As I’ve mentioned throughout the blog, my husband has had lifelong digestive issues. We were working to find out which foods bothered him last year at this time when he suffered a heart attack. Heart attack recovery involved a very strict diet low in sodium and fats. I continued using extra virgin olive oil, as I have since I first started cooking as a teenager, reduced the amount of sodium, including baking soda and baking powder, in our diets, and switched to only Himalayan pink salt. It is believed that this form of salt not only lowers blood pressure, but provides vital nutrients. During this period of time, his digestive issues went through the roof, though we were told that he was giving his body what it needed. Since we have been married, he has subsisted on a diet high in whole grains and whole, scratch-made foods. This is how I was raised and how I was trained to cook. But despite eating natural, home-cooked meals 5 to 6 days out of the week, weekends were our “fun times” which I’m sure didn’t help, he has continued to have digestive issues.
He was told before being released from the hospital following the heart attack to go easy on legumes, which surprised the heck out of me since they are said to prevent heart disease. He was also told to make sure that he didn’t eat too many carbs. I was beside myself trying to figure out how to balance whole, scratch made foods to keep his heart healthy while also trying to ease his digestive issues. How is a person supposed to eat low carb, low fat, and high amounts of whole grain foods at the same time?! Then I remembered from my years of low carb dieting that whole grains are not too high in carbs. We already pretty much avoided the white stuff, just ate too many natural sugars. The diet worked well during recovery, but his blood pressure began bottoming out at the end of the day making for a tired, miserable, productively low existence. The boy was mess and it was so hard to watch!
At his last appointment with his gastroenterologist, she reemphasized her wishes, the ones she had stated before the heart attack, that he experiment to see which foods bothered him. She also gave him a list of foods to avoid for periods of time to give his digestion a rest. It seemed as if all the items on the list were the heart healthy things he was supposed to eat! I was frustrated and wished that we could get the cardiologist and the gastroenterologist to sit down in the same room with us to tell us how we are supposed to care for both issues.
His cholesterol checked out fine at his late December appointment with his cardiologist, as it always has, even at the time of the heart attack, so I thought it would be the perfect time to try the GAPS Diet. I did my research and cooked and cooked and cooked, stocking our freezer with healing bone broths. I filled the fridge full of all the vegetables we were allowed to have and simmered vats of soups. Then I attempted to make sauerkraut to act as a source of probiotics. When my sauerkraut went belly up and I composted it, we continued with the high quality natural food store probiotic tablets we have used for almost a decade, just increased the doses.
Our GAPS Diet Goals:
- Job #1 was to tweak the diet so he wasn’t eating high amounts of animal fats, which we were told would raise his cholesterol.
- Job #2 was to give his digestion a break.
- Job #3 was to see if we could heal his gut with the highly nutritious bone broths and large amounts of probiotics.
- Job #4 very quickly became, by finding out the hard way, to keep his electrolytes from bottoming out and making him feel like a puddle of mud by 2 p.m. every day.
- Job #5 was to heal or improve my rosacea symptoms (whole other UGLY story).
- Job #6 was to slowly add back in omitted foods to see which ones caused or increased his digestive upset.
- Job #7 was to squeeze the two years of recommended GAPS Dieting into 30 days and hope that by the end of the month we would be detoxed and have at least a few answers. I knew because of the heart attack that we wanted him back to eating grains and legumes as quickly as possible, in addition to all varieties of the fruits and vegetables that he enjoys.
Well the first week was ridiculous. Just awful. We don’t nap, though we adore the idea of stopping everything to take a siesta in the middle of the day, and envy people who can let go enough to pull it off. But napping is not for us. We napped the first week on GAPS. Had to. Dragged our butts to the bedroom in the middle of the day and crashed. CRASHED, I tell you. After four days I’d had enough. I jumped us from GAPS intro.– broths, soups, eggs, honey ginger tea, vegetables– to probiotics infused almond milk. I made almond cakes with the almond meal that was left from making almond milk. We spread them with a bit of ghee and drizzled on raw honey. Right as rain. Those almond cakes were just the thing to balance us out through the rest of the detox. We began eating two silver dollar sized cakes every morning with our eggs and black coffee.
Almond Meal Cakes
2 c. almond meal
3 whole eggs
1 1/2 c. almond milk
1 T. melted ghee
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of Himalayan salt
Mix together dry ingredients.
Beat together milk and eggs. Whisk in melted ghee. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and fold to combine.
Cook on a griddle as you would pancakes. They take just a bit longer to set up before they are ready to be flipped.
These are GAPS friendly, and dairy, gluten, and wheat free.
To my surprise, we stayed on the GAPS Diet for two months, a full month longer than intended. Legumes changed everything. Rice was another blessed improvement. Both really helped with the monotony of the weeks previous. Then, last weekend, we went to our local creamery and bought a gallon of grass fed milk. Neither of us had any problems after drinking it so know we are not lactose intolerant. We abstain from eating potatoes, parsnips, and sweet potatoes for the time being, simply because we haven’t added them back in yet. We avoid all artificial preservatives. Gluten free recipes have been key because we still haven’t added grains, other than rice, back into our diets.
So far we have found that the only thing that bothers my husband is high amounts of animal protein. If he has a steak then ground beef the next day, even if they are lean, his problems flair up. Pork bothers him less, chicken and fish have no effect on him. So, as we have been doing since the heart attack, we spread out his red meat intake and make sure he only consumes a couple of servings per week.
An added benefit to the healing our bodies have gone through on GAPS is weight loss. I always say I can’t eat a carb without it landing on my hips or buttocks. Well I’m eating loads of fruit and legumes, nuts, and seeds right now. I never stopped eating sugar. We went from eating only honey to a little turbinado, and now to occasional amounts of white sugar. But we are steadily dropping weight. Effortlessly. I love it. Can’t believe that I can eat the things that I am eating. Every day, though, I fear that I will add back one too many things and rock the boat. But it really just feels like we have changed our metabolisms with this eating plan.
Another pro of the experience is that our grocery bill dropped dramatically when we began GAPS. I even read one person’s claim that they were able to try GAPS while experiencing financial difficulty and living off of Food Stamps. Pretty impressive, but when you think about it, you are cutting out dairy purchases at first, and prepared cereals, grains, breads, flours, and sugars. The budget gets shifted to things like raw honey and healthy fats and stretches to include more fresh, raw foods in their natural state. You also get a lot more food for your money if you are used to using prepackaged foods. Anyone who switches from boxed mixes and frozen dinners to cooking from scratch will also see a reduction in food costs. On GAPS you consume a lot of soups and broths which really go a long way.
I couldn’t be happier with the results, even though I still have rosacea. It actually went kind of haywire as soon as we added legumes. Fortunately, I finally found what works for me in a natural eczema/psoriasis ointment. My rosacea symptoms are barely there and it’s very nice to look at the reflection in the mirror that I haven’t seen for five or six years.
The best part is that my husband feels wonderful. His blood pressure stays on the low side but isn’t bottoming out every day. He hikes the trails on our property with gusto and then continues on with his day. His digestive issues are vague, gone for the most part. I don’t know what will happen when we add in grains and finally gluten, but I’m feeling positive about our future. We will just take it one step at a time.
We still eat the little almond cakes for breakfast, but have been able to play with food a bit more. Yesterday, knowing I would be working hard in the farmyard all day, I made actual pancakes using the gluten free flour mix I sifted together last week. They were great and gave me the protein and carbohydrates I needed to work for hours on the garden. I have used garbanzo flour for years so knew whatever I made with it would have a chickpea taste that might be shocking to anyone who has never eaten it. The gluten free flour I found for sale in my grocery store contained potato flour, however, and we have yet to reintroduce potatoes. I had to make my own flour to experiment with.
Gluten Free Flour
1/3 c. brown rice flour
1/3 c. golden flax seed meal
1/3 c. almond meal
2 c. garbanzo fava flour
Gluten Free Griddle Cakes
1 1/2 c. gluten free flour
Pinch of Himalayan pink salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. turbinado sugar
1 beaten egg
1 c. almond milk
2 tsp. melted ghee or butter
Sift together the dry ingredients.
Beat together the eggs and almond milk.
Whisk in the melted ghee or butter.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry.
Cook on a hot griddle as you would ordinary pancakes.
These were a little beany tasting because of the garbanzo fava flour, but after adding butter and melted Shoo Fly Marmalade, I couldn’t taste the flour and thought they were just heavenly!
I am really tired of blogging GAPS food, but there are still recipes I want to post. Though we are technically off the diet, we primarily eat GAPS meals and gluten free so I am always working on creating substitutes for our favorite foods. It is wonderful to have a little more freedom, however. We celebrated a week of being on dairy and lactose tolerant with a special treat last night. Shamrock shakes from McDonalds! I’ve probably waited 20 yrs. for them to bring back their seasonal Shamrock shakes. My kids just had to see what Shamrock shakes are all about. Well I’m sure there was all kinds of naughty in those shakes, but it was wonderful to sip away and not be afraid we were going to send ourselves into a metabolic funk. Life wouldn’t be any fun without splurges and, fortunately, we were able to enjoy this one without any ill effects. This morning it was back to scratch made whole foods.
This is an insanely long post, but I am still determined not to turn my blog into The Diary of a Health Nut. I’m hoping this “review” will help others who are attempting to heal through GAPS, and wanted to get it all journaled in one post. I really appreciated finding recipes and hints when I was doing my research from people who had lived GAPS, especially those first few weeks when I felt like we were in dietary no-man’s land.
Well my gluten free lemon poppy seed cake is almost done baking. I can’t wait to see how it turns out. If it’s nasty, this is the last you’ll ever hear of it. 😉