Tuesday, November 26, 2013

GAPS Thanksgiving

If you are celebrating Thanksgiving on GAPS this year like we are, then you want to check out this special at The Well Fed Homestead. She has a holiday cookbook that will make your life easier and your holiday much tastier.

We will be enjoying fauxtatoes, apricot rosemary turkey, and of course some pies. The cookbook includes a recipe for green bean casserole, the fauxtatoes, a variety of other sides, and some yummy-looking desserts.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Lovin' It!!

After over four months on the GAPS diet, I am loving it. Some days are tough, because this lifestyle is truly labor intensive and unforgiving. But, even when it is difficult, the benefits far outweigh the challenges. I am almost halfway through my fifth month being migraine-free. I have lost forty (yes, FORTY) pounds! And I feel better than I've felt in years. No more cravings, no more addictions to bad food, no more temptation to eat I know I shouldn't (who would want to eat something that can cause migraines? It just isn't worth it). And I can enjoy yummy food without guilt. It is awesome. And the results can be multiplies times ten, because every single member of my family is benefitting, too. 

It is remarkable to see the improvement in my dyslexic daughter. She still struggles, but life is markedly easier in so many ways. And, she is reading! All of my kids are showing improvement, actually. Attention is improved, behavior is relaxed, volume is decreased, and though this diet has not been a cure-all (my little guy with CP still has CP; my sensory kids are still sensory kids; my Autistic kid is still autistic), their struggles are less and life has definitely improved. Even my daughter who hates the diet is beginning to see benefits; already very smart, she is thinking faster and playing games more successfully (which means she is winning more often) since beginning this "psychotic diet" as she calls it.

And, I am still learning, which I love. Probably my favorite new trick is baking "pancakes." Instead of frying individual pancakes, I pour all the batter in the pan and bake it for about thirty minutes. Saves me a TON of time, and tastes great. 

We have found some amazing desserts, too. My favorite is peanut butter pie, from the Internal Bliss cookbook. We've modified it by adding cocoa powder (which is legal on full GAPS) to the crust. White bean cake is AMAZING, but for breakfast we call them "white bean muffins." After all, no self-respecting mom will serve cupcakes for breakfast, lol. We also really like ground sunflower seeds for baking, rather than almond meal or coconut flour. The best part about that is, sunflower seeds are cheap!

The GAPS lifestyle may not be cheap, easy, or quick. It doesn't fit very well with our go-go-go 21st Century culture. The benefits, however, have far outweighed the difficulties, and I am even more committed to it than ever before.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Getting in Stride

We are rapidly approaching the three month mark of our GAPS diet journey. And while it is still a lot of work, and it is more expensive than how we were eating before, the overall gains far outweigh the costs!

The biggest blessing is, I have been migraine-free for almost three months. That is truly miraculous and amazing, considering how debilitated I was just a few short months ago. The other thing is, we've seen a slight improvement in our anxiety and sensory kids. It isn't huge - not a transformation like I'd hoped for or miraculous like my migraines, but definitely improvement. Let's just put it this way; we can see the difference if they get foods they aren't supposed to have.

And, we're figuring out how to cook grain-free, which has been a huge transition. I probably miss grains more right now than I have at any other time since we started this. Overall, I'm missing "regular" food more; I think we all are. But, most of us are also convinced that cheating is just not worth it.The consequences are too great - we don't feel good when we eat foods that we shouldn't. 

Our kitchen has changed, dramatically. The microwave is gone. We have two dehydrators, three four crock pots (that are going almost all the time), I've started ordering coconut in five pound boxes, and I know how to plan a menu, prep food for two or three days in advance, and we're figuring out some convenience foods, which make life MUCH easier.

My two biggest tips are, keep broth going, all the time. When you empty a crock pot, fill it again with fresh water, a few new bones, and start it simmering again. And, keep a small crock pot filled with bone broth and carrots. The carrots are a great snack, filled with nutrients that have kept our little ones from getting too hungry or frantic about food, and they simply taste great. If you keep them going all the time, you always have snacks on hand.

It has been a difficult journey, to a large degree because of how overwhelmed we were, but I am so glad we took that first step.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Plugging Away

We have passed the official two month mark on the GAPS diet. Storms have been weathered, lessons learned, mistakes made, and tears shed. But, I am very happy with our decision to begin this sometimes arduous, overwhelming, worthwhile journey. Though we haven't seen marked improvements in our youngest children, we have noticed definite improvement in two of our older children; the clearer-thinking, less-sensory-sensitive/defensive, better-able-to-cope kind of way. And, my migraines have been all but completely eliminated! That is definitely worth the investment.

And, I have learned to make MANY new things, like:
  • yogurt
  • nut flour
  • nut milk
  • coconut milk (way too easy - check out recipes here and here)
  • grain-free scones (that are amazing, I might add). 
  • jerky (from marked down buffalo - and it was yummy, too.)
  • fruit leather
  • "crispy nuts"
  • mayonnaise
  • pancakes from squash (who knew - you will hardly notice the difference)
  • "cali-spuds" also known as creamed cauliflower or "fauxtatoes" like these
  • homemade marshmallows
And, though it is definitely an uphill climb, it hasn't fixed all the problems I hoped it would, it is expensive, difficult, and a heck of a lot of work, this diet/lifestyle change has tremendous benefits. If nothing else, I have more energy than I've had in years, and I haven't had a migraine in almost two months!! But even more than that, my sweet four year old, who has struggled more than anyone else with this lifestyle change (we have to feed her every couple of hours, or her anxiety and sensory issues are much worse), told me yesterday that she likes the diet. Before the diet, her tummy hurt all the time, but it doesn't hurt anymore since we started the diet. 

Unfortunately, GAPS isn't intended to address either anxiety or sensory issues. And, for us, it hasn't helped. Honestly, I was hoping it would; really hoping. Even so, it helping many issues that we didn't even know needed to be addressed. And, I'm starting to really have fun with the process. Never what one could consider a "domestic goddess" before, it is very fun to be able to make so many items for my family. It is fun to be learning more about nutrition and health, and to see the direct connection between what I eat and how I feel. 

In the next few days, I'm hoping to post photos of some of what we've made recently. And, I'll be sharing my adventure with making kvass, borscht, kefir (which I'm a little nervous about trying).

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Three Steps Forward...

We enjoyed fresh kiwi tonight, and it was so yummy. But, one of the girls didn't do well with it, at all. Shortly after savoring the rare treat, she began having terrible stomach pain. Dissolving into tears, it was obvious she was miserable.

Having taken out our microwave, I didn't have a great way to heat a rice bag. Fortunately, I discovered that a warm over does work, it just takes longer. Since we were baking macaroons and coconut shortbread in the other oven (I have the most amazing oven ever, a Frigidaire Flair with two ovens) I was able to make use of the heat in the smaller oven and get heat the rice bag.

I also used some doTERRA DigestZen layered with coconut oil, to see if that would help. Thankfully, it did! In a fairly short time, the tears stopped and my sweet daughter was feeling much better. 

Though I never want any of my children to suffer, it was definitely good to find out that kiwi is not on the approved list, at least for now, and that DigestZen helps in such difficult situations.

Other than the little hiccup with the kiwi, I think our GAPS journey is going quite well. We've basically adjusted to cooking this way, and I'm gaining confidence in shopping. With the completion of the Intro Diet, our choices have opened up significantly, making snacks and menu planning much easier. And, it seems, we picked a great time to begin our GAPS journey; many people have journeyed before us, so the resources online are amazing. I'll be posting a list of my favorite recipes pages in the next couple of days. Some of them get visited every day, even multiple times a day.

We still aren't seeing dramatic improvements in our youngest kids; their anxiety and sensory issues actually seem worse. But, other issues are definitely improving, like my migraines; I haven't had one in almost two months. We've also noticed a dramatic reduction in our daughter's migraines. The learning struggles that prompted us to begin this crazy, psychotic, therapeutic diet have improved dramatically. In many ways, we have a new kid. And, our youngest son, though still struggling with anxiety and sensory issues, has been making great strides forward with his expressive language; that is a blessing I didn't really expect.

Though I get tired, and this diet is a tremendous amount of work, the benefits are outweighing the challenges, which makes it easier to stay the course. Seven weeks down...ninety-seven left to go.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Learning Curve

We are almost two months into our GAPS journey, and considering how daunting this adventure is, it is going very well. That is not to say that we haven't seriously contemplated quitting more than once. But things are getting easier, and now that we're basically past the Intro Stage, a little less expensive. And, as a home educator who loves to learn, the educational aspect of this whole experience has been rather exhilarating. 

Over the last six weeks, I have learned to make yogurt,
whey (one of my new favorite drinks), almond and coconut milk, cheese (that was an accident, lol, but a good-tasting one), almond meal, bone broth, homemade gummies (though mine haven't turned out that pretty), fruit leather, an incredible variety of soups, gluten-free bread, pancakes with squash instead of flour, smoothies from juice that has as many veggies as fruit (and we love them?!), make "ice cream" with my Omega juicer, soak and dry my own nuts, and even (though not very successfully, yet) kefir. My daughter has taken care of the sauerkraut, but we're eating homemade now!!
Cheese - an accidental success...

Our children still get very hungry, and not having any "cheap fillers" like rice and potatoes to extend meals and fill tummies has been exhausting as well as expensive; we are, it seems, constantly preparing or cleaning up from preparing food. If you are considering the GAPS diet, a factor you definitely need to consider is the cost, both financially and in time. And going anywhere is extra complicated, because (at least from my experience) there simply are no GAPS convenience foods. Everything takes advanced preparation and a level of intentional planning. The good news is, it gets easier as you go.

Another really neat aspect of what we're doing is what our children are learning. My son (who is six) had enough money to buy a cantaloupe at the fruit stand we buy our fruits and veggies from. He brought it home, cut it up, shared some with his brother and sisters, then froze the rest for later! I was so proud of him. 

Though the journey has been very difficult, and not very fun on several occasions, I am loving the lessons I've learned, and am incredibly thankful the learning curve is not quite so steep.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Day 25

It is hard to believe how much time has passed since my last blog. Quite exciting times we've had around here, too. Because of our cheat day, we took a few steps backwards on the stages, which I expected. Then we progressed a little too quickly, and a few kids had both tummy aches and extra trips to the toilet. Good ol' bone broth and very very cooked veggies with sufficient probiotics fixed everyone right up. 

Having been at this for almost a month, the family is settling into a fairly comfortable routine. It is still pretty busy in the mornings, getting everyone their probiotics, making juice, scrambling eggs, then cleaning up again in time to rest a little before jumping into lunch. But, it is getting easier. So much easier that we've started adventuring out a little ways from home. It isn't too adventurous; my parents' house, or the local park, but still, we're gaining confidence and that is fun.

Having gained a little bit of confidence, and having cheated without too much difficulty last week, I decided I'd try it again. A friend and I met at the local public market, where a gentleman makes the most amazing scones you have ever tasted. Even though they are chock full of all the foods I've given up, the temptation was just too great. I bought a scone. And every last crumb was savored. 

But, the delight didn't last that long. After visiting for a bit, I began to feel less than great. Then, I began feeling pretty crummy. Before too long, I was downright miserable, not sure I'd be able to drive all the way home. When I did make it home, a brief trip to the bathroom was my only stop on the way to bed, where I promptly collapsed.

This morning, thankfully, I woke up feeling fine. Other than taking a few steps back on the Intro diet (by choice, because my tummy needed a break after its assault), I didn't notice any lasting effects from my dalliance, by God's grace. And, knowing that neither milk nor sugar caused a similar reaction (I ate both on the Fourth of July), I am fairly confident that wheat was the trigger for my misery. So, even if I do fall off the wagon again (which I doubt, because I am feeling much better in many ways), it certainly won't be with a scone made from bleached white flour, or anything with a grain in it at all!!

One positive benefit of having been through my adventure yesterday; I know how much better I feel now; it hasn't even taken six months, like Dr. Campbell-McBride recommended. It is a gradual change, so you don't realize the transformation that is taking place until you add something back in that is bad. Then the light bulb goes on. It is an easy decision at that point to avoid the triggers!!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Cheat Day

Today is the eighteenth day of our GAPS diet journey. And, considering that we took a cheat day yesterday, things haven't been too bad. I'm extra tired, probably from the sugar I consumed (gummy bears and some delicious Ben and Jerry's ice cream) as well as the detox resulting from the probiotics killing off the unhealthy bacteria that got a boost yesterday. Of course, the restlessness of my two youngest children contributed to my low energy as well. But, I digress. What, you may be asking, is a "cheat day?" Well, let me explain.

A "cheat day" is when you choose to cheat on the GAPS diet. It is definitely not recommended, because whatever cheating you do slows the process of healing your gut, prolongs the time you need to be on the diet, and can have some pretty painful consequences, depending on where you are in the healing process and what you choose to eat.

Because yesterday was the birthday of our country, we intended to celebrate with my family, at a local park with river access. We planned and prepared diligently, trying to make sure we had what we needed for the adventure, and realizing that time was of the essence, because we couldn't bring enough snacks to keep kids sustained for too long. Having done so well with the process, and having been at this effort for so short a time, we really didn't want to loose momentum. Until, that is, we arrived at the park and discovered the plethora of forbidden foods at every turn. My sister isn't on the diet. She wanted goodies. My niece isn't on the diet, and she also wanted goodies. My parents aren't on the diet, and they wanted goodies. Even being very discreet and as supportive as they are for our journey, it was almost impossible not to notice the potato chips, cookies, candy, and fresh fruit.

So, we decided to cheat. We gave the kids special permission to eat goodies, in moderation (a concept that is, I've discovered, completely incomprehensible to a six year old boy, lol. He ate like he was starving. Then again; he always eats like he's starving!) fully aware that we'd deal with consequences later. I just thought it would be several hours later, like eighteen, or twenty-four, not six or eight. Anxiety and tummy aches were the worst consequences, and the fatigue I mentioned earlier. All things considered, I'm very glad we made the decision we did. We will not, however, be cheating again any time soon. And other than ice cream, I don't really want to!

Actually, I'm surprised by how my tastes have changed in such a short amount of time. Instead of eating carelessly and with abandon yesterday, I ate a few bites of various things, but didn't long for any of it. And, instead of being put off by the smell of broth, I realized it smelled really good; my husband said the same thing; the broth smelled good. How different from just a few days ago. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Day Sixteen - Adventures in the Heat

Yesterday was a sweltering 105 degrees where I live. Even with the most enticing aroma, no one in my house wanted to eat bone broth. As a (sometimes) compassionate mama who tries to (almost) never make my kids eat anything I don't like, we decided to forgo the GAPS Intro essential, and "go rogue." 

Instead of bone broth, we pushed the envelope a little and added frozen bananas to the fresh juice we were already drinking, for smoothies. Another wise mama suggested I freeze some of my yogurt into ice cubes, so those went into the blender, too. The result was both refreshing and delicious. After lunch, we hard boiled eggs, instead of scrambling them, and headed to the river to play in non-chlorinated water, as Dr. Campbell-McBride recommends. It was wonderful. And the kids played for almost two hours without any melt-down issues. 

For dinner, we again steered away from the bone broth, though it had cooled to around 95 by that time. Instead, a luxurious salad, with fresh lettuce from our garden, avocados, home-toasted almonds, and (a very few) delicious pieces of fresh, peeled cucumber. For a dressing, I blended some cold-pressed olive oil into homemade yogurt, then added a touch of sour cream and some of my home-dried herbs. It was amazing.

My husband grew up with garlic salt on his salad, so I took some dried minced garlic I'd picked up from the local  public market (dried by the elderly gentleman who grew the garlic) and pulverized it, along with some sea salt, with my mortar and pestle. That worked fabulously, too.

When it was time to go to bed, since it was still close to 90 degrees in our house, I used our shaved ice maker to shave ice, then added fresh juice to make healthy slushies. It worked!! And it made the juice go much farther.

In the end, I was pretty proud of myself. We were able to mostly stick with the diet in spite of the record-breaking heat, and it was downright enjoyable! And, time for true confessions: I seriously considered giving up on the whole thing yesterday. It was just too overwhelming, for a variety of reasons. My husband, who wasn't that enthusiastic about beginning this adventure, was the one to point out all the reasons he thought we should continue!! His encouragement, along with some great suggestions, turned the tide on my despair, and helped give us a delightful day.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Day Fifteen

I have a confession to make. I am sick of broth! I am sick of making it, sick of smelling it, and especially sick of eating it. Especially when it is 105 degrees outside. The last thing on earth I want to eat is bone broth, even if it is full of yummy veggies and gaining flavor every day. After fifteen straight days of it, I'm sick of bone broth!

And, I'm not real sure we're seeing any results. So far, we've sailed through the first four stages with hardly any issues at all. A couple of days I had migraines that were triggered by die-off, and a few days several of us felt pretty tired, but I think it was more a problem with not eating enough carbs than from die-off, or any significant indication that this diet is doing anything more than making me crazy.

Yesterday, we went without our customary carrot juice before breakfast. You are supposed to drink juice on an empty stomach, and I just didn't have time to get everything done in time to leave for church. So, we went without juice. That was a mistake. Our four year old didn't do well, having a cosmic meltdown before church was even half way through. So, we went home, after buying MORE carrots (bringing us really close to 200 lbs of carrots in two weeks, lol), and making some juice. 

Thankfully, the juice worked its magic (again) and everyone settled down quickly. The rest of the day was quite enjoyable, except that kids were "starving" at bedtime, again. We have tried to plan snacks before bedtime, so little ones go to bed with full tummies, but they have radar!! If one of the older kids, or my husband (who has been coming in late the last few nights) starts to scramble eggs, or heat soup, they are up begging to eat whatever is being prepared. Ugh. Still working on dealing with that.

One positive note; I've battled yeast infections for years. One doctor told me it could be related to my dad's exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam, but I don't know. Anyway, I've battled it for years; tried all sorts of products, took prescriptions, even went on a very restrictive candida curing diet (which you can read about here), without success. But, after only two weeks, I'm seeing remarkable improvement. So, that is evidence something good is happening from all this craziness and challenge.

And, as I think about it more critically, my little ones haven't had as many meltdowns/anxiety/panic attacks since we started. Like I said, Little Dot had a cosmic meltdown yesterday at church, but those used to be a much more common occurrence. Besides, we're committed to this for two years (unless life improves earlier), so I better find reasons to be thankful instead of looking for things about which to complain.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Day Thirteen, Part II

Having made it to the point where we can use grain-free flour, my daughter was hankering for some cookie dough. So we looked around Pinterest, and found this recipe, this recipe, and this recipe, that we though were worth trying. But, we didn't have all the ingredients. So, we looked online for some other ideas.

Then, my daughter realized she could just modify her regular chocolate chip recipe, but leave out chocolate chips, baking soda, and eggs and substitute honey for the sugar. We discussed the idea, and she ran of joyfully to attempt this new confection (ok, it isn't really a candy, but it is close, right?). When she brought me a sample, it was very dry - like can't-swallow-the-lump-in-your-mouth dry. After adding a few ingredients, without much improvement in the results, it finally dawned on me to ask how much flour she'd used. She used 2 1/2 cups! In the recipes we'd been looking at, the average amount was one fifth of that!! 

So, our first attempt at grain-free goodies has been a little less than successful. But, we've learned that you don't use as much coconut flour as you do wheat flour, lol!! And that is a good lesson  to learn.

Day Thirteen

GAPS is tremendous amount of work. But, after twelve full days on the diet, we're starting to fall into a bit of a routine. The planned meals and snacks have been a huge plus, giving kids a boundary for when they can eat and when they have to wait, and helping me be more intentional with my time and energy, both of which are at a premium right now.

If all goes well, we'll be able to move through the last three stages fairly quickly; the goal is to be done by next week. Once we are doing the full GAPS diet, life will become much more pleasant, indeed. Last night we were looking through the GAPS cookbook I bought, dreaming about the yummy treats we can have. The first thing we're going to try is key lime pie, then pumpkin pie with a coconut crust, and some cappuccino cupcakes. It will be a real treat after all we've been doing without!!

The days are still long, and the adults are ready to collapse into bed long before the day is over, but I think as we adjust to full GAPS and settle into more of a routine, it will be much easier. Also, if die-off is adding to our fatigue (that can be a symptom), it will improve over time. Eventually, I'm hoping the benefits of the diet will give us much more energy, and these days of exhaustion will fade into memory.

Until then, we just keep plugging along. Our kids are learning perseverance in addition to healthy eating, and that is a very good thing.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Day Ten

The day is over, kids are (finally) asleep, and I'm ready to crash once this is posted. The menu worked, though we veered from it a little, and the day went more smoothly. The issues we started the diet for are definitely getting more pronounced  (hopefully a good sign), so we're staying put on Level 3 for now. That will give me time to get even more creative about incorporating bone broth into meals. At least they are enjoying the yogurt and sauerkraut.

GAPS friendly store bought sauerkraut is EXPENSIVE, though!! So, my next adventure will be attempting to make sauerkraut. It is a little intimidating, because I know it can go wrong and be messy and probably stinky. But, when I can buy a cabbage for about a third of what a jar of sauerkraut costs, it doesn't make sense not to try!! The process takes five to seven days, so I won't know if I've done it right until next week. Wish me luck. Depending on how my phone is behaving, I will share photos.

One aspect of this diet that is quite surprising to me is how quickly my taste buds are changing. I love sugar. Actually, I love it so much, I really try to keep it out of my house (especially in the form of candy) because it is so difficult for me to resist.

So, I expected major cravings when we started this journey. Amazingly enough, I haven't really had any?! Once in a while I really long for a sweet treat (like a coffee with syrup and real cream), but it hasn't been nearly as bad as other experiences I've had.

Instead of craving sugar, like I expected to, I'm beginning to enjoy healthy foods much more than ever, foods I've never enjoyed in my whole life!! Foods like squash and avocado. I've never liked squash. But, it sure smelled good simmering in my stew the other night. And the creamy squash soup I made (by blending cooked squash and bone broth in my Vitamix and adding yogurt) was devoured; a feat made even more amazing when you consider that my family was turning their nose up at squash as I was making the soup. In the past, I'd eat guacamole with nachos (a hint to my Spanish heritage, maybe), but not plain avocados. Knowing we needed to add more avocado to our diet, I intentionally hesitantly took a bite of a piece of freshly opened avocado; it was delicious!!

One side note - it is important to pick ripe avocados, but not too ripe. Dr. Campbell-McBride explains why you need to eat ripe fruit in her book, so I very carefully picked very soft squishy avocados from the local fresh fruit stand. They were too ripe, and had a funny yucky taste to them. My husband didn't notice, but the rest of us did. I won't make that mistake again, lol.

So ends Day Ten on my GAPS diet journey. Good night.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Day Nine

Here I am, posting about the day before, again. By the time everyone is ready for bed, meals are prepped for tomorrow, and fermenting and/or culturing foods are done, I'm totally tuckered. It doesn't take very long for my energy to be tanked completely. Thankfully, mornings are getting better, and my youngest is sleeping on his own, for short periods, so I'm getting a better start to the day.

Yesterday did not start well. It was pretty miserable, to be quite frank. My son's diaper leaked, and he had a panic attack when I took it off. Then, before I could get another one on him, he started to go on the floor, and that also freaked him out. Consequently, breakfast was late, prompting several other kids to have meltdowns. Then, the kicker was, as I was preparing to blend pancakes in my beloved Vita-mix (amazing blenders, if you've never seen or heard about them), my youngest son (the difficulties of yesterday seem to center around him. Hmmm) turned it on and lifted the container off the base, damaging the teeth on both the base and the container, as well as (from the sound of things) the motor. Ugh. After spending an inordinate amount of time making grain-free pancakes (with nut butter, squash and fresh eggs - quite yummy), it was time to clean up and start all over again.

My husband was a huge help, but the morning completely exhausted me and the rest of the day was a drain.

On a positive note, I did capture some photos, and the yogurt I made actually thickened (we've enjoyed "yogurt smoothies" several times). Yeah! So, here are photos, some from earlier in the journey, and some from my adventures yesterday. 

And, obviously, today has gone much better. I think the biggest difference (besides not beginning my day with a leaky diaper) was writing out a plan for meals and figuring out my priorities for the day, so that even with interruptions, I can get back on track quickly. It is a habit I got away from with my son's challenges, but it can be a lifeline, especially while on GAPS. I'd be happy to share my menu, but my phone is on the fritz (that same boy who broke my Vita-mix dropped my phone in his soup - guess we know what he thinks of the soup, lol).

Pecans, drying in my oven after soaking all night.

 Sour cream and kefir "in process" on my fridge

Yogurt, culturing in my oven, with the light on to maintain a temperature of about 100 degrees. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Day Six

Experience is such a good teacher, but gives very little grace. So, we've been learning SO much!! Thankfully, we've learned many lessons that should make the rest of the journey much more pleasant.

So, if you are considering the GAPS diet journey, let me give you a few words of friendly advice. First, make LOTS of broth; you will use it. And, buy the resource Cara put together. Whether you use the menus or not, the information is invaluable. I'm not following the menu exactly, but we are using the tips and recommendations for different days. It makes thinking ahead much easier, especially if you are like me and need to experience something first to be able to anticipate how to prepare.

Second, be prepared to spend a tremendous amount of time prepping veggies. We finally bought frozen broccoli and cauliflower. It was about the same price per pound, is probably fresher than buying "fresh" from the store, and is much easier to use. Honestly, though, I am really thankful I listened to the advice of other bloggers and friends who have been through the diet, and cleared my schedule for a while. It has been much less stressful to know nothing else had to be done.

Third, don't start with only bone broth!! I misunderstood the diet and gave my family only bone broth, which is, to a large degree, responsible for the issues we continue to have with little ones refusing to eat the broth. One more reason to buy Cara's e-book, lol. Like I said, it is a life saver.

Finally, reading as much as you can about other people's experiences, and going through the Q & A section on the GAPS website, is invaluable. Reading Dr. Campbell-McBride's book is definitely essential. But, the benefit of shared experiences makes the journey much easier. Case in point - some of my kids are having more issues with their issues than before we started the diet. But, honestly, I'm encouraged. From what I've read, worsening symptoms can be an indication of die-off, which I take to mean that as the gut environment gets healthier, symptoms will improve. Time will tell.

The learning curve has definitely been steep, but not so steep that I'm not willing to continue on this crazy adventure.

Day Eight

Yeah!! We have survived our first full week of GAPS. And, I am completely exhausted, lol. This is a very labor intensive process. But, we made it through the first week, and things are going much better than I expected.

The biggest blessing is, other than my four year old, the first day, we haven't been plagued by cravings. Oh sure, we'd love a candy bar, and Dairy Queen calls my name every time I drive by (who doesn't love their blizzards?) but it hasn't been as difficult/overpowering as I suspected it would be. That is a huge blessing.

Kids still aren't real excited about bone broth, but since we're starting Stage Four tomorrow, that is ok; our repertoire of foods has expanded greatly from a week ago. They love sauerkraut, are drinking whey like it is going out of style, and are thrilled with a snack of cooked carrots - just promise not to tell them the carrots are cooked in bone broth.

I have learned how to make homemade yogurt, sour cream, and kefir. Tomorrow, I'm going to try my hand at sauerkraut; it is insanely easy to make (according to all the instructions I've read) and it is expensive to buy. Nuts are soaking in preparation for grain-free pancakes - a new favorite treat, and I'm feeling much more confident with the path we've chosen.

My husband has been a champ, too. Honestly, if he wasn't on board, I'm not sure we could have continued. It has been that hard. Admittedly, I'm not the best with planning ahead; I don't have my menu all figured out, I'm not ready to feed my kids as often as they are hungry, and I easily forget that we need to take snacks with us when we do need to leave the house (which I'm trying to do as little as possible). He has saved my bacon on more than one occasion. 

Since I know blogs are much more interesting with photos, I'm hoping to post some tomorrow. Kids have documented our progress, and I am so completely amazed at them drinking the whey that I have to document it with a photograph, lol. So, stay tuned. And, if you are considering starting GAPS, let me know. I'd love to encourage you in the process. After all...misery loves company.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Day Five

Well, I'm posting about Day Five on Day Six, because yesterday was a pretty rough day. 

Little ones are still being stubborn about eating the bone broth so woke up crabby. We've added carrot juice as a regular part of our mornings to bridge the gap until kids start eating more of the nourishing, healing foods on the intro diet. 

It is also taking a tremendous amount of time to prepare food, especially because we are feeding kids every three hours or so. By the time I get one "meal" cleaned up, it is past time to begin preparing for the next one. If I'd purchased the guide and menu before  we started the diet, instead of after, I could have gotten ahead on prepping veggies, and not just the broth. If you are thinking about starting the GAPS diet, I strongly advise you purchase this invaluable resource, available here.

I'm also a day behind because I was knocked down by another migraine. While some confusion exists about die-off and reactions to food (you can read more about that here), I'm pretty confident my headaches are related to die-off; they both started almost immediately after I ingested an increased amount of probiotic food (specifically sauerkraut). It is hard not to eat too much at a time, I'm finding, however, because it is yummy, and the initial recommended amounts are really quite small (like a teaspoon at a time). A detox bath didn't really help much, either, so I broke down and took my prescription headache treatment and went to bed. Thankfully, I'm feeling MUCH better this morning, and I have (hopefully) learned my lesson. We'll see.

Today is, thankfully, starting off on a much happier note. Little ones ate more of the broth (we started putting it in mugs and calling it "tea"), and because we are feeding them more frequently, they are not having quite so much trouble with low blood sugar (we have a couple of kiddos who are particularly sensitive to that). Plus, we added scrambled eggs this morning!! Everyone is very excited because bone broth "tea" and scrambled eggs are much more "breakfast-like" than a bowl of soup.

At this point, I'm not sure we're seeing any real noticeable improvement, but after only five days, it is pretty early. Dr. Campbell-McBride recommends sticking with the diet at least six months. If you really don't think you are seeing any improvement, you can stop and see what happens. Many people have commented, however, that when they stopped the diet, they almost immediately noticed the changes. So, we're going to stick to this for at least six months.

Well, actually, I've noticed one thing!! Over the last five days, I've lost a significant amount of weight! Partly it is due to not eating during my migraines, but my pants are definitely looser. We are NOT doing the GAPS diet for weight loss, but it is a nice side benefit, for those of us who need to loose weight.

Day Four

Yesterday ended poorly. I had a headache. Being prone to migraines anyway, the plain old headache quickly triggered a migraine. And guess what; my sweet little boy (who turned two in March) was not tired, and everyone who could be helpful was either swimming or at a friend's house. So, I didn't get to bed very quickly, which made matters worse.

Thankfully, my headache was gone this morning, but the day didn't start well. Breakfast (broth with lots of veggies) burned, putting me behind the gun, with a house full of hungry kids. So, I made more juice!! It took a while to sort and prep the carrots, but we got that done, and kids were much happier. Then, putting big girls to work (though I'm down three right now - what was I thinking?! I sent away my extra sets of hands - oops!!), got another pot of soup going. Thankfully, with the broth already made, it only takes about 30 minutes to get veggies cooked, once they are cut up. I'm learning that with GAPS, that is REALLY fast, lol.

We've only been on this adventure for a few days, but I have learned a few very valuable lessons. Planning ahead is ESSENTIAL. And, having broth going all the time is also vitally important. If you don't want to get caught with hungry kids and nothing to feed them, get a crock pot and keep it filled with bones. One blog I read described boiling bones twelve different times and still being able to make broth?! That is pretty serious broth making.

I know GAPS can be expensive, but being a frugalista, I've found a few ways to pinch pennies. First, ask a local butcher about soup bones. We are buying local grown, antibiotic and hormone-free, grass-fed beef knuckle bones for $.99/lb and marrow bones for $2.49/lb. I also found a fish monger who will sell me fish carcasses (I'm NOT a fish person, so I don't want anything but the bones) for $.99/lb. It works out to be a good deal for them, and for me. We haven't found a good source for chicken bones, but I can get locally grown, hormone and antibiotic-free, free-range whole chickens for $2.49/lb. It won't make as much broth, but what it makes is very rich.

And, with the veggies, I have made a deal with a local fresh fruit market to buy in  bulk for a lower per unit price. The most expensive part of the diet so far, food-wise (the supplements are very expensive), has definitely been the fresh milk. It is $6/gallon for whole fresh milk. I'm not sure if it is really less expensive to make my own yogurt, but everyone sure loves it. 

Since we aren't buying nearly as much food, even though what we're buying is more expensive, it is working out,at least for now.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Day Three

Well, I'm eating my words from yesterday!! This morning started out rough, with one of the kids puking, and several feeling really crummy. After a bit of surfing, and finding great pages like this one, and this one, and this one, and spending lots of time reading the Q & A section on the GAPS website, I concluded the kids (who are much more stubborn than I thought) were probably struggling with low blood sugar from not eating enough carbs (from the carrots we added to the soups yesterday) and probably were struggling at least a little with dehydration.

The recommended treatment was carrot juice, and since we had an industrial size bag, I made lots. It was not warmly received by everyone, but our littlest guy quickly had four (littlest guy sized) servings. Within a short amount of time, those who willingly partook were feeling much better. Trying to decide if I was dealing with die-off or just low blood sugar, I decided to add an egg to each serving of soup, in addition to broccoli and cauliflower. This time, my four year old daughter enthusiastically consumed her soup, and asked for seconds, twice. Guess that worked well.

While I knew our two youngest were going to have issues with the diet, I was really not prepared for the amount of difficulty our next two would have?! They are both really struggling today. As I think about it, though, it makes sense. Of all our kids, these two are the worst at the "spacey" behavior commonly described in the reading I've done. Our daughter with dyslexia is really struggling; body aches, headache, and very VERY whiny. A bath with bath salts and lavender really seemed to help, as did finally deciding to eat what was set before her, and having some of the fresh yogurt I made, rich with probiotics. 

Notice the two ovens!! The stove top pulls out like a drawer.

Chicken and beef bones are going in two different crock pots, more yogurt is culturing in my small over (I have the coolest oven, ever - a   Frigidaire Flair), and nobody is throwing up.

Over all, we're doing fairly well, considering. And my healthy portion of humble pie hasn't been too bitter. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Day 2

Well, the second day has definitely been more difficult than the first one. First of all, my little ones have HATED the bone broth. Even the chicken broth, with some onions and garlic, was very unpopular. So, kids are getting hungry, which makes them very grumpy, clingy, and they cry MUCH easier. Our four year old, with anxiety issues, tends to have more melt downs when she is hungry, so guess how I spent most of my morning...

But, other than the little ones being extra grumpy, and the rest of us being a bit tired, we haven't had too tough a time, yet. I'm honestly quite surprised. We'll see what happens tomorrow, but with things going so well, we are quickly progressing to cooked veggies. Perhaps we'll try carrot juice and egg yokes next. I still need to make yogurt, and getting on top of all the supplements (the fish oil, probiotics, the enzymes, etc) is keeping me on my toes, but we are doing this on a grand scale; anything you do with this many kids is on a grand scale, lol.

Can't say I feel a whole lot different at this point, or that I'm noticing a dramatic improvement in my children, but I'm still committed to this journey. And, honestly, our situation wasn't nearly as bad as many people I've read about who started GAPS. We definitely had kids who showed signs of the gut and psychology syndrome Dr. Campbell-McBride describes, but we hadn't progressed to genuine food issues yet. And, we've kept most processed foods out of our diet already, which is why, at least in part, we're not experiencing significant die-off or other reactions at this point. 

Now, I may eat my words, and come back for a huge slice of humble pie with my next post, but at this point (by God's grace) we're actually fairing pretty well. My four year old did spend part of the day yesterday screaming "I WANT CANDY!!" and our twelve year old (who I didn't expect to have any difficulty) has been in tears more than once, but over all we're fairing very well.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Day One

This is my personal journey with the Gut and Psychology Syndrome diet. This diet, also known as the GAPS diet, was developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, to treat her son's Autism. You can check out her website here.

You can order a copy of her book here or on Amazon. I didn't find a copy at my local library, or through any of the discount book sellers, but if you decide you want to buy a copy, check all your favorite book shops.

The reason I started this diet, with my family, is kind of a long story. If you want to learn more about my personal adventure and how I got here, check out my other blog and our challenges over the last two years. Briefly, my youngest son was born in March 2011, and for reasons that were not immediately apparent, he cried, constantly, almost from birth. Eventually, he was diagnosed with reflux, swallowing difficulties, developmental delays, and ultimately "static encephalopathy" Cerebral Palsy. 

Because of the Cerebral Palsy, my son has low muscle tone and hemiparesis, or right-sided weakness. He also struggles with Sensory Processing Disorder, has had multiple upper respiratory infections (with fourteen different rounds of antibiotics - before he was two!), pneumonia twice (once requiring hospitalization), had a significant speech delay (both receptive and expressive), and major issues with separation anxiety. His big sister, though a much easier baby, also struggles with anxiety (she has a diagnosed anxiety disorder), a speech delay (initially it was an expressive delay, but she also had major issues with intelligibility), and Sensory Processing Disorder. 

 Of our eight children, five of them are struggling with some sort of "psychological" issue, including dyslexia and Autism, in addition to the diagnoses above. Not only was life overwhelming, but we were desperate for answers and help.

After reading about the dramatic improvement parents were seeing with the Gluten-free/Casein-free diets, we were gearing up for that when someone mentioned Dr. Campbell-McBride's book. I devoured it, quickly. But, the GAPS diet is pretty intense (you can look over the outline here, here, and here). It took a few months to get ready to actually take that step. This page has been very helpful.

Today, we took the plunge. Last week, we bought several pounds of all natural beef bones from a local butcher; I dropped several into a crock pot yesterday, to begin the process of cooking. I also bought a whole chicken, and will be picking up some fish carcasses from our local public market when it opens on Thursday. I bought some commercial yogurt, for the cultures, so I could make my own at home, with raw milk, for probiotics, and put teaspoons of sauerkraut juice in our bowls of soup tonight. A friend (who started the GAPS diet over a year ago) gave me kefir grains, so making some fresh kefir is on the list of things to do, too.

My kids do not like this diet, to put it mildly. Our four year old (mentioned above) was screaming "I want C.A.N.D.Y.!!" very loudly earlier, and sobbed over eating the bone broth. My two year old, who is still nursing because of his swallowing issues, has been much "hungrier" for Mama today. Honestly, it was a bit of a challenge to drink the bone broth for breakfast this morning. And I won't lie; this isn't something I'd choose just for fun.

But, it has been, surprisingly, very filling. The little ones enjoyed their well-cooked bones (with lots of healing connective tissue) at dinner, and no one is struggling (too badly) with withdrawls, yet. I have a feeling that is coming. But, we have boxed up almost everything that will be a temptation, so we should make it through. I'll let you know how I'm feeling tomorrow.

We are NOT doing this diet to lose weight, though a few of us can definitely stand to lose a few pounds. The reasons for embarking on this quest...journey...thing...is for the health and well-being of our children, and our sanity. If you don't know anything about the GAPS diet, definitely check out the links above; do your own research. And, if you are thinking about embarking on your own journey but aren't quite sure you can do it on your own, contact me. I'd love to share the journey with you!! I have certainly appreciated the people who have shared mine with me.