February is typically a fairly quiet month for us, with the only excitement being Valentine’s Day and sometimes a dance competition for Brinlee. This year it was bigger than that. After removing dairy and gluten from our family’s diet, Daisy’s and Sawyer’s sinus problems cleared up. I swear Daisy’s hearing also improved. She stopped saying, “What?” all the time. Once I removed all of the sugar in the form of gluten (but we were still eating rice, potatoes, etc.), she went looking for sugar in other ways, primarily fruit. She was eating piece after piece of fruit. I had to limit her to two servings a day. I felt pretty sure she was struggling with candida due to all the antibiotics from sinus infections. I’ve had that problem myself before, and it makes you feel awful and crazy. I wasn’t sure how to help a child with it. There are differing opinions. I wanted a professional to guide us through it, so I booked an appointment with a GAPS consultant for Daisy.
The reason I started it for myself is because back in October I had a full physical done, and finally FINALLY someone listened to all the things I’ve been complaining about for years. I don’t feel like myself. I’m tired, sick, I developed insomnia when sleeping used to be my super power (anytime, anywhere, through anything), half of my hair is gone, my eyebrows were mostly gone, foggy brain, constant stomach pain, a whole long list of symptoms. Doctors would always say, “Well you have a ton of kids, they’re all young, you’re not as young as you were, all moms are tired, etc.” But I knew it was more than that. Tests would come back normal, and they’d send me home with a sign off of, “Good luck”. Thanks. That is super helpful.
This doctor knew exactly what was wrong with me, and the list was LONG. Extreme adrenal fatigue, as in they had never seen cortisol levels as low as mine. Low thyroid, low testosterone, B12, D, iron, everything. My blood sugars were too high. He said if i didn’t get my sugars under control, I’d be on insulin within five years. I’m not a sugar eater, never have been, but I love bread and pasta, and that is sugar. I’m allergic to gluten and dairy. It went on and on. I did all the dietary changes they asked me to, right before the holidays, including Brinlee, Kimball, Sawyer, and Adam’s birthdays. No cake for me. When we went to Bear Lake for Thanksgiving, I had to pack all of my own meals for the whole trip because I couldn’t eat anything that was served. I did absolutely everything they asked me to do. I was going to bed at 9:30, saying no to anything extra, and even some “essentials” (laundry folding did not happen), I took the B12 shots and the thyroid cream, I stopped exercising (he said it was killing me right now – literally, not helping), no fruit before lunch, no sugar at all. He said the number one thing I had to do was get more sleep and reduce my stress. I actually laughed out loud and said, “Tell it to my kids”. Adam helped me out and made sure I got in bed by 9:30 every night. Sometimes 9:00.
It wasn’t helping. Well, the sleep was helping, but I felt awful all the time still. They kept changing my diet. I did this disgusting liver cleanse he put me on. I started swallowing raw liver. Can you even imagine feeling so horrible that dicing up raw liver and freezing it as little pills sounds great? I did and I did. I went back this month for new blood work and my results were…WORSE. Except for my blood sugars which were back in the safe zone. How can my numbers be worse when I’ve eaten and not eaten everything he said? I was 100% obedient. He said I have a leaky gut. My body isn’t digesting the food and absorbing nutrients. I’m starving to death and malnourished despite everything I’m eating.
The GAPS diet is supposed to heal leaky gut, and my doctor recommended it. He doesn’t do GAPS consulting, though. He doesn’t know enough about it to lead someone through it.
So at the appointment with the GAPS consultant for Daisy, she wanted me to go on the GAPS diet as well. I had done the intro diet of GAPS for two weeks in October, but at Disneyland it was impossible to continue, plus Thanksgiving was 2 weeks away (at Bear Lake to make it more complicated), then Christmas, etc. It was just really the worst timing to be doing something like that. I was convinced to try it again with Daisy and I, so on February 21 we started. Actually, I was planning to just do it with Daisy and me and start the others over Spring Break because the first week or so is pretty intense. They begged me to start them too so they could be through intro before Caisen’s birthday and our trip to Tennessee. So I started them on Monday after much begging on their part (and constantly asking for our soup).
The super brief summary of GAPS is it’s the baby food diet. Everything is healing and super easy to digest. Intro includes lots of homemade meat broth and animal fats, boiled meat, a few select veggies boiled to oblivion, and that’s it to start. Soup. All soup, all the time. Then you start slowly reintroducing things. First up is raw egg yolks and herbs. Then if you don’t react to those, you can try avocados, then cooked whole eggs. Naturally fermented veggies like sauerkraut play a big role. There are six stages of intro, then you move on to full GAPS for 18-24 months. Our practitioner said if we took her long list of (very expensive) supplements, we would sail through the whole two-year regimen in 3 months. She is a certified GAPS practitioner, and supposed to be one of the best, so we did it. It is so hard. At first you go through detox and and feel awful. Daisy cried for 3 solid days. Non-stop tears. On day three she snuck avocado before I got out of bed and threw it all up immediately. Her body wasn’t ready for that.
Then on the fourth day (it sounds so biblical, right?), she woke up as happy and agreeable as ever. The sweet Daisy Doll I hadn’t seen in about two years (when the sinus trouble and constant infections and antibiotics started) was back. The Daisy Monster was gone. She was no longer demanding, willful, clingy, desperate for attention, acting out, competitive (in the bad way. Like if anyone shows interest in something – including a person – it becomes her most favorite thing she is desperate for). She was suddenly calm, attentive, cooperative, helpful, obedient, and happy to play by herself. She gets along with everyone, and is just a joy…again. Even her preschool and dance teachers noticed, and she is usually very well behaved in their classes. Also, her learning at school just skyrocketed. She went from scribbling huge letters to normal size, legible letters. I’m enjoying having my daughter back. I remember back when she and I would be out running errands, just the two of us, and people would stop to tell me how cute she was. My reply was always, “She is just as sweet as she is cute.” And she was, until about two years ago. It was like someone flipped a switch and Mr. Hyde hasn’t left since.
So when this GAPS practitioner suggested I go on it also (like two days later), I decided to do it much sooner than originally planned.
It requires lots of planning and preparation, and not just the food. You really have to psych yourself out for this. It is a huge commitment. An empty calendar is critical, and we had a window of emptiness, sort of, until Caisen’s birthday, so about two months to get through intro, which theoretically lasts a month. I’ve been thinking about doing GAPS since last September when I first heard about it.
I bought 1/4 cow, a whole pig, a lot of lard. I made and froze a bunch of broth and peeled and cubed tons of butternut squash and froze it. Lucky for me, Adam had bought me a second Instant Pot for Valentine’s Day. What is an Instant Pot? Only the greatest small appliance ever. It is a slow cooker, pressure cooker, steamer, boiler, yogurt maker, rice maker all in one. It has a removable stainless steel insert. You can saute in it before turning on the slow cooker. You can sear your meat before pressure cooking it. I use the one I got for Christmas over a year ago all the time, and frequently said I needed a second one, because while the main dish was in pot number one, I really needed a second one to make rice. I love to steam eggs in it for the most perfect, creamy boiled eggs that are so easy to peel. Even the eggs fresh from my chickens are easy to peel. Now that we are on GAPS, I have both of those going around the clock with soup in them. If it’s not cooking soup, it’s keeping it warm.
We stayed on stage one for a week (Daisy and I did it for 9 days because we started two days earlier). Stage one is hard. Broth, fat, meat, a few boiled veggies. That’s it. Stage two made improvements with the addition of herbs and raw egg yolk. It makes the soups creamy. It seems gross but is quite good.
So what are some improvements we’ve seen? Well, TMI, but some people in our family were chronically constipated and others had chronically loose stools. Everyone has normalled out. We keep a poop chart, and all poops are good! Also, many of my kids had some of the worst gas ever, and it was constant, toxic and tear inducing. The gas is gone. GONE!! I had chronic stomach pain and bloating, and that is gone as well. No matter what I ate, my tummy hurt and would inflate about 5 inches. No more! Daisy’s behavior is golden. One of the huge benefits was my kids started liking more foods. They are already really great eaters, but they have a few foods they won’t touch. They all love avocado now. And zucchini. And almond butter.
I bought thermoses for the kids to take to school. My one regret is I didn’t get the adult size ones. My kids want way more than 10 oz of soup at lunch. I talked to their teachers and explained the situation. A week into it, Brinlee, Kimball and Sawyer went on a field trip to the Natural History Museum and had to take disposable lunch containers. I pulled out some old spaghetti jars, wrapped them in foil and old towels, and ladled boiling soup into them. They were still hot at lunch time and they tossed them.
I’ll be honest, GAPS has stretched my creativity as a cook. I’ve come up with some delicious soup recipes to make this as appetizing as possible. It is still hard to eat just soup all day every day, no matter how delicious. To make it easier on me, I make one huge pot (22 quarts, to be exact) of soup and we eat the one kind all day, and if there is more left, I freeze it for another day. Then that night I make another huge pot, and it is ready for breakfast, because ain’t nobody be waitin around for soup first thang in the mornin. I put both instant pots on warm for the night, one for breakfast, one for lunch, and put the rest in the fridge for dinner. When we get up, soup’s on! The GAPS diet triples your appetite, so while 22 quarts of soup for eight people sounds like enough for one day, it’s not.
I also use my food processor to slice 10 pounds of carrots and onions at a time and put those in bags in the fridge. I go through them fast. FAST. I boil three chickens at a time making both broth and meat then pull all the meat. All of this cuts down on dishes and clean up.
In other news, I have some very naughty chickens. I’ve been letting them get away with sneaking out of their fenced in yard to free range. Well, one of them has stopped going home for bedtime. She started roosting on my front porch rail, and has left a pile of poo high and deep on my front porch. This is unacceptable, my friends. Also, a neighbor’s dog came and ate my flock while they were at recess. Only one survivor. No more open campus, girls. I closed up their escape hatch for their own protection.
Just one lonely egg right when we need a ton of eggs starting yesterday! Gotta get more chickens.
Brinlee and Daisy just love each other. They are such good friends.
Can I just vent for a moment and say that I. Hate. Parent homework. Hate it. And when it is multiplied by 4 kids, I despise it. Don’t put that it must be the child’s work and then show perfect, adorable examples of projects that were clearly completed by an adult. There is no way my kids, or anyone else’s kids, can do this by themselves. I got my degrees. I should be done doing homework.
In other news, the last lot in our neighborhood is finally getting a house on it. When my neighbor texted me that she met the family that is building the house, and that they have 6 girls, I wrote back, “Six kids! Holy cow!” And two hours later I wrote back, “Wait a second. I just remembered that I have six kids.” It just sounds so much bigger when you hear it about someone else. Now I know what people are saying when they find out about my family. We are in the Holy Cow club.
On a side note, we did replace our demolished flock. I am here to tell you that few things are as invigorating as an early game of chase the chickens on a cold, windy, rainy morning. I recommend it so highly that I’m willing to let any of you have a turn at it in my yard. Sign ups below.