Monday, April 2, 2012

The GAPS Diet: A Recipe for Happy Bellies!

One of the things I am excited about being able to do on this blog is to share helpful resources for those who are struggling with health issues whether their own or a loved one's.  We've had our share of issues, though thankfully nothing too serious, with 4 kids in the house.  About a year and a half ago we used an eating plan called GAPS, which stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome ( a book by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride M.D.)   It's based on the SCD Diet from the book Breaking the Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall B.A., M.Sc. , which was created to heal or improve Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, and chronic diarrhea.  Both are excellent books.

Dr.Campbell-Mcbride (a neurologist who also holds a Master's degree in nutrition)  recognized the connection between gut health and neurological symptoms as she began researching to help her autistic son and has successfully used her diet to cure hundreds of children suffering from various symptoms of what she has coined "gut and psychology syndrome" including her own son.  You can read about how she helped her son through diet on her website.  Gut and psychology syndrome includes such things as: autism, dyspraxia, dyslexia, A.D.H.D., A.D.D., depression, and schizophrenia.  If you are interested in natural treatments for any of these kinds of issues, I HIGHLY recommend Dr. Campbell-McBride's book!  She has also written a book on heart health which I haven't read yet but look forward to getting soon. 

 Most of the health issues in our family revolve around chronic stomach discomfort, gas (sometimes severe), constipation, moodiness, hyperactivity,  a few headaches (I had more than a few migraines before going gluten free), and joint/muscle pain.  After much reading and research I decided to try the GAPS diet with the whole family.  We stayed on this eating plan for a few months and were very pleased with the results. 

While we still eat very well at home, we've had an on and off again relationship with gluten.  Also, what the kids eat outside of the home is very suspect. I find it very difficult being vigilant as I try to balance my desire for good nutrition with the social aspects of rejecting 'normal food'.  Most recently the kids had a 6 week spree with bread in the house because my daughter was getting tested for Celiac and needed to be eating gluten.  Her tests came back inconclusive, but all 3 of my older kids are now having stomach pain and other issues again.  Needless to say, the gluten is gone and will remain that way, but some damage has been done and the kids are actually requesting to do GAPS again. 

The basic premise of the diet is to restore gut health through nourishing easily digestible foods and probiotic foods and supplements.  The goal is to heal the gut so digestion is optimal and the brain and body can function properly again.  There is an early phase which is stricter and eliminates all dairy (which may be temporary) but the main diet is based on homemade bone broths, healthy fats,soups, probiotic foods (like homemade sauerkraut and pickles).  The foods to avoid are grains, starches, lactose,and sugars (except honey).  Here is a list  of foods on the Full GAPS Diet.

We are probably not going to do the strictest version of GAPS but we are starting today eliminating all gluten free grains such as corn, rice, and oats (the gluten ones have been out for a while), potatoes and chips,  maple syrup,and  arrowroot flour (for now, I still think arrowroot is amazingly digestible and unique from other starches).  I'll be baking with coconut flour and honey and we'll be eating lots of eggs, soups, and probiotic drinks, and I'm hopeful that this time I can convince my kids to eat real pickles! My two youngest are the only ones who eat any fermented veggies usually. 

When you tell anyone about this way of eating, which is similar to Paleo/Primal, often they ask "what do you eat???", as if taking out grains is unthinkable.  I remember feeling that way myself, and I also remember expecting my kids to refuse to eat this way.  Very surprisingly, the battles I expected never came.  When grains were taken out of the picture my kids started eating things I never thought they would.  And amazingly, they did it without thinking or arguing.  Having more carbs back in the house like chips or bread or rice seems to make the food fight come alive again. I'm looking forward to the peaceful food atmosphere that GAPS seemed to create in our home the last time we did it.  Even the kids have fond memories of it! 

I will be sharing our journey on the GAPS diet here from time to time, and I'll also be posting some meal ideas and recipes suitable for anyone interested in having a happier belly whether you are doing GAPS or not.  Another great resource is my friend Lydia's Divine Health blog.  She is also starting on the GAPS diet soon with her kids and her site is an amazing wealth of information and gluten free recipes.

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