As I’ve mentioned on the blog a couple times, we’re now going grain-free/GAPS. If you’ve been around awhile, then you know this isn’t the first time we’ve done this. We did this a year ago, too, when Rebekah was really struggling. I felt that the diet was the best chance for her. And, indeed, if you’ve seen my update, then you know she started talking soon after we did it!
Last year in April, I was finally getting really into Nourishing Traditions and things like raw milk, sprouting grains, etc. I noted that we were able to tolerate the grains when sprouted and frankly, I was tired of being “different.” We’d been on special diets for about 9 months by that time (dairy-free, gluten-free, then grain-free, also nut-free and legume-free most of the time) and I needed a break. Plus, when I picked up the carton of coconut milk at the store, and saw “evaporated cane juice, guar gum,” and a bunch of other non-food ingredients, I thought, “What is really better for us? This processed stuff, or fresh raw milk?” Ultimately I decided raw milk was the answer, and, indeed, the kids did better on it than on no dairy at all! (Which is why the kids and I are sticking with GAPS-legal hard cheeses, butter, and cultured dairy and not giving it up entirely.)
That’s where we were. And for the most part, it worked. Every now and then (usually when we’d eaten out or something), I’d see the kids show minor allergy signs — a slight eczema flare, tantrums, night waking, diaper rash, etc. But it was temporary and not enough for me to think, ‘we need a change.’ Except of course to not eat industrial food, which definitely causes problems!
Ben was struggling, though, more than any of us. He’s had athlete’s foot for years now, and nothing (drug or natural) has touched it. He was better when we were off grains and dairy and eating a lot of coconut oil before, but we didn’t do enough to heal it. He has other signs of systemic yeast, too. But we were managing even with that until right around Thanksgiving.
At that point, everything happened at once. I got pregnant, the holidays hit, we lost our massage coverage at the chiropractor. All of this meant that I wasn’t cooking much, I wasn’t brewing our kombucha, we were eating out more, we weren’t getting the massages anymore…. Once Ben lost all of these health habits we’d had, his situation quickly took a turn for the worse. He was always exhausted, he was sick all the time again, his yeast flared. Basically everything he ate made him sick. He was sore all the time — back, knees, shoulders. We figured we just needed to get back on track with our usual health measures and he’d be fine.
And in early January, when I felt better and the craziness subsided, we were able to do that. Back to more whole foods, starting to get kombucha again, etc. And he was better. More energy, not sick so often. But his yeast persisted and he was still sore. I felt at a loss, but didn’t want to attack anything. It had been in my head since early fall that GAPS was going to be the answer for all of us but I didn’t want to do it. It’s not easy, especially the first time.
Then we got the stomach flu last week. It hit home then. We are nothing if we don’t have health. And band-aids and temporary fixes are not really what we’re looking for. We want to fix this now so that we can enjoy life, not just hope we have a good day! We decided to change our priorities. We increased our grocery budget a bit (this week will be an experiment to see how much I really need to pull this off) and bought the items in our first aid kit that we needed but hadn’t had.
So here we are!
Now, why would anyone want to go grain-free or do GAPS? What is that going to do?
- The sugars in the grains (all carbs break down to sugar) feed yeast/candida in the body, making it grow out of control.
- Grains (because they break down to sugar) can cause your blood sugar to spike and drop, even whole grains. This can eventually cause a pre-diabetic condition. It can also cause weight gain, mood swings, depression, tax your adrenals and pancreas, and a whole lot more.
- Grains are hard to digest; contrary to popular belief, lots of fiber is not good for your digestive system!
- Eliminating grains allows your system a “rest”
- It also eliminates most of the yeast’s food (I have read that since candida should occur in the body, just not to the degree it is for many people, you don’t want to starve it completely. If it cannot find some food, it will be driven deeper into your body in search of food, and that’s the opposite of what you want. This is why fruits and carb-heavy vegetables, like carrots, are allowed).
- Fermented foods are added in to help the body regain the proper balance of good/bad bacteria
- The gut can actually heal, leading to weight loss, stabilized blood sugar and mood, balanced hormones, and reversal/improvement on autism and other conditions in which gut damage is heavily involved.
Sounds awesome, huh?
I thought I’d bring a couple quick issues to light, in case you’re just researching this diet, and other anti-candida or healing diets out there, and have some questions about this one.
Why are some carb-heavy foods eliminated, but not others? Why is fruit allowed?
Fruit is a “simple sugar,” while grains are complex. That means grains need extra digestion to be broken down into a form the body can use. Fruit doesn’t, so it’s easier on the system. That’s the main reason why it’s allowed. Also, fruit comes with lots of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc. Plus, as mentioned above, we don’t want to completely starve the yeast, because it should be there, just in its proper proportion. That said, people who react poorly to fruit may choose to cut it out for awhile, or limit themselves to only low-sugar fruits, like lemons, berries, and certain melons.
Why does this diet not eliminate mushrooms, fermented foods, etc. like many candida diets?
These foods do not feed yeast. They are types of fungus or bacteria/yeast (a different type of yeast) and in certain cases, people who react poorly to candida could react poorly to these. But this is estimated at occurring at 1 in 1000 people. For most, having sources of good bacteria are absolutely necessary to bring the candida back into proper balance. Go slow when you start these foods, though, because they can cause lots of unpleasant side effects (gas, bloating, nausea, diarrhea, mood swings). Just a teaspoon or so a day is enough at first, build up your tolerance slowly!
Why does this diet eliminate most dairy, while SCD and other diets don’t?
Casein is a complex protein that can cause problems in a lot of sensitive individuals. It’s best eliminated at first to allow the body to rest.
Can I be a vegetarian/vegan and do this diet?
No. There is no way to do that. Animal fats and bone broth are the keys to healing the gut. The gelatin in the bone broth is very soothing and the animal fats also help to soothe the gut, as well as replace lost vitamins and minerals. While it’s possible to choose coconut oil frequently, it is not possible to avoid animal products. Vitamins A, B, D, E, K and others are all missing from plant foods, and are not absorbed without fat (except B, which is water-soluble, but still found heavily in animal foods)!
What if I don’t really have any specific symptoms? What if I am just struggling to lose weight, have mood swings, etc. but no food allergies or anything? Can this diet help me?
Yes! Almost everyone in this country has some problems with yeast, and often food sensitivities they don’t even know about. It will improve your health. In fact, I was sure my son didn’t have any issues, but taking him off grains has helped him.
Isn’t this diet really hard, and really expensive?
Okay, it’s not easy and it’s not cheap. I won’t lie. But it’s easier than living on dozens of prescription medication and feeling terrible all the time. There is still a lot you can eat, especially on full GAPS. You’ll also discover new foods that you like! Recently I sauteed mushrooms, onions, and some chicken breast and topped it with some tomato sauce and parmesan cheese. Totally GAPS-legal, yummy, and satisfying. And not too expensive, either (and easy!).
As for cost, it depends. You can do it a lot cheaper than you think. Lots of cheap bone broth and soups and less actual meat, for example. Fermenting foods at home instead of buying them. Skipping probiotic supplements (as we are) in favor of fermented foods. Sticking to chicken/beef instead of fish or other more expensive foods. Choosing cheap produce (apples, carrots, lettuce, etc.). It can be done!
Do you have any other questions about GAPS, either in general or about our experience? Please ask!