Along with lots of testimonials about how GAPS is working for you, other emails I get ask how we started Arthur with the Intro Diet & what you might expect from your child.
The GAPS diet doesn’t say you must start with the Intro diet. I think it’s recognized that is a hard way to begin so they leave the choice up to the individual. For us & the point Arthur was at, we felt we needed something extreme. Something immediate. That is why we chose to work him through the Intro diet. I will say at this point, almost 10 weeks into the GAPS diet, Arthur is lingering somewhere in between the Intro & the Full GAPS diet. He cannot have almond products (Intro Third Stage) & he also doesn’t seem to tolerate coconut products so we haven’t been able to make him any home baked foods (Intro Fourth Stage). We are very selective with the vegetables & fruits he eats as surprising things can cause reactions in him. He also had a pretty severe setback when he ate cat food at my friend’s house (whoops!) so we should probably avoid introducing anything new for awhile, until his system has had some time to properly repair.
I’m not an expert so I can only give you our story but when I was researching GAPS I found any story was a bit helpful so maybe this will be relatable for you.
I just stared my child on Gaps so… what should I expect?
Make a Plan & Stick with It
When we started the Intro diet Stage One, we read the 4 pages that described it over & over & over. Arthur could pretty much eat soup. I could handle that but it did mean a lot of extra work for me. I’m used to being in the kitchen, I’m used to prep & cooking. But this was another thing altogether for me. On one hand it was easy because all he could literally eat was his soup. I would make a huge stock pot full of meat & veg that I kept in our spare fridge. He would eat that for about a week. If you know me, you know how much I despise cooking separate meals but there wasn’t much choice for me here. I know some families advocate putting the entire family on GAPS but for us this wasn’t logical. First, we had no idea how long Arthur would stay on the Intro & Second, this allowed me to be able to focus entirely on him instead of worrying about die off effects of 5 other people. Our plan was focus on Arthur, make his soup, prep his soup & keep him fed. In the beginning I was cutting & chopping veg which quickly turned into buying bulk bags of frozen vegetables just to save me hours in cutting, peeling & chopping. I would buy 2-3 meaty soup bones weekly. In those first few weeks he went through soup like you wouldn’t believe. Every batch I made got bigger until I finally caught on that I needed to make a pot big enough to last a week. We also informed the kids they could absolutely not leave any food on tables, floors, etc & they especially couldn’t give him any of their food. Because we kept Arthur fed, he never even noticed what everyone else was eating.
The Healing Crisis
As I mentioned, Arthur went through soup at an alarming rate. He ate like he’d never eaten before. He slurped, grabbed & guzzled soup like a camel filling it’s hump. At the rate the soup went in, the soup also came out. I now know what he was going through was a die off reaction. His body was going through a healing crisis. If it weren’t for blogs like Health, Home & Happiness I wouldn’t have even known what he was going through or even that it was ‘normal’. His body showed die off reactions through diarrhea. All. Day. Long. Not just diarrhea though. Every diaper was a catastrophic event. Several times a day he had diapers like this. I posted the above picture on my Instagram feed & got tons of sweet support from you but at the time, no one but our close friends knew Arthur was going through GAPS & I was actually worried he was losing weight. We did our best to keep him fed & keep him hydrated. He also slept a lot. At 13 months, he was still having 2 naps a day but they could range anywhere from 3-4 hours each nap. He also went to bed early & slept in most mornings. His body was responding to GAPS. By the time we took him in for a well baby visit, he was a happy, curious, energetic little boy. The doctors said he looked great. When I explained to them about the GAPS diet (of course they’d never heard of it) I wasn’t sure if I’d be held for questioning or supported. Especially when the nurse had asked me, How much milk is he drinking? When I said none she looked concerned & said – Well, then how is he getting his calcium?? Big sigh.
YOUR Healing Crisis
While Arthur was going though his healing crisis, I suppose I was going through one of my own. I was overwhelmed. My entire days revolved around feeding him. Making his soup, warming his soup, adding his probiotics. Feeding him. Cleaning up soup – off the floor, off of him, off his chair, off of me. Washing dishes. Cleaning up dirty diapers. Not just dirty diapers but the floor where he’d leaked all over the carpet. The clothes that had to be removed & washed. My clothes that had to be removed & washed. The carseats. He usually needed a bath too. This was all for one child. Forget about making food for my other kids or even feeding myself. Most of those days, early in the Intro I actually never got to eat more than once a day. Soup, exhaustion & diarrhea cause a pretty small appetite. I’m telling you this because there wasn’t anything to make it better but if you’re feeling this way I want you to know you’re not alone. Being his sole caregiver, I could get some help when my husband was home but most of the work fell to me. Fortunately, as his diet was able to expand & his body began to adjust, things got better.
Take Five… or More
When we started Arthur on the Intro portion of GAPS it really affected our social interactions. We were still relatively new to an area, so while I knew a couple of people, I didn’t have many friends. The only thing we really did every week was a Bible study. Because of his limited diet & the fact he could only eat his home made soup, I had to quit my Bible study. I knew his nursery workers would have tried to help out as best they could but I just didn’t feel right about sending in his ‘special’ food so they could ladle him soup while trying to feed snacks to 10 other babies. This was absolutely my choice. I have heard a lot of people suggest that when beginning GAPS it’s easiest to do when you have some free time: summer, vacation time, etc. In the beginning it can be very hard to be as active until you get the hang of GAPS, especially if you’re working your way slowly through the Intro portion. The Intro portion can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks so be prepared to give yourself some time.
Aside from Arthur eating cat food hand over fist, I’d say the biggest setbacks we’ve had have been because we’ve introduced new foods too early. In the beginning I was really anxious to get him started on something baked using almond or coconut flour. Mainly because it would be easier for taking him to a nursery where he’d need a snack. I pushed him too early into almond butter (Third Stage) & his eczema flared. The GAPS diet suggests you commit at least 18 months to two years to achieve gut healing but some people will have to follow it or certain portions for longer. Possibly forever. Personally, I wouldn’t let that discourage you. GAPS is certainly not an exclusive diet in that you won’t be able to find things to eat. You can choose from such a wide variety of whole vegetables, fruits & proteins you’ll never be bored. You may even be able to move on to fermented, gluten free grains! Yes, you may have to say good bye to processed foods but if your body can tolerate it, lots of fantastic things can be made from almond or coconut flour. Be patient with your body (or your children) & allow them the proper time they need to heal. The benefits are worth it, I promise.
Shout it From the Rooftops
When we started on GAPS I told every person who looked at me twice. I told everyone. Look, I’ve been the lady who swats a piece of baguette from a seemingly unsuspecting, well intentioned person who’s just trying to feed my kid. People assume kids can eat anything. Don’t be me & have to say. “Oh my, whew… Um, sorry. He can’t have… bread. So… yeah.” So now it’s much simpler if I just say – “Arthur can’t have that because he’s on a special diet to heal his leaky gut”. This is usually followed by more questions so be prepared to answer. People really want to hear about the healing possibility of food so let them know!
If you’d like to read more about Arthur’s GAPS story, you can visit my post My GAPS Baby.
Have you experienced similar things on your GAPS journey? I’d love to hear what challenges or successes you’ve seen!