Our Family on GAPS: What We’re Doing, What We’ve Done


My Children eating a simple GAPS lunch of beef patties, clementines, and homemade pickles

Judging by the amount of emails asking, I take it that my readers are curious about what we’re doing on GAPS right now and what we’ve done over the past year of this GAPS journey.  I’m going to try to answer all the common questions I get about GAPS.

How did we start GAPS?

To be honest (I don’t really have the ability to not be honest- what you see is what you get here!) I was adamantly avoiding GAPS for about 3-4 months after I learned that it could help my child.  “Too low carb,” I thought. “That is ridiculous! No grains? Who does that to a toddler?”.  So first we tried GFCF (gluten free and casein free), she was already mostly dairy free because she got congested with milk (even raw milk).

With GFCF we saw huge huge improvement within 48 hours.  My child suddenly made eye contact, had the ability to learn, was interacting socially, and had very much improved with her balance.  But sadly after about a week she started regressing, fairly quickly.  I knew that GAPS was the next step, and encouraged by the initial results we got with dietary intervention, I was ready to start.

We started GAPS with the introduction diet (starting with chicken stock and boiled meat and vegetables and slowly adding in more advanced foods like cooked peeled fruit, eggs, then raw pureed fruits and veggies, baked and fried meats, nuts, and cultured dairy) and progressed through the steps, waiting to make sure new foods did not bring on a reaction.  She was stuck on cooked veggies and fruit for a few months, which baffled me because I thought she was digesting those fine prior to GAPS.  Her symptoms for not tolerating a food was usually night terrors, but it seems that everyone is different in this area.

I did the GAPS intro with her, I like to try out any ‘experiment’ I do on my child myself to make sure it’s okay. I felt great on the diet, so I didn’t worry about having her on it.  I was able to progress through the stages much more quickly than she was, and I healed my dairy allergy in the process in only 2 months.  My breastfeeding son (11 months at this time) also went through the diet with us, and his babyhood eczema hasn’t been seen again since we went on GAPS.
Chicken Pancakes, Kraut

What about dairy?

On ‘Full GAPS’ (the diet after intro is called full GAPS, some people only do this part of the diet and still see great success) cultured dairy is allowed. This includes 24-hour yogurt, hard cheeses and butter.  After healing our initial dairy allergy (my daughter’s went away quickly too, but I was nervous about trying dairy with her so I waited about 4-5 months) we did introduce butter, yogurt, kefir, and cheese, and we were excited about it!  We kept them in for about 6 months and then as a trial I took both kids back off dairy and they started sleeping better,

How long until you saw a difference?

As I noted above, just by reducing gluten and casein we saw a huge difference in my daughter with autism.  But then she regressed. She stopped regressing within a few days of being on GAPS. For the rest of our family we see a difference within 3-5 days.

Is GAPS safe while pregnant or breastfeeding?

GAPS is a very healthy ‘clean’ diet and I feel like it would be a great pregnancy diet!  I would just do what’s called ‘full gaps’ and take it really slow introducing probiotics.  The intro (as opposed to full gaps) is a little to restrictive for what I’m comfortable doing while pregnant or breastfeeding, but that’s a decision you have to make for yourself.  By delaying things that trigger die offs (coconut oil, probiotic, fermented foods, limiting carbs) you can lessen the impact it would have on your baby in utero or nursling.  As with everything on this site, this is not medical advice, please consult with your healthcare provider before making any dietary changes, especially in pregnancy.

My child’s doctor wants them on GAPS, but I’m still breastfeeding.  Do I need to go on it too?

Yes, the proteins (and possibly carbohydrates- I’m not sure on this one) will go through your gut, into your bloodstream and into your milk.

How long are you going to stay on GAPS? How long do you have to stay on GAPS? Is it something permanent?

I don’t stay on GAPS all the time, though I do keep my ASD child on it at all times.  I anticipate that she will be on it for at least another two years (she has been on it for over a year now).  The goal of GAPS is to heal the gut, and once the gut is healed non-GAPS food will be tolerated.  In my case, I saw this as my milk allergy went away even when I was off of GAPS for months.

Grain Free CrackersMy child essentially lives on crackers and processed foods; they will not eat any of the SCD/GAPS foods on the list. Now what?

I understand! The Pecanbread Site has a really good article on picky eaters and SCD (SCD is what GAPS is based on)

Both my children started eating everything within a few days of being on SCD/GAPS. If there is *anything* that they will eat to keep their calories up enough (applesauce? squash fries? avocado?) then you might just try it for a week and see how it goes. Kids who need SCD/GAPS often have sensory problems, and they can actually refuse food to the point of harming themselves, so I don’t recommend the “they’ll eat if they get hungry enough” approach that others do, but I think that SCD can help with picky eating :)

How much does it cost to be on GAPS?

By eliminating grains and potatoes, GAPS often is a more expensive diet.  It can be less expensive by finding local sources of grassfed beef, using lentils and beans, and eating more seasonally.  When our whole family is on GAPS our grocery bill stays the same, as we are eliminating any junk food impulse buys.  But if you already are down to bare bones with no impulse buys and eating whole grains, your grocery bill will go up, as meat and vegetables are more expensive than grains.  This will also depend on how much organic you buy, if you are shopping around, how much you pay for milk, meat, and eggs, and whether you eat more meat or more beans and lentils.

I have 4 kids and they typically eat a LOT of food. I’m prepping for GAPS intro right now and am wondering if I should expect their food intake go down somewhat once we’re into full GAPS and they are able to utilize more of the nutrients in their food, or should I expect to have to double all your recipes?

Children often are very hungry for the first 6-8 weeks on the diet; my toddler ate as much as I did the first 6 weeks or so she was on the diet.  Her appetite has since calmed down, she is still a great eater but can now go hours between meals rather than requiring constant huge meals and snacks.  Yes, the food is more nutrient dense, and children are often less picky while on GAPS/SCD so less food gets wasted.  A common day for my 4-year-old is 2-3 eggs, scrambled + a piece of fruit for breakfast, 3-5 grain free crackers or half a grain free muffin for snack, a palm-sized (her palm size) meat patty + a serving of lactofermented vegetables (1 small pickle, 1/4 cup of sauerkraut) and another piece of fruit for lunch, a handful (her hand size) of nuts and dried fruit as an afternoon snack, two servings of meat (palm sized) + 1/2 cup cooked veggies + 1/2 cup squash fries (cooked in coconut oil) for dinner.

The Grain Free Meal Plan serves 4, and yes, I would expect to have to double most recipes for your crew. You could experiment with doubling the main dish and keeping the sides and snacks the same if you wanted.

Can you lose weight on GAPS?

Yes! I personally have found GAPS to be ‘weight norming’ – ie my children gain steadily (as they should!) while on GAPS while I lose to a certain amount and then hold there.  For me that is about 135 pounds at 5’8″, which is a healthy weight for me.  I personally do not watch my carb intake at all; I easily will eat 4-5 pieces of fruit + honey as a sweetener as often as I desire on GAPS and I still lose weight to a certain point.  Along these lines, I have had issues with hypoglycemia my whole life, and that is never an issue on GAPS, even without limiting my carbs.

Are you going to come out with a dairy/egg/egg white/coconut/nut free version of the Grain Free Meal Plan?

As I mentioned above, I have recently put my children back on a dairy free trial of GAPS (we still use ghee), so I have had a chance to expand my dairy free recipes greatly.  Starting in March at least 75% of the recipes in the Grain Free Meal Plan will have a dairy free options, though I am still including options for using cultured dairy for those who can.  As far as other allergens go, I will see what I can do, but I do not have much experience cooking without eggs, nuts, coconut, or other allergens so it will take me more time to get recipes that work.

Click Here For More Info on Grain Free Meal Plans

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  1. Wow- alot of info! Thanks!

  2. Thanks for the great info. We are on Day 6 of GAPS and doing pretty well – except for the fact that my three year old HATES broth. I have to bribe her to drink the tiniest bit with every meal. She would have stared herself during the intro if I didn’t spoon feed and bribe her every meal. I hope this changes soon…

    • I bet it will change :) My kids have gone through broth phases, and sometimes only drank it from sips out of my mug. Lately at every meal my toddler exclaims ‘want soup!’ and he’ll happily eat a big bowl full :)

  3. Hi Cara. Reading this story left me with one question…

    How do YOU have the conviction it takes to keep your daughter on GAPS for so long? 1 year seems like forever in child years, and 3 even more! I really look up to you for what seems to be a “just do it” attitude.

    My daughter did GAPS/SCD for 6 months last year and it cleared up her eczema, chronic diarrhea, and a few food allergies. Over Christmas break we traveled out of the country and had to change her diet to a traditional diet. Except for the diarrhea, all her other symptoms are back now. I have been procrastinating putting her back on the diet for 3-4 weeks now. It was so much work for me to plan different meal plans for the family and then for her it was much more expensive on the grocery budget, and for that whole 6 months I had to feed her the broth with a syringe (saying it was her medicine) because she refuses to eat it on her own! Also she has yeast pretty bad, so we had to limit fruit, yogurt, probiotics real slow, etc. Thinking about all of this is making my eye twitch again! Ha. It’s been a nice break eating fruit and sourdough bread and cheese, but these symptoms are only getting worse.

    Thanks for reading Cara, I know you are busy because this is a great blog and you have great menus, too! Best Wishes.

    • Hi Michelle,

      How do I have the conviction- I’ll be honest, my daughter with ASD literally ‘checks out; (loses eye contact) and only sleeps in 3-4 hour stretches when she’s not on GAPS/SCD. So it’s largely self preservation!

      I will be honest, we don’t do the entire protocol all the time, I don’t stress the broth in the summertime and I don’t juice often in the wintertime. But we do stay off ‘illegal’ foods year around.

      Best wishes to you as well :)

  4. stories over tea says:

    Wow, you really are dedicated. I think I read an article in the NY Times before related to this…not sure.
    I am not on GAPS or anything. But I’m quite heavy in the animal department. I do feel some guilt actually. Every day I might have 3+ whole eggs, and 2 servings of 4-5 oz of some meat or chicken or fish; plus I’ll have maybe 2-3 servings of different dairy products. I’m also really heavy on fats (lots of oils, avocados, nuts).
    Potatoes and squash are also daily.
    I wonder what is too much. Like 3+ whole eggs every day. Meat at every meal. Dairy at every occasion, etc.
    You must devote yourself to this stuff. Amazing!

  5. Thanks for the info! I signed up for the Grain Free sample menu but since we’re dairy free, I’m holding off for now. Would be more interested with the dairy free options, so that’s great to hear. DH also eats nothing that raises his blood sugar (so no fruit, beans, starch) AND we have an almond allergy here (!!) so that throws a further wrench into the plan of utilizing pre-made meal plans.

    • Hi Kristi,
      I’ll have a new sample up in March with my dairy free substitutions in it that you can take a look at :)

  6. Amazing post. I like to read about what others experience with the diet. Our son had zero response to the gfcf diet. We tried it for his autism but my instincts told me the gi problems he had since one week of age was what we needed to focus on. Three weeks into the SCD he woke up one day and could begin speaking, motor skills were back and noticed other kids. It was something I can’t put into words easily. I am blown away at the connection of the gut and mental/developmental problems. I felt so much better too. People think the diet sounds so intimidating or radical, but when your energy levels drastically improve you’re hooked.

  7. thanks for such an informative, honest post.

    I have been resisting the idea of going on GAPS as I already eat so nourishingly, spend so much time and money, and we don’t have any health issues around here. (4 yr. old, 2 yr. old, and a 6 month old and they’ve eaten in the nourishing traditions style for the most part all their little lives.)

    BUT you mentioned something about night terrors and my mind flashed back to the 8 times I was woken during the night, 3 times because my 2 yr. old daughter seems to sleep in cycles of 3 hours between waking shrieking. I did not realize night terrors were a sign of food sensitivity…I guess I would be willing to try it if it meant I got more sleep at night!?

    Do you know where I could find more info on night terrors, and do you know what spacifically she could be reacting to? All her dairy is either raw or cultured, all the wheat is soaked and she doesn’t get a lot of it…

    Thanks again for putting this out here. You may have changed a desperately tired mommy’s life!

  8. thank you so much, Cara! I appreciate you balanced, gentle advice. I regularly take soaking baths in epsom salts and baking soda – I’ll try it for my daughter now!

  9. About those night terrors…try switching over to goat or sheep dairy. Cow dairy in this country has a huge problem with A1 cows and beta casein. Search “The Devil in Milk”for a full explanation.

    My Australian friend confirmed that A2 milk is sold everywhere. USA doesn’t seem to acknowledge the issue.

    Question: My son improved greatly the first week on GAPS. Personally, I feel the best I’ve ever felt. Anyway, he started to regress terribly. He’s acting like he did before GFCF. He has headaches, fatigue, severe neck pain, forgetful, body pain. Do you think he could be detoxing naturally thus causing regression and horrible symptoms?

    He’s almost 13, very tall, and very angry these days. We’re body brushing, epsom baths and trying to keep things very calm. Any suggestions would greatly be appreciated.

    • Hi Lisa,
      Thank you for the reminder about the A1/A2, we will be switching to goat milk this spring!
      I’m not sure about your son’s symptoms… we’ve gone through regressions before too, but not quite that severe. Dr. Natasha does offer consultations over the phone, she’d be the best person to ask I think http://gapsdiet.com/Support.html

  10. Danielle Hayes says:

    Thanks for giving an example of what your 4-yr-old child eats. Mythree older children, ages 4, 3, and 2, are always hungry! I do feed them what I consider to be enough. I typically eat the same amount as them, and I’m satisfied–I’m still nursing too. Are my children really hungry or just bored? Or could their constant hunger be a sign of some deficiency? We are 3.5 months in on full GAPS (we are waiting to do intro when we move into our new home–I couldn’t manage it with all the showings trying to sell this one, but we should be moved in the next month). We are still dealing with severe eczema, and I know we need to do intro so that I can more accurately monitor food introduction and reactions, but I am afraid we are in this for a tremendously long haul, and I’m going crazy from the constant complaints of hunger and requests for snacks one hour after a meal. HELP!

    • Usually the hunger slows down after 6 or 8 weeks. I limit my kids to eating every 2 hours, and if they get up from the table or start playing they’re done until the next 2 hours. That helps cut down on the feeling that all I’m doing all day is monitoring food and every 2 hours is plenty for any kid in my opinion. :) Yes, I think it’s common for them to eat a lot, mine eat about the same as I do.

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