I discovered Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet on May 28, 2016. I gave myself until the kids’ birthdays had passed in mid-August for us to officially commence following all of the GAPS protocols. I knew I needed time to research, learn and understand GAPS before jumping in and it was important to me that the children celebrate their birthday in proper fashion with cake and ice cream. By the end of May, the kids were discussing their birthday plans like it was their full-time job and I didn’t have the heart to destroy their carefully laid plans by introducing yet another kink to their limited diet.
So we stayed steady on the Feingold diet for the next 2.5 months while I learned about GAPS. I read the GAPS book (required reading for the diet!) and learned that GAPS is not an elimination diet like Feingold. GAPS is a healing and detox diet. GAPS actually heals intestinal permeability rather than just avoiding offending foods that trigger reactions. And it heals with real food — copious amounts of gelatinous meat stock which mimics the lining of the small intestine and heals from the inside out, ferments which reintroduce healthy probiotic bacteria to our guts, and fats . . . lots and lots of fats. Of course other foods are important and have their place in the diet but meat stock, ferments and fats are the foundation of GAPS. Poorly functioning detox pathways is a hallmark of the GAPS patient so detox is carefully supported with slow and steady additions of healing foods and daily detoxifying baths. I learned that GAPS works on the well-known and well-researched gut-brain axis — by healing digestion, we can heal our brain’s negative neurological and psychological symptoms. And we heal our digestive system by eating nourishing foods that are healing and gentle at the same time. I learned that GAPS is a slow process — a marathon, not a sprint — but with enough time, at least two years, GAPS can and will heal our bodies.
I was completely overwhelmed at the immensity of the task I had set before me. I knew my children needed this. I needed this. But, I just couldn’t understand how to take the protocols and make it work in real life. Once again, a Facebook group saved the day! GAPS Kids helped me realize the reality of what seemed impossible. I obsessively followed the group’s every post and comment, in total awe of these mothers (always the mothers . . .) who fed their children bowl after bowl of soup, fed their children one drop of egg yolk at a time and eventually healed their children. I read about children with ASD whose ATEC scores steadily dropped by the month. I read about children with anaphylaxis who were anaphylactic no longer. I read about the mothers of these children healing their own autoimmune disease, anxiety and longstanding food sensitivities because you know a GAPS child doesn’t fall far from a GAPS uterus.
We started GAPS on August 18, 2016. The early weeks were hard. Really really hard. I withdrew from my volunteer breastfeeding group responsibilities. We cancelled all playdates and scheduled activities. I literally cooked all.day.long and the children watched cartoons all.day.long while I cajoled, begged, and bribed them to drink their meat stock, eat their softly boiled eggs and submit to drops of fermented vegetable brine. Detox made them physically ill and I had to remind myself that all I was doing was feeding my children nourishing foods. Real food is powerful stuff, y’all.
But by the end of week 1 of the Introductory diet there was no doubt we were where we needed to be — Mr.7 WAS NO LONGER HYPOGLYCEMIC! His hypoglycemia literally resolved the very first week. He could go 3 hours between eating without aggression, violently shaking hands or vomiting. It felt like a miracle from the gods.
Life marched on. Meat stock, soups, egg yolks, veggies and ferments became our new normal. We settled back into previously scheduled activities. Beyond the initial breakthrough of healing Mr.7’s hypoglycemia, progress was slow but in a good way. We could now attend festivals without the kids freaking out and whining for hours about needing ice cream and sweet treats. Our house was increasingly calm and I liked it. And I knew it could only get better with more time.
Then we had the great Christmastime washing machine flood, several times over. Then the septic tank backed up and repeatedly flooded the bathroom until it was discovered we needed a new drain field. All of this flooding drained directly into the boys’ downstairs bedroom and bathroom. The final flood required us to pull up the carpet . . . and . . dun dun dun . . . we discovered mold. New mold from the recent floods and very old mold that had been growing since well before we moved into the house. This was the very last piece of our puzzle to explain why we had all fallen apart after moving into our lovely home. We immediately remediated for mold and within a week my chemical sensitivities were better. I no longer felt like artificial scents lingered in my mouth for hours after exposure. Mr.7 no longer inexplicably cried every night at bedtime. Mr.3 stopped his hacking cough. Ms.5’s dark under eye circles looked so much better. Mold remediation was an expensive and stressful event but afterwards we were ready for true healing!
Right around the one year mark, I drank a big glass of peppermint hot tea and boo hoo cried because I was clearly no longer sensitive to salicylates or nightshades. I went from a handful of foods to a much expanded list of real foods in just one year of intense diet changes. It took the children a few months longer than me but they are 100% healed from their salicylate sensitivities too! We now eat spaghetti every week – something I never thought we would enjoy again. My inflammation is practically at zero and my joint pain only flares on rare occasions. I can identify one remaining adult ADD symptom for myself but it is a non-issue in my life as long as I keep it in check. My anxiety is 100% healed. Mr.8’s hypoglycemia was permanently resolved after the first week on intro (!!!!) and his sensory symptoms are drastically reduced. His previously rigid behaviors are now wonderfully flexible. Although aggression still occasionally rears it’s impulsive head, a sweet loving personality is now his dominant feature. His reading skills are coming along beautifully and I thanks GAPS for that. Ms.7’s digestive issues are slowly but steadily improving. It isn’t perfect yet but I have full confidence she will get there with more time.
We have now been on GAPS for 18 months. We spent 6 months on stage 2 of the introductory diet and the next 6 months finishing out the 6 stages of intro. We are currently on Full GAPS. We are still eating 2-3 servings of soup or meat stock a day, lots of eggs, meat, fats, ferments and very little nuts and fruits. It feels more like “lifestyle” eating than a prescriptive protocol for healing. And even though a greasy hamburger, huge slice of pizza or eating half a caramel cake sounds delicious, we are all very satisfied with our food and happy with our meals. I average about 3 hours a day in the kitchen which seems reasonable for cooking every thing fresh and from scratch.
GAPS changed our life by eating real, nourishing foods. That’s really the bottom line of it all.
Since I no longer write a “natural mama” blog, this story must end here. Otherwise I will start wondering why I’m writing an unschool blog rather than a real food blog.