My GAPS Journey

follow my quest to kiss goodbye to food intolerance forever!

Water Kefir: Make Your Own Supply of Powerful Natural Probiotics

Water Kefir: make your own supply of powerful natural probiotics What is kefir, and why is it so good for me?

Kefir are little live strains of gut-health promoting bacteria and yeast, and are exceptionally good for our bodies. The grains can be fermented in either water or milk, and makes a fermented drink which is one of the most powerful, and cost effective, natural sources of probiotics we have readily available to us. 

Whilst milk kefir is very potent, and could create a die off reaction while your gut bacteria is changing.

Water kefir (also known as tibicos) is much gentler on the gut and easier to introduce as a starting place. It’s still a great source of natural probiotics, and especially if you have issues with digesting dairy products, it could be the better option.

The cost saving is phenomenal

Water kefir grains are hardy, and once established can live forever providing you look after them. I started drinking one litre of water kefir daily about a year ago, and after three months I was able to stop taking probiotics supplements. Once established, a month’s supply of water kefir will cost around £2 in comparison to £30 for good quality supplementation.

When I first embarked on the GAPS Diet back in 2014, gut health was still considered a little bit woo. Nowadays it’s mainstream, and was recently discussed on the BBC program Trust Me I’m A Doctor, where home fermented foods came out winning.

You can buy a large portion of water kefir grains here for just £3.99, including UK postage.

 

Why I am Considering the GAPS Intro Diet for my 6yo

Polly GAPS IntroIn Spring 2014 I embarked on the all natural auto-immune healing diet GAPS, which is an acronym for Gut and Psychology Syndrome.

It consists of three stages, the first being a six step introduction diet; the second stage is Full GAPS – a Paleo-style grain free, refined sugar free, commercial dairy free diet; the third stage is introducing fermented grains and healthy starches such as sweet potatoes.

What causes gut and psychology syndrome?

According to Natasha Campbell-McBride, the doctor that created GAPS, all auto-immune disease (which encompasses everything from allergies to depression to thyroid dysfunction) starts in the gut, and is likely to be caused by leaky gut syndrome and/or a disproportionate amount of bad gut bacteria.

Leaky gut gets worse with each generation, and mine are a prime example of what Campbell-McBride calls a GAPS Family. My mother has an under active thyroid, urticaria and various other issues; I had severe reflux as a baby which led to stomach surgery aged five and have suffered all my life with food intolerance. My eldest daughter is very similar to me on the intolerance front; she also has the poorest immune system of our family (and most other kids that we know); and she is autistic.

Campbell-McBride says that until the gut is healed you can mask your symptoms but you’ll never be cured. Check out this awesome article for more info by the fabulous Dr. Josh Axe. 

I’d heard about GAPS from reading other blogger’s personal experiences such as this and this. Real people who cured their lifelong food allergies, and debilitating auto-immune diseases with the GAPS diet. There is also a  scary looking text book (that’s actually very easy to read) written by Dr. Natasha giving her theories on why some folks health is as bad as it is. Given that my third child was only eight weeks old, and I average reading only two or three books a year, I whizzed through it in two days. Her words sung to me, and I knew I would have to take action by giving this diet a go. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, it was a huge undertaking!  

The most important part of the very first step of the intro diet – which most people do for around one week – is drinking a ton of home made meat stock (also known as bone broth). The quickest and easiest way to make it is by boiling a whole chicken with sea salt and water for a couple of hours. Your entire food consumption for that first step is drinking the stock and eating the boiled chicken meat. If you’re able to tolerate non-starchy veggies then you can add them to make yourself a bowl of soup. It’s delicious real soup, just like Grandma used to make. But that’s it.

No dairy, no sugar – natural or refined, no grains at all, no starch, no caffeine, no booze. The only extras are a cocktail of supplements, including probiotics, omega fish oils and digestive enzymes.

You are completely stripping your diet back to the very basics, giving it plenty of nourishment to sustain you while your body goes through a period of detoxification. The aim is then resetting your auto-immune function and getting it to work better. After that first step you introduce foods one by one, starting with egg yolks and home made sauerkraut.

It’s a big deal, and even though I was used to eating Paleo before starting GAPS, it still took me two attempts to get it right. I whizzed through the six steps too fast the first time, and also cheated by keeping a morning coffee. I paid the price by going back to the very beginning six weeks later.

Second time around I spent five days on each of the first three steps of intro, and hung out on step four for months. By then I could eat so many foods that I felt I was having a delicious and varied diet, and I didn’t feel deprived in the slightest. I guess once you’ve lived on chicken soup anything else feels like fine dining!

I won’t go into too much detail here as it’s already a long post, and I documented my entire journey from start to a year update on a separate blog, so check out Mummy Tries GAPS if you’re interested. 

GAPS worked for me. I have clarity of mind, clear skin and am not a walking wreck despite suffering from severe sleep deprivation. My depressive thoughts are largely kept at bay and ultimately I’ve never felt this good in my entire life. People often ask me how I’m able to function given my challenging life, and the answer is GAPS! 

When I started intro we put the kids on to Full GAPS, but we’ve never been super strict like I was with my own eating. We always let them have cocoa in home made cakes and natural snacks; we let them eat the odd sausage roll or something similar if we found ourselves at the farmers market at lunch time. We have always been strict with not letting them have refined sugar, but some days their natural sugar intake has left a lot to be desired.

It all has an effect, how any parent can say there is no link between diet and behaviour is beyond me.

stock makingWhich is why we are seriously considering putting Polly on GAPS Intro. Not because we think it will ‘cure her autism’ (anyone claiming this is being rather bold in my opinion), but if it took her even further up the high functioning end of the spectrum then that would be a bonus. We’re looking at doing it because I know first hand how damn good I felt on GAPS Intro, and I would love for her to feel that great!

I’m absolutely certain that once we got through the first week or two she would feel as amazing as I did. Plus, if we don’t do it, I’ll always have a little nagging feeling in the back of my mind wondering if things would have turned out differently if only we had given it a go. I’d do it with her too, so she only saw me eating the things that she was. It would be a huge challenge in the short term, but I am positive my entire family would reap the rewards in the long run. 

An action plan for now

It’s a rather controversial thing to do though. To essentially make a six year old child eat soup morning, noon, and night for a whole week. The way I see it, a week is a very short amount of time and passes really quickly, but it would be an exceptionally difficult week, and I’d never put her through it until I had done extensive research and found a suitable practitioner to help us.

As of this week we are being super strict with all the children eating a Full GAPS diet. Just to dispel a few common myths: no, it’s not really low carb or ketogenic. It is simply a natural way of eating that doesn’t allow grains, starchy veg, refined sugar or processed food. It’s varied and interesting, and unbelievably nutrient dense. Just by cutting back on sweet snacks (albeit natural ones) I’ve seen an improvement.     

There’s a huge part of me hoping that we don’t have to put her on GAPS Intro, but only time will tell.

Would you do it?   

**Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nor am I giving medical advice, I am simply sharing my own personal experience and views**

Taking the Medicine

Part of the GAPS Diet is good quality supplements in the form mainly of probiotics and omegas. All my family take Bio-Kult, as well as eating home fermented foods which enhance our gut health. The girls also take fermented cod liver oil which is meant to be the best brain boost money can buy. Hubby and I take it’s poorer relation, red krill, which is still fantastic for you but only a fraction of the cost!

People often ask how I get the girls to take the oil, because it tastes pretty gross. When we first started the diet I sat them down and explained that our bellies were not as well as other people’s, and we would need to take our medicine each day to help them get better. Although they are only three and five, they fully understand this concept and we never have any trouble getting them to take their supplements each morning.  Here is my 5yo Polly taking her ‘medicine’ like a pro. 

mouths of babes 

 

Three Monthiversary on the GAPS Intro Diet

What I’ve learnt after three months on the GAPS Intro Diet

How I Spent Some ‘Me Time’

me-time

Me time doesn’t really exist in the traditional sense for right now. The closet I get is snatching the odd half hour here and there to blog or write my book, or by taking a long walk home instead of catching the bus. It’s to be expected though with three kids, one of which being a small baby attached to my boobs. When my hubby asked me in June if I had any birthday present requests this year I knew what I wanted instantly. A colonic hydrotherapy treatment. You strange lady he said to me, then promptly went off to research the best person for the job. He settled on Emma Arden of Arden Natural Health who practices from treatment rooms in Balham as well as her home in Streatham.

Those who follow my blog will know that I am currently doing the GAPS Diet in a bid to cure food intolerance and other gut issues. Regular colonics will massively help my digestive system by thoroughly clearing the old matter, and flushing out unwanted toxins. I used to have them every few months back in the early naughties, but this was my first treatment since 2006. I’m not sure if the procedure has moved forwards overall since then, or I just got lucky, but Emma was amazing. She carried out a full holistic assessment of my health and psychological state for over half an hour beforehand, and we spoke about various things throughout my treatment.

She gave me some fantastic advice for getting my troubled 5yo to direct her anger in a more constructive way than she has been doing. My little one now goes to the mirror and roars like a lion at the top of her voice every time she feels herself getting upset. It is working wonders, and I can see this being a useful technique for years to come. She also gave me some great reading recommendations, in particular a lady called Byron Katie, who sounds very inspirational and right up my street.

The treatment itself lasted about 40 minutes – I’ll spare you the gory details as I don’t think they’re necessary. I had my first skin breakout in almost three months at the weekend though, which is usually a sign of success as it indicates toxins leaving the body. I came away feeling lighter, both physically and emotionally. Releasing all that waste is symbolic of letting go of troubles. I definitely feel less uptight than I have been recently.

Emma has a lot to offer from detox and weight loss advice, colonics to reiki and EFT treatments. Please check out her website for further details, she is currently running a promotion whereby you get £20 off your first treatment with the code: ANH1.

In Emma’s own words…

“I teach, empower and encourage you to be in charge of your own life. You will be in control of how you feel, what you eat, how you react to others, and what you think. My treatments will leave you glowing from the inside and out. My motto in life is everything in moderation – especially moderation. Focus on the magic – not the tragic”

I can’t recommend Emma enough for anyone in the market for a bit of internal beautifying. I shall be going back to her for my second treatment in a months time, and am already really looking forward to it!

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