Category Archives: SCD – GAPS Diet

GAPS Diet 3-years anniversary

It’s hard for me to believe James has been grain-free for three years!

Most of the first two years were in Congo. People here in the US often wonder, “How could you do such a limited diet in rural Africa?” But I found the farmer’s market (huge likelihood that produce was organic), local grass-fed beef and help in the kitchen truly a blessing. I think the abundance of options is a bit overwhelming here in our world of Whole Foods, co-ops, online orders, etc. Farmers and butchers are few and far between – at least in cities! When I first entered my trusty old friend of a grocery store to realize there were maybe 3 items edible for James – it almost made me panic. I had been looking forward to clean long aisles full of food options, (pushing a shopping cart!), but this heavenly experience was soiled by the realization that there weren’t ‘food options’ in the average grocery store anymore.

Taking our family on the road also provided challenges. Gas-station snacks? Not really. Fast food? Nope. We found a high end steakhouse for a fancy family meal. I called their chef ahead of time. Do you have any grass-fed beef? Nope. Any pastured or organic chicken? Nope. Wild-caught seafood? Nope. So you don’t have any meat whatsoever that has not been fed corn & soy? Nope. What oil do you fry in? Soybean oil. ARGH! To their enormous credit, they were willing to let us bring in a raw grass-fed steak from Whole Foods and prepare it special in 100% butter for the special meal. Food is just way more processed and commercial than I ever imagined. It slightly helps that so many others are dealing with allergies too.

James is doing amazing. He grew an inch last week! His feet are officially bigger than mine. This year I have kept him full GAPS and added more dairy and he has been tolerating it for the first time in 2 years! He now does well on ghee, butter, kefir, yogurt, raw sour cream, parmasean, gruyere, comte. The occasional illegal treat of raw whipped cream or raw whole milk doesn’t seem to bother him either! No eczema, no chronic illness, no toileting issues, no emotional meltdowns, and lots of gaining ground! We were able recently to return to that steakhouse and order one of their grain-fed steaks (cooked in butter!) without reaction!

In GAPS, as people heal, they often see retracing patterns. Your body is working backward through the healing it wanted to do in the past. So issues that came up recently were dealt with first and issues that had been under the surface from the start are the last to heal. We saw retracing in four of us. James’ regression journey began with a chronic UTI and bad case of giardia. His giardia had been popping up every few months even on GAPS. Initially we would continue to treat with the recommended tinidazole antibiotic. After a while, kefir and garlic seemed to make it go back into remission after a few ‘windy’ days. And the giardia seemed to resurface less and less often. So when it seemed to come back (around a full moon, which is normal for parasites) in February, we began a regime of diatomaceous earth in water (a very inexpensive and gentle parasite/yeast cleanse) before dinner each day. I figured we all might have a few extra stow-aways after so many years in Africa. Within a week his giardia symptoms were gone and within a month he no longer had the bloated tummy that goes with it. We continued for several months. Initially he would feel something around a full moon, but now, 4 months later, we just had a ‘super moon’ and noticed nothing! Hooray for DE!

I feel like that was one huge last ‘frontier’ for James’ gut. He had to find a way to kill off the last of the parasites and keep things in balance. Healing that his body wanted to do when he turned three… We’ll have to see what time tells us, but we may have fought the ‘last battle’!

We had a great conversation last week:

MOM: James, is that eczema on your leg?
James: What’s eczema?
MOM: You know, the itchy spots you had when you were little?! (age 6 mos – 8 years)
James: Nope. No idea what you’re talking about.

(it turned out to be a few mosquito bites)
I’m so thankful he doesn’t even remember nights when he couldn’t sleep for the itching.

James is headed for the teens quickly, growing like a weed, and becoming a wonderful young man. He is doing really well in math, still loves architecture and engineering, and Suzuki piano instruction. He still has an amazing capacity for patterns and in 6 months of piano instruction can play about 12 songs in almost any key you name. He has recently discovered a love of clay and molding figurines to order. He has finished Occupational Therapy for gross motor delays and has one reflex still not integrated. He has enjoyed playing baseball and soccer this spring. The biggest thing James accomplished this year was a week away from family at Summer Camp! He had to bring a cooler of food along, but he had a blast intertubing on the lake, ziplining through the forest and diving in the pool! Such a far cry from the 8yo who couldn’t make it through an hour with peers on his own…

My guess is that James will benefit from continuing GAPS foods for the majority of his diet, but that he won’t be limited strictly for too much longer. The only hesitation from moving on now is that for some kids (like myself) hormone levels and detox can get messy ages 12-14. We’ll have to navigate it one day at a time. So thankful for the wisdom of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride and GAPS!

GAPS Diet Anniversary

We spent our GAPS-Diet anniversary on vacation at the beach. Somehow it is hard to believe we have been grain-free for a whole year! The following is an abridged version of our one-year overview. Go here to the ‘Our Diet’ tab for the whole enchilada. Or if you have lots of time to read, go here for all our GAPS-SCD links.

We originally started GAPS for the health of James and I, but the other three have seen benefits too. Kent, Joel and Anna were never feeling sick, but they are healthier and stronger now for having gone through GAPS. In June, the three of them added potatoes back in without any trouble, so they are officially coming off GAPS gradually. Next will be sweet potatoes, fermented millet porridge, sourdough and eventually rice and sprouted grains (maybe by Christmas?!).

In the past 6 months, I have been able to discontinue blood pressure medication and daily antihistamines. For the past 20 years I have taken daily antihistamines to control my running nose. These are no longer necessary.

As a primary schoolteacher with a weak immune system, I was prone to getting colds and developing secondary infections every time. If only I had a dollar for everytime I was diagnosed with sinusitis or bronchitis (or both)! My second year teaching I think I took 12 different courses of antibiotics. I was on antibiotics more than half of that year! Ten years later, our GAPS journey has changed all that completely!

During our 2nd month on GAPS, I got a cold I couldn’t kick. As usual, it turned into bronchitis, and I took antibiotics as usual. The 5th month on GAPS, I got a cold and was able to fight it off a few days later without getting infected! (This had probably happened twice in my living memory.) The 9th month on GAPS I got a cold, but fought it off within 48 hrs. The 11th month on GAPS we traveled internationally (gets me every time!) and as expected, I got bronchitis a few days later. I doused myself in bone broth and slept lots. I upped my doses of probiotics and FCLO (fermented cod liver oil – in capsules!). And 8-10 days later it was gone! Finally I don’t have to be envious of people with an immune system!

The biggest gains in James’ healing happened in the first 4 mos. on GAPS. But the more subtle changes we see a year later are just as significant. He has very few Asperger’s meltdowns – maybe 1-2/mo. where they were daily or more often than that a year ago. He regained all his auditory processing in the first 2 mos. His allergies seem gone. He hasn’t needed antibiotics of any kind in 14 months. His sensory processing troubles with tactile under-responsiveness are gone, fading gradually over the past year. They have left in their wake a few gross motor issues we can now address (basically re-learning to keep your balance when you’ve been mostly numb for 4-5 yrs or longer). The last pieces of tactile numbness have faded in the past month or two.

This week we’re preparing for another homeschool year. I found myself taking down the labels on his workboxes. I made them in desperation, searching for answers, 3 years ago. We haven’t needed that familiar structure and routine for months. A wave of nostalgia hit me like I was putting away the last of the baby’s pacifiers. My baby (10-yr-old baby) has outgrown his Asperger’s supports. Whether we technically still qualify for a diagnosis is really not important. James is feeling and doing great! The bulk of the work we have left to do is in social skills and organizational skills, but I can’t think of too many 10-yr-old boys who have mastered both of those already…

We are so thankful for the healing protocol of the GAPS Diet (and for SCD too!). They have served us well. I am a bit nervous about re-introducing starches and sugars, but we’ll get there as they say in Swahili: “pole-pole” (step by step, or slowly, carefully).

GAPS Intro. Round Two

We are quickly approaching our One-year mark for beginning the GAPS diet. More details of that history are above on the ‘Our Diet’ tab. For months we have felt healthy, strong and stable. There have been minor skin things here and there (we DO live in Congo), but no illness per say.

I have mapped out our next steps or the ‘GAPS Exit Strategy’ as I call it. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride suggests maintaining the diet until you have been feeling good, normal, strong, etc. for at least 6 months. I feel we hit that mark about 6 mos. ago and are nearly at the end of the benefits we can get from GAPS. We worked our way up to high doses of probiotics. And have already worked our way to a normal maintenance dose recently.

So, per her recommendations, we will begin slowly re-incorporating into our menus boiled new potatoes. Then soaked, sprouted, sourdoughs of gluten-free grains. Typically quinoa, buckwheat and millet are good places to start. Sadly, millet is the least tasty and the only one locally available. No buckwheat-farmers in East Africa…

We already eat all vegetables and fruits, meats, nuts and eggs without trouble. James tolerates butter and homemade yogurt well. We have not ventured as far as cheese quite yet. His progress may be different than the rest of us, but I hope our paths don’t need to diverge too much.

I have had some mild tree nut reactions (tingling – no longer the anaphylaxis/run-to-the-hospital) with cashews, but no issues with peanuts or almonds. Cashews and hazelnuts remain on my allergy list, but 5-6 others are OFF! James has had a strange tingling with avocado, so it looks like that one will remain a ‘very occasional’ food. This is more complicated here in Congo where we have 5 trees dropping huge, luscious avocados twice a year. In the US, avoiding avocado will not be difficult for him. Last year he tested positive to some 30 foods. We have yet to challenge all of those, especially the three biggest: wheat, corn, soy.

So the rest of the family is moving forward full speed ahead toward gluten-free sprouted sourdough and potatoes, while James and I still have a few residual things that could use healing. For this reason, I decided it would be beneficial to have the two of us go through GAPS Intro again. There aren’t any major symptoms to clear, we just want a deeper cleanse of our system. So last week I boiled up and froze gallons of bone broth. Monday we hit it hard with soup, soup, soup and tea, tea, tea. We also had wonderful steamed pumpkin. Did I really eat half a small pumpkin?

I am hypothyroid, and have been concerned this time through Intro. that we not go anywhere near ketosis and super low-carb. I have had raw honey in my tea whenever I feel like it and plenty of pumpkin. After only 3 days I’m feeling great! So we’re continuing pretty quickly through the Intro. stages and not really obeying all the rules (like instead of 1 nut butter pancake today, we ate as many as we wanted topped with ghee and raw honey). Maybe I will just declare a soup fast one day of every month. It feels good!

By the end of the week, we will likely be through the Intro. stages and then join the others in trying out potatoes. James will need to try cheese first. Though a couple spots of eczema showed up when we added yogurt. I can’t tell if that is because the yogurt we can make is from nasty dried milk powder or because he really does have issues with dairy. That decision will have to wait until we are back in the US in 6 mos.

James has always had HORRIBLE eczema in Africa. The allergist in the US tested him for all sorts of tropical grasses and the scores were off the charts. Unfortunately, grass in the tropical sun all day pollenates all year round and is airborne. No matter what I plant in the backyard, he would still be constantly reacting. As soon as we return to the US it disappears. The only thing doctors have to look at is all the scar tissue (from the skin on his arms and legs, you’d think he had the chicken pox about 20 times over). But GAPS completely removed his eczema – In. Africa. It just left around Month 3. He got those couple spots back again, but they are now gone too! No amount of cream, aloe, gel, bath salt or anything could solve that itching skin. But changing how he eats did. It allowed his body room to process the airborne allergies without being overloaded by un-digestible foods.

We are keeping the supplements that we’ve seen working, which for James is: magnesium citrate, ProOmega EFAs, 5HTP, fermented cod liver oil (FLCO) and Primal Defense probiotics. If any of those are missed for more than a few days, he feels (and we see) the difference! The rest of us take FCLO and Probiotics – it has made a huge difference in our immune system and overall health. After we get back to the US, we will transition from Probiotics to eating lots of fermented foods. We plan to continue the FLCO and add elderberry for cold/flu season.

There’s where we are for now. Very happy with our progress and hoping the Exit Strategy works out well for everyone. Gonna go make some yummy applesauce!


365 days ago we reluctantly entered Autismland.

365 days ago the specialist looked us in the eyes, and said the words that would echo through our past and future. Like a snapshot it seemed that time stood still.

“qualifies for a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome”

365 days ago we got confirmation of what we suspected (or was it ‘feared’?).

365 days ago marked the beginning of our quest; a quest for knowledge that would require all the strength and energy we could muster.

Like the beginning of a quest to climb Himalayan peaks.

We found maps.

We bought every guidebook.

We read reviews, testimonials and blog after blog.

We sought out testing, doctors, specialists, therapists.

365 days of putting one foot in front of the other.

365 days of climbing one of the highest peaks we ever attempted.

We learned.

We stretched.

We re-learned.

We gained ground.

365 days of just plain hard.

365 days hailing victory after victory.

In this one tiny slice of time, God has shown us in His mercy what is good. He has guided us to truth and restored many things in James’ body.

365 days ago, James had very little auditory processing. Today he has no difficulty whatsoever.

365 days ago, he avoided hugs and eye contact. Today he initiates both daily.

365 days ago, he was itchy with eczema all over. Today it is 95% gone.

365 days ago, he had meltdowns without rigid routines/schedules. Today he is happy to make it up as he goes along.

I cannot list them all. Like the melting of a glacier, these small (nearly invisible) victories have been won inch by inch.

Click HERE to read back over his journey this year.

Dripping, dripping, the obstacles melt away.

I almost forget where they were.

We are praising God today for the hard-won empty spaces.

Empty spaces that allow James to run free!

Overheard at our table…

James on homemade ketchup:

“Wow Mom! This ketchup tastes great!

It tastes so tomato-ey…  I bet this is the ORIGINAL recipe!”

Tomatoes in ketchup?

Happy thought indeed! (to borrow an Elizabeth Bennett phrase)

The next day from a guest…

“These peanut butter bars taste real, like they will put meat on your bones… What flour is in them?”

“No flour.”

“No flour at all? But how do they get so light and fluffy?”


I find it hard not to smile to myself when people are astonished that food tastes REAL. It is real.

Sad to me that real food, whole food, isn’t easy to find… couldn’t we all just move to the French countryside?

And I’m so thankful for farmers and gardeners who work hard to grow and make real food.

Peanut butter bars recipe here.
We skip the cocoa and use raisins for ‘everyday’ cookies.


It’s been a couple months since I shared our diet and progress here. People often ask, “What do you eat?” “How long will you stay on this diet?” “How is James doing now?” I’ve updated ‘Our Diet’ page with details about what is going on – now that our family has been completely grain-free for 6 months. I also listed lots of links of other bloggers posting stellar grain-free recipes. I could not have survived this year without their help!

Here are some of our highlights:

**My allergies to egg, avocado and almond are completely gone (I suspect my reactions to black bean, and milk powder are as well, but I haven’t yet challenged them.), and I can eat them everyday without any reaction at all. My occasional insomnia and heartburn are also completely gone. I’m able to take fewer antihistamines for airborne allergies.

**Our family has only had one cold in 6 mos and none of us needed antibiotics.

**James continues to feel more and more tactile sensation each week. He has regained the ability to hop on one foot easily, and the coordination to run faster than his brother again! He got a trampoline for Christmas and spends time on it everyday.

**His eczema is 95% gone. He has grown 3 inches, lost 12 lbs. and has much more energy.

**He is also much less ‘stuck’ in routine. If we change the schedule for our school day, he doesn’t mind – just goes with the flow (which hasn’t happened for about 6 years!).

**The days of emotional meltdowns are not our ‘normal’ anymore.

There are no words to thank God enough for James’ progress this year! Last night I held him wrapped tightly in a blanket (still loves deep pressure!) next to the Christmas lights.

He began to tear up.

Such a sweet spirit.

He said he was just so happy.

And so sad at the same time.

I asked what the sad part was.

He said, “I’m sad that I didn’t feel this or like [being held] for so many years.”

I think he can see now that he was missing out on the emotional connection that goes with cuddling for most kids. He stopped cuddling around age 3 – he didn’t like to be touched. He grieves that now 6 yrs later, which is a healthy thing to process.

Looks like we have a few years of cuddling to catch up on!

Recipe #6: Banana Pancakes

Cooking comes naturally to some people. I’m not one of them. When we lived out in the jungle (where it is definitely a WOMAN’s job to cook), people were often puzzled that Kent would help in the cookhouse. We skirted the impropriety by explaining that Kent studied Biochemistry. He was just doing chemistry!

As newlyweds, I was in the informal-learned-from-my-husband school of culinary arts. Lately, I do 90% of the cooking with trusted faithful recipes and we all can smile. But every now and again, Kent likes to get in the kitchen, make a big mess and experiment. Did I say ‘likes’? No, he LOVES to experiment. It must nourish his inner chemist.

My Congolese friends keep reminding me how good I have it. I do love that Kent enjoys cooking. While he tells funny stories about disastrous culinary inventions in college, nearly poisoning his innocent roommates; he rarely makes anything we don’t all eat with joy. I should have given him the credit entirely for adapting Recipe #1: Chocolate Nut Butter Brownies. It was his experimentation that drove us to find something better than we started with. And it is his experimentation I bring you today. The real trouble is that this is all in his head, and not written down. I will attempt to codify this genius:

Recipe #6: Banana Pancakes
This was adapted from Elaine Gottschall’s Peanut Butter Pancakes in her book Breaking the Vicious Cycle. We like the sweetness of adding banana to them.


1 cup natural peanut butter, creamy (or other nut butter – we just live in peanut-land)
2-3 Tbs. raw honey
8 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla essence, optional
3 ripe bananas, mashed or blended

This serves 4 people, we usually double this recipe and snack on leftovers.
We stick everything in the blender and fry small (4″) pancakes on low-medium heat in oil or ghee. Because of the honey and banana, they will brown prematurely or burn if cooked on high heat. It means that you have to cook them a bit slower than ‘normal’ pancakes. If it is too thick you can thin it with water or your milk of choice.

These are not your white fluffy styrofoam McBreakfast pancakes, but they are so packed with protein that I can go hours without feeling hungry after eating just 3 small ones. We top them with aforementioned guava sauce, ghee, raw honey with mixed with water and maple flavoring, or fruit-only jam.

It’s still not the same as our favorite granola, but they are grain-free.
Yummy healthiness!

This is the last of the week of SCD recipes to give you a feel for what we are eating, and what is helping all of us feel stronger and healthier. These and a few others have become family favorites that we will likely continue making even after we go ‘off-diet’ someday. James’ birthday is coming up and almond banana cake with marshmallow frosting have been requested, flourless, sugar-free and grain-free. I’ll post pictures!

Recipe #5: Mapera (Guava Sauce)

I spent most of this weekend in bed with a colossal headache, trying to figure out if I should be taking malaria drugs or antibiotics for a sinus infection. Thankfully, I chose the latter and am finally surviving without high doses of Tylenol. So today I am kind of copping out on the recipe run… I don’t know that fruit cooked with honey can officially be called a recipe…

But it’s tasty stuff! We use guavas because we have a whole tree full of them in the backyard, but any fruit would work really. We’ve also tried pineapple. Pretty much ends up tasting like canned Dole Tidbits. We love this with mangoes!! Mango sauce is the only way I like them. Yum! Too bad mango season isn’t here until December. Boo!

Recipe #5: Mapera (Guava Sauce)
Btw, this one does not come from a fabulous cooking blog. We just made it up.

1-2 gallons fruit (20-30 guavas in our case), washed and halved
2 cups filtered water
1 cup raw honey
1 Tbs. cinnamon

Wash and half all fruit into stock pot. Add water and simmer until soft. Run through an applesauce mill or food grinder if needed. Add honey and cinnamon. Put it piping hot into glass jars and hope they seal. Stick them in the fridge anyway just in case. (For me anyway. You have access to ‘real’ canning supplies, so you’re probably good to leave them on the pantry shelf a while.) Serve cold over cakes, in yogurt, on toast, on fried fish, on pancakes, etc. Ooh pancakes! Tomorrow!

I’m so distractable at this late hour of 8:15pm… If you want to be distracted with me today: This makes me think, which kind of hurts. But then I read this and pray. Finally, this makes me rejoice.

Recipe #4: Coconut Ice Cream

For those of you living in the land of grocery stores… this is a bit unnecessary. There are some beautiful coconut ice cream options made in Oregon by Coconut Bliss or So Delicious/Purely Decadent. If you can’t afford them, can’t find them, need to go sugar-free like us or are just one of those DIY foodies…

Our family tradition (at least overseas) is to make some form of ‘ice cream’ (stainless steel bowl full of something) in the freezer on Sat. and have it with snack foods for dinner and a movie Sunday nights. When starting this dairy-free, everything-free diet, my first two concerns were how will we do pizza night and what about ‘ice cream’?!

I tried mashed white bean – honey ice cream. Blech. Then mashed fruit sorbet. Ok. But I LOVE coconut milk, so I was thrilled to find:

Recipe #4: Coconut Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
Inspired by this tasty goodness over at Elana’s Pantry, but for some reason James couldn’t get into Coconut milk on its own without some fruit, and we usually forgo the raw eggs.

Ingredients: (I double this for our family)

1 can coconut milk
1 large (or 2 small) ripe bananas
1/4 cup raw honey
1 Tbs. vanilla essence
dash sea salt
1 tsp. cinnamon, optional
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (we use Enjoy Life dairy-free mini chips)

Blend bananas, honey, vanilla, and salt in the blender and then add the coconut milk later until no banana chunks remain. I add half the chocolate chips in the blender for a pulse or two just to chop some of them. Then I dump the whole thing in my metal freezer bowl. Two – four hours later I try to remember to come back and add the second half of the chips when things are mostly frozen. We don’t have an ice cream maker, so it can freeze very solid. Good to leave on the counter for 10 minutes or more before breaking your ice cream scoop… So yummy!!

I have added mango sauce before and it was very good. Haven’t yet tried warm jams or dried fruits… I hope soon to try adding cocoa powder and or peppermint extract… YUM!

It’s never too late in the year for ice cream. I know I can’t talk because I live in the tropics. But you can pair this with a warm ginger molasses cookie… a pumpkin spice latte… a piece of mocha coffee cake… I better stop before drooling on my keyboard.

Recipe # 3: Flax Bread

Okay, so after 3 months without bread or grains, this bread tastes like dessert to us! We slather it with imported blackberry fruit-only jam. Joel likes it with honey or guava sauce poured over or sandwiched between. But they Joel likes most things, including baked perch topped with guava sauce. He says he’s preparing to become a chef. I digress…

I found this recipe over at Adrienne’s blog: Whole.New.Mom. She has her family on a similar diet for similar reasons, and has some great recipes! She says her family likes this bread with bean dip or hummus. Yum! We changed it up a bit and have not perfected it quite yet for our own use. The recipe makes a spongey thick 9 x 13 focaccia that would probably be better in two 9″ squares or 3-4 loaf pans.

The flax seed meal will lose most of its beneficial properties within 3 days of grinding, so keep refrigerated if you have extra, or bought it as ‘meal’. The less expensive option is to buy the seeds in bulk (either color) and grind them yourself! My blender can do this on high speed for about 1 min. per cup. To get the 2 cups of flax seed meal needed here, you’ll want to grind just more than 1 3/4 cups of seeds.

I suppose we could call it fabulous flourless flax focaccia, but that’s over the top. Hope you like this tasty way to get your Omega-3 oils!

Recipe #3: Flax Focaccia Bread
2 cups flax seed meal
1/2 cup almond flour*
2 Tbs. coconut flour*
1 Tbs. aluminum-free baking soda
1 tsp. sea salt
2 Tbs. raw honey
5 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup water*
1/3 cup oil

Preheat oven to 375. Grease your pans (see note above). Whisk together dry ingredients (*we added almond and coconut flour last week in an attempt to decrease the cake-like texture and really liked it! We added a bit more water than the original 1/2 cup to compensate, fyi. They are optional.) Mix in wet ingredients until fully incorporated (no egg strings!). Now the strangest part: Turn off the mixer and leave the batter alone. It needs to sit and congeal for 2-3 minutes. It will start out looking watery and will soon spread like soft butter. Odd, huh? Spread it in your greased pan. Bake for 18 min. or until it springs back. Let cool. Cut in whatever shape you like!

It is a beautiful rich dark brown color. The opposite of white bread! Seriously! We’ve used a thin version for pizza crusts, we’ve made mini-sandwiches, we’ve smeared it with honey like a cornbread. It’s still a bit egg-ey to my taste, but we’ll keep changing it… There’s ‘our bread’ for now!