Monday, June 3, 2013

Why We are Doing the GAPS diet

As we are venturing into the GAPS intro diet today, I wanted to take some time to explain a little more about Joel's dietary situation and why we are doing the GAPS diet for him and the rest of our family. As I have mentioned in previous posts, Joel had issues with lots of sickness as a baby/toddler. We had him on an insane amount of antibiotics trying to cure what seemed to be the never ending ear infection, realizing now that we were not helping his ears and were also simultaneously destroying the lining of his gut. Once we discovered he had food sensitivities and changed his diet accordingly, his health cleared up! We continued to eat healthier and healthier and have enjoyed a much greater level of overall health in our family as a result.

However, about 6 months ago I began to notice that Joel seemed to be regressing a little. Out of nowhere he got a random ear infection. He seemed to be lacking energy in the morning. And he also started complaining of more and  more stomach aches. With some more probing I also discovered that he was experiencing some minor reflux at times. I had heard before that food sensitivities can change with time so we decided to get him retested. I still am not sure whether doing so was a good thing or a big mistake :)! His list for foods he was HIGHLY sensitive to was huge. I cried when I first got the results.

The good news is that he is doing really well all things considered. We don't have any major issues with him and it could be so much worse. The bad news is that our findings pointed to him not just have a few food sensitivities, but more likely an issue called Leaky Gut. For more info on this read here b/c I won't do the best, most accurate job of explaining it. What I will say is that I have come to understand that this condition causes the body just to not tolerate foods well. You can avoid the problem foods and get better, but then eventually the body grows sensitive to the foods that you use to replace the old ones. Hence, you end up with a whole new list of food problems. This is not a good prognosis.

So we were left with a few options. Option one, and in my opinion the very best, was to pray for God to supernaturally heal Joel. I believe in a powerful God and know He can do this. So we prayed and asked, and continue to pray and ask. His tests said he could do some dairy so I tried to start introducing some and believing for his body to be made whole in the meantime by God. However, every time I gave him dairy he would throw up approximately 2 days later. I tested this enough to know that it is for sure the dairy that would cause the vomitting. So I stopped the dairy. And I realized that while God definitely can heal Joel, I need to do something to help in the meantime. So I prayerfully looked to our other options.

One option was to just remove the foods he was sensitive to. However, in the longer term he would probably just grow sensitive to other foods in his diet so this was not a good option. I could do a rotation diet, but that seemed hard to administer. And it's promises for healing didn't seem as clear. Our other option, which I had already read a lot about, was the GAPS diet. This diet restricts certain foods with the goal to give the digestive track a rest to heal. It tends to take 2-3 years for the healing to be complete. But at the end of it, the individual is usually able to eat almost all foods with no problem. However, the costs involved seemed so huge I didn't feel up for it. So I kept putting it aside. But finally I hit the point where I was willing to make the sacrifice and just do it.

While Joel is the main one in need, I decided to put the whole family on it. I felt we could all benefit ( I know I could). Plus it seemed a bit cruel to deprive Joel so much and eat things he can't have right in front of him. We are a family and I want to support him as a family. In addition, I don't want to be cooking a million different things. One same diet is simpler.

So that is the gist of why we are on this crazy journey. We have spent 3 months on the full gaps diet and Joel has shown some minor improvement. The major healing though seems to come through the introduction diet which is an elimination diet of sorts. Today is our first day on it! I have no idea what kind of road we have in store, but I know I will just regret it if we don't try. So we are going to try to stick it out, taking it just one day at a time!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Our Responses to GAPs So Far

I have not really wanted to write about our family's response to this new diet, mostly because things have just been so rough ever since we began it. Now, I do have to mention that I probably didn't choose the best time to begin GAPS. I didn't figure it would be a big deal for us as it wasn't that far off from how we were eating before. But at the time we started I was on the verge of burnout from an incredibly busy season and not sufficient down time to process the business and stress of life. Our second week into the diet my husband was out of town for a few days , and I think the perfect storm ensued and pushed me over the edge.

By week two of GAPS myself, my daughter Elise and my two younger boys all had mild colds. We don't get sick very often, and almost never all at the same time. This might have started with just some die off, though it is hard to be sure. Funny enough, Joel didn't get sick - and he is the one most in need of GAPS. I figure if anyone would have die-off reactions it would be him. Anyway, after about a week Elise improved and has been great ever since. After another week the younger boys and I were improving, when all of a sudden we all took a turn for the worse. James and I came down with a flu-type bug. This only lasted about a day, but for me it quickly turned into a heavy duty sinus infection which got so bad I resorted to a 3 day round of antibiotics. Now if you know me, you know I am VERY anti-antibiotics. It is largely what got us in this digestive mess to begin with. GAPS is all about healing the gut and antibiotics destroy the gut lining because they kill the bad AND good bacteria. So I was really not thrilled to go this route, but I couldn't function with the pain and my naturopath recommended a low dose to help me out.

I finally got better, though am still working to get to a place where my energy is back and my sinuses are completely clear. I am struggling with fuzzy ears and a bit of congestion, which is frustrating for me because I have enjoyed a very long season of health with not an ounce of congestion. And now Erik and James are both down with colds, AGAIN. James even has a minor fever. Seriously! These kids rarely get sick and if they do it is a minor cold, or James will get a minor teething cold - just lots of clear congestion and snot. But this feels a bit ridiculous. And in all honesty it is really wearing me out.

On the plus side Joel has been healthy and he has not been experiencing reflux or stomach aches. And everyone is doing fine with the food changes. Digestively we seem to be doing okay - no crazy stomach aches or anything. But overall there is very little positive to show for the GAPS diet so far. It is very hard to understand if this is all just coincidental, or if the diet is not just for us, or if we have a bunch of health issues we just weren't aware of that GAPS is bringing to the surface. I am working with a GAPS nutritionist and with my NP and am praying like crazy hoping God will bring some clarity to the situation and some guidance. I wish I had something better to report after these 6 weeks of GAPping it up. But this is where we are at. Hopefully I will have something more positive to share in the not too distant future!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Natural Childbirth Part 3 - Some Keys to Giving Birth Naturally

I have four beautiful children, all birthed naturally. I absolutely am no rock star and possess no super powers that enabled me to do this. But these births did not come easily, or without cost or serious thought or intention. They did not happen accidentally and I don't believe I was just lucky (though I do count myself very blessed to have had such great birth experiences). There are some key factors that I believe contributed to my being able to give birth naturally and I would like to share these with you today, especially for those of you who might be considering going the natural route.
  1. I made a firm decision that I was going to do birth naturally. I think this is one of the most important factors if you want to have natural childbirths. I have spoken with several moms who were really on the fence about it, and I don't think any of them ended up doing it naturally. It does take some strong will power and if there is a huge option in your mind to do things otherwise, there is a really good chance you will cave in the process. This is not to put down a mom who "caves". Labor is intense! But that is why you cannot make the choice during labor! You must make it before and have a partner who is willing to help you stick to your decision. And ultimately, you need to be convinced in your own mind that this is the best for you and your baby. I don't recommend going for a natural birth out of peer pressure, or because you feel you "should" if you aren't truly convinced yourself that it is the best way to go.
  2. Make sure you and your partner are on the same page. With two of my births I requested something just to take the edge off. My hubby knew what I wanted deep down and he pushed back on my requests. He wasn't bossy, but he reminded me of what I wanted, and I am soooo thankful he did. Having a partner who is 100% in support of what you are doing is invaluable!
  3. Prepare! I mentioned in my post about the Bradley Class we took. I cannot recommend this enough if you want to have a natural childbirth. It will give you the education and preparation you need to succeed. BUT, you actually need to do what it says. Follow the diet, do the exercises and practice, do the homework. 
  4. Write a clear birth plan and share it in advance with your doctor or midwife. In the plan be sure to mention that you do NOT want pain medication offered - that YOU will ask for it if you want it. This is huge because as I said above, it is really easy to cave if it is offered!
  5. Find a supportive doctor or midwife. I used a doctor for my first 3 births and it worked fine for me because we were very clear with them about our goals and they were able to support us. I will say that it was much easier to do things at home with a midwife though, so I would also suggest considering a qualified midwife. 
  6. Bring your birth plan with you to the birth and share it with your birth team/nurse. Also, make friends with your nurse and try to develop rapport with him/her. We really gelled with our nurses and they were HUGE supports to me in my deliveries. If you are not getting along with your nurse, ask for a new one!
  7. Focus on the benefits of natural childbirth and the blessing of childbirth in general. If you are a Christian I highly recommend this book in which a woman shares her faith for pain free childbirth and many scriptures that she stood on in the process. While my births were not 100% free of pain, they were definitely doable and I think my outlook and faith on birth helped a lot!
  8. Watch "The Business of Being Born". I believe this is available on Netflix and is an amazing documentary on childbirth!
  9. Go see a chiropractor during your last few months of pregnancy. Chiropractic can help position baby for birth and aid in him or her coming through the birth canal smoothly. If your back is out or your body is not properly aligned this can make getting baby through the canal much tougher.
  10. Remember, when you get to the point during birth that you don't think you can go on, you are probably very close! Just hold on a bit longer!
Now that I have shared my thoughts on natural childbirth, I am going to try to write up and share my own birth stories with you very soon so you will get to see how all of this played out in my own life! 

NOTE: Sometimes things just don't go as planned. I have a few wonderful friends who had decided firmly to do naturally childbirth but opted for epidurals after excruciatingly long births. This is not to discourage because I think this is the exception, not the rule. BUT, if you decide on a natural birth and things don't go as planned, take this as part of your journey and celebrate what you did accomplish and the most important part of the whole thing - your baby!! And do not let that determine what future births will be like for you. Things can go differently next time!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Natural Childbirth Part 2 - Some Benefits of a Natural Birth

Last time I talked about our experience with taking the Bradley Method class. As a result of that class, when it came time to give birth the first time, I felt ready. Of course I was nervous because it was all new to me, but I felt prepared in many ways. And Nik, my husband, felt prepared as well.

In many, many cultures natural childbirth is just a part of life. And wisdom for birthing is passed on generationally, so there is much less mystery to the whole process. But in the US birth has really been boxed into a sterile hospital room where the doctor runs the show and the mom just shows up and does what she is told. I feel so strongly that women need to be empowered and encouraged. Our bodies were made to do this! And while the experience for every mom is different, and there are of course exceptions where natural child birth is not possible, natural childbirth has so many incredible benefits, including:
  • Mama empowerment. I felt amazing knowing that I birthed a child into this world naturally. Now please don't get me wrong, giving birth is an AMAZING accomplishment no matter how it happens, but knowing that my body was made by God to do this, something in me felt a longing to do it without medicine. I felt strong and courageous and a huge satisfaction knowing that I had done it (with God's help and an awesome coach of course :) ). 
  • A more alert baby. Often, but probably not always, babies who are born without medical intervention are more alert upon delivery because they don't have those pain meds going through their bodies.
  • Just one more healthy gift to the baby. I don't personally believe that medication during birth is a deal breaker to a healthy baby being born. However, I do believe in giving every possible blessing and health benefit to baby that we can. When a mom receives pain medication during delivery this does get transferred to the baby and can have effects. My first nutritionist said that she has worked with many moms whose babies developed reflux as a result of being exposed to meds during their delivery. Medication can have a negative effect on the mom's and baby's digestive track. A healthy gut is essential to overall health. Not to mention the toxins that get transferred to the baby through the medication. So if we want to give our babies the very best start to a healthy life, natural childbirth is really something worth considering.
  • A quicker recovery for Mama. I have had a few friends who have experienced both natural birth and medically aided births. And most of them have commented that they definitely recovered quicker from the natural birth. Plus, it is WONDERFUL to be up and mobile right after giving birth, seriously!
  • Tagged onto that last point, when you are not being medded up, you can be mobile during your birth. I was very mobile during my last birth, which also happened to be my longest. But due to my mobility I also believe it was probably my easiest birth. 
Are there costs to a natural birth? OBVIOUSLY! If not we wouldn't have so many medical interventions these days. But I am convinced that part of the problem is that we have psyched ourselves out as women. We have become so scared of natural child birth and we don't believe in ourselves, that we can do it. And it doesn't help that we live in a culture where everything is supposed to come easy, without a price. Why pay a cost when you don't have to? 

My view on childbirth is that it is a gift from God to give birth. What is more amazing than bringing life into this world through your own body? I feel so blessed to be a woman and to have this privilege. There was some serious pain involved, yes. But still I believed for each of my birth experiences to be a good one, and I can honestly say, that in midst of the pain, each one was such a wonderful experience - a true gift from God! This is much more possible for us women than our culture would have us believe! 

I want to end with a word of balance. Because of the culture we live in, natural childbirth is not incredibly common. And therefore I do think it is a legitimately tough decision to make. I have the utmost of respect for every woman who brings life into this world, whether through natural means or not. I encourage women to at least think through their decision, and not just lightly follow the crowd. But ultimately my intention is NOT to cast any condemnation on any woman who chooses differently than I did. We are all unique women who have not walked a day in any one else's shoes and therefore it is not our job to judge one another, but rather to support and encourage each other in this venture of birth and motherhood!

In my third and final post on Natural Childbirth, I will share some keys that I have found helpful to succeeding in giving birth without intervention. In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about the history of childbirth in this country and about what your options really are, I recommend viewing "The Business of Being Born", an excellent documentary on the subject!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Natural Childbirth Part 1 - The Bradley Method

Starting in college I had this idea that I really wanted to give birth naturally when I had kids. My mom had given birth naturally and said she felt it was totally doable. A lot of women in my church were also giving birth naturally. It sounded like such a great idea, but in all honesty I had NO idea what I was talking about. NO idea!

Getting pregnant was a lot more challenging than I expected. I got pregnant with our first child after several months of "trying" to get pregnant, but quickly miscarried at 5 weeks. It was heartbreaking. Then a few months later I had a season of major health issues that I needed to work through before trying to get pregnant again. But right before our first baby would have been due we got the wonderful news that we were pregnant again! We were starting our big adventure in parenting!

Right away we had some friends recommend to us The Bradley Method. This is a childbirth training program that both helps bring amazing education on pregnancy and birth, but also provides practical training and methods to aid natural childbirth. The focus of the Bradley Method is to give parents the all the resources, knowledge and preparation they need to make the best choices for them and their baby regarding the birth and to be as prepared as possible to do birth without any unnecessary medical intervention. In this, the parents are actually in the decision-making driver seat as opposed to just showing up and doing whatever the doctor recommends you do. Upon our friends recommendation, we signed up for a 12 week class and our education began!

Twelve weeks seems like a huge time commitment. I look back on those weeks with much fondness though. Each night was our special night to focus on baby and then we would get home and snuggle on the couch together and watch some PBS. Ah, memories! Now we are lucky to get 30 quiet minutes on any given day without our sweet bunch screaming around us. But I digress :). From our very first class I was SOOO glad we were taking it. And I began to wonder why I had previously thought I could go into birth and just somehow manage to do things naturally. I knew nothing of labor and nothing about delivery. Some women can go in cold and manage a natural childbirth. I don't think that I could have been one of them. Education is key to having a natural childbirth - I am convinced of this!

So here is what our education included in our Bradley Class:

  • We learned about why a natural childbirth is desirable and the possible effects of the different medical interventions.
  • We learned about how a healthy diet can support a healthy pregnancy and labor. Bradley includes a checklist of what things to include and what to exclude. For me eating became my full time job and I would say that this was a huge step in my developing convictions on healthy eating. I don't know that I would follow their nutrition advice to a t today, but for me at the time it was an excellent start!
  • We learned about pregnancy and how the baby develops.
  • We learned about the stages of labor and how to recognize each one.
  • We learned about practical pain management techniques, and we practiced this in class and regularly at home (Moms, this involves getting massaged by your partner regularly!).
  • We learned about how to form a birth plan and how to communicate your birth wishes with your doctor or midwife.
  • We learned some of the practicals of breastfeeding.
  • We also talked about when things don't go as planned, and how to handle birth surprises or problems.
  • The class also focuses on training the dad to coach the mom and support her in the birth goals.
  • And more!
While I believe the benefits of the Bradley Method are amazing, some are a bit put off by it. I think that whether or not you choose a natural childbirth, the education is awesome. But Bradley Method has a clear opinion on natural childbirth, and it would be tough to take the class and not feel that. However, I personally LOVED my experience and feel it was invaluable in every single birth experience I had. I highly recommend investing in this class if you have any interest at all in a natural childbirth!

In my next post I am going to talk about some of the benefits to a natural childbirth and why I am such a huge advocate!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pureed Carrots

Breakfast is the most challenging meal for me to make right now. Joel tested very high in his sensitivity to eggs and that was a big go-to for us for breakfast. I am limiting him to one egg dish per week until we start the GAPS intro diet. We also used to eat oatmeal or buckwheat a couple of times a week. So when I first started trying to plan what we could eat on this diet I just didn't know what we could possibly eat for breakfasts!

Sausage and bacon seemed like simple solutions for some of our meals. But then what would we eat with that? I ended up trying out some different veggie purees. These can be made sweet treat with just a little bit of raw honey added. I made butternut squash puree last week and this week I tried out carrot puree. Here is what I did:

Pureed Carrots

  • 2-4 Tbsp coconut oil (I used lots, but you could easily do it with less)
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1-2 lbs carrots sliced (I probably used a little less than 1 1/2 lb)
  • 1/2 cup or more of broth
  • dash of salt
  • honey (optional) - I didn't use this as I found the carrots were sweet enough on their own.
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Put sliced carrots on cookie sheet or other pan. I used my ceramic Pampered Chef baking pan. Cook carrots until softened (maybe 15-20 minutes). Meanwhile heat the coconut oil in skillet or stainless steel pan. Add the onion and saute soft. Add onions, carrots, broth and salt to vitamix and use tamper to blend until smooth. Add more broth or water if needed.

I have also made this by steaming the carrots and onions together and then adding everything to the vitamix and blending. Bot times the kids have loved this! 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Yummy GAPS Tomato Sausage Stew

At the time I am writing this, we are about 3 weeks into the GAPS diet. Our stomachs seem to be doing great! Joel was having some tummy problems the first couple of weeks but they have improved this week. We have been dealing with sniffles for the past two weeks which is frustrating, but that might be an issue of us working out our probiotics since the colds appeared immediately after switching to a new brand. I don't think it is merely that we caught colds because it doesn't ever take us this long to get over colds. But who knows? I am praying we will get over this hump soon!

Anyway, I am continuing to experiment with lots of new recipes. Today for lunch we had a yummy sausage tomato stew which I also made a couple of weeks ago. This is very simple and easy to make, and for us it just hits the spot. Today I made the whole recipe for the sauce, but I decided to halve the sausage and freeze half of the sauce for a later time. I served the stew with snap peas on the side and some various leftovers we had in the fridge. The first time I made it I added peas to the stew and served it with a salad.

Tomato Sausage Stew (GAPS-friendly)


  • 2 lbs sausage* (beef or other kind)
  • 1 - 24 oz bottle strained tomatoes (I use this brand)
  • 1/2 onion, quartered or coarsely chopped
  • 2 medium zucchinis, cut up
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • additional spices (I just added a 1/2 tsp or so of basil)


  • Brown sausage in a medium skillet or stainless steel pan
  • Meanwhile add the rest of the ingredients to a blender or vitamix
  • Blend until you have a smooth puree
  • Add the tomato sauce to the pan and bring to a boil. Then simmer on low for 5-10 minutes. I just for 5 because we were in a hurry to eat and it turned out just fine.
*One note on the sausage - almost all store bought sausage has sugar added, which is NOT Gaps legal. Whole Foods does sell some sugar free sausage, but you have to be careful about the ingredients. I have opted just to make our own sausage, which is also a cheaper option, by adding a spice blend to ground beef or pork or lamb. I modified a recipe I found online and will post it at some point soon :).