjoying having more cooked vegetables. He's never been a fan of raw anything.
We decided to take a week to wind down slowly rather than go cold turkey, but I can see we are still feeling the effects.
Our typical diet to date has been:
Husband and I soaked muesli with cream, honey and grapes
Son 1 soaked buttermilk scones from 'Nourishing Traditions'
Son 2 soaked oatmeal from GNOWFGLINS
Husband: Two sandwiches (home-made soaked loaf in bread machine) usually with cheese and cake.
The rest of us more varied, soups or salad or baked spuds and cheese the boys having bread alongside. The boys had cake, I had fruit.
A nutritious home-cooked meal, but always with a pudding to follow! Of late it's mainly been stewed apple, or a quick cheesecake made from cream, soft cheese and frozen fruit and honey, or a custard tart, so more protein/fat foods than carbs and all served with cream!
We've been telling our family and friends what we are about to do.
Husband sees it as a wonderful joke that someone so addicted to chocolate could even contemplate such a thing. He loves rubbing in the 'We'll be eating loads and loads of BONE BROTH!'
'Well we've told them all - I suppose we'll have to go ahead and do it then?' was his last comment to me last night.
Fortunately family and friends have all been very supportive and we have been truly helped and encouraged by their support. They are all looking forward to 'watching the experiment unfold before their very eyes', as husband puts it - so nicely!
I used Jennifer Scribner's booklet ' The GAPS diet in a nutshell' to help to explain to folks and that has been very helpful. http://bodywisdomnutrition.com/
Meals this week are a fortaste! I'm already finding out that sandwiches can't be replaced with a bit of meat and veg. but rather another big meal as they are starving! Rather I'm cooking more at teatime to eat left-overs for lunch. Or making double batches of soup one day to last for the next. The sons are enjoying saying 'What's the snack Mum?' - only they seem to be saying it all the time!
Here's todays lunch offering (the light meal of the day!!). Seemed like a feast!
Lamb broth from yesterdays roast Eat- Beautiful chocolate cake from
with left over mince from Saturday http://eatbeautiful.net/my-cookbook/
and veg boiled in the broth. I think cocoa will have to come back
as soon as possible!
I can't say we are looking forward to it! It's going to be very hard to start with I know. But we hope we will feel better for it eventually. We don't know what healing to expect, but I will share with you as we go along. My husband and I feel it is the way to go for us as a family at this time.
We enjoyed this humorous cartoon: http://bodywisdomnutrition.com/ which provides a light hearted overview of the GAPS diet.