GAPS Diet (Blog)

We started working with diet as soon as we received Griff’s diagnosis in October of 2007 when he was three years old. We began with GFCF (Gluten Free/ Casein Free) but quickly realized that this diet would not be enough to address the imbalance in Griff’s gut. We spent two years finding our way and in January 2009 we started the GAPS Diet (Gut & Psychology Syndrome) which is based on the SCD diet (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) with an added detox and supplement regiment. Diet has always made a difference and with GAPS we saw the greatest and quickest improvements. This blog will track our progress, supply current recipes and discuss what works and what does not and why : )

GAPS Diet & My Own Recovery

I started to change my diet about six years ago when I stopped eating fast food and drinking soda. My thinking was I would eliminate one unhealthy food at a time and add “healthy” foods slowly. It has been a slow process but I think that is why I have been so successful. Since I have been a stay at home dad I have made all the dietary changes that Griffen has because I am with him so much. We do not have “illegal” foods in the house so we do not contaminate our cookware and remove any possibility of Griffen eating food he is not supposed to. As a result I have benefitted by having to change my diet in order to match Griff.

I have seen and felt much change since I altered my diet and more so since I went strict GAPS with Griff a year and a half ago. I have lost the 25 lbs. I was overweight with more than two years ago and maintained my new weight with out difficulty. My skin is so much clearer and healthier looking. If I get enough sleep, which I usually don’t, I look more like me…and it feels great. But the most amazing changes I have seen is with my mind…how I function with in myself and how I interact with the world.

I have had gut issues my whole life with out truly understanding them. I have had my own spectrum issues since child hood but they were never diagnosed and I never knew why I was the way I was…I just always felt like I was on the outside looking in. Not until Griffen did I realize why I was like this. I have spent my life exploring who I am and using most of my energy to grow and fit into a world that I always felt disjointed with; most of the time it felt like walking through quicksand in pursuit of personal growth. I have made huge gains but it was always with so much effort and pain…though the pain made my success so much sweeter. But I have always felt as if my progress was so slow…my peers have gone on to accomplish much more than I have on a personal level while I watch in wonder…knowing I am as bright or brighter and equally if not more motivated for success…but I am left in their wake.

These past two years things have changed though…I have experienced a surge of personal growth….the world seems a little bit easier to maneuver in. There is a clarity that is growing in my mind and it feels…liberating. I still struggle with old beliefs and have difficulty still seeing my path but where there was once so much doubt about my ability to over come my inner obstacle now there is little of it left…when it does arise I can easily push it aside. I believe in recovery not only for my son but for myself…and this I think…this understanding of self…this discovery that I can heal will help me step up and heal Griffen.

Something happened last week that really shined a light on this for me. I was having dinner with someone and she was telling me about her brother. Her brother and she were close but he did not reach out to her all that much it seemed. She told me of how he would come to visit her…and join her with all her friends in some social event. She spoke of how he wanted very much to participate but it would take all of his energy to do so and when it was over and he could return to his own environment he was completely exhausted. As she was speaking I realized she was saying almost verbatim the language I have used to describe myself. Everything she said about her brother I have experienced. The desire to join the world but not being able to…and when I do it takes everything I have just to get through it and being thoroughly wiped out when it was over…on the outside looking in. I wanted to tell her it was me she was talking about…that I was just like her brother but I didn’t. My first thought was because I did not want to be seen that way…I tire of being an outsider at times and just want to be seen as anyone else. But when I had a chance to think about it I realized that I am no longer like that…not so completely. And this is the amazing part…I can contribute this growth to my diet changes…the GAPS diet has been healing my gut. I realized that the description of her brother did not actually apply to me any more. I move around in the world so much easier now…it started a couple of years ago…I do things I never could before…at least not with out so much energy expended. It’s not as if I am completely healed but this realization…seeing it now…my growth connected to diet so clearly…I am in a mild state of shock. I have spent my life searching for a way out of this…clawing at the walls and I have finally found my way.

I find myself with a renewed sense of purpose with the GAPS diet and how it will heal Griffen. I have known and have had faith in the power of the diet but it is such a slow process and change is not always apparent…it is easy to lose perspective and motivation wanes. It takes so much effort and money to manage the diet I have found it hard to move through the stages and be creative with all the cooking…I simply have been in a GAPS rut. But now thanks to that one conversation….someone sharing with me about someone they love…someone who struggles with life….because I shared about my son and his struggles…because of this she shinned a light on something for me and it has changed so much in me…I am deeply grateful for that…thank you J.

I cheat a little on my diet when I am out in the world…eating GAPS is hard out of a controlled environment but I will apply myself to it more so now…there is still time for me to accomplish so much in my life and GAPS is the key to allow me to do that…I will take full advantage. And in turn it will help bring me to a place to truly help my son so he does not have to struggle his whole life as I have….I want him to have a clear mind to in order to reach his full potential. He has given me so much…he has saved me and given me hope for myself…he has blazed this path I am on….his autism is a gift to me. Our children on the spectrum have so much to offer us if only we choose to see it. I am grateful for all that it has brought to my life.

Chicken Pie!

I had originally named this dish “Chicken Muffins”. However I walked out side the other day and popped a piece of it in Griff’s mouth without telling him what it was and he looked at me and said “Chicken Pie!” Wow!!!! He knew it was chicken and said it! Hey if he called them “Chicken Poop Tarts” I would have went with that…My boy is talking….I’m happy : ).  So the other day he says “Chicken Pie!” out of the blue…then says…something I don’t quite get…I ask him to repeat it and he says clearly “Old Joe Clark”  “Eighteen Stories High”   “Chicken Pie”! …a nursery rhyme…love the connections he is making : )

 

Ok…so first you want to sauté veggies…if you have done it for another one of these dishes and have made extra you can use them : )

Onion/ Carrot/ Garlic are the staples…Chop or food process them finely then you can also add mushrooms, leek, lima beans, green beans, turnip, cauliflower, zucchini or any other GAPS veggie. I usually have about 6 or 7 veggies in a blend to insure a lot of carbs and variety. If you dont want to make a huge batch of veggies use one onion, one medium/large carrot (peeled) , 4-5 medium cloves of garlic then double the mass  with other veggies…you’ll have some left over but you can use them in anything!

Sauté them in a healthy portion of Ghee and Coconut oil for 10- 15 minutes. I like to add ½ a cup or so of homemade bone/beef broth if adding to meat dishes. I also use chicken broth but I think the beef bone broth works for this dish too…the flavors work.

 

Then in the food processor I put in two large egg yolks and one cup of ghee. ( I had tried using 1/2 a cup of chicken broth and a half a cup of ghee…to save on the cost of ghee since we go through so much but found the end result was not near as good) Blend this up while adding salt and pepper. I go easy on the salt as a rule. I create a cone in my hand that has a base the size of a quarter.

I then, as it is still blending, add the sautéed veggies. I never measure these…about a cup…I’m still playing with the amounts…I want to add carbs to the chicken but don’t want to over power it…

Then you take  a pound or so of organic chicken thighs, cut them up a little then drop them into the food processor…slowly : ) You will start to create a thick chicken paste….blend it really well.

Then scoop out the chicken paste in to a muffin pan…I usually get about 12 chicken “muffins” per batch…the size of one tray. You can grease up the pan with a little ghee but they have a lot of ghee in them so I am not sure this is necessary to prevent sticking.

Pop them in the oven pre heated at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes.

And that’s it. We reheat them in  a little Ghee in a cast iron pan…I have received really good feed back and Griff  just engulfs them…and so do I…I usually eat half of them after I make them : ) A friend of mine said her 8 year old son proclaimed them the best thing he had ever eaten : )

 

Again for the parents whose kids won’t eat veggies…Griff was the same way but it is possible…you can get there. Our kids are so adaptable…the obstacles we face are usually put there by us…we convince ourselves they wont eat them…but they will. Griff has been strict Gaps for over a year : )

Meat Loaf !

Griffen at this point does not eat vegetables off the plate. I can’t prepare a meat dish and put the veggies next to it and expect him to eat them….Autism or not kids go through this and have since time began. But with autism and the communication obstacles and the cognitive delays we still face I can not reason with him to get him to eat them….like “if you don’t eat your squash you can’t watch TV tonight”…we got rid of the TV 4 years ago : ).  So I put them in the meat loaf and he gets it all in one shot and he loves it…and gets his veggies at every single meal : )

The first step is to prep and sauté the veggies. I’ll give you the amounts for one batch which will go into about 4-5 lbs of meat. But I have discovered if I double the amount of veggies I prep I can make other dishes at the same time  and use the same veggie mix with that dish as well….like chicken pie….yummy : )

First I hand chop an onion of medium size. Chop it very finely so there are no chunks for them to pick out. You can put it in the food processor but it tends to liquefy the onion if you are not careful and can make the flavor too strong…at least that is my thought on it. I must confess sometimes in a time crunch I throw it in there. Then I mince in 4-6 cloves of garlic (medium size). Then one medium to large carrot. Peel and toss in the food processor. These three are my staple veggies that I always use. The Onion adds great flavor, the garlic flavor and is just good for you in so many ways and carrots for sweetness. This is GAPS meat loaf so you want to make sure you are using specific crab’s in this. Lately I have been using the following:

½ a leek

Turnip (about the size of a radish)

Green Beans (About 20 or so fresh and boiled before sautéed)

Lima Beans (1/2 a cup – I use organic frozen)

White mushrooms (2)

Zucchini (one small- medium)

Cauliflower (½ – 1 cup)

Green Onion ( three stalks)

I throw all this in the food processor until it is very fine and then put it with the onions and garlic. I then use a combination of coconut oil and Ghee in a big pan and heat it up and sauté all the veggies for about 15 minutes. Once they have been cooking 5 minutes or so I add a cup or so of bone broth I have made.

While I am doing that I pre heat the oven and get a big bowl and put three large eggs, a racket ball size lump of creamy almond butter and about a cup or organic tomato puree (nothing but tomato…no sugar! ). Then I add salt… (About the size of a big gum ball). I go easy on the salt…just enough to bring out the flavors. I hand mix all this in the bowl and then take my veggies of the heat and put them in a bowl to cool for a minute. While they are still warm I add them to the egg/almond butter/tomato/salt mix.  Use your judgment on how much you want to add here. You don’t want too many veggies so they compromise the integrity of the meat loaf…I think it’s an about 4 to 1 ratio. I then mix it all up.

I then take another bowl and add 4-5 lbs of grass fed organic ground beef. Then …this is the fun part…I add the mixture to it and hand mix it until it is thoroughly blended. You can add the mix slowly so you don’t add too much…I make this dish all the time and it always comes out a little different and that is a good thing. I then make three meat loafs about an inch and half thick in glass dishes and pop them in the oven at 350 for one hour.

This is a meal that gets better as it sits…like lasagna. Cooked meat will last 4 days but I try to make sure it’s gone in 3 days…usually not a problem. So now you have several meals that give you a complete meal in one tasty dish. I have made this for several people who eat non GAPS food and they loved it. Griffen like many kids on the spectrum is a finicky eater…we went through all the challenges that most parents go through but he has been on a strict GAPS diet for over a year now…and when I say strict I mean not once has he eaten a non GAPS approved food. It can be done!!!!

We heat this up for him in a cast iron pan and he eats it happily. I add veggies to the side for me and it is so filling and tasty.

As always we use whole, fresh organic, food. Frozen is ok but if we can go fresh we try and do that…frozen when out of season. We use glass, stainless steel and cast iron to cook in. We are moving away from storing in plastic because of the plastic leaching into the food. Now that we no longer fear Griff breaking glass we can do it with a peace of mind.

Take care on introducing some of these veggies…don’t me afraid to go slow. Our kid’s guts are different and one kid can handle lima beans while another can not…use your judgment and try different things. For Griff peas are a problem and tomato if we use too much can have a dramatic effect…better to go light on all of it and work up to it….Happy eating : )

CUPCAKES!

Cupcakes!!!

I know very little about cooking or baking. I learn as I go. I can bake well because it is a precise art….its like building a house…I can do that but cooking involves more creativeness and when it comes to food my lack of knowledge gets in the way of expressing myself this way. I like recipes : )

GAPS does not allow the use of baking soda/powder for reasons I will not go into here. I don’t know a lot about baking but I know not having baking soda/powder makes things a wee bit of a challenge. So we discovered something great in making these cupcakes…egg whites will allow the cupcakes to rise! So here is our cupcake recipe without flour or baking soda…or sugar of any kind.

Cupcakes:

1 Cup of cooked squash (see my recipe for baking squash)

1 Cup of nut butter (we use creamy organic almond butter)

5 Large eggs

1 Tsp salt (We use sea salt)

½ cup melted Ghee (Clarified butter…the milk protein Casein is removed)

Makes approximately 16 small cupcakes

To begin:

Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees

Put small cupcake paper in to your cupcake tray

Separate egg whites into a bowl and set aside.

Put yolks into another bowl and add the remaining ingredients but make sure the melted ghee is not hot or it will start to cook the eggs. (Note* Microwaving food kills it’s nutritional value so when cooking food for those who have gut issues don’t use it…take the extra time and heat it up on the stove…cast iron is best) Mix egg yolks, nut butter, ghee, squash and salt together well.

Next beat egg whites until soft peaks form….if you have a mixer then good for you. I do not so this part is a drag. I beat them by hand…takes me about 5 minutes. If you have never done it it’s easy. Beat them until they become thick and white. The soft peaks are when you take the whisk and pull up the egg whites and they stay in shape…like the soft ice cream cones we got as kids.

 

When the whites are done “fold” them into the batter….I am not sure why but I guess if you beat them in you change the consistency of the whites. Just plop them in there and flip the batter gently like pancakes until you see no more white in the batter.

Now fill up the cupcake trays. I filled them to about a 1/8 of an inch below the top of the paper. Then put them in the oven at 300 degrees for about 20 minutes. Your oven will vary. I did mine for 23 minutes. The batter will rise and crack. I took them out when I could stick a fork in and a cupcake would lift out. You don’t want to over cook them because they will taste like rubber. But what you get is a delicious fluffy cupcake! GAPS approved and good for the gut.

Ok but most of you are thinking “no flour, sugar or baking soda…no honey or fruit? How can it be good?” So here is the thing. If you are used to eating a “typical” diet full of juices, sugar (any form of sugar) flours and such then no…these may not seem like the best things you have eaten. More so your little ones on the spectrum may not think so either if they have a lot of sweetness in their diet. Fruit and the juice from it are incredibly sweet and contain a lot of sugars. They may taste good but can also feed yeast and over whelm the gut. Griffen and I don’t eat sugar so to us they do taste delicious…even sweet. The squash brings the sweetness to it.

But making these was another reminder to us as to how sensitive the gut can be. We make Griff’s pancakes with a winter squash blend (Butternut and others like pumpkin) that is frozen. He is used to this and handles it well. However these cupcakes were made with fresh organic butternut squash. Much sweeter than what he was used to. As a result he had a small reaction to it. His face and fingers broke out in a little eczema and he had an increase in isming…nothing intense but noticble. That is how sensitive their guts can be. So the next batch we will cut fresh in with the frozen and see what happens.

He devoured these cupcakes. They were light and fluffy, full of carbohydrates, salt and animal protein and animal fat…all the things his body and brain need to heal and grow and nothing he can’t easily digest. We want to decrease the toxic overload as much as possible and give him food his body does not have to struggle to process…while feeding the beneficial bacteria and starving the pathogenic bacteria. It is a delicate balance.

Note* We use only organic food to reduce the amount of toxins our bodies have to digest and process.

We use creamy organic almond butter. We tried the chunky stuff you can make in the store…it’s cheaper but Griff could not process it…it created all kinds of problems for him and it looked the same coming out as it did going in….his gut was unable to digest it so watch out for that.

Our eggs are organic and local…they are super expensive but they are the best eggs I have ever tasted and since he eats a lot of eggs, they are a GREAT source of protein and they are absorbed so easily by the gut the money is well spent.

Butternut Squash!!!!

Ok…I’m going to start off with an easy one. Almost too easy but I did not know how to do this…it seemed like a lot of effort so I have to think there is someone else out there who needs to know how simple this is.

Whole organic food is important. For Griffen and many children, and adults with spectrum issues there bodies can not cope with all the toxins they ingest through eating and breathing everyday…much these toxins leaking through the gut wall into the blood stream and into the brain…their guts unable to process them out of the body the way they should. Having organic food that is not processed is highly important to reduce the toxic load and allow healing to take place. The next time you eat something look at it and wonder how many steps it took to get that way. How much handling, heating and additives were added to it to give it the form and taste it has now. The closer to its original form it is the better it is for you.

Ok…Butternut squash. The season is coming to an end but this is an easy way to get a great carbohydrate to make all kinds of things with. It’s sweet and very filling and easy to work with.

Take your Butternut squash and cut it length wise in half. You will see the seeds and pulp in the center. Scrap these out so it is free from the fibrous pulp. Then in a glass/Pyrex dish (whatever size and shape needed to fit the squash…you may have to trim them to get them to fit) place them face down. (Some squash such as Acorn squash would be face up but BN’s are down). Then add about half an inch of water and since we are reducing toxic loads with organic food might as well go for it and use filtered water.

Place in the oven that you pre-heated to 350 degrees for about one hour. I say “about” because ovens vary. You want the squash to be soft when they are done. I do mine for an hour and ten minutes.

When done take out of the water and turn them over. You can let them cool for a minute then scrap/dig out the squash from the skin. Be careful not to dig into the skin because it’s no fun eating that. The squash should easily come out.

That’s it! You will have a bowl of delicious GAPS approved carbohydrate. Since we are adhering to GAPS we add Ghee (clarified butter with out the milk protein Casein) and salt. This is great on its own or you can add it to pancakes…cupcakes etc.

The only process involved was baking. Congratulations!

During the summer months you can buy it frozen. Buy organic and if it says “winter squash” know it might be a blend of different squash like pumpkin.

Blogs Coming Soon : )

I’m excited about sharing the challenges and triumphs with our GAPS Diet….more to come…