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This month’s interview is with Elisabeth C. She and her family have been a year on the GAPS diet as you will see. I first “met” her on Facebook with her picture of this amazing birthday cake she made that was completely GAPS friendly. I will share the recipe (in Elisabeth’s words) for this cake at the end of the interview.
1. How long have you been on the GAPS diet?
We started GAPS intro 12 months ago, but had been working on cutting out grains, sugar and foods we were sensitive to for about a year before that.
2. What was going on that made you decide to pursue the diet?
I have had gut issues my whole life (constipation as a kid, ulcerative colitis started as a teenager) which triggered severe food sensitivities when I got pregnant (worse for the second pregnancy). I had only a handful of different kinds of foods left to eat, suffered from depression and just barely had enough energy to make it through the day without breaking down. My kids clearly had issues as well My then 4 year old hadn’t gained any weight in a year, showed various sensory issues and was a very picky eater. He lived on nuts, fruit and raw veggies. My then 2 year old had food sensitivities too, but reacted more physically with rashes and diarrhea.
3. Did you start with Full GAPS or Intro first? How long have you been on each?
We started with Intro, but had been working our way there for about a year by eliminating grains and various other foods. We hadn’t been consuming broth or ferments prior to starting Intro.
4. What kind of progress or healing have you seen?
We can eat eggs again! Once we were past the initial detox my energy levels have gone way up. My skin and finger nails have improved. My 5 year old has gained weight, is growing like a weed, much more social and rarely chewing his clothes anymore. My 3 year old’s rashes are pretty much gone and he has gotten rid of most of his cradle cap. He sleeps much better and rarely grinds his teeth anymore.
5. What other strategies have you implemented along with GAPS? Why?
I use homeopathy, which I had been doing with great success even before GAPS and which helps me wonderfully with the depression and also addiction/cravings. At the start of the diet I craved nuts like crazy, but just a handful would send me into a catatonic state, where I just curled up on the couch and couldn’t interact with anybody anymore, even if my kids were freaking out right next to me. A homeopathic remedy would snap me right out of that. We also do NAET type treatment. (Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Techniques are a form of alternative medicine by which practitioners claim to be able to diagnose and treat allergies and related disorders.) This worked really well for the kids. I am having mixed results, but I believe that is mostly because my issues are far deeper than theirs. Our therapist cleared me for mercury a couple months ago and I had a huge reaction that set me back quite a bit and I’m still recovering.
I have a huge toxic load from various things like amalgam fillings that I had replaced in my twenties, but in retrospect I don’t think the dentist followed a proper procedure. He certainly didn’t give me a protocol to follow to help clear the mercury out of my body. At the time I also studied chemistry and spent a lot of time inhaling and handling very nasty stuff. Combined with my compromised gut and therefore a lessened ability to detox, I had to quit just before finishing my master’s degree and also had to quit my job at an environmental lab because I was getting too sick to function. At around the same time I also got a Mirena IUD, which in hindsight was the worst possible thing I could have done. I didn’t connect the dots until I had it removed 5 years later, because there were so many things changing at the time that I didn’t realize the IUD was causing so much trouble. I’m currently considering what else to do for detox. Maybe I will pick up juicing again without the fruit and root vegetables.
6. Are you off the GAPS diet?
We are still on the diet and about to start a second round of Intro.
7. Are there areas where you have not seen healing so far?
I have been getting a couple flare ups from my colitis over the last few months, mostly stress related, I think. There are still a ton of things I can’t eat (but do try every now and then): nuts, honey, fruit, nightshades, winter squash, root vegetables, onion family. My kids also still seem to have issues with honey, fruit and nuts. We are on anti-candida GAPS for now. My older son’s chewing has picked up again over the last couple months and my little guy still has a bloated tummy most days. If this doesn’t resolve on the Intro we are about to start, I am considering parasite treatment. I’m a bit reluctant to do that, because I believe, like Dr. Natasha says, that the parasites are there to help the body clean up harmful things. I am hoping Intro will help enough with the detox that the parasites will go away on their own.
8. What has been the hardest thing about following the GAPS diet?
Detox. I was feeling horribly sick for a while. I remember one day I was looking at 3 numbers and couldn’t figure out which one was the highest because my brain was so foggy.
It is especially hard when you have little ones to take care of and can hardly take care of yourself. Some kind of family support would have been very helpful.
9. What has been the best thing about following the GAPS diet?
I have energy again! AND my husband, who was initially just along for the ride has seen huge improvements for himself (weight loss, much less gassy, more energy).
10. Do you have any advice for a person considering going on the GAPS diet?
Take it slow. Learn how to make the broths and ferments first and slowly add those things into your diet while you are slowly eliminating grains and sugar. Get your whole family aboard (or if that doesn’t work, make them cook their own stuff, preferably where you can’t see it). It is much easier to be able to cook the same meals for everyone and not have any illegal foods in the house. Even if some family members seem to be fine without GAPS, it certainly won’t hurt them and most likely they will experience improvements regardless of what their health was like before. Try to get some outside help whenever you first start on the diet or do Intro so you can rest, especially if you have kids on the diet too/
Start out simple. There are about as many variations of the diet as there are people doing it. Don’t let the wealth of information confuse you. Read the book, start with the basics and go from there. For many people that is all they need! If you don’t see improvements after several months you can start tweaking things. Especially when you do Intro it gets easier to figure out what works and what doesn’t, as you go through the stages and add foods. Then you can go and see what your issue might be, like candida or parasite overgrowth, SIBO, histamine intolerance, oxalates or FODMAPs, … That will help you tailor the diet and additional therapies to your needs.
Another thing I found really helpful is to focus more on the food I can eat instead of the ones I can’t. It is easy to get hung up on what you are missing out on, putting yourself in a state of scarcity. Try instead to live with an attitude of abundance, play with what you have, be creative and change it up. It really helps if you can eat herbs and spices. They add a huge variety to your daily meals. For example you can vary texture by having cauliflower cooked in broth, mashed as “faux potatoes” or shredded as “rice”, put it in a stir fry, soup or stew. Add ginger and GAPS friendly fish sauce for Asian flavour, oregano, thyme and basil for Mediterranean style, cilantro for Mexican and so on. Even if you only have a handful of safe foods, the only limit to variety is your mind and imagination!
11. Is there any you would like to add to the above comments?
I am very grateful that we learned about this diet and we finally have a way of getting completely healthy! This is the puzzle piece that had been missing on my long journey to health. There are so many resources out there now, like the yahoo groups. facebook groups and a myriad of blogs that are extremely helpful. It is wonderful to see the information more widely accessible, have a supportive community and be able to compare notes with others to help pinpoint issues
I do find it very hard not to play missionary when I meet children (and adults) who would clearly profit from going on a healing diet. I try not to give unsolicited advice and to keep from talking people’s ears off when they do ask. Not always successfully, but I am getting better.
12. Recipe for Elisabeth’s birthday cake:
This was my birthday cake and it was absolutely beautiful and delicious and completely GAPS compliant! Except for the batter part I didn’t follow a recipe, but I’ll try to be as detailed in describing what I did as possible! I used this carrot pulp bread recipe as a base, using hazelnuts (not quite triple the amount, as I always match the recipe to the bags of frozen juicer pulp I have. That made enough batter for 12 regular sized muffins and a 9in springform). For the filling, I used 3 eggs, butter and coconut oil (don’t have exact amounts, but about equal or a bit less in volume than the eggs combined. I just throw it all in the vitamix and eyeball it.), about 2 tsp vanilla powder (essence would work too), 1/2 tsp stevia and honey to taste (I don’t do well with honey, but my guys hate the taste of stevia, so I mix. You could do just one or the other.) Just mix that up well in your choice of food processor or blender.In the meantime I dissolved 1pkg (1 oz/28g) of gelatin in 250ml (1 cup) creme fraiche (I did use store bought, but you can use your own cultured cream. Kefir cream would probably work well, too!), brought up to a simmer, stirring the whole time. Then carefully and slowly mix with the egg mixture.I cut the carrot pulp bread cake in two, spread a couple handfuls of blueberries on one part in the springform pan and poured the cream on top, then covered with the second part. Put in the fridge for a few hours.For the frosting I mixed up coconut oil and butter in equal amounts with cocoa, some vanilla and honey to taste (sorry I don’t have any measurements for that. I just throw stuff in, taste and add ingredients as needed ;). Maybe start with about 1 Tsp of cocoa? You can always add more fat too.). Spread over the top of the cake, sprinkle with coarsely ground hazelnuts and decorate with berries of your choice. Personally I find raspberries and strawberries go very well with chocolate.Put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, cut and enjoy!