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Child aggression and diet

You know when your child has issues with aggression.

There will be biting, kicking and hitting.

Not only will this happen within your own family, but also at school and preschool.

And it sucks to be the parent of the biter.  Even if preschool staff can remain tight lipped about the offender, it is likely the child who has been bitten will not!

It is much better to work out the root cause and address it early, before your child gets type-cast as the angry or violent kid.

There are dietary changes you can make to reduce aggression, and that is where you need to start.  If you don’t see the improvements after making dietary changes you can look for deeper underlying causes like infections, but often, just changing the diet is all that is needed.

So what dietary changes can reduce aggression in kids?

Move to a low salicylate diet (or improve tolerance to salicylates!)

Cutting out salicylates is not fun.  Salicylates are found in berries, apples, grapes, tomatoes, almonds, honey, avocado, spinach, rock melon, water melon, dates, herbs and spices.  As you can see from this list, people who have what I would call a very healthy diet would be eating a lot of salicylates.  So if you (and your child!) are banging your head against a brick wall with confusion about why your healthy diet isn’t helping, maybe the issue is salicylates?  The other clues that salicylates are a problem can actually be head-banging, hyperactivity, red cheeks or ears and sleep issues.

Check for amines

Amines are a naturally occurring food chemical which is high in bananas, cheese, chocolate, wine, fermented foods, soy sauce, bone broth and aged meat.  Adults who have an issue with amines will present with migraines, but in kids it can be aggression, irritability, hyperactivity, defiance and headaches.  Again, you might be giving your child fermented foods and bone broth because you heard they are great health foods, but it really does demonstrate that there isn’t one perfect diet for everyone.  It is so important to work with a qualified nutritionist to determine exactly what will work for your child.

Remove glutamates

Glutamates are in vegemite and marmite, which is why I recommend we break up with this Aussie staple and replace it with something less reactive like tahini.  Other ways this chemical will sneak into your child’s diet is through MSG (super nasty flavour enhancer found in processed food and some takeaway food), sauerkraut, bone broth, gelatin, peas, corn and tomatoes.  Glutamates will also cause irritability and aggression, whether they are naturally occurring or artificially added.

These three food chemicals (salicylates, amines and glutamates) are all part of a bigger food chemical group called phenols.  If your child isn’t tolerating these foods well, it is because there is a biochemical pathway in their body called sulfation which isn’t working as well as it should be.  So in the short-term, cutting out the phenols might make your child less aggressive, but my goal when working with families is to restrict the diet for as short a time as is necessary.  In the long term the goal is to improve the pathways in your child’s body so that they don’t react to the phenols.

Cut out soy

There are some studies in monkeys to show that when boy monkeys eat too much soy, it makes them more aggressive and less sociable.  Soy mimics oestrogen in the body, so soy might not be such an important food to cut out for girls, but for boys it can be.  So if your boy was told to cut out dairy, and you put him on soy milk or formula, cut it out and see what happens.  Soy is one of the most common allergens, so even for girls, you can experiment with removing soy.

Don’t buy food with additives

There is no doubt that there are food additives which are associated with aggression in children.  Toddlers who drink juice full of colours and preservatives are more likely to lose their temper than toddlers who don’t.  All children will do better with no additives in their diet.  If you need help getting started on feeding your child food with no additives, join my program Create Cool, Calm and Cooperative kids.  It’s full of recipes, and not a single additive in sight!  If you aren’t ready to take the additive-free plunge, these are the worst of the bad guys that you need to avoid:

Artificial Colours

  • 102 tartrazine,
  • 104 quinoline yellow,
  • 107 yellow 2G,
  • 110 sunset yellow,
  • 122 azorubine,
  • 123 amaranth,
  • 124 ponceau red,
  • 127 erythrosine,
  • 128 red 2G,
  • 129 allura red,
  • 132 indigotine,
  • 133 brilliant blue,
  • 142 green S,
  • 151 brilliant black,
  • 155 chocolate brown natural colour,
  • 160b annatto

Preservatives

  • Preservatives 200-203 sorbates (in margarine, dips, cakes, fruit products)
  • 210-213 benzoates (in juices, soft drinks, cordials, syrups, medications)
  • 220-228 sulphites (in dried fruit, fruit drinks, sausages, and many others)
  • 280-283 propionates (in bread, crumpets, bakery products)
  • 249-252 nitrates, nitrites (in processed meats like ham)
  • Synthetic antioxidants – in margarines, vegetable oils, fried foods, snacks, biscuits, etc
  • 310-312 Gallates 319-320 TBHQ, BHA, BHT (306-309 are safe alternatives)
  • Flavour enhancers – in flavoured crackers, snacks, takeaways, instant noodles, soups 621 MSG 627, 631, 635 disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, ribonucleotides

Identify allergens

There are allergens that cause an immediate effect on a child, like hives or anaphylaxis.  This will happen within about 30 minute of the child having the problematic food.  These allergies are pretty easy to spot.  Your child eats the food, your child gets a reaction.  There are other food allergies that are a bit more sneaky and they can give a delayed reaction.  So your child could have a tantrum today because of a food they ate yesterday.  That makes it really hard to work out what the problem food is.  I often organise blood tests for children to help parents identify what the problem foods are.  You can book an appointment to organise testing here.  These food allergies are called IgG reactions, and they make your child’s body release inflammatory chemicals call cytokines.  These cytokines will cause inflammation in your child’s gut, brain and lungs, and can make them act aggressively.

Reduce gut pain

A child with a constant pain in the belly will not be happy, and in some kids this might make them act aggressively.  I often get children in clinic who have complained of tummy pain as long as they have been able to talk.  Either by taking a really good diet history, or by doing a blood test, I can pinpoint the problem foods and remove them.  And as if by magic, the child isn’t cranky or in pain anymore! Of course, it isn’t always going to be just one or two problem foods, sometimes more intense gut healing is required, like doing the GAPS diet.  Ultimately, your child should not live with gut pain.

And one last thing….

Electromagnetic fields – if you child is aggressive and has trouble sleeping, remove all electrical devices from their bedroom at night and see what happens.  If they have an electrical device on the other side of the wall from their bed, move their bed.  Some sensitive children need to have their exposure to EMFs seriously curtailed for optimum health.

My online program will help ease the transition for your family to a diet and lifestyle that will reduce aggressive behaviour, get started today!

Gut busting soup

This soup not only tastes great, warms and nourishes but is also full of ingredients to keep your gut health in check and to keep the bad bugs at bay!

Spices have been valued through the ages, partly because they taste great, and partly because their medicinal properties were valued.

This soup contains cloves and star anise as the main spices.

  • Cloves contain a compound called Eugenol, which has many properties including anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and good for eliminating intestinal worms.
  • Star anise is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal and can be helpful in fighting the flu.
  • By boiling the whole chicken, you are getting all the gut building, immune boosting nutrients from the chicken.
  • The onions and garlic are full of prebiotic fibre, which feed the good bacteria in your gut.
  • Carrots have traditionally been used to get rid of intestinal worms by killing the eggs!

So this soup is really using food as medicine!

Ingredients

1 whole organic chicken

3 star anise

6 cloves

2 onions – finely shredded

2cm piece of fresh garlic, sliced

2 large cloves of garlic, sliced

3 zucchini – spiralised

4 carrots – julienned

1 celery (leaves removed) finely chopped

Method

Put chicken in slow cooker and fill with water.

Add the star anise, cloves, garlic, onion and ginger.

Cook on HIGH for 3.5 hours

Carefully remove the chicken into a pyrex dish

Add the celery, carrots and zucchini into the slow cooker and put the lid on.

Cook on HIGH for 20-30 min.

Served the veggies and broth, topped with some of the shredded chicken.

What should I eat on GAPS?

What should I eat on GAPS?

GAPS is a gut healing protocol.

The introduction stage of the diet is based on 3 main categories of food:

  1. Stocks and soups made from meat or fish, with vegetables
  2. Probiotic foods like sauerkraut juice, kefir, sauerkraut and 24 hour yoghurt
  3. Fats

The stocks are made by boiling joints of meat, with the bone and cartilage etc for a reasonably short amount of time.  Vegetables are added to the pot during cooking.  The meat is then taken off the bone and eaten with the stock and the well cooked vegetables.

The stock, meat and vegetables can be eaten as a casserole, or blended to make more of a soup.

You can use meat from any animal, but it has to be mostly from around a joint.  Example include lamb shanks, osso bucco or chicken drumsticks.  We included kid (goat), when we did GAPS, as it was a way to increase diversity in our diet.

Organ meats are a very concentrated source of nutrition, and you can include these in your soups and casseroles.  If your children are not used to eating these, add small amounts so they don’t notice.

The vegetables that you eat in the early stages should be well cooked and peeled, with tough stalks removed.  So peel the carrots and the zucchini, and compost the thick stalk of broccoli.  Potatoes, sweet potatoes and parsnip are not allowed on any part of the GAPS diet.  Make sure to include vegetables like onion and garlic as they are prebiotic and help feed the good bacteria.  This is important as the starchy vegetables are removed, which normally act as prebiotic fibre.

Animal fats are used plentifully in the GAPS introduction diet.  Pesticides are concentrated in the fat of animals, so it is really important to choose organic fats.  Tallow, lard, goose fat, duck fat and ghee are all good choices.  You can buy these, or make your own.  When you roast meat in the oven, collect the fat and store in the fridge for cooking, then its free!

Probiotic foods should be consumed several times a day.  The first one to start with is sauerkraut juice, so you don’t have to digest the cabbage.  Then you can introduce sauerkraut, kefir, 24 hour yoghurt, whey, cultured cream and other fermented vegetables.

Choose your water carefully.  Unfiltered water will contain contaminants (things that shouldn’t be there), as well as chemicals which have been intentionally added.  Chlorine is added to the water to disinfect it.  The problem is, if it can kill bacteria in water, it can also kill bacteria in humans.  For this reason you need to filter your water.  A carbon filter is sufficient.  If you own, you can get one plumbed in for convenience.

Organic teas are also allowed, which is nice when you are weaning off coffee.  They should be organic, and stick to ginger tea or chamomile tea.

Honey is the only sweetener that is allowed, so you can add it to some yoghurt or kefir for ‘dessert’.  If you know that your blood sugar is going to be low when you start the diet, mix together some butter and honey and keep it in a little jar, so you can take a spoonful when you need to.  You should only need to do this for a few days.

As you move through the stages of the GAPS introduction diet, you get to gradually introduce other foods, like eggs, avocado, raw vegetables, activated nuts and seeds and eventually fruit!

Why are we doing GAPS as a family?

My health

Although now I eat very well and have a very healthy lifestyle, my gut health has been compromised many times over my life.  My diet as a child was great, a very wholesome and traditional diet.  It was largely meat and three vegetables, and no takeaways.  All treats were homemade, so no preservatives and additives, but still lots of sugar and white flour.  I never missed a day of school, never had to take medicine, and was generally very robust.

The first major assault on my gut health was when I was a teenager.  I developed acne and was put on antibiotics by my local GP.  These were broad spectrum antibiotics and I was on them for years.  Not only did they not fix the acne, but they wiped out my gut flora, leaving me even more susceptible to bacteria which cause acne.  I often wonder why my doctor kept me on them, when they were clearly not working.

The next catastrophe for my gut health is actually a pretty extreme event, not the typical scenario.  While I was at university, I was did a Master’s Degree in Food Microbiology.  I was investigating the effect of high pressure processing on E. Coli bacteria.  As with all bacteria, there are good E. Coli and very, very bad E. Coli.  My project was intended to look as a non-pathogenic strain of E. Coli, one that can’t make you sick.  So I was happily working away in the microbiology lab, taking minimal precautions.  Unfortunately, I had accidently been given a pathogenic strain of E. Coli, called E. Coli O157.  That’s the one that kills people.  So began the stomach cramps and diarrhoea, which then progresses to bloody diarrhoea.  E. Coli O157 is called “enterohaemorrhagic”.  That means it haemorrhages you from the inside out.  So over the course of the next week or so, in isolation in hospital, my entire gut lining went down the toilet.  The hospital bacteriologist came to see me to discuss antibiotics.  As I had been studying the bacteria, I knew that antibiotics would actually make me sicker, as they would split open the bacteria and release toxins into my bloodstream.  So I advocated for my own health and declined the antibiotics.  He later came back to see me, to tell me he had done his research and I was right!

Knowing what I know now, I should have started an intense period of gut healing, with fermented foods, broth and probiotics.  But the 21 year old me went to meet her boyfriend in Tenerife for a week of holidays instead J.

About a year later, I developed an auto-immune condition in my eye, called uvetitis.  I researched and realised that this was probably as a result of my illness.

A few years after that, I took Roaccutane, for my skin that still had acne.  No surprises that acne was still an issue, as acne is so related to gut health.  This is a really strong medication that would have continued me on a downward health spiral.

Through all this, my health was actually really great, other than having regular severe migraines.

About 10 years ago, I developed a bit of a rash on my scalp, which the doctor said was psoriasis.  It was only when I was studying health myself that I found out the sunlight is very helpful for psoriasis.  My scalp got significantly worse in the sun.  So I went for a biopsy which indicated I actually had something called Discoid Lupus, also an autoimmune disease.  I now have a crater and a bald spot on my scalp for ever.  This really shocked me and forced me to get even more serious about my health, and I haven’t had gluten since.

Since doing GAPS, I don’t get migraines any more.  Healing and sealing my gut has stopped my body being so sensitive to hormones and foods.  Sometimes being gluten-free isn’t enough.  You need to remove all grains, as GAPS does.

My daughter’s health

My middle child has congenital heart disease.  When she was born, she was greeted by a roomful of medical staff, who whisked her off to intensive care.  By the time I got to see her she had lots of tubes poking out everywhere.  Over the course of the next few weeks, she had 9 general anaesthetics, diuretics, antibiotics, morphine, paralysis drugs and probably more.  For the first week she was fed via a central line into her neck with total parenteral nutrition.  All this had a very negative impact on her gut health.  Luckily, I breastfed her from about day 16 onwards which would have helped, but a lot of damage was already done.  On the plus side, she was alive, and without all that medical intervention, she wouldn’t have survived.

I recently did a poo test on her which showed the diversity of bacteria species in her gut was poor. She was also lacking some of the bacteria which are really important for regulating emotions and controlling anxiety.  Her gut was crying out for healing.  When we started on the GAPS introduction diet, she was doing a wee every 20 minutes or so as her kidneys desperately tried to flush out the toxins that were being released into her bloodstream.

Nearly dying by inhaling a pathogenic E. Coli and having congenital heart disease are quite dramatic examples of why you might need gut healing.  For most people, the stories are much more subtle.  Caesarean births and recurrent ear infections are the scenarios that crop up more regularly.  The consequences on gut health can still be devastating, and the need for gut healing just as strong.

 

How to prepare to do the GAPS introduction diet

When I was starting the GAPS introduction diet with my children, I spent a few months preparing.  However, in the last minute stress of the situation, I forgot to wean myself off coffee!

Here are my tips to help you prepare effectively!

  1. It is essential to read the “Gut And Psychology Syndrome” book by Dr Natasha Campbell McBride. It would be unwise to start the GAPS diet without reading the book.  It is not a light read however, so allow yourself some time to do this.  Break it down in chunks and read a small bit at a time, to make sure you fully understand it.

 

  1. If you are on a standard Australian diet (a SAD diet), make the transition to a whole foods diet first. Move away from takeaways and processed food, and on to a diet with good quality meat and vegetables.  This will make the transition to GAPS easier, and makes it easy for your body to deal with physically.

 

  1. Set a date to start. The date might be a year away or a month away, but you should plan towards it.  Things you might want to achieve between now and starting might include: getting you partner involved, learning how to make fermented food, cleaning up your pantry and reducing takeaways.  It is easier to start introduction with kids at the start of the school holidays.  You don’t have to worry as much about packing soup in their lunch box, or peer pressure from their friends.  It also makes it easy to win them over with rewards, like going horse riding, some surfing lessons or just a day at the beach.

 

  1. It can be really worthwhile getting a GAPS coach early on as you transition. They will help you understand your physical symptoms and guide you on foods and supplements.  They also motivate and encourage you to keep going.

 

  1. Buy a few recipe books. My favourites are “The Heal your Gut cookbook” by Hilary Boynton and Mary G Bracket, and “Life Changing Food” by Jo Whitton and Fouad Kassab.  These books explain how to make the ferments, soups and casseroles.  The first book talks you through each stage in detail.

 

  1. Make some sauerkraut juice. You can buy sauerkraut if you don’t want to make it yourself, just buy an unpasteurised brand.  It is hard to buy plain sauerkraut juice, and it gets extremely expensive to buy sauerkraut just for the juice.  So about a month before you start, make some sauerkraut juice so you have it available to add to every bowl of soup.  I made a video to explain how to make it http://holistichealthbylisamoane.com.au/sauerkraut-juice/.

 

  1. Work out your best source of grass fed or organic meat. It is cheaper to buy meat in bulk, and keep in the freezer.  Do some research and find out who delivers in your area, and have a chat to them about their farming practices.  Ask if they sell any packs which contain a lot of the joints of meat, like lamb shanks and lamb necks.  If they supply offal too, that it good, as it can be hard to source organic offal.

 

  1. Detox your home. If you use a lot of cosmetics and cleaning products, it is time to evaluate if you really need them.  Moving to more natural packaged alternatives can be expensive, so you might want to cut out a lot of things entirely.  Most cleaning products can be replaced with vinegar, bicarb soda and some essential oils.  Washing your child’s hair with a fragranced shampoo every day is also not necessary.  A wash every week or so with a plain unfragranced shampoo is fine.  Children don’t need any other products, unless they have eczema when they might need an emollient.

 

  1. Buy a water filter. The water filter you choose depends on budget and whether you rent.  If you can plumb in a water filter, a carbon filter is sufficient.  You don’t need to buy a reverse osmosis filter for GAPS.  It is also a good idea to put filters on the bath and shower so you don’t rinse in chlorine.  A whole house filter might seem like a good idea, but they are very expensive, and your water might be getting contaminated by the pipes inside your house.

 

  1. Meal planning. Familiarise yourself with what you can eat at each stage, and plan some meals you think your family will enjoy.  Get your kids involved in the meal planning and recipes, to give them a sense of ownership of the process.

 

  1. Start to reduce coffee and alcohol intake. In introduction diet, there is no coffee or alcohol.  It is wise to start to reduce well in advance, otherwise you will be dealing with coffee withdrawals at the same time as preparing lots of food and dealing with children.

 

Thinking of doing GAPS on a holiday?

I recently spent the school holidays doing the GAPS introduction diet with my children.  We decided to pack up and go on holidays for 2 weeks to make it easier, which worked really well.  It took a while to prepare and pack, so have a read if you are thinking of doing something similar.

Here are some things you will need to pack:

  1. Slow cooker

The slow cooker is invaluable when you are doing the GAPS introduction diet.  Put it on LOW at night time for breakfast, then on HIGH in the morning for lunch.  Then put in on HIGH at lunch time for dinner.  GAPS introduction is all about the soups and stews.  Lots of lamb shanks, chicken drumsticks and osso bucco.

Whatever is left in the slow cooker when everyone has filled their bellies, including the stock, puree it in the Thermomix or food processor to make soup for a snack later on.

  1. Thermal cooker (Thermo-pot)

The Thermo-pot is a great addition to the GAPS introduction diet when you are away from home.  If you want to go out for the day, you put lunch in the Thermo-pot.  At the same time put dinner in the slow cooker on LOW.

Most slow cooker recipes can be adapted for the Thermo-pot.  Lamb shanks, a whole chicken, or chicken drumsticks are ready in the Thermo-pot in 3.5 hours.  You just put everything in the Thermo-pot, bring it to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, everything has reached the right temperature.  Put the inner pot of the Thermo-pot in the outer part of the Thermo-pot, lock the lid and put it in the boot of your car.  Come lunchtime, food is ready!  Even if you aren’t doing GAPS, I think this is a great way to eat when you are on holidays and avoid fast food and poor food choices.

  1. Probiotics & Cod Liver oil

You will need a good quality probiotic and cod liver oil for GAPS introduction. The will need to be ordered from a practitioner before you leave.  Probiotics are critical to the success of GAPS, so pack enough for your entire trip, so you don’t get caught out in a small town without a practitioner.

  1. Sauerkraut juice

In the early stages of GAPS, the sauerkraut juice is consumed, not sauerkraut.  This takes a few weeks to ferment, so plan ahead and make it before you leave.  Not sure how to do this?  Check out my video: http://holistichealthbylisamoane.com.au/sauerkraut-juice/.  Make enough for each person to have at least a quarter of a cup per day for Stage 1 and 2.

  1. 24 hour yoghurt / kefir / cultured cream

Familiarise yourself with how to make these before you go.  It is a good idea to make some yoghurt and cultured cream before you go, as it takes 24 hours to incubate.  Get to know what facilities you will have when you are away.  If your accommodation doesn’t allow you access to an electric oven, you may want to invest in a yoghurt maker to take with you.  Bring your kefir grains, and source organic milk along the way.  Travelling is a great opportunity to visit local farmers markets or even visit farms and buy milk directly from them.  All you need to make your kefir is 2 big glass jars, something to scoop out the grains after fermentation, kefir grains and milk.

  1. Thermomix

I definitely found my Thermomix invaluable for GAPS introduction.  As well as blending up the left overs from the slow cooker to make soup for snacks, I also made soup using chicken stock and vegetables.  Children especially can be fussy about the texture of soup, and the Thermomix give such a smooth, almost creamy texture.  I also used it to add honey and probiotics to kefir.

7.  Enema Kit

Enema’s are very useful in GAPS, especially if you are prone to constipation.  If you feel comfortable with the idea, learn how to do an enema and pack the kit with you when you go.  If you know the accommodation set up will not be conducive to this, you can research if there is anywhere to go for a colonic irrigation instead along the way.

8. Kitchen essentials

I bring my knives with me on holidays, as I get easily frustrated with a blunt knife!  Other kitchen essentials you might want to bring include: garlic press, potato peeler, a ladle, a slotted spoon, mason jars for storing leftovers, soup spoons.

  1. Epsom salts

These are great for detox baths, but many places to stay don’t have a bath.  Bring them along if you know you have a bath, otherwise lots of sunshine, fresh air and ocean swimming are really helpful for detoxing.

  1. Picnic set & Thermos

Buy a good quality picnic set made from either enamel or stainless steel, not plastic.  When you are having lunch out and about, you will need bowls and cups for your soup and stews.  It is also the time to dig out your thermos flask.  You will probably need a couple of these to keep soups warm.

Sauerkraut juice

In the early stages of the GAPS gut healing protocol, your body goes through some intense healing.

Food choices are restricted, and early in the introduction stage, even sauerkraut isn’t allowed.  Instead, only the juice of the sauerkraut is allowed.

If you are doing GAPS as a family, you will need to make this juice, rather than just taking the liquid from the sauerkraut jar.  Otherwise you will soon run out.

Sauerkraut juice is also really good for reflux and heartburn.  Just have a glass every morning.

To make the sauerkraut juice, you will need:

1 large head of organic cabbage

6 tablespoons celtic sea sald

Filtered water

Sterilised jars (I sterilise for 20 minutes in the oven at 180C, the lids should be sterilised too, not screwed on)

For fermentation, always choose organic vegetables.  You need the native microflora on the vegetables for a ‘wild fermentation’.  Vegetables that have been sprayed with pesticides will have a very different microflora.  Organic vegetables are also higher in nutrients.

Using a food processor, chop the cabbage very finely.  The more finely it is chopped, the large the surface area of the cabbage, the quicker the fermentation.

Put the finely chopped cabbage in a large bowl, and add 6 tablespoons of celtic sea salt.  Mix the salt and cabbage mixture very well.

Leave the mixture to sit for at least 20 minutes, up to a few hours.  After this time, the water will be drawn out of the cabbage and the cabbage will be limp.

Fill the sterilised jars one third of the way up.  Fill to the top with filtered water.  Filtered water has the chlorine removed.  Chlorine is added to water to kill bacteria.  In fermentation, chlorine would kill the bacteria you are trying to grow.

Screw on the lids and leave in a cool dark place for about 2 weeks.  Make sure the lids are tightly screwed on so mould can’t grow.

If you know you react badly to histamines, leave the juice to ferment for a much longer time.

When it is fermented, put the jars in the fridge and drink as required.

Enjoy!

 

The GAPS diet

What is the GAPS diet good for?

GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology syndrome or Gut and Physiology syndrome.

GAPS is a healing diet

The diet was developed by a Neurologist called Dr Natasha Campbell McBride.

When her son developed severe autism, she delved into the research to try to understand why he was autistic and how she could help.  From this experience, she developed the GAPS diet.

GAPS is based on another diet called the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD) which has been used successfully to treat conditions such as Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis for many years.

The GAPS diet revolves around the fact that poor gut health leads to many chronic health conditions.  In children, this can be issues such as autism, ADHD / ADD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, learning difficulties, epilepsy, digestive disorders, autoimmune disorders, food allergies and eczema.

There are 2 phases in the diet.  There is the Introduction phase of the diet, and the “Full” GAPS diet.

The introduction phase moves through 6 stages, designed to rebuild the integrity of the gut wall, and repopulate the gut with beneficial bacteria.

The focus is on fermented foods, bone stocks and broths, lots of fat, non-starch vegetables and gelatinous meat.

As you would expect on any diet, there are no processed foods or fast foods.

How long it takes to get through the 6 stages depends on how severe your symptoms are to start off with.  It could be anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months.

Once you move through the 6 stages of the introduction diet, you move on to the full GAPS diet.  This will be your eating protocol for about 1.5 to 2 years.  It is more flexible, but the focus is still on whole foods.

Meals are generally eggs, meat, fish and vegetable with lots of broth!

GAPS also has a big focus on detoxing your entire life.  This includes juicing, safe sun exposure, Epsom salt baths, cutting out perfumed and fragranced personal care product, and generally following a healthy lifestyle.

Sounds pretty restrictive?

Yes, there’s no doubt that GAPS is a big departure from the standard Australian diet.  But let’s not forget that the standard Australian diet is making us sick.  Levels of food allergies, autism and auto-immunity have skyrocketed in the last decade.

Why would I do the GAPS diet?

You might look at doing the GAPs diet if you child has a behavioural diagnosis or allergy that conventional medicine can’t help.

Or perhaps you suspect your child has compromised gut health because of antibiotic overuse.

Or maybe you would prefer not to medicate your child.

Autism requires lots of specialist therapies, such as occupational therapy and speech therapy.  The GAPS protocol works alongside these to restore your child gut and help the therapies be more effective.

What happens after the GAPS diet?

Once you or your child have healed enough to come off the diet, you can start the gradual introduction of properly prepared grains and starchy vegetables.  Of course I would never recommend you jump back into the standard Australian diet, as it is not healthy for anyone.  But the good news is that if you have restricted your child’s diet because of food allergies or intolerances, you should be able to reintroduce some of these foods. 

So a couple of years of restrictive eating and intense gut healing will allow a wider range of foods to be eaten long term.

Where do I start?

Deciding to go on the GAPS diet can be overwhelming.

For that reason, you are recommended to speak with a Certified GAPS practitioner, like me.  I offer a 3 month coaching package to hold your hand as you transition your family.  If you are interested in finding out more about GAPS and whether it is right for your family, book in for a free 20 min chat and I can answer any questions you might have.

“GAPS™ and Gut and Psychology Syndrome™ are the trademark and copyright of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride.  The right of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Patent and Designs Act 1988”.