Day 14…Please mind the GAPS

Written by Joni Harrison  (for Lovejoy Ledger, in November 2014) . She is a stay-at-home mother of three (soon to be four). She and her husband Danny are the publishers of Lovejoy Ledger and are based in Atlanta, USA.

Last summer, our middle child had an accident at a playground, which resulted in six stitches in her chin and a broken tooth. When we took her to the dentist to get the tooth removed, they showed how some of her back teeth had chipped consistent with the trauma she had experienced. They gave some simple dietary advice suggesting we avoid sugary foods (yeah right!), but other than that, they said there was really little else we could do.

With that advice in hand, I went home and searched the Internet. It wasn’t long before I found evidence that teeth could remineralise. What’s more, I stumbled across a diet that I believe could help our whole family.

My husband has always struggled with his weight. He has also struggled with an allergy to dairy. When we wed, I grieved the loss of lasagne, a favourite supper of mine, assumed his allergy was irreversible, and I went about trying to discover a new favourite meal. Since then, we have tried every diet going over the years to help with weight control, as I have been concerned about how it affects his overall health (he had arthritis in his knee and high blood pressure).

However, like many other people, we have found no permanent fix. He loses weight for a while, the diet stops working, and we all get discouraged.

I may have found a fix for all of us. Through my research on how to help our daughter’s fractured teeth, I discovered a diet containing a lot of bone broth, animal fats, cod liver oil and fewer grains and starches. I also discovered that this very diet is also good for people who struggle with allergies and have difficulty losing weight. I could not believe it: Two birds with one stone.

The diet my husband started is officially called the GAPS Diet. GAPS stands for Gut and Psychological Syndrome. It was originally developed to help people who suffer with psychological syndromes such as schizophrenia, ADHD, autism and depression.

The premise is that if you heal the gut you will alleviate the psychological problems. We have no direct experience with these syndromes in our home, so we cannot comment on the effectiveness of this diet upon those syndromes. However, this diet was also discovered to help people suffering with allergies.

My husband has been on the diet now for about a month and is already eating cheese and yogurt, not to mention he is losing weight, and the swelling he experiences around his arthritic knee is less noticeable in the evening. In times past, the swelling would go down to his feet.

The drawback of the diet is that it is a complete change from the Western diet and involves a lot of work. But like most adjustments, it gets easier with time.

Another drawback is that it is quite difficult to get new foods past the lips of a four-year-old, especially a four year old who loves peanut butter and honey sandwiches and also loves routine. For her, the change has been more difficult.

We settled for a traditional diet that incorporated some of the GAPS meals, and we have tried to reduce her grain and starch intake. I now add bone broth to as many meals as I possibly can, because the phosphorus and calcium is good for her teeth, and the gelatine in the bone broth heals the gut lining damage, which will affect her ability to digest other minerals (more on that in a minute). However, getting her to drink it straight is a near impossibility.

I found mint-flavoured cod liver oil she likes at The Herb Shop in Lovejoy. I also learned how to make ghee, an animal fat that is good for you, which we now use in cooking as well as coconut oil. A key vitamin missing from our diets today is Vitamin K2, which is found in animal fats.

Now back to the grains and the gut lining. The problem with grains is that they contain something called phytic acid. Phytic acid surrounds all grains helping it to retain as many nutrients as possible ready for sprouting. Grains also contain phytase, the component which breaks down the phytic acid when the grain begins to sprout. When this occurs, it makes the grain more nutritious. Our bodies are not are not capable of breaking down phytic acid, therefore we aren’t benefitting from the full nutrition in the grains.

If you soak the grain in an acidic medium such as apple cider vinegar, whey from yogurt or lemon juice, it helps to activate the phytase, which breaks down the phytic acid. This makes what you consume more nutritious, because the phytic acid not only retains the nutrients in the grain, disallowing your body to absorb them, but it also attracts other minerals in your gut. This means you lose out on absorbing other necessary minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc, minerals that could help replenish your teeth and bones.

It is all baby steps with our daughter. I don’t expect to hear news of regrowth of the enamel the next time we visit the dentist, and I’m even bracing myself for news of a cavity as we take two steps forward and one step back.

We limit sugary foods in our home, but we do allow it when they are out or with the wider family. I am struggling to find an economical alternative to bran flakes, which she loves. That will be my next menu item to address. However, I have found a great alternative to store bought bread that she and the others seem to be enjoying, and I’ll end this first instalment of our family diet column with a fairly simple recipe:

SOAKED WHOLEWHEAT TORTILLAS

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup either coconut oil, butter, lard or tallow
  • ¾ cup warm water
  • I tbs apple cider vinegar or whey.
  • 1 tsp salt

Rub the flour and coconut oil (or butter) together until there are no lumps. Stir in water and whey (or apple cider vinegar). Form into a ball and cover with film. Leave in a warm place (such as in the oven with the light on) for 12 to 24 hours. The next day, sprinkle with salt and knead a few times until it is mixed in. Separate into eight balls. Roll them out into circles and fry on an ungreased, pre-warmed pan for 30 seconds on each side.

[Thanks to www.WeedEmAndReap.com for this recipe!]

It takes a little planning, but other than that they are fairly quick to make and they are healthy. They are also great served with peanut butter and honey, which is a popular combination for our kids.

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