Having just had a couple of set backs in the family, I was reminded (again) about the importance of keeping a thorough food diary while doing a gut healing diet like GAPS.
A diary allows you to track exactly what you have been eating and doing each day and helps to make identifying what might have caused a problem easier. Now don't be misled, it is very often not clear what has caused a set back. Sometimes you have to just keep pressing on and it's only when you look back a few months later that you see a pattern emerging (unless it's really obvious). In order for the diary to be of any use, though it must be detailed. So here I will run down what to include and why.
Do list what activities you have done each day. May be you have had a period of being more busy than you realised.
Do list the quality of sleep you had each night, as poor sleep can quickly leave you feeling out of sorts and can impact how you feel.
Do list the supplements you are taking. Always keep these to the minimum as the binders and fillers can sometimes cause more problems than the issue you were taking them for. Try and stick to good food as much as you can.
Do make note of any untoward symptoms - e.g. headaches, stomach/digestive troubles/ pain/reoccurrence of symptoms that had gone/extra tiredness.
Do list not only the meals, but each individual ingredient in them. This may seem laborious, but it is essential. You may be reacting to a tiny little thing you decided to throw into the meal, like mustard powder, or a herb, or a particular vegetable and if it is not listed you will never remember it was added in if you just write 'chicken casserole'.
Do list your stool quality each day. This is big indicator of how well your body is utilising the food you feed into it. Check the Bristol Stool chart for an indication of what you should be aiming for.
I started out with just a notebook, but I was tempted to record skimpily. I now have a proper diary with a page to a day so I can have plenty of room to record the necessary details for all four of us.
When you hit a problem then first and foremost, DON'T PANIC. There is an excellent article on the subject here, but basically check for an obvious connection, like eating a new food for up to three days before. Remember that foods can affect you for up to three days after eating them. Consider STRESS as it plays a bigger part in our health than many of us like to acknowledge. If the issue continues, then start to look back. Is there any link between what you were eating/doing this time the symptoms previous time/s it has happened (if it has!). This can take quite a bit of detective work, but persevere. Keep going back to the diary check. you might have to keep mulling it over for a few days. See if the symptoms go and monitor the situation.
(I don't like the language on the SCD site referenced above, but it seems to be the only one that deals with such an important subject well.)
If you know you have been eating certain foods without symptoms then you can consider them to be safe. Keep a list of foods you know that you don't react to. If you need to, then cut anything not on the list out of your diet for a few days to return to a better state and then introduce ingredients you are not sure about slowly and only one every three days watching for reactions. I this way you can build your safe list and that will reduce the number of things you can suspect of causing problems.
Once you have a safe list, you could reduce to just listing new things, but I have to say that experience has shown me that once I relax my guard I miss things.
Personally, in our family the things that have caused problems have been cider vinegar, cheese (we introduced it too soon), too much fruit, especially strawberries and too much chocolate (now there's a surprise!) The chocolate caused terrible cramping and urgent trips to the bathroom at midnight several times before we finally identified the problem. After all, we reasoned, chocolate is safe, we've been having it for ages. Out came the food diary - only to find that on each occasion this strange manifestation occurred it had been an unusual day and we had consumed more chocolate than usual.
It sure is a relief when you get to the bottom of an issue, but it is a learning curve and we can now move on having made progress as we have identified the problem. It is easy to get stressed just trying to figure it out, but try and hang on in there and stay relaxed. Eventually it will become obvious. Just go back to those safe foods and DON'T PANIC - Oh and keep a thorough diary!
I'm off to keep mine up to date as I've already fallen foul of my own good advice. Hence I've found out the hard way the need to be detailed!
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.
I have elsewhere mentioned the prevalence of mental problems in youngsters these days. It concerns me very much. I have personal experience of both girls and lads, aged 16 plus, suddenly becoming very withdrawn and then developing severe symptoms such as OCD, depression and even becoming addicted to drugs. It is heart-breaking to watch these friends, for that is what they are, close down. Literally, previously seemingly happy children changed almost overnight into an unhealthy mental state. Youngsters at the peak of life too depressed to get out of bed. It is hard to know how to speak to the parents. What do you say, other than to sympathise? The mental health agencies I understand cannot cope with the vast numbers of such youngsters. If they do receive counselling, I hear that it is either too short, infrequent and often ineffective. They are put on drugs, and then stronger doses when the first dose doesn't seem to work, while anxious parents watch on helplessly. Maybe you know someone too. It doesn't just afflict the poor, or the disadvantaged. It attacks all, seemingly indiscriminately. None of us are immune. It might happen to your children, it could happen to mine.
I think the biggest question in many minds is - what has caused it?
Parents will feel responsible. What have we done wrong? they will think.
Many will give an answer: a deprived childhood. No, these youngsters I know are dearly loved and cared for. Then what about poor parenting? Well which of us is perfect. As somebody once said, children don't come with instruction sheets, and we don't always get it right. The list could go on and I have no doubt the poor parents have thought of every possibility and blamed themselves to distraction. Wouldn't you!
So no real answers. Quit beating yourself up if you are in this position, it just won't help!
The next question is, what can we do about it? For many parents there is no help. They face it alone. They may seek help but find the system fails them. Imagine having a violent, self-destructive drug abusing teenager in the house with no support - not even the police are overly interested - just another youngster in trouble. For many there seems no hope. Imagine have your young man in bed all day paralysed with fear? Parent's are desperate for an answer. Their own lives are taken up with caring for their child and coping with the strain. Of course they do it willingly, but that's not the point.
Do the psychotic drugs work? Well, no they only deal with the symptoms. They might help to lift the mood slightly, but they don't address the cause. Does counselling work? Maybe for some it gives an outlet for their frustrations - mainly with feeling the way they do. My own experience of counselling training has taught me that much counselling focuses the patient's mind on past things, trying to 'peel off the layers' until the trigger for the mental problem is found. Unfortunately, as we all know, focusing on a problem doesn't help, it makes it worse. Distraction is often far better than digging deeper into oneself.
What about Cognitive Behaviour Therapy? Well, I find that having spoken to those who have had it, it did very little. In fact, the more severe the problem the least effective it was. A quick google brings up the following:
Again, it is focusing on the problem which as I know from personal experience actually does tangle you up more! I'm not saying there might be some useful strategies amongst it all, but it doesn't take the problem away. In addition, some of us don't actually like the thought of divulging our personal life in front of someone else. It's not always appropriate, let alone having to cope with what often boils down to having to answer intrusive questions as the counsellor digs in to the problem, or resorting to telling 'tales' on other people.
What if you learnt that actually the problem was not just the brain itself, but the gut had a powerful influence on the brain. What if you learnt that it could be that your gut is sick, not your head? What if you leant that what you eat could influence how you feel. We know that to be true anyway as many of us seek comfort in sugary foods. Now that is not helpful, don't get me wrong, I'm just illustrating that we already know that food affects feelings.
Wouldn't that give hope?
This is precisely what Dr. Natasha Campbell Mc.Bride is doing with the GAPS diet.
She is giving hope and release to hundreds of families. As she explains, some children show symptoms much earlier on, in the form of autism, or ADHD or ADD or dyslexia etc.. Others were maybe sickly youngsters who for example, for one reason or another have had to have several course of antibiotics for ear infections etc.. Others have been fussy eaters and hard to feed, or have allergies, or bad eczema/asthma. As Dr. Natasha says, many of these overlap and she rarely sees a child with just one symptom. Her experience has shown her that it is these children who may then as teenagers fall prey to substance abuse, or 'to become diagnosed with schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder and other psychological and psychiatric problems'. (Gut and Psychology Syndrome pp5-6 by Dr. N. Campbell McBride).
As to why her diet protocol is the answer:
To answer all these questions we have to look at one factor, which unites all these patients in a clinical setting. This factor is the state of their digestive system. I have yet to meet a child with autism, ADHD/ADD, asthma, eczema, allergies, dyspraxia or dyslexia, who has not got digestive abnormalities.....But what have digestive abnormalities got to do with autism, hyperactivity, inability to learn, mood and behaviour problems? According to recent research and clinical experience, a lot! In fact it appears that the child's digestive system holds the key to the child's mental development. The underlying disorder, which can manifest itself in different children with different combinations of symptoms, resides in the gut!
And in case you think this is a modern idea:
The Father of modern psychiatry French psychiatrist Phillipe Pinel (1745-1828), after working with mental patients for many years, concluded in 1807: 'The primary seat of insanity is in the region of the stomach and intestines'.
How may modern psychiatrists ask about your stomach? I've never met a conventional one, yet I know from my own body that if I'm worried, my stomach reflects it, so there is an obvious link. In addition, the Bible talks about the stomach as the seat of the emotions. God knows a thing or too, if I can say it reverently!
Incidentally, a quick Google ( I don't say it's a good site, I don't know, but this article is interesting as it pertains to our discussion here)
So, if you are one of these folk, struggling yourself, or caring for someone who is struggling, then please give this area your full concentration. Let's not miss something! Doing a gut healing diet is very hard work, but is it not worth the sacrifice, if by so doing we can breathe mental life back into our children?
This is not a quick fix answer. The youngster will need help from outside still, but it may be more effective if coupled with an eating programme that gets to the root of the problem.
Explore these links:
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.
It's that time of year. Offices are full of sneezing, coughing workers, trains packed with germ spreading commuters and it sometimes seems impossible to avoid catching something! How can we help ourselves to cope?
First we have to recognise that it is our immune system that is our first line of defence, and depending on how well it is working will determine how well we cope with illness.
When I first started learning about the immune system to help Husband with his autoimmune disease I was surprised when I read a list of things that weaken it. Various sources put them in different orders, but basically the list comprises of (these are the big ones):
If you just want remedies, scroll to the bottom of the page!
Lack of sleep
If you have a leaky gut, then as Dr. NCB explains, the body cannot handle toxins (amongst other things) effectively and so they pass through the gut wall, into the blood stream and cause problems elsewhere in the body. Even if you do not have a leaky gut, then toxic overload is not a good idea as it can cause a leaky gut! So this is not a diet just about what you eat. It is also about removing the toxic strain on the body. The actual food part is mainly to heal the gut wall and so stop it from 'leaking', while the probiotics and fermented foods and the juicing help to remove toxins and repopulate the gut with beneficial bacteria.
This ultimately, though means a change in lifestyle too. We are surrounded by so many chemicals, from personal care products, to cleaning products, garden chemicals, etc. If you stop and think about the chemicals you have stored in your cupboards, garage, shed, bathroom cabinet et cetera they all add up and if you use them regularly, to clean, wash clothes/dishes/floors et cetera, than you see how easily it would be to become very toxic.
Then there are all the medicines we ingest, and the lotions and potions we coat ourselves in. These are all the things we have control over - without mentioning the things we don't like air pollution.
Now, thankfully when God made our bodies he made them to be efficient at filtering out harmful substances to keep us alive, and our bodies have inbuilt detoxifying solutions. However in our industrialised society we are bombarded with far more man-made toxic chemicals then ever before, added to which much of it is on the food we eat from pesticides etc... as man battles to produce more for less price. Our lifestyle choices have detrimented our health and for some people, it has damaged their gut. Our bodies do naturally repair themselves, but in order to do so, they need the right nutrients and few of us eat well enough, or enough nutrient dense foods to enable that repair work to take place fast enough to keep up with the damage being caused and so their bodies can no longer deal effectively with the toxins. So they begin to breakout into symptoms, from pain to rashes. A nutrient diet as we have already seen is one with plentiful fats, protein from good quality meat and vegetables and keeping carbohydrates to the minimum.
So it behoves us all to try and reduce our dependence on man-made chemicals, including many drugs, for which there are natural alternatives. There is a place for drugs. Many are life-saving, but it is too easy to go and buy something to relieve symptoms quickly rather than get to the root of the problem. For many, eating a more nutrient diet and restricting carbohydrates helps to take away many unpleasant symptoms and reduce others. Some, like us, go the step further to try and heal our gut wall. Our family is finding many benefits from doing this. We can all benefit by becoming more natural in our outlook on life. I don't mean go 'Green' and make it a religion, but try to reduce our reliance on things that might actually and probably are adding to the problem of our ill health, rather than resolving it, just for short term relief.
So your project this week, is just to look in your cupboards and start to be aware of the chemicals you use every day. Look in the kitchen - the washing powder, washing up liquid, dishwashing solutions, household cleaning lotions, bleaches, et cetera, the bathroom with it's deodorant, body sprays, soaps, perfumes, powders and bear in mind what Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride says, that unless you can eat it, don't put it on your skin! That's a tall order.... but more is possible than you think. Next week I will be sharing with you some natural remedies I have found to our families health needs over the last seven or so years. Of course, the GAPs diet is now a large part of that for us, but there are lots of other small things you can do which work and will make all the difference, especially to your wallet!
Firstly, do not think the healing is all over by the end of the intro. You may have seen big improvements and hopefully you will have done, but more is yet to come! Your stomach at this stage is extremely sensitive to anything it doesn't like or can't digest well. It just isn't the same stomach you had before you started. It is all too easy to be tempted to jump into full GAPS with both feet and find your stomach reeling, or symptoms returning.
It really is a case of continuing the intro diet mentality, of one small change at a time, and introduce just a little, watch and see, then increase the amount. It's just that now you have more freedom over what you introduce!
Do continue to keep a diary. Record every ingredient that is new, not just the general food. E.g. it's easy to write 'banana muffin', but does that have nuts or coconut flour, or eggs, honey/dates. Be specific.
Also record what you did that day and how well you slept, so you can gauge what might be making you tired. Any stomach discomfort should be recorded and when it occurred, along with bowel movement type using the Bristol Stool scale. Armed with this sort of detailed information it will make it easier to try and identify which food is causing problems. I say easier, as it is not always easy and it's sometimes only after a few weeks you begin to see a pattern emerging. It took us about two months of occasionally having avocado chocolate pudding to work out that avocados gave Son 1 an upset stomach. We made more progress once we removed it from his diet and his bowels have become more regular, he has less stomach discomfort and his skin and eczema have improved dramatically. Similarly I had been consuming fruit for weeks, and wondering why sometimes my stomach was as a calm as anything and at other times it was bloated and uncomfortable. I eventually twigged that is was too much fruit that caused it. Before I reached that stage I had taken out nuts and fruit to calm my stomach down completely and keep it like that for a few days. Then I tried nuts and they didn't produce a reaction, so I brought fruit back in, but being who I am, I am not good at regulating things. I suddenly decide I'd fancy some raisins, so gobble a handful while I'm cooking tea (not a good habit!). I have now reduced all fruit to only a small amount per day and I seem to tolerate that well, but I have yet to try banana as when I started joining Son 2 with banana pancake every day I felt bloated. Whether that was because it took me over my daily fruit threshold, or whether banana per se is the problem I am working towards discovering. One remembers that Dr. NCB says that any discomfort after a meal is caused by foods previously eaten, not the meal you have just had.
Similarly Husband hasn't had any major noticeable problems until I hit on the fact that he often has a lot of wind especially after red meat meals, which indicated that he probably isn't digesting them well. So now we are taking steps to increase his stomach acid before the main meal - taking sauerkraut and bone broth and keeping non-acidic fruits away from the meal, as Dr. NCB advised. We have sauerkraut with each meal but had gone to not having bone-broth with the main meal, only with the other two meals. This is working so far!
So you see, this takes patience and determination and lots of observation. You have to remember that it is not just a diet that you eat these foods for two years and come out the other end. It's a healing process and healing takes time after years of abuse. Learn to listen to your body and work with it.
Hopefully this will give you insight as to what the diet involves, how carefully you need to introduce new foods, the sort of records you need to keep and why and how you are really watching, watching watching all the time.
Growing your own is fantastic. Nothing beats the excitement of watching your own fruit and veg grow and then harvesting it and eating it and certainly nothing beats the taste of home-grown produce. You will be more in control of what has gone into it. Add to that what your children will learn as they help you, and hopefully how willing they will be to at least taste the things they have grown, it's win all the way! If you are doing the full GAPs diet, or thinking about embarking on the intro then it is the cheapest way to source good quality, pesticide free local produce.
Our allotment will never have been so packed with plants by the time we have finished planting. Gone are the potatoes, in are the squash. Tightly packed into any spare corners are 150 onions to supply us for a few days for soup! Then there are the carrots, cabbages, leeks, spring onions, lettuce and tomatoes. Most of these are only as yet growing in the greenhouse waiting until all chance of frost is over, before being planted out. This week I planted runner beans in seed pots. Grandpa tells us you should see beans twice in May, once at planting and once when they come up. So now is a good time to plant them if you haven't yet.
In the mean-time, we have been preparing the new site. As we have been getting a new plot ready as well there has been a fair amount of weeding - mainly getting rid of those large weeds like dandelions and dock which have long roots. The grass and smaller weeds we have covered over with manure and then black sheeting to kill the weeds ready for planting next year. A third of the new plot we have cleared, but not deep dug, just pulled out the weeds to give minimum disturbance to the soil so as not to encourage it to grow weeds to replace it's lost structure. We will use this strip this year as overflow.
As I said in a previous post, we use a 'no-dig' technique which we read about in a book by Charles Dowding:
We do try to rotate our crops from year to year too and I keep a diary of what was planted where each year to facilitate planning.
What will you grow? No space, then do what you can. Herbs grow well on windowsills and we are finding we are using far more fresh herbs than ever to flavour our food on the GAPS diet. Tomatoes will grow well on balconies or decking as long as they have plenty of sun. Blueberries will grow happily in containers, as will strawberries. Allotments are great if you can afford one and it is near enough to travel to frequently during the growing season. We seem to be very fortunate to live in an area where the allotments are very cheap (£28 for the year - or £14 for a half plot).
If you are just starting out then grow reliable crops. Onions have always done well for us, as have beetroots and runner beans, without much overseeing, although beans need a lot of watering. Brassicas (the cabbage family) tend to need more care and protection from caterpillars and can just be that bit trickier to succeed with. Grow the things you will eat lots of. Squash, leeks and spring onions are new to us so a bit of an experiment.
We have tried peas, but you need a lot of plants to produce a meals worth! Raspberries, strawberries and rhubarb will just come up every year and just appreciate a bit of manure each season, and clearing/pruning at the end. Of course fruit trees are easy as long as you don't let them get too big and unmanageable.
If you haven't started planting, then don't panic.. there is still time. Choose carefully. It is generally cheaper to grow your own from seed, although if you only want a few plants of each sort, then it may be better to go to a garden centre and buy them ready started as small plants.
1. Make sure you have a large enough saucepan/crockpot/slow cooker to cook enough meat broth in for one whole day if not more. A slow cooker (or equivalent) is a very economical way to cook meat broth. Do some practice runs in the weeks before.
2. Make at least two 1 litre jars of Sauerkraut before you start, (that's for four adult sized portions - we have two strapping lads to feed). You only take the juices until stage three, but it starts to disappear fast after that and I unfortunately ran out as I was so busy trying to cope with the new routine and couldn't find an organic cabbage in time! If you make it before hand, it will keep and you'll be spared a job!
3. Buy enough storage containers to store the broth/yoghurt/sour cream/soup in the fridge. Glass is best. One litre size is best to fit in the fridge easily.
4. Have a selection of soups written down that you can rotate. You won't have time to keep reinventing the wheel. Some ideas: Pea (use frozen peas - quick and easy), carrot, spinach, tomato (organic Passat is a life saver - use straight from the bottle for a speedy soup they will all love), watercress, leek and onion. Always use onion as a base and vary the meat broths.
5. Think about the meats you will use to make meat broth. You will need a variety, or else after a few days you'll be sick of boiled chicken/beef! Also, once you get to stage 4 you might all decide you really want as little boiled meat as possible, but you've got to keep making it to get meat broth. So consider where you can buy bones with lots of meat on. Low cost cuts of chicken are ideal - quarters/wings for making meat broth without leaving you with lots of boiled meat to use up.
6. Start with some sort of menu plan, if you haven't got one from elsewhere (like http://www.healthhomeandhappiness.com/grain-free-2/30-days-on-gaps-intro-e-book.) It really will make your life a lot easier and ensure you defrost the right meat and bones at the right time and don't end up with nothing for tea!
7. Read up about food intolerances and 'die-off'. Judging by the number of questions on the web-site, this is an area many are confused about. We were too and I spent a long time trying to find answers as to whether our symptoms were food reactions or die-off. I concluded in the end that most were die-off. We did have a couple of times when it was obvious we needed to hold back on a food for a week or so and try again. I'm not GAPS trained, or a doctor, but especially in the first week, expect die-off and keep going. If the symptoms don't calm down, then look to food, but stay on Stage 1 or 2 until you have normalish stools. We only spent 2 days on stage 1, but our-die off didn't start until we were on stage 2, so we stayed there until we were comfortable.
8. Think how you will introduce your probiotics. Probiotics are the most important factor other then the foods you eat (or don't eat!) on this diet. They are in the end what is going to flush out the gut to bring about healing. We start with small amounts, building up to more and more. This includes the probiotic itself - Bio Kult, or whatever else you choose to use. I didn't realise when I started out that an average adult needs to work up to about 8-10 Bio-Kult capsules a day. If you have two adults, and two 12 pluses that works out to approx. 30 pills a day. We bought a box of 120 which will only last four days when we all reach therapeutic levels. That is very expensive! My main point then is count the cost!
Then think about the food probiotics, sauerkraut, fermented dairy. It really does become a juggling game trying to gradually increase the different ones and introduce Bio-Kult without suffering bad die-off symptoms. So care needs to be exercised. It's more tricky the larger number of people in the family. Close records need to be kept!
We decided (after suffering) to build up the food probiotics first to a good level and then to introduce Bio-Kult, so we wern't doing both at once. This worked better.
I hope I haven't put you off, as I would recommend the diet to anyone who needs it - it really works, but always remember, it is I believe, one of the hardest diets to implement. As much fore-thought as possible will ensure success.
By the end of the third week we had all reached Stage 5. It really was a relief to say the least.
Fortunately my stomach seemed to calm down and I've never quite worked out what happened to it, but I am now consuming butter and cream liberally without ill effects, and to date all the stage 4 foods are tolerated well and I'm just trying salad - lettuce, cucumber, tomato and raw carrot in that order.
At last we are beginning to lift our heads above the parapet and feel like we are coping! It was very hard to start with, swimming in soup all day long - not our favoured food - slow cooker boiling away merrily - all day long (it still is, but is doesn't feel the same now we are eating a wider variety of foods), and it seemed like it would go on for ages! Sons happily eat their soups now and even say they enjoyed them and that helps as it's hard feeding a family when they aren't enjoying your cooking!
Fortunately we can all tolerate dairy, so we have enjoyed increasing amounts of sour cream and home-made yoghurt.
I have to say one thing - it really does make you appreciate food again! Each new taste or texture is wonderful.
We started with Bio-Kult (probiotic) at the beginning of stage 5 and Husband and Son 2 are feeling the effects of 'die-off'; tired and out of sorts! It's not easy measuring the same dose out each day when you are just giving a tiny bit on the end of a knife!
Breakfast has turned into a salad side-dish with the eggs and has three courses. The eggs, the soup and bowl of yoghurt! We have never been great salad fans, so this is good! Son1 is happy to eat lettuce and raw carrot.
Juicing tapered out a bit at this point as it is very expensive and it takes a lot of time washing the juicer (cheapy from Lidl!). I have read that it's ok to do what you can but not feel guilty about juicing if you can't do much. We will do it as we can and on our lemon - free days, but we might do more in Summer/Autumn when we have more home-grown free stuff to use. Son 1 has suffered from constipation and I was doing it primarily to help him as I read somewhere that it might help. He is now doing much better in that respect, but Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride says it's the high fat dairy that will help most with constipation - butter and sour-cream. Son 1 loves butter so he uses it very liberally!!
We have an allotment, but in the light of how much veg. we get through now, we have started renting a second one! More work, but we used a no-dig policy last year and it really worked. I bought Charles Dowding's Veg journal and it's been great watching the other allotment holders all digging the hard clay while we just planted! Our planting schedule will have to be re-vamped this year to include the GAPS legal things. Our back garden is full of apples, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and rhubarb which we are looking forward to enjoying in new recipes. I'll write more on this as we go through the Spring.
We actually ate at relatives for the first time, twice in this stage. Both hosts were fantastic and very brave. They were both birthday parties - one my own! They both did a roast chicken with boiled veg and I took a flask of our soup to one party - the other the host even went and bought beef bones with lots of meat on and made her own meat broth! Thank you both of you! Stewed apple (with sour-cream and almond bread muffins for us) was the pudding with both hosts cooking a few extras for the non-GAPS participants. Both Sons (and Husband!) were stars - watching others eat things they would have loved but couldn't have, so I bought them all a little something to encourage them! It really is amazing how they have been so optimistic throughout!
GAPS intro birthday
I had to have a 'cake' for my birthday ... but what do you have on stage 5 of GAPS intro? The GAPS diet book came to my rescue with her birthday cake recipe, though I adapted it. The sponge is lovely (When you've had nothing like it for a month! I made it into two 8 inch cakes and put one layer at the bottom of a glass casserole dish, with applesauce in between with the other 'cake' on top, served with more sour cream than we had had to date! Fortunately we all survived! The cream was served separately as I could hardly give sour-cream in great quantities to non-GAPs relatives! But it made the day!
GAPS Mother's Day
Roast chicken saved the day again, with roast carrots and roast butternut squash and greens. The gravy was made from the fat and juices, with chicken stock and flavoured with sage and onion. We had a pudding - YES, we had to have pudding, an opportunity for another treat! Though we looked at the dish suspiciously as the 'crumble' topping over the stewed apple was made of carrot pulp (GAPS book apple crumble, page 202)! But we needn't of worried, it was...DELICIOUS, especially with oodles of sour cream (ordinary cream for them). Even Dad was happy after his previously sceptical comments as to what they might be served up! He even had seconds. It's amazing what you can do, even on the intro diet!
For this diet to work you have to plan ahead - there is no option. You can't look in the fridge and say 'What shall we have for lunch today?' Meat broth (broth cooked using both meat and bones) has to be in generous supply, so my slow cooker is on all day everyday. That means always making sure I have meat/bones defrosting the day before I need them.
You will need a good calendar or spread sheet in order to plan. this helps with shopping trips too, to minimise time spent shopping.
I drew up a chart for Sunday through Saturday and starting with the first day worked out which meat we would eat with which broth at which time of day - bearing in mind I made one batch of meat and broth per day - in large quantities! Some days I had to do two to keep up. For stages 1 and 2 it is boiled meat and veg and broth all day and I founds that the boys needed meat at each meal to fill them up, with lots of carbs - i.e. squash or carrots. so these were the hardest stages food preparation wise.
Generally speaking I first decided which meat we would have for the broth each day. I found that in my 4.5l slow cooker I could make enough broth for all of us to have tea that night, and breakfast and lunch the next day. Then it was on all through the day ready for tea that night. Sometimes I eked it out with a bit of water. For stages 1 and 2 breakfast and lunch were broth/soup and we relied on a lot of fish for breakfast as it was quick and easy to prepare in the morning.
For stages 3 and 4, once we were happy on eggs, then breakfast was eggs how you like them or squash pancakes, sometimes with nut butter and sometimes without. These were served with a mug of broth, or soup if I had it. This helped reduce the demand for meat. One day a week we went egg free to help prevent allergies arising, and I made home-made sausages on those days, which lasted two meals on average.
For lunch we had soup, with all the cartilage bits whizzed up and hidden in it. This helped make the meat go further, but we needed a lot of soup and lots of carrot or squash in each bowl to fill us up. Sometimes we had boiled fish and when we got to stage 4 I would roast some meat for lunch as a treat some days.
Tea was our main meal on weekdays and we tried to make it as normal as possible, with meat, veg and gravy (made of stock and thickened with blended veg - mushrooms and onion go well though we liked a stock with peppers in too with chicken.)
We kept the 'bread' as a snack to have mid-morning and some apple puree after lunch followed by and increasingly large bowl of sour cream and a drop of honey after tea or for supper. We must still have our puddings , though I intend not to go back to feeling we must have something, so some days we don't.
The hardest part was varying the meals when we were pretty much rotating chicken, pork and beef using the cheapest cuts - i.e. chicken leg quarters and mince beef and pork chops (I bought I bulk from the butchers). I tried to supplement with liver and kidneys mixed in in small quantities whenever I could. Lamb was delicious, but a luxury kept for Sunday dinner. Similarly beef brisket and on one special occasion, stewed steak and kidney - now that was a birthday treat!
How much meat?
Well, an average weekly meat shop included 8 chicken legs (thighs and legs), 8 pork chops, 3 pounds beef mince, 1 pound pork mince (I could buy all of these in trays in bulk in our butchers - who specialises in local meat, but is not organic), one joint of beef/lamb for Sunday roast.
Sometimes I needed a bit more. This provided 7 main meals. Lunchtime as I said was supplemented with the fat/tissue round the bones. and then there was fish on top of this - I bought frozen wild salmon or cod fillets from the supermarket, or fresh mackerel filleted from the fish market. He used to fillet them for me, and give me the bones to take home and make stock. I can't say we love fish stock, but we could take a little mixed into a soup occasionally.
Some of our staples were: Beef balls, chicken stew/casserole varying the veg, cod casserole, and pork chops with thick mushroom and onion gravy. Getting to Stage 3 and being able to sauté the onions made a great difference to the taste of soups and gravies. I also varied the carrots - sometimes cut in circles, sometimes chipped, other times mashed with fat. The squash was nice mixed with the fried onion and mashed - or just mashed with ghee.
Sometimes 'accidents' turned out surprisingly well - the day I hadn't planned for lunch very well so we had boiled cod with peas and the broth made it into a sort of stew in a bowl - it was actually quite delicious. Or the day the slow cooker went wrong, so I threw the chicken pieces into a Pyrex casserole dish, threw the carrots and lots of celery on top and stuck it in the oven for 3 hours at 130 deg (fan oven). With some extra veg boiled separately - again delicious - the broth had all the flavours, even though it was plain broth in a mug. (Stage 4)
Adding fresh herbs at stage 3 and dried herbs at stage 4 certainly helped to add flavour.
We are a very English meat and two veg sort of family and not into much foreign food, except pizza!
I'm not one who makes up new recipes, but have found few sites helping with ideas for trying to feed a family 'normally'.
Packed lunches on intro:
A flask of soup
A boiled egg
Cold meat (wrapped in tin foil)
Boiled carrots/peas with salt (Stages 1-4)
Stage 4 plus
A small 'cake' of almond bread with butter on top/sour cream and a tiny bit of honey
Raw carrot (Stage 5 onward once tolerated)
Raw lettuce/tomatoes/cucumber (as tolerated)
And from here on it gets easier!
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
This s a side plate. Tiny eh?
So they cut their half in slices and added dollops of butter and cream! Now this looks like pudding!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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 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.
Full GAPS Diet
GAPS Intro Diet
GAPS Intro Stage 3
GAPS Intro Stage 4
GAPS Intro Stage 5
GAPS Intro Stage 6
GAPS Intro Stages 1 And 2
Preparing For The GAPs Intro Diet
Snacks And Treats