The GAPS Diet: Why Our Family is Doing It

Yesterday I shared about what the GAPS diet is. If you missed it, I would suggest going back and reading that post first.

gutpsychologysyndrome thumb11 231x300If you try to eat so well, why does your family need to do the GAPS diet?

No one has asked me this yet, but I can well imagine that this is the question in many of your minds,and it is an extremely legitimate question!

As I’ve shard before, my journey into nutrition and natural living did not come about just because I loved being healthy, but rather because I was an incredibly un-healthy person.

I started out after a diagnosis of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), a serious hormonal/reproductive disorder. I used to suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, as well as being lactose intolerant, and would often experience severe episodes of cramping and pain. I also spent about a year and a half on birth control pills before marriage (and before I knew better), and have probably taken antibiotics more than 25 times throughout my life.

I began to get healthy before I started having my children, but not much before, and I was really only just baby-stepping my way towards health back then. Though my efforts have made a tremendous difference (my PCOS is greatly diminished, the IBS and lactose intolerance are gone, and I generally feel 110% better than I used to), I know that I haven’t solved all of the damage that was done in the first 20-something years of my life.

From generation to generation

In Gut and Psychology Syndrome Dr. Campbell-McBride says this:

“…When I ask questions about the health of a child’s grandparents, particularly on the mother’s side, it becomes obvious that we have generations of people with compromised gut flora. This damage becomes deeper in every generation. The era of antibiotics, contraceptive pill, breast feeding going out of fashion, and drastic changes in diet have all contributed to this phenomenon. Doctors have known for centuries that unhealthy parents produce unhealthy children. Mother’s body is a home for the growing baby for nine months and a source of nourishment and care for months after the birth…

…As far as science knows an unborn baby is sterile. Its body has no bacteria, viruses or fungi living in it. When the time of birth comes, as the baby goes through the birth canal, it gets its first dose of microbes. Its skin, eyes, mucous membranes in the mouth and nose acquire their first microflora. Through swallowing liquids in the mother’s v****a the baby’s digestive system gets its first population of bacteria, viruses and fungi.”

Can you see that whatever imbalances and level of compromised health is in the mother’s body when her children are in utero and then breastfeeding will be passed on to her children?

This isn’t a guilt trip and it shouldn’t be condemning. Many of us didn’t grow up knowing any better than what we have done, and we are in so many regards a product of our society and culture. Please don’t hear me laying a burden upon mothers for what they have passed on to their children.

newborn baby sleeping

Image by peasap

Rising to the challenge in the now

I am taking this as a challenge to myself to see what can I do about it now, through God’s grace. The past is the past. But I want to give my children every chance to grow up without such a heavy toll on their gut flora, and thus on their overall health!

I have seen in our children the signs of a compromised gut. All three of them have dealt with eczema fairly extensively. The two older ones have shown some tummy troubles from time to time, stools with undigested food in them, mild constipation, etc. Our baby dealt with colic this summer.

Something I have never really discussed on my blog (mostly because I am concerned about the backlash that I will receive) is the fact that our 2 1/2 year old son was showing some signs of developmental delays (motor and speech), as well as some behavioral activities that were similar to those of children in the autism spectrum. Immediately after a Candida/detoxifying diet to deal with his eczema about a year ago, those behaviors almost disappeared and his development suddenly took off, especially his language.

Please don’t hear me saying that he had autism and was healed- that just isn’t what I’m saying at all. I am simply sharing what I observed in his development and behavior, and the change that took place, and that I have seen enough evidence for me to believe that there is a connection.

All this to say that between my children, my own past of poor gut health, and my husband’s battle with recurrent heartburn and other current health challenges, as well as all the chemotherapy drugs and antibiotics that he received during cancer treatments 2 1/2 years ago, I think we have many reasons to be interested in pressing the “reset” button.

Where to go from here

Is any of this striking a cord with you? Do you see your own health or your family’s health in what I am talking about?

I have a guest post coming from a mom who has recently had great success with GAPS for her children. I will be also sharing from time to time as our family follows the GAPS diet, though I cannot begin to cover it nearly as extensively as has already been done on the internet.

Here is a gathering of some of the best resources that I have found for doing the GAPS diet:

If you really want to do this, I highly recommend purchasing the actual book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome. It’s a little bit pricey, but I’m so glad that I actually have it as it has explained everything in so much more detail and also offers a lot of recipes and suggestions for implementing the diet.

Update:

The GAPS diet is still a very popular search on this blog and I know that so many families out there are looking for more help and resources. These are some of the best ones I’ve found.

Cara from Healthy, Home & Happiness has several amazingly helpful resources for those on GAPS:

  • 30 Days on the GAPS Introduction Diet- What Can I Eat Now? This is an essential guide to helping you get started and get through the chalenging early days and weeks of the intro diet!
  • Grain Free Meal Plans Freezer Cooking Guide. Prepping meals and meal components ahead of time is a HUGE sanity and time saver when you’re doing gaps, and this ebook guides you through the process of stocking your freezer to make life on GAPS easier.
  • Grain-Free Meal Plans. Do you prefer to just let someone else do the thinking and planning for you, and follow along a pre-made menu plan? Then you’ll definitely want to check these GAPS-friendly plans out.

I know that I’m going to receive a flood of comments on some of the things that I’ve shared in this post. Please, keep it respectful, keep it clean, keep it kind. I have a delete button and I’m not afraid to use it. However, I am fully open to polite disagreement and big girl words. Thanks, all!

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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Comments

  1. If anyone is interested in attending a workshop and learning a tried and true plan for co-op presented by 3 stone hearth in Berkley, and then bringing back to Ventura/L.a. County, please contact susanm@west.net. If you are making the bone broth on a regular basis in your own kitchen, as well as other fermented and gaps approved food you realize how isolating and labor intensive it is. I am planning on attending the one in October but it is not a project one person alone damn tackle.

  2. Hi,

    I have been on the GAPS diet for 10 months, paleo/primal (with raw dairy) for a year before that. I also have PCOS. Since improving my diet in general, the cycles have become almost normal. On average, it is a 34-35 day cycle (6-7 days bleeding, 4 weeks in between menstrual cycles). Before, I would bleed for about 2 months (heavy bleeding and clotting too) and have about 1-2 weeks of no bleeding. Despite my cycles improving, I am still dealing with the extreme pain, nausea, headaches, discomfort, etc. on days 2-3. It is horrible! Luckily, the last time it happened I didn’t have to go to work that day. I just cannot function when I am in that extreme pain and discomfort. I am doing everything right, I just wonder if it is going to take a lot more time before I am truly cured. Is there any other advice you or your readers can offer? Thank you so much! ~Sarah

    • Go to the gaps website and find a GAPS certified consultant. Find one that has medical knowledge/ability such as a nurse practitioner or medical doctor. Well worth the extra money. There may be some tests you should have done to hone in on possibly needing some supplements. My daughter and I were on full GAPS diet from Oct until mid December, then started Intro. We’ve been on Intro for about 11 weeks, and just started with a Nurse Practitioner who is a Certified Gaps consultant. What a difference it has been making!

      • I am very interested in finding a GAPS certified consultant. Can you provide a link to the website you mentioned so I can be sure I am on the right one? Thanks!

  3. Hello I am doing research on the gaps diet because i have a 5 1/2 year old son who was just diagnosed with adhd and i’am almost positve his younger brother will be diagnosed with it in the next two years because it is also hereditary in both my family and their fathers family so any help on this diet would be great so i can ask their doctor next month when we go in to get a plan started to help them and get things going i really want to learn as much as possible to help my kids control their adhd as they get older so they can focus better at home and in school… so any and all information is welcome thank you so much!!

  4. How long did your family do the GAPS diet, and was it successful? For someone starting out, what are some simple tips you might offer, besides buying the book? Thank you!

    • Go to a GAPS Consultant. It’s worth the money. Find one with the ability to have medical testing done, such as an MD or Nurse Practitioner.

  5. Hello, I accidentally stumbled upon your website as I’m doing research on GAPS diet. I’m wondering are there cookbooks out there and which ones would you recommend? It just seems to me without specific recipes its hard to follow and plan ahead.

  6. HI there just wondering the benifits of the Candida/detoxifying diet that you did with your 2 and a half year old for the eczema that he/she was dealing with? We are also thinking of GAPS for my daughters eczema, for the same reason and it looks like the Candida/detoxifying diet may be a bit easier to prepare for. She is just about 2 now.

    Thanks so much

  7. Stephanie,
    Yay for you! I am so glad you caught the ASD symptoms early and realized the gut connection. To condense our story into a very few sentences, my daughter was diagnosed with ASD at almost three years of age and now is completely recovered at 7 years of age. She will be entering second grade with her peers this fall and requires no assistance at all in the classroom. My daughter’s recovery was achieved through chelation and hyperbaric oxygen, but if we had known about the gut connection sooner, she might not have needed such drastic interventions. To my mind the “spectrum” behaviors are nothing more than a manifestation of underlying poor health in an individual’s gut. I am so happy that you were able to nip it in the bud early with your little guy! Blessings to you!

  8. Should I go on the GAPS diet? I have a different medical issue, a blood disease. It is not autoimmune. Is the GAPS diet just for those with the mentioned medical problems?

  9. I LIVE on GAPS. Actually more on SCD, but same animal. It’s a lifesaver for OCD!

  10. I’d really like to know whether anyone has had the same issues as me and the GAPS diet work? After years of visiting the doctors and just being told that the issues my son has issues “just happen” (loose stools for 4 years, hearing problems, infections relating to adenoids, tonsils, refusal to eat anything but sugary food and carbs etc) I think through GAPS I finally have some understanding as to what is going on. The doctors are treating my reluctance to have his tonsils out as a problem.

    My MIL has accused me of giving him an eating disorder at 15months old (whihc is when he stopped eating the food we normally eat (basically all fruit/vegetables).

    I have spent the last few years doing everything I can to resolve my issues to be the best mother I can be – and it seems nothing is good enough. I’ve bene told that if I do the GAPS diet it is really unfair and damaging, and I should just get his tonsils removed/gromits etc.

    Has anyone any advice on this?

    • Concerned Mama,

      I and my family are currently on the GAPS diet. We’re just a few weeks in so I can’t yet expound on it’s virtues. What I can say is that our modern medical culture is so so very flawed. Our doctors do so much harm in the name of “fixing stuff” (I.E. antibiotics) Doctors are generally trained to treat symptoms, not cure disease. We all know this. Part of the reason for this is that doctors have very little education on nutrition. They don’t see the connection. This is why pills are prescribed over lifestyle changes. It’s all terribly frustrating. I would highly advise you to purchase and read the GAPS book. That knowledge will empower you to make the right choice for yourself. As for me, I agree with the premise of the GAPS method. That premise is this – Unhealthy Gut = Unhealthy body. Can anyone dispute this simple correlation? I hope my comments are of some use to you. Good luck with your journey and God bless. -Daniel

  11. Hello Stephanie! Just wonder if you are still doing GAPS? IF not, how long did your family commit to it? What are your long term results from the program? Thank you.

    Nadia

    • No, we are not on GAPS any longer. We did do it for several months, with excellent results, but for various reasons needed to go back to our more regular diet for the time being. But, we did keep several family members off of foods that showed up as sensitivities, and have continued to include things like bone broth, extra probiotics, fermented foods, etc. in our diet to keep improving our gut health. I think that we would have had excellent long term benefits, although I did personally have a hard time being so low-carb (and I have heard that from some others as well). There may be some body types that can’t stay this low-carb for such a long period of time, although some (like one of my children and my husband) felt great on the diet, even longer term.

      • Stephanie, I feel the need to pipe in here.

        While it is very easy to end up eating low-carb on GAPS, the diet itself is not at all intended to be low-carb. Dr. Natasha in no way recommends purposefully decreasing your carbohydrate intake. That’s why high-carb veggies such as squash and carrots, along with fresh-pressed juices, fruits, and honey are encouraged on GAPS, so as to not dip down into the “low-carb” realm. The only reason why some higher-carb/high-starch foods, such as grains and potatoes, are restricted is that they are harmful to the gut while healing is taking place.

        The thought that the diet itself is intended to be low-carb is probably the most common misconception about GAPS, and I just didn’t want to see it perpetuated here — or rather, for your comment to be misinterpreted in that way.

        Thanks for helping to educate others about GAPS (and for letting me chime in here)!

        • Whether or not you are “low carb” on GAPS is dependent on what issues you are experiencing. For instance, I have ulcerative colitis and since starting Intro 11 weeks ago, can not tolerate eating ANY vegetables. Not even the cooked to death ones in broth. I have only been able to tolerate fermented dairy (yogurt, kefir, sour cream), small amounts of fermented vegetables, fats (thankfully including avocado), eggs, and meat. I can’t handle ANY vegetable. So I’ve been NO carb for 11 weeks. I tend to be pretty tired, but managing. I have started seeing a GAPS Consultant who is also a Nurse Practitioner and has me doing some medical testing and various supplements. For instance, I’m to take 1 full TABLESPOON of FCLO 3x a day. Which is WAYYYY more than listed in the generic GAPS Diet book. The Nurse Practitioner has started me doing some other things that are specific to my body’s needs. I think the GAPS book is a good place to start for underlying principles, and may be potentially all some people need, but some people may need a lot more customization to address their specific needs.

  12. Thanks for sharing your experience with GAPS. I have been considering doing it after being diagnosed with bacterial overgrowth that started with food poisoning 2 years ago. I am also interested in it for my son who has motor planning delays (dyspraxia). He just turned 4 and my daughter is 2. Was wondering if you put your kids on the intro diet or started with the full diet? I think mine would be ok with the full diet but the intro seems like it could be rough to get them to actual eat/drink the allowed items.

    • @Brooke, I did start my kids on the intro. There were some days/meals that were tough as they didn’t want to eat those foods. But, we did it anyways as long as we could (it took us one month to introduce all of the foods and get on to the full diet) because I thought it was valuable for them.

  13. Hi,
    “Immediately after a Candida/detoxifying diet to deal with his eczema about a year ago, those behaviors almost disappeared and his development suddenly took off, especially his language”

    Thank you for the post. Could you please share what kind of candida/detoxifying diet you did to deal with eczema? I would like to hear from you and try the same.

    thanks much again

  14. i’m sorry…did you censor the word VAGINA? REALLY??? it isn’t a dirty word, you know…especially when it is used in the context of speaking about birth. i’m actually offended that you censored it.

    • @michele, The only reason that the word was sensored on my blog is because I don’t want words that could be sexually related to be picked up by the search engines. With the enormous amount of dirty websites out there, I have to do certain things to ensure that mine does not somehow become accidentally classified as an adult site. I absolutely do not think that it is a dirty word in the slightest and have no problem with using it, either in conversation or in a blog post. Unfortunately, the way that the internet is used these days makes those of us running clean site have to be more cautious about the things we do.

  15. Hi Stephanie,

    I was encouraged to hear that you have PCOS and have children!! Do you mind me asking if you used medicine to induce or maintain your pregnancies? My husband and I had tried for more than a year to conceive. We were very frustrated, but had faith God would send us a child. Two months after starting the GAPS diet we conceived! Twelve weeks into the pregnancy I miscarried. I was diagnosed with PCOS shortly after that (I always suspected I had that, but never a diagnosis). What do you do besides the GAPS diet to help your PCOS? Do you have any advice for me? Thank you!!!

    • @Megan, I’m sorry for your loss, Megan. I haven’t done anything to maintain my pregnancies, except to work towards hormone balance whenever I’m not pregnant. For me that has been primarily through a switch to whole food, traditional foods (pastured meat, good fats, etc.) and reducing sugar, esp. refined sugar. I have also used Vitex (Chasteberry) to help with hormone balance. Once upon a time I used to use yam cream as well, but haven’t done that for years.
      You can read through previous posts I’ve written about PCOS and my own experience to get more a feel for what you can do and what I have done successfully.
      http://www.keeperofthehome.org/health-and-natural-remedies/pcos
      Even now, I still find that I am not quite the “fertile myrtle” that other women are, partly because I breastfeed for extended periods of time, and partly because my body still struggles with hormone imbalance, even though much healing has taken place. But, I have been able to carry 3 to term (with only 1 very early loss), despite having slightly larger age gaps than what I originally hoped for.
      Knowing the diagnosis is a blessing, because it helps you to be strategic about what you do to bring healing to your body. I’m grateful that God allowed me to learn my own diagnosis when He did, and that He gave me tools to get healthier since that time.
      I would also check out the site http://www.NaturallyKnockedUp.com, run by friend Donielle who also has PCOS (and has also had 2 beautiful children since!). She focuses on fertility in particular.

  16. I’m looking into the GAPS diet for my family as well. I have 4 children and we’ve eaten NT, sometimes more, sometimes less, for about 6 years now. My oldest in particular has some health issues I would like to address with the diet, and I have some hormonal issues. To me, it doesn’t look so complicated at all, in regards to Ali’s weird comment I don’t see why people couldn’t eat very healthy and still ‘fellowship’. I admit I don’t have the book yet and have only been researching online but for myself I’ve already been gluten free for the last week or two, not such a big transition. And I’ve always done chicken stock, pastured meats, and am now getting into fermented drinks and veggies, kombucha, etc… I’m excited! Will be following your journey and cheering you on!

  17. Thank you so much for sharing from your heart. I see you wrote this in February so I am looking forward to seeing how the diet is going for your family. The thing I love about what you said is “The past if the past.” I agree it is easy to get caught up in what “could have been” or what happened. But we can’t dwell there if we want to live happy and healthy lives. The thing I am most grateful for is that I found this diet NOW and that I can impact my child’s life now so that he can live a healthier and happier life.

    Thanks so much!
    Sarah

  18. You have PCOS?! I’m always surprised when I meet another woman who’s like me in this regard. In your case, I’m also very encouraged, seeing as how you have 3 children. That’s proof to me that getting healthier makes it possible to conceive with this disorder. I’ve never heard of GAPS before, but my husband & I are just getting started on a raw diet. We won’t be 100%, but anything that isn’t raw will be organic & natural. We’re quite excited about the whole thing. Glucophage has already started me down the path of regular cycles (yea!), but we’re hoping to be completely free of medications once we’re healthier from our new raw eating lifestyle. Thanks for sharing about your journey!
    .-= Chrissy´s last blog ..Recipe of the "Week" =-.

  19. OK, sorry for the extra comment, but could the GAPS diet help low weight (i’m always very thin), irritability and fatigue? It kinda sounds like it could help practically anything, but are there any specifics regarding these things? Also, we are fairly healthy, I have a few moderate health difficulties, so why should we consider this diet? My husband is very hard to convince about new health things so I need good reasons. Obviously more research etc. Thanks.

    • @Amber, I would say that it could definitely address irritability and fatigue. The low weight is harder to say, because I can’t really diagnose why you would have difficult gaining weight. It could be due to poor digestion and not absorbing or utilizing nutrients properly, but that is just purely conjecture on my part. I think it would be worth it for you to read the whole book, and see how you think it relates to your family, your history and your particular symptoms.

      I definitely think that the GAPS diet has something to offer everything and anyone, because we ALL have compromised digestive systems to at least some degree. But I understand that not everyone is willing to do something so extreme without very good reason. So yes, research more! :)

  20. This sounds like it could be an expensive diet. Have you found it to be so? Between the probiotics and all the meat and eggs and veggies, there’s not much room for the cheaper foods. Just curious.

    • @Amber, It’s true that this is a bit more expensive. I have found it very challenging to stick within our grocery budget, and in fact, I definitely went over our first month (though this month I may just barely squeak by- time will tell).

      What I am finding is that I am make it work best when I am planning well, and when I do food prep in advance. I am trying to take 1-2 days a week where I do a bunch of extra cooking and prep, to fill my freezer with good stuff, make meals ahead of time, etc. When I do this, we are able to make good use of the food that we have and I find it much less stressful. I think this is part of what’s making it look possible for me to stay on budget this month. :)

  21. I’m very curious about this diet and what problems or symptoms it seems to help. My daughter and I have chronic eczema. She has major food allergies and I still have sensitivities. And then there is my oldest and his lack of focus and emotional outbursts. Our family has just been through a major loss. So I know that grief is taking its toll on our family’s health, emotionally and physically. It seems a bit overwhelming to think about major food changes around here when there are days I barely feel like getting out of bed.

    But on the other hand, I know enough about food and health to know that maybe we might be stronger and healthier if we tried to make more changes. I already cook from scratch, homemade stock and baked goods, etc. I just hate the prescription meds I have to use for the eczema and the lethargy and fuzzy heads around here. They say that after a traumatic event, your body burns through about a year’s worth of serotonin in 24 hours. I’m trying to find natural ways (exercise and real food) to help replace what we lost, because we can definitely feel it.

    I was wondering if you knew of any evidence of allergies, eczema, mood swings, frustration and depression being helped by this diet?

    Jessica

    • @Jessica, Absolutely, Jessica. Those are ALL things that this diet can specifically help. We have already noticed a decrease in eczema, in only one week on the diet! It sounds like you’ve been through a lot lately and need to find a way to get back to good health. This diet isn’t too hard to do, it just takes a bit of extra effort and some more thought going into planning meals and snacks. If you think you could do it, I’m sure it would help. Blessings to you and your family!

  22. GREAT artical! I’m so glad that people are brave enough to speak the truth about this! I am a mother of five and we are on week 6 of the GAPS diet and it is going great! I really wish to address the people who think that you have to eat pioson to have fellowship with other believers though. Are we not, as believer suppose to be taking care of our bodies and teaching others by how we live? This attitute of “others might feel bad if you don’t eat what they eat” is getting really old. Your health is important and the lady who drops off brownies from the church is still going to get a smile and a thank you note, but she will not be there to take care of my son who wets the bd when he eats that stuff or wake up with my screaming baby who can’t nurse because I ate it and it makes him vomit and scream. The consequenses of what we eat are real and multi- generational. Whether that lady understands that or not doesn’t change that fact. It does make people feel guilty because they know they should eat what they eat, but when there kids are sick or there health fails guess who they call to find out how to get better? Me, who has lived out loud in front of them, my faith and the way I take care of my “temple”. So…. I’m sorry, that is all I’m going to say, I’m steppong down from my soap box now:) can’t wait to hear more about the diet and your progress! Thank you for posting it so I can read an be encouraged:)

    • @tonya, Well said, stay on your soap box. I agree in so many ways, and have had such a similar experience. Thanks for sharing! :)

    • Rebecca in Abu Dhabi says:

      @tonya, Your comment on the poor food that is served at social gatherings really resounds with me. I feel like such a shrew when I make an issue about the pop, candy, chips and everything else that is served when we gather. Often the only “acceptable” thing at a potluck is my dish :P, so yeah I admit it, we eat what is there. Often I just let it go because it is a rather lonely crusade– even the mothers in my circle who know better give their kids sugar and processed food. Not sure there is an easy answer…maybe pick your battles or make a short list of “kids, you are absolutely not allowed to eat this, but you can occasionally eat this” list? How do you deal with it?

  23. i’m so thrilled to have found your blog… i have a close friend who has been doing GAPS for about 6 months (off & on- it has been a real struggle), and i’m always searching for ways to support her in this journey toward health! they have had some great success, but also extreme difficulties. i pray that your experience is less of a struggle!
    thank you for sharing your life with us- it is inspiring to read!
    rachel
    .-= rachel @ perfectly imperfect´s last blog ..meatloaf =-.