3 GAPS diet tips we used to help our 3 year-old daughter avoid food refusal during the dreaded introductory soup-only stage.
GAPS saved our sanity.
But it took me a long time to commit to actually doing the Introductory stages.
About a year. And in GAPS terms, a year is a lot of healing time wasted.
If you’ve never heard of it, the Gut And Psychology Syndrome healing protocol was developed by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride.
And if you are thinking about starting the diet ABSOLUTELY purchase her GAPS book.
Read it front to back and then read it again.
Highlight it. Put in sticky notes. And mark pages.
Study it like your life depends on it.
Because your quality of life absolutely does!
GAPS TESTIMONIALS AND TERROR
GAPS eliminates foods which promote inflammatory and immune suppressing processes and allows the body to heal.
All while introducing nourishing, healing and probiotic foods. And healthy lifestyle changes too!
To detoxify, rebalance and replenish. To heal and seal the gut.
It teaches you proper nutrition.
And parents rave about the seemingly magical transformations of their children.
But there is also a testimonial topic that strikes fear into the hearts of prospective GAPS parents.
This is the reason it took me so long.
- The many stories of emancipated, exhausted, near-starved children stubbornly refusing the introductory soups.
- Needing to be carried because they didn’t have the energy to walk to the toilet.
- My girl had no weight to lose. A classic inflammatory sign.
It made me feel ill just reading them.
So we stalled. We made GAPS changes and thought it would make a difference.
We figured we weren’t dealing with a full-blown spectrum disorder so just changing to Full GAPS Diet instead, should help.
That worked OK-ish until our nearly 3 year old developed a high fever and sore throat. And her personality changed overnight.
WHY WE DECIDED TO DO GAPS
Over just 24 hours, she started behaving in a VERY differently, in a nearly autistic manner.
Violent self-harm, terrors, OCD behaviour, not sleeping, stuttering, and so much more.
It was frightening. I was 36 weeks pregnant.
I stayed up with her restlessly sobbing in her sleep. Googling for answers.
I learned about PANDAS.
Paediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcus.
A neurological condition caused by the body’s response to an infection with Group A Beta-Haemolytic Strep.
Ironically she was wearing pyjamas with a little panda on the front.
We saw my GP the next morning.
- She took a throat swab looking for Streptococcus pyogenes she had never heard of PANDAS.
- The swab came back negative.
We still however treated her with antibiotics. And probiotics.
- Because despite the negative culture result, she started stuttering. Something she’d never done before.
- And also because I am all too aware of the limitations of a throat culture analysis.
- She also had bronchitis and we were expecting a newborn in the house.
The new antibiotic guidelines allowed us to treat her.
The stuttering stopped after the second dose. But the hyperactive, defiant and generally disruptive behaviour stayed.
So we decided to really consider this GAPS thing.
But I made it my mission to avoid the looming food refusal as best I could.
REFUSING FOOD REFUSAL
The first thing we did was plan for both of us to be home. So we had a start date determined by Julian’s (daddy) work arrangements.
We had 3 months.
And a newborn.
Looking back, there were 3 things that we did consistently which helped us avoid food refusal.
They also transitioned us into the GAPS Diet rhythm.
Of stock making, yoghurt fermenting, organic buying and always cooking.
And as a bonus we perfected our hippie-homesteader-ing skills too.
It’s really quite fun.
#1 Slowly wean the favourite non-GAPS foods
- Cheese started coming out of the fridge less.
- Gluten-free pasta became a little less frequent.
- Maple syrup wasn’t being added to yoghurt as much.
We just quietly began to reduce her go-to foods.
The things she basically lived on. Because she refused all else. A sure sign of gut imbalance.
Her typical dinner of vegetable hidden pasta sauce swapped from tomato-based sauce to a stock-based no-mato sauce.
It was red. Still tasty but stocky.
We also started serving a higher vegetable sauce to carbohydrate ratio.
With significantly less cheese.
#2 Introduce GAPS supplements and practices before hand
Cod liver oil and a mug of breakfast stock became a thing.
But it didn’t come without a meltdown.
She hated it. Until we started putting gee in the stock. Then it was less yelled about.
And the cod liver or “codliva” as she called it sobbing, slowly began to be better accepted.
- Epsom salt baths started happening more frequently.
- Toxin-load reducing household swaps were slowly implemented. Like swapping toothpaste for olive oil.
We trialled the recommended ABA techniques to find what worked for her and what didn’t.
Basically anything you can make ‘normal’ before had will ease the whole thing along.
The tantrums about the new eating things, like stock and cod liver oil, had peaked months before the real food changes came.
#3 Introduce soups into your weekly meal rotation
We rarely ate soup before GAPS.
But I started adding them at lunch – the less meltdown inducing meal.
She was always less tired and more accomodating at lunch. So I capitalised on that.
I began roasting a whole pumpkin each week. Something I continue to do.
And made pumpkin a more regular ingredient.
It started with a GAPS approved pumpkin pie pudding.
And a chicken stock soup with corn and gluten-free pasta with pumpkin puree stirred through.
Just slowly transitioning to a plain pumpkin soup.
And she loved it!
So I started experimenting with meatball pumpkin soup.
And then I started braving a pumpkin-free chicken vegetable soup and getting her to help make them.
So before the Intro stage she was a soup and stock connoisseur. In both eating and making.
So when it all started. She kinda of just accepted it.
It was certainly different. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Soups.
And we still had to feed her crying initially. But she always ate. Sometimes not a lot.
She did lose weight which was a little scary but I trusted that she’d start eating more. And of course she did.
She’s now gaining weight and growing faster. She’s looking healthier than ever!
#4 OFFER VARIETY
We would make up a few different soups and let her choose. So she didn’t feel powerless in the process.
I also purchased a GAPS based recipe book. For extra inspiration.
And you really do start experimenting.
Pinterest is also a good place to find recipes.
You can also find some great GAPS blogging mums who share their recipes.
Jo Whitton of Quirky Cooking has wonderful recipes to try.
She also has a GAPS Gut Health program which walks you through the stages, has shopping lists, loads of recipes and an awesome Facebook support group with access to certified GAPS Practitioners too! I haven’t done the program but I wish I found it before, which is why I mentioned it 🙂
ON THE OTHER SIDE
We are nearly 3 months in a have a calm sane household. Without tantrums and a daughter who happily munches salad greens and asks for more cucumber.
One little thing, among so many, that was unthinkable only a few short months ago.
So don’t be put off by GAPS if you think you would benefit.
Just prepare and ease them in slowly.
Th Intro stages absolutely matter and work miracles.
P.S. Looking for gut health inspiration? Join Mamabiome on Facebook. I share interesting articles all about microbes and motherhood. And lots more!
P.P.S Have you heard about The Mamabiome Project? Share your story and help other mamas just starting out. Us gut-conscious mamas have got to stick together!