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 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.