Question of the Day: I would like to try GAPS for my child. She complains of stomach aches, has poor attention at school, and has a strange tic that she can’t really control (and my doctor does not have any recommendations for me to try)–but will it throw everything off if my kids are offered candy, graham crackers, Goldfish, etc at school and at church, this multiple times a week if not every day?
I want to say, “No. Of course not. It will be okay.” Because I detest fanaticism and obsessiveness. Never have been to a concert. Didn’t hang garish posters on my bedroom walls. Smirk at People Magazine. Still don’t think GAPS in and of itself is “THE DIET”–just a good starting point as it suggests an elimination diet introduction, nutrient-dense foods, probiotic foods, caution with dairy (a substance with particularly pesky proteins for people), elimination of glutens (besides just wheat gluten), and an overall inspection of lifestyle with regard to promotion of health.
But in this instance, when you’re sorting out food intolerances and trying to remove offending foods to allow the GI tract to regain good probiotic balance, regain a good mucosal barrier, and regain improved villous function, repeated exposure is like picking off a scab, over and over again. It takes days for certain substances to be eliminated from the body. Some take weeks. Some take months.
Daily infringements will not affect too much if you are looking for improved eating habits, improved nutrient-ingestion profiles, or less obesity, but I wouldn’t bother with the headache of a dietary change like GAPS or SCD for that! I’d just choose a whole foods approach. If you are looking to figure out if food is the source of stomach aches, headaches, hyperactivity, poor focus, strange tics, constipation, diarrhea, eczema, chronic cough, severe seasonal allergies, or dry eyes (among multiple other problems), then outside food contributions will sabotage your intentions. And if you’re looking to see if GAPS really can help improve food tolerance, you’ll never really know. I’m sorry, Goldfish are my 4 year old’s favorite snack, too!
Don’t get me wrong. I am not ashamed to say I use a little Stevia here and there. Baking soda in my baked goods. Today my kids will get Good Life chocolate chips. Maple syrup makes it onto our pancakes. Organic mostly graces our table, but there is no paranoia about buying the in-season mangoes on sale for a penny. However, there have been long stints of time as we sorted through the GAPS diet and our food sensitivities where we had to be fanatically strict. And when things are not going well (allergic, snotty noses or constipation come back or lots of complaints about stomach aches or headaches), we drop back to that as much as we can, excluding things we have found to be trouble foods for us on GAPS: nuts, eggs, and coconut (and dairy is already excluded). That is not to say we never eat them, we just cut them back and add in more soups and fermented foods.
But if somehow, for at least a month or two, you can be very firm, you can pinpoint if foods contribute to certain symptoms in your kids. Then you can continue on your merry full GAPS way with some cheats here and there (if you can tolerate the symptoms) and keep wondering if you can “really heal the gut” and “Does the gut really need healing?”. Full GAPS isn’t too bad, as you get fruits, vegetables, nuts, meats, honey, and coconut products. Using almond flour and coconut flour, you can make all the baked goods you can eat. But that’s not good for you. But you can.
On a positive note, we saw changes within a week in our children that kept us motivated to keep going. Bowel function improved within 3 days. Concentration, focus, and mood swings improved within a week. That strange rooster-like tic went away. Constant stuffy nose resolved in about a week. Constant, daily runny nose resolved within about 7-10 days.
And if you’re still reading, check this out! It is hilarious if you find yourself obsessing and over thinking all this nutrition stuff! Please note, however, it does contain some expletives: http://www.nwedible.com/2012/08/tragedy-healthy-eater.html A real good laugh!
Food is a drug, take only what you need and that which benefits you.
I am not a GAPS provider. I am not a practicing MD. I am not offering you medical advice. I am relaying my thoughts and observations based on our experience of the GAPS diet and modifying our diet to deal with nuisance health issues. Make sure you’ve ruled out anything serious with you doctor. If you make a lot of nutritional changes, make sure you’re getting all the nutrients your body (or child’s body )needs. But I do want to get the word out that food can make a difference in a lot of things that your doctor may not know about or talk about.