GAPS: T-1 week

Farmer's market bounty: CA-raised grass-fed/finished meat, grapes, pluots, kiwi, almond butter, & chamomile mint tea for Gigi. Score! ( So it's official, we are starting the GAPS diet in one week. I thought it would be nice to give a "concise" overview of what we're doing and why since lots of people are curious. I have a lot to learn, but this is where I'm at with it so far.

What is GAPS?

GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome. The diet consists of two parts, the Intro and the Full GAPS diet. The Intro is an intense elimination diet that progresses through several stages. We are starting on the Full diet. The simplest way I would describe it is no grains, no sugars, lots of meat, vegetables, fruit, healthy fats, raw dairy and probiotics.


The idea is that when the gut flora is out of balance, the bad bacteria can take over and essentially bore holes in the gut lining, leaking toxins out into the body which can effect the body psychologically (and physically). The diet aims to heal and seal the gut. It is not a forever diet (or rather, it doesn't have to be). Once the gut is healed, the diet can be modified, although ideally a patient would never go back to a Standard American Diet of processed foods and white flours/sugars.

Our story begins


For a couple of years now we've been challenged by Gigi's behavior. I have alluded to this before. She doesn't have any particular diagnosis, and many of her struggles just stem from being a kid and being a sinner. We tried going gluten-free-- while we definitely we noticed when we added gluten back in that things got worse, our day-to-day experience being GF wasn't that drastically different.

Then a couple of months ago I started noticing fatigue being an issue for Gigi. At first I just thought it was normal kid behavior, especially as she was adjusting to being a kindergartener.

She currently goes to a charter school where she has several different teachers over the course of her two full days of school a week. More than one of them mentioned to me that she seemed tired in class. I was called more than once to pick her up because she just could not pull herself together (either emotionally or just by being physically over-tired).

She is always tired in the afternoons, but on some days, even after a full night's sleep, she can barely sit up to do schoolwork because she's so tired, even before lunchtime.

So I called her pediatrician. We really like him, and have a good rapport with him but when I asked about getting her tested for anemia or some other issue, he didn't seem too concerned. But a mama knows her kid, and I could tell all wasn't totally right with her.

Finally, I decided to see a nutritionist that a friend had recommended to me a long time ago. After an extensive questionnaire and then meeting with Gigi and me and talking through Gigi's history (one red flag was how constipated she was as a baby after I began feeding her standard American baby solids starting with rice cereal {which I cringe at now}; she's also had bouts of minor eczema), she recommended GAPS for Gigi.

Gigi's first primal/lacto-paleo lunch: natural beef jerky, dried pineapple/freeze-dried banana/raw sunflower seeds, cheddar cheese, local almond butter and fruit spread in a bowl, grapes & cherry tomatoes. Guess I need more veggie ideas!

Our plan

Our nutritionist recommended we start on the Full GAPS diet rather than the intro because of Gigi's history of constipation primarily. I think this will be easier because the allowed food list is pretty doable compared to the Intro. But it's still relatively extreme, especially compared to the Standard American Diet.

I have a lot of friends who eat paleo, and several who are doing the Whole30 challenge. Our diet, or eating plan, as I'm going to be calling it so as not to get strange looks from other moms who think I have my 5-year old on a "diet," will be basically paleo, but with raw dairy, and lots of bone broth (ie drinking chicken broth with meals), and probiotics. I will embark on the strange experiment of making sauerkraut for one thing, and maybe other lacto-fermented vegetables eventually.

We will be doing GAPS as a family for the most part. I will not be giving up my swiss-water-processed decaf espresso or chocolate, although I will try to choose soy lecithin-free, good dark chocolate when I indulge. :) I'm sure I will still occasionally have sprouted bread to make the little ones AB & J and I won't be as strict with them, or David and myself as I will be with Gigi. Basically whatever we do with GAPS will help us even if we aren't technically all GAPS patients.

We live a life in community, so one my biggest concern is dealing with social situations. But I will be getting a thermos so we can bring along broth or soup for Gigi, and do the best we can. One thing my nutritionist made clear was that "cheating" won't take us back to square one, but we will notice its effects.

The great thing is that our wellness office is doing monthly GAPS support meetings so I will be able to ask a lot of questions and get connected with others doing it. I'm also in a local real food group on Facebook where some other members are venturing down the same path.

The goal

We are not expecting a miracle cure from this, like suddenly Gigi will be a perfected being, no longer a sinner. ;) No, we simply want to level the playing field for her.

We've already started adding broth into her diet and cutting down on the grains and sugars she eats (although not strictly yet). Then, last Sunday she had cookies and Kool-Aid at church and all afternoon she was fidgety and had a harder time than usual with her self-control.

The ugly truth is that we notice the food we eat affecting her little body. We want to give her the opportunities to make good choices, and if changing the way we eat for a time will help with that, then I am excited to get started. I think it will be a good chance for us to experience the discipline of making certain food choices as well.

I'm collecting GAPS-friendly recipes on Pinterest and would love more-- please share if you have any!

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