The GAPS Diet: Is the Controversial Gut Healing Protocol Right for You?

**Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or scientist, and this is not medical advice.**

Five years ago, shortly after my little man and third child was born, I stumbled upon the GAPS Diet. Having never heard the concept of Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) before, once it was on my radar, it seemed to be everywhere. Like when you start getting really broody and suddenly all you see are pregnant ladies.

I embarked on the GAPS Diet with my eyes wide open. First reading Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s brilliant book, then doing independent research into gut health and probiotics. If you’re seriously thinking about GAPS, and haven’t done so already, I strongly recommend you read Dr. Natasha’s book. You can buy it here via Amazon (affiliated link).  

GAPS

Why would anyone want to do the GAPS Diet?

No-one approaches GAPS because they think it’ll be a laugh. Many end up here because they have very poor health. Often debilitating autoimmune conditions they are desperate to reverse.

For me it was miserable food intolerance. I was on a merry-go-round of exclusion diets. I would finish one, only to have to start another five minutes later. At my worst I was breaking out in urticaria rashes after eating anything. I knew I needed to do something drastic, and the concept of GAPS spoke to me at a time when I was ready to listen. I’m a big believer in doing things when we are absolutely ready.

GAPS is not for the weak willed or feint hearted 

GAPS is a gut healing diet rich in probiotic food and drink, comprising of a two stage protocol. Stage one is known as the GAPS Intro Diet, and is split into six steps. Stage two is known as the Full GAPS Diet and is very similar to eating the paleo way, which I’ve been doing since 2012. Among other things, it eliminates all grains, commercial dairy and refined sugar.

The first step of GAPS Intro involves making a big pot of stock / bone broth, and drinking at least two litres of it a day. Along with the boiled meat from your broth, non starchy boiled veggies and tea made from fresh mint and/or ginger.

And that’s it. Nothing else. Zilch. Zip. Nada.

Intro is all about giving the digestive tract a break, and healing the gut. Over time this will help to put symptoms of autoimmune disease into remission. These vital things are very unlikely to happen while you are eating, even if the food you eat is considered healthy.  

GAPS

Check out this page for the full list of GAPS legal foods. 

GAPS is not a short term fix

GAPS relies heavily on being in tune with your own body and having the ability to be honest with yourself. You progress through the six steps of Intro based on how you are feeling. If you are feeling good on step one, and are certain you’re ready to move onto step two (by adding several foods) then you have a small amount of food and see if it adversely affects your body. If it doesn’t try another food a couple of days later. Rinse and repeat until you are ready to move onto Full GAPS.

I’m not going to dish out medical advice, because I’m not qualified to do so. If you are considering the diet, then please read the book.

How long you will need to follow GAPS will depend entirely on the state of your health when you start it. This is not a short term fix. Chances are it took years for your body to get into the state it has and will likely take years to reverse. There is no deviating from Intro, at all. If you cheat it’s best to go all the way back to the beginning and start again. Which is what I had to do in 2014, you can read about it by clicking here. (This is my second blog, and contains detailed posts which I wrote throughout the entire process.)

GAPS is not for everyone

A good friend of mine tried GAPS, but wasn’t able to progress because she lost too much weight. She struggled with dizziness, low energy and generally feeling rubbish. Another lady I was chatting to on Instagram claims that she did GAPS for eighteen months and it didn’t make the slightest difference at all. I’ve also read horror stories of people claiming to be stuck on Intro because they’re unable to successfully reintroduce more food.

I can’t tell you the intricacies of why GAPS didn’t work for them, because I’m not them. All I can tell you is that it did work for me (but it wouldn’t be fair to write this without mentioning it doesn’t work for everyone). 

I’m sure this goes without saying, but if you’re grossed out by the idea of drinking 2L of stock per day, or would rather die than give up booze/coffee/chocolate, GAPS almost definitely isn’t for you. 

If GAPS is for you, prepare to feel incredible

I know first hand how hard the idea of GAPS seems, but I also know first hand how amazing it made me feel from day one. Once I’d put my half-arse first attempt behind me, and was fully committed, I was flying. Quite literally! My skin was clearer than ever, I had ridiculous amounts of energy and overall felt like a million quid. Considering I was also breastfeeding a new baby and contending with a two and four year old, it was quite astounding.

You cannot argue with wellness, it’s as simple as that.  

GAPS

My biggest tips for those embarking on The GAPS Diet

Mindset is everything. If you approach GAPS thinking it’s going to make you miserable, you’re depriving your body and can’t wait for it be over already, you will fail. Most people are on the Intro diet for 3-6 months, and Full GAPS for another year or two. I’ll say it again: it’s not a quick fix. 

Preparation is the key to success. Before GAPS I used to make my own stock every now and then. The idea of making a huge pot of it every couple of days was frankly mind-blowing, but once I figured out how to incorporate it into my every day life, it became second nature. Now I make stock in the same way I make a cup of coffee. On autopilot, taking minutes. Once you’re in a good routine, it will get easier and easier.  

Good suppliers. I highly recommend finding a supplier of great quality bones to make cost effective stock, otherwise you might find it prohibitively expensive. I suggest scouring farmers markets, local farms and speaking to your local butchers about bones. During the earliest days of GAPS, it’s best to make stock from a whole chicken, but that gets very expensive very quickly. I buy organic carcasses at my farmers market for £1 each, and use two in a batch of 5L stock. Compared with £10+ for an organic whole chicken, it’s a no brainier.

There are no shortcuts. Embrace the wellness and positive changes, and don’t give too much thought to all the things you’re not eating and drinking. Good health is the most important thing any of us can have. Remember that. Cheating is basically lying to yourself, what’s the point? The short term pleasure of eating or drinking things you should be excluding will quickly be replaced by a truck load of guilt. You’ll feel beyond ridiculous for throwing away all your hard work and having to go back to the start.

Tune out to the haters. GAPS is still seen as drastic, and done half-arsed could potentially be dangerous. Prepare yourself for everyone to have an opinion, but you’ll learn to ignore them. Your newfound health will soon be the envy of your family and friends. Before you know it they’ll be coming to you for advice.

Very best of luck! 

Non-Alcoholic Paleo Christmas Cake #FreeFromChristmas

Non-Alcoholic Paleo Christmas Cake

I’ve once again teamed up with a fabulous bunch of free from bloggers, to bring you a wonderful selection of free from Christmas food this year. Please check out the links at the bottom of this post for more details.

My family has been eating the paleo way for almost six years now. We aren’t perfect eaters, and subscribe to the 80/20 principle, which gives our life a healthy balance. By and large however, this means that we do not eat any grains (of which gluten is just one, but the most publicised one), or refined sugar. We do eat a little dairy in the way of raw milk, cheese, and home fermented goat milk yoghurt and sour cream, but steer clear as best we can of commercial dairy.

Between eating like this, and my recent leap into teetotalism, I wanted to create a non-alcoholic paleo Christmas cake. One that we could all enjoy and doesn’t have the excess sugar, unnecessary ingredients and alcohol you would usually find in a traditional version.

Sugar is sugar people!

Unrefined or not, dried fruit is exceptionally sweet, and the icing alone on most Christmas cakes (especially shop bought) amounts to diabetes on a plate. Apart from anything else, my Hubby is not a fan at all, so I had to put my thinking cap on, and get creative.

non-alcoholic paleo christmas cakeDid you know that the purpose of soaking the dried fruit (and nuts if you’re using them like I am) in alcohol is to make them super moist? Feeding the cake with booze is partly for preservation purposes, but also for flavour. Nothing more, nothing less.

Tea which has been brewed and cooled down works just as well to soak the fruit and nuts overnight. Not using booze also means that you don’t have to make the cake too far in advance, and can leave it until the week of Christmas. Also it’s best to use organic dried fruit, because it will be sulphite free which is always a good thing!

I have used Earl Grey tea, because it gives the cake and wonderful smell and flavour. For some reason, bergamot reminds of the beach, and elicits happy memories of far flung holidays and adventures. Not exactly Christmassy, but it makes me smile so I’ll call that a win.

If you really want a boozey cake, then you can substitute the tea for alcohol of your choice, make it a month in advance and feed with 1-2 tablespoons each week.

Non-Alcoholic Paleo Christmas Cake that is free from all Grains (including Gluten), Dairy and Refined Sugar

Ingredients for a very large cake, approx 20 servings  
250g grated carrot
200g chopped dried dates
200g sultanas
200g cashew nuts
100g chopped dried apricots
100g ground nuts (almonds or pecans work great)
non-alcoholic paleo christmas cake100g coconut flour
120ml coconut oil
250ml cool brewed Earl Grey tea
4 large free range eggs
tbsp vanilla

Method
– Get a large bowl and add the dried fruit, cashews and carrot
– Give it a good mix, then pour over the cold tea
– Cover the bowl and leave the mixture to soak overnight
– In the morning preheat your oven to 150C and prepare a large cake tin by greasing it well and lining with baking paper
– When you’re ready to start cooking add the ground nuts and coconut flour to your bowl of soaked loveliness
– Give it a big mix
– In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, vanilla and coconut oil together
– Pour the wet mixture all over the bowl of other ingredients and give it a good stir
– Pour the batter into your tin and brush with a tbsp of coconut oil
– Bake for an hour, ensuring that the cake is completely covered in baking paper
– Take out of the oven and allow to cool completely
– Store in an airtight cake tin and decorate as you please on the big day

non-alcoholic paleo christmas cakeCheck out the other #FreeFromChristmas posts from these fabulous bloggers

Dairy Free Kids

Easy Peasy Foodie

Free From Fairy

Free From Farmhouse

Glutarama

Gluten Free Alchemist

Intolerant Gourmand

Le Coin de Mel

The Peachick’s Bakery

**I created this recipe for non-alcoholic paleo Christmas cake myself, but would like to say a huge thanks to the wonderful people at Unsplash for the gorgeous photos**  

Life is a Rollercoaster but It’s Not All Bad

P, C, F Greenwich

Amid silly amounts of sleep deprivation, out of control bedtimes and hubby not being home more than he was, an impressive list of awesome also occurred this week. Thought it would be nice to share a few of the ups from our rollercoaster of a life…

Book edits

The biggest news is that I’ve finished the edits for my novel, and am happy to start submitting the fifth draft of Picking up the Pieces to would-be agents. Although it’s a daunting prospect, it’s also an exciting one. Getting this task done has been no mean feat considering that three months ago I’d lost all faith in the book and my writing abilities. Once I put my mind to something, and fully commit to it though, I’m a force to be reckoned with. It’s great to feel proud of something that I’ve achieved, now I need to keep this momentum going and not get too disheartened by the inevitable rejections.

Back to learning

Even though they were all enjoying their Smartick lessons, I’ve really struggled to get the kids to do them throughout the summer. Polly felt it was unfair to have to work when her friends were playing all day, which is of course a valid point. However, I don’t think that 15 minutes maths each day is too much to ask during the holidays. I was really pleased that she did her lessons every day this week, and watching Polly meant that Clara and Freddy wanted to do their lessons too. We’ll continue doing this for two more weeks, then start our learning schedule after that. I’m excited about getting back into our routine, we’ll all be desperate for it by then.

Winning at GAPS

I’ve been back on the GAPS Intro Diet for three weeks now, and am feeling good for it. You can read more about my current journey over on my other blog. I’ve been loving getting back into shopping at farmers markets, and making loads of stock and fermented veggies. Here’s a photo of a delicious plate of ceviche I made, I cannot tell you how good it was. You know you’re in for a treat when you buy fish on a Sunday that was caught on the Friday.

ceviche

Caring for a sick pigeon

Yesterday morning we discovered an injured pigeon in our garden. It looked like it had been attacked, was unable to fly and could barely move. The children worked beautifully together as a team to take care of it, then we took it to a pigeon rescue centre. It’s run by volunteers, and I’m glad to have found it in case we need to use it again in the future.

Jumping on a giant trampoline bed

It’s not often you get to bounce on a giant trampoline disguised as a bed outside an iconic London train station. When Virgin Media invited us to do so, while we’re promoting their new Kids TV channel and app, we jumped at the chance. My three relished their time on the bed, and were all smiles throughout. It’s just a shame this isn’t an every day occurrence! You can read more about that here.

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.

 

Ultimate Gluten Free Dairy Free Pancakes (GAPS, SCD, Paleo)  

Ultimate Gluten Free Dairy Free Pancakes (GAPS, SCD, Paleo)

With Strove Tuesday just around the corner, I’ve teamed up with some fabulous foodie bloggers to bring you a vast array of free from pancake recipes.

Every day for the next two weeks, we’ll be sharing our favourite recipes, and hopefully you’ll be well and truly inspired to try something new on the 28th.

We eat pancakes most days in our house, and you’re about to find out why!

These are real little beauts. Not only are they super delicious, they’re full of nutrients, which makes them a win win for any meal time. Although the ingredients couldn’t be further from a regular recipe, please don’t be put off!

The grain free, dairy free, sugar free batter couldn’t be easier to knock up, and they fry just as well as any other pancakes you will have made. The exact same rules apply to these, you don’t need to do anything fancy while cooking.

The main ingredient is butternut squash, a wonderfully versatile root vegetable, which is very low in starch (which Ultimate Gluten Free Dairy Free Pancakes (GAPS, SCD, Paleo)  means that it’s low carb). Butternut squash is also full of vitamins A, B6, C and magnesium. I cut the squash into small chunks and roast in coconut oil on a 175c for around 45 mins to an hour.  

Next up we have eggs, which really don’t need an introduction. Providing you aren’t allergic to them of course, eggs are a wonderful source of nutrition. Loaded with vitamins D, A and B12 as well as iron and calcium, they provide the body with a great energy boost.

I would strongly suggest finding a reputable source for your eggs. I buy mine from my local greengrocer, and they come from a truly free range farm, ten miles from my house.    

Last, but by no means least, we have cashew nuts, which are full of vitamin B6, iron and magnesium. . Did you know that it’s largely believed cashews contain anti-depressant properties? Next time you’re feeling the winter blues grab a handful and see if they cheer you up.

Ultimate Gluten Free Dairy Free Pancakes (GAPS, SCD, Paleo)  Ingredients for six 

200g cooked butternut squash
1/4cup cashew nut butter
3 large free range eggs, or 4 small ones
1/4tsp vanilla powder, or 1 tsp of extract
1/4tsp bicarb of soda
Oil for frying, I use coconut oil

Method

– put all the ingredients into your blender or food processor and whizz on a high setting, until a thick but runny batter is formed  

– get your non-stick pan nice and hot, add a little oil, then add a thin layer of batter 

– cook for a minute or two, and flip to the other side once you see bubbles forming 

– cook on the second side, then put on plate for serving 

– repeat until they’ve all been cooked 

– garnish with your favourite toppings. My kids love raw honey, with cocoa and cinnamon sprinkles 

2 min tutorial on YouTube

Check out these awesome free from recipes, from your #FreeFromPancakes team

Gluten Free Jam Jar Pancakes from The Free From Fairy

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free Pancakes from The Intolerant Gourmand  

Gluten Free Apple and Cinnamon Pancakes from Glutarama 

Gluten Free Vegan Chia PancakesUltimate Gluten Free Dairy Free Pancakes (GAPS, SCD, Paleo)   from Free From Farmhouse 

Vegan Banana Pancakes from Le Coin de Mel

Paleo Banana and Almond Pancakes from Paleo Crust

Paleo Coconut Pancakes
from Cherished by Me

Dairy Free Lemon and Sugar Pancakes
by Dairy Free Kids

Coconut and Lime Vegan Pancakes from The Peachicks Bakery

Oat Almond and Banana Pancakes with a Berry Compote
from Easy Peasy Foodie

Low FODMAP and Low SYN Pancakes from Hijacked by Twins 

Beetroot and Buttermilk Pancakes from the Gluten Free Alchemist 

All original content on these pages is fingerprinted and certified by Digiprove