Taking a child through the GAPS diet is no easy feat. There is an emotional side of GAPS that should never be discounted. It is real and significant. So significant I would argue it greatly affects the healing process.
It seems to be fairly well known in 2021 that our mental health is a very important aspect of our entire wellbeing. Mental health is big and it should be talked about.
Early on I started to call this the happiness factor for Raleigh. He has been on the GAPS diet to heal from severe eczema, asthma, food allergies/sensitivities and edema for four years now. That is a long time. It is longer than we anticipated but this has been our journey. Raleigh spent the first six months on the Introduction diet. If you are unfamiliar, the introduction portion of the GAPS diet is broken down into six stages. As you move through the stages you challenge your gut with more complex foods. The goal of the Introduction diet is to heal and seal up the gut lining and to eventually graduate to the Full GAPS diet where you will remain for the duration of your time on GAPS. Some people move quickly through the six stages of the Introduction diet, others move very slowly, but it is very individual and should be looked at like a dance. I am constantly informing my clients to expect to move up and back down stages as they challenge their gut with new foods. This is normal and to be expected. Healing is a process and takes time.
So in our first six months Raleigh remained on Intro. For many of those months he was floating between stages 1 and 2. It took a while to get him to be able to advance. It was hard. It was especially emotionally difficult.
Fruit does not return to the Introduction diet until stage 5 and the first fruit to return is cooked apples. The first time Raleigh tried cooked apples, mixed with a generous amount of coconut oil, he had tummy trouble and diarrhea. It was quite a shock to his system. He wasn’t ready for that just yet. But what he could handle was a raw carrot. Raw foods come back later in the intro diet. The fiber can be especially hard on the leaky gut and many people struggle with raw foods. But Raleigh was tolerating raw carrot.
The carrot brought him joy. He was 4, almost 5, was unable to tolerate the one fruit he could “legally” have at that point on the Intro diet but the crunch of a raw carrot made him smile. This was huge to me. I saw in him a simple joy that I knew motivated him to keep going on GAPS and met those pleasure centers in his brain. This is significant for many reasons but mainly because our bodies heal better when we are content and happy. When we are wrought with difficult emotions, day in and day out, it becomes harder for our bodies to do the healing.
I saw this early on in our journey and it has stayed with me. Raleigh has come a long way in these four years and a long way from not being able to tolerate cooked apples. Not only can he tolerate cooked apples now but he can tolerate many fruits. Healing takes time and persistence. It takes being willing to put in the hard work, to take steps backwards when necessary and to not give up.
As Raleigh continued to heal and advance onto Full GAPS we were able to find other foods and things that boosted his happiness factor. There have even been times when we had to remove fruit for a stent due to a yeasty outbreak. Tough.
Dr Natasha has even talked about this happiness factor. There may be times when your body is craving something on a different stage or even something you know you do not tolerate well. She says it is okay to have some of that food but knowing there will likely be a small set back. Sometimes our bodies crave something, needing the nutrients, and other times certain foods bring us joy and that little bit of joy is enough to keep us on track towards our goal.
This is a delicate thing and there should be a balance. There is much room for grace here.
What does this happiness factor look like for Raleigh now? Due to the fact that he has healed so much I have allowed in a couple of processed foods (hold on, let me explain) on occasion that help him deal with the fact that he is still on GAPS.
I found a coconut wrap, like a tortilla, from Thrive Market that is made of coconut oil and coconut meat. For all intents and purposes the coconut wrap is Full GAPS legal when looking at the ingredients list. It is however processed to some degree. I found the wraps, you can see them here, a couple of years ago and it brought him great happiness on taco night. It was huge for him.
Another food I allow him to have is Epic pork rinds. The ingredient list is simple and clean. He also gets to enjoy coconut chips. Radiant Life carries a great option as well as Thrive Market. And, possibly his favorite are Carnivore Crisps. There isn’t much, because really when you are on the GAPS diet you shouldn’t be eating processed foods.
Raleigh was not consuming anything processed until after about the 2 year mark on GAPS when we had seen significant healing. I took a very hard line on that fact and it was very difficult but I’m glad I did it that way.
Making your own food at home, including snacks, is always best. It will always be best since that is the only way to ensure you know exactly what you are consuming. There is also something called “industry standard” that allows companies to not put certain ingredients on ingredient labels due to the fact that certain ingredients are just considered industry standard ingredients. These ingredients are allowed to go unlisted. So, you may be looking at a fairly clean looking food label with a few ingredients and come to find you react to something in the product. It’s a bit maddening and can really cause some serious trust issues. So whenever I buy something processed I do my best to do my do diligence and contact the company to find out exactly what is behind their label. There are only a few companies I trust when it comes to buying processed foods, supplements and other products we frequently purchase.
Food is so powerful. It brings us together as family and community, it has the ability to either nourish or damage our body. It can bring us joy and great satisfaction. It is so many things. If you are on GAPS you know that life revolves around the food — all of the food. The food you can and can’t have. It is important, especially with kids, to strive to achieve that happiness factor that speaks to their souls, and helps them show up again and again to the fight to regain their health. It is a worthy fight.
I make sure I am balancing the happiness factor for Raleigh. It is important to be enjoying life, especially life on GAPS.