Though we aren’t on the Gut and Psychology Syndrome diet any more, I still write primarily about GAPS.
Because the diet helped my daughter (autism) so much. Because it helped my son (eczema) and myself (dairy and seasonal allergies) too.
Because I get questions by email and Facebook about GAPS daily. Because I feel like it’s a highly nourishing diet, and even if you don’t need to be on the diet the principals behind it are really interesting and useful to understand.
The Gut-Brain Connection
I’m going to talk about not doing GAPS today
1. GAPS Is a Temporary Healing Diet.
If you think you do need GAPS, I would encourage you to get on it, make a considerable effort to do it well, and then hop right back off as soon as you can! The diet is intended to be temporary. My son and I were on GAPS for only 6 weeks and my dairy allergy was healed, and his eczema vanished. My daughter was on it over 2 years, but she had some more significant issues. The point is to view it as a temporary lifestyle change.
I personally feel very well nourished when I eat grain free, but there is no reason to be fanatical about it now, in fact, having to monitor every bite you and your family eats all day every day is stressful, and stress itself can cause leaky gut! (source)
2. The Goal is To Be Healthy.
We want to be healthy so we can enjoy life and do our life’s work without poor health slowing us down. We want to be able to play tag with our kids, take our dog for a hike, and still have plenty of energy left over to help a friend move, mow the yard, and create an income.
We don’t want to make an occupation out of finding problems with ourselves or our family. If there is something glaringly obvious like eczema, food allergies that cause us to have to change our lifestyle, autism, ADHD that is more than just ‘active childhood’, or more severe psychological problems, by all means, GAPS is often going to be something that works for you.
But if your child who is in 1st grade gets a few colds throughout the school year, that is ok. If you eat a large grain heavy meal after normally eating grain free, and then you have a stomachache, that’s normal. Your body just isn’t used to that. If your baby isn’t meeting his milestones as fast as his cousin, that’s also not something to start GAPS over. If your teenager has gotten really thin this past year as he’s also grown 6 inches taller, go ahead and see if his body mass catches up. If your toddler still isn’t really talking much and he’s 2, first check to make sure he isn’t SO BUSY trying to climb everything that talking isn’t a priority in his life at the moment.
Obligatory reminder: I am just a mom giving her opinion. None of this is medical advice. All decisions for you and your families’ health should be made under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional, which I am not :)
If you have mild GAPS symptoms (some seasonal allergies, food sensitivities minor digestive issues) you may want to start with something low key like taking homemade milk kefir daily, which can help ‘plug’ a leaky gut with beneficial cultures. You can always look up other less time and energy intense ways you could correct health problems and then try them prior to starting GAPS.
I don’t want people thinking that if anything is ever wrong with them, they absolutely have to spend 2 years on the GAPS diet.
3. Being on GAPS Doesn’t Make You A Better Hippie
I saw this ‘one up-mom-ship’ thing going on in playgroups when my kids were babies.
I had a natural childbirth, how was your baby born?
… Well, I had a home birth
……. That’s nothing. My child was freebirthed near a river in a cob hut that I constructed myself during pregnancy
I’m nursing, are you breastfeeding?
… yes, and he’s never even had one ounce of formula
….. of course! And no artificial nipples either
……… Yes, babies are born to be breastfeed. We’ll breastfeed on demand until he self weans, whenever he chooses that to be.
We don’t need to do that with GAPS.
You’re not an inferior parent if you haven’t done GAPS (or if you birthed in a hospital, or if your child had’artificial nipples’*, or…). If your child is developing healthily, congratulate yourself, you’re doing a great job! We should be choosing to do GAPS as an individual choice, not because all the crunchy mamas in the playgroup are doing it.
* I’m sorry, but the wording ‘artificial nipples’ is totally cracking me up right now. I use it (it refers to pacifiers and bottles) when talking about breastfeeding, but I don’t think I’ve ever typed it out before.
4. GAPS isn’t the only solution to problems
We chose to do GAPS with our family, but I have no doubt that there are other treatments out there that are equally as effective. We haven’t only done GAPS, we’ve done lots of other alternative and mainstream treatments as well- I just didn’t dive into learning about any of them as much as I dove into GAPS.
GAPS deals with healing the digestive system through nourishing foods and avoiding inflammatory foods. By healing the gut, psychological symptoms are also alleviated.
But what if it worked the other way around? The brain is powerful, and I suspect that an intense therapy with something like SonRise, Floortime, or ABA could also influence the brain in such a way that the brain was able to ‘tell’ the body to get back in balance.
Or Eastern medicine can bring healing to a child through balancing the qi. Chiropractic can remove subluxations that are interrupting the flow of electricity within the body. Essential oils, homeopathy, and/or plant essences in the right combinations for a particular child could bring him back to balance.
GAPS, and all holistic treatments, have a goal of bringing the body back to a balanced ‘normal’ and optimally functional state. ‘Normal’ for the body is healthy and when the body is healthy, its own systems work to maintain that health.
There is no one size fits all approach to treating conditions such as autism. Different families will be drawn to different things, go with your mommy instinct, your family situation, and your financial abilities.
We have done a combination of all of the above. Due to money limitations, we were pushed into dietary intervention first. Though GAPS is more expensive than feeding your child non-GAPS foods, it is much much less costly than appointments with professionals. As our financial situation improved, we were able to see more professionals and add other treatments listed above to what we were already doing through therapeutic diets.
GAPS made the most noticeable difference in her life, but many other things also made a difference as well, I am sure there are many other effective things out there.
5. GAPS is great, if you need it.
If you have your family on GAPS, or you’re working toward it, and you are seeing good changes, then you rock! Keep up the good work, and it’s a LOT of work, I know. I did it for years and I don’t regret any of the pots of chicken stock, batches of nutbutter brownies, or gallons of 24 hour yogurt that I made.
Here at Health, Home, & Happiness we are so happy that you’re taking the best steps for your families’ health, whatever they are.
Speaking of alternative treatments, my homeopath has a one page survey for parents of kids on the autistic spectrum, would you mind filling it out for him? We’re seeing great progress with homeopaths right now, but I’m waiting until we’re done to post about them.
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