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10 Tips to Ease Your Child Into the GAPS Diet

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by Melanie Christner

When you dared to become a parent, you probably had no idea what a journey you were setting out on… how strongly you would want your child to flourish and succeed… and how barriers to that flourishing would hurt your parent heart.

Being a parent of a child who has been hurt, taken sick, or wounded… or who is simply not thriving as you feel they could… hits you hard.

So you do your research, and you do your best to wade through a lot of information. Maybe you find information about the addictiveness of sugar; or the benefits of traditional foods, cod liver oil and fatty acids; going gluten or grain-free, how important probiotics are, how bad processed foods are, the many uses of bone broth, etc.

Then you stumbled on the GAPS Protocol — the diet, supplement, and detoxification program designed to repair and seal the gut; restore body and brain; and heal autism, no less! You read the book and its amazing and makes so much sense. You feel this will help your family thrive in many ways and you want to begin making changes for your child.

But you have no idea where to start. Changing your family’s diet is completely daunting and you have so many questions.

Having brought hundreds of people through my online GAPS Class, I’ve walked through these transition questions. Below are some of my recommendations for easing into GAPS and grain-free living.

Disclaimer, these recommendations assume you have read the GAPS™ Book at least once.

1. Journal where you’re at

This is an important first step and can be as simple as a single jotted list that includes each family member, along with their frequent symptoms, moods, and food issues.

Because we forget. So write them down, and you’ll be able to look back and see patterns, and note triumphs.

2. Change breakfast

Why? This meal, more than any other in the day, sets your pattern of even blood sugar regulation throughout the rest of the day. For this reason, this is the first meal I recommend (gradually) changing to Full GAPS first.

Having a balanced breakfast… with good fats, healthy proteins and low-glycemic veggies… will bring leveled blood sugar that helps kid’s moods, and gives them stable energy… which benefits everyone! Removing the sugary foods also reduces the “food of choice” for pathogenic microbes.

A HEALTHY BREAKFAST FOR BLOOD SUGAR

For example, eggs scrambled in butter with a side of avocado and salsa and homemade sausage patties or sugar free bacon. Protein + fat + healthy carb in the form of vegetables.

This feels good…satiating…never in a state of emergency…balanced.

AN UNHEALTHY BREAKFAST FOR BLOOD SUGAR

For example, a bowl of cereal with lowfat milk, banana, glass of orange juice, coffee w/ cream and sugar. Sugar + sugar + sugar + sugar + caffeine + tiny amount of fat.

Every one of the above items (with the exception of the cream) is going to turn to sugar really quickly. Just as quickly the blood sugar spikes past the safe upper limit.

To your body, this is a state of emergency and sets off a chain of hormone messages, insulin being just one of them. Blood sugar levels go back down but so much insulin was pumped out that the blood sugar goes too low, below the safe limit. Sugar high… sugar crash.

3. Work up to a therapeutic dose of probiotics

Probiotic-dosagesAside from the power of food, probiotics can make a big difference, if they are taken in therapeutic amounts.

This can be dramatically helpful for moods and can help pave the way for further changes. They are also relatively easy to introduce to kids.

Good probiotics, like GutPro or BioKult, can simply be sprinkled in food or drink. Here is a guide to therapeutic doses (which should be maintained for six months).

Remember to start out very small and watch for the so called die-off reaction, when pathogenic microbes get crowded out and “die-off” too quickly, sometimes they cause unpleasant reactions.

4. Replace favorite foods and baked goods

Replace your child’s favorite foods with homemade, grain and refined sugar-free alternatives. Is your child’s favorite food chicken nuggets? Then search online for “grain free chicken nuggets”, or “GAPS Diet chicken nuggets”… you’ll find many alternatives to experiment with and enjoy. Homemade versions will take more time and effort, but they are made with love, and the power of having a hand in bettering your family’s health.

Replace your baked goods with winning grain free recipes (to give you some ideas, google “Honest Body muffin or “Honest Body cupcake)

5. Make broth and use it for soup 1-2x a week

Since this is a foundation of the healing food aspect of GAPS, this skill is important. It can seem difficult, but is really easy once tried. The Weston Price Foundation has great videos and articles that make broth making easy to understand.

Don’t worry if soups aren’t immediately liked by all, the Introduction diet has a way of powerfully shifting taste buds. Your soups will start to taste awesome and rich with real stock, good sea salt, healing animal fats, and high quality meats and veggies.

6. Add epsom salts to your kids’ baths

This is a fun and easy step. Detox baths are an important component of the Detox part of the protocol and if your kids already take baths you can simply start adding 1/2 – 1 cup of epsom salts to their bath. Alternatively, you can try baking soda, sea salt, clay, or seaweed powder.

7. Add one full GAPS meal a week

When you have GAPS breakfasts in your skill set, gradually add in one new GAPS meal a week. Start incorporating GAPS dinners for example, and then snacks, and then school lunches.

8. Work backwards then forwards

I like to recommend that families actually work backward, having a good grasp on Full GAPS, then working backwards through the 6 stages of the more intensely healing “Introduction diet,” THEN commencing on the Introduction diet as originally laid out. I feel this allows for a less “cold-turkey” approach to Intro, and the easier stages come first. What does this look like?

When the family is fully transitioned to Full GAPS, and the GAPS cooking skills aren’t “foreign,” set your date for Intro. Then take a week (or two) to work backwards through the six stages of Intro, starting with Stage 6, then Stage 5, Stage 4, and so on.

9. Tips for getting young ones to eat broth

  • Serve in special cups alongside each meal and require that broth be eaten before the “tastier” foods
  • Flavor well with garlic, salt and herbs
  • Let them sip with a straw
  • Add pure beef gelatin (like Bernard Jensen’s) to warm broth and let it turn into a broth “jello.” This can be served in different shapes, etc.
  • Puree into creamed vegetable soups
  • Reduce down to a “gravy” for meatballs and vegetables

10. Example script for explaining GAPS intro

As far as talking to little folks, advance preparation is good. Talk to them about what is going on their body in simple terms and how this protocol is going to help make them strong and well.

HERE’S A SAMPLE SCRIPT

“Your body has all these little helpers (teeny tiny “bugs”) inside, but in today’s world our bodies can also get too many not-so-helpful “bugs” (or insert whatever word appropriate for your small one). So we need to have a diet for a while that only feeds the good bugs and makes them stronger so that they can do their jobs. This diet can also help us by repairing our tummies, our muscles, our bones, all the parts of us.

For a little while though, while the “bad bugs” are dying off, we can feel yucky. We can’t avoid that part, but I will help you as much as I can to get them out… we’ll take special baths, we’ll do enemas (insert child appropriate explanation of enemas) we’ll get fresh air and  sunshine, we’ll watch some movies and read books together… (insert favorite activity of choice).”

I also find it helpful to show them the stages and read to them what they can eat on what stage. Then you can kind of make the list the “heavy” or the “authority” rather than you.

May your GAPS adventures be rewarding and may you discover the power of healing foods.

melMelanie Christner delights in helping you apply healing protocols to everyday life, while eating really great food…and becoming friends with your body again. She teaches an online GAPS Class and writes at HonestBody.com. As a mom of four children herself, she works with moms and their kiddos to help them feel their best and to have all the life and energy they were meant to have. Melanie is an NTP, and Certified GAPS Practitioner in Vermont. You can find her in her kitchen, or Nordic skiing, or swimming in the Green Mountain rivers with her family.

 

33 Comments

  • Anonymous

    I am thinking about starting this diet especially for my three year old son who has difficulties with ASD but th hardest part is what is my son going to drink since he prefers cow’s milk to anything else pls help!! Thanks a lot xx

    • Melanie Christner

      Hello Anonymous,

      This dependency on cow’s milk, as a drink, is one of the very symptoms of GAPS…its a physiological issue that needs the protocol to address.

      I would recommend two readings for you.
      1. First the GAPS book, which explains what is going on with gluten and casein (wheat & milk proteins) and how they become addictive to those with a compromised gut.

      2. The GAPS Stories book, which has inspiring stories of a few mothers who have overcome extremely picky eating.

  • claudia

    Our ten month old is struggling with eczema and Ige dairy allergy. We would like to try GAPS but don’t know what todo about the fermented dairy on whish it relies so heavily. Please help, we are desperate to help this little one.

    • Melanie Christner

      Hello Claudia,

      Thank you for the question. Whatever food sensitivity your child may have can be passed over initially. You may find your child is able to tolerate fermented/properly prepared dairy further along in the protocol, but in the beginning you can avoid it. There are many other healing foods to depend on in the Introduction diet.

      This “adapting” is what I do with my GAPS clients regularly…combining GAPS with MRT food sensitivity testing, which allows for a bio-individual plan that removes foods that are difficult for that person.

  • Samina Noor

    Hi…plz guide me how to start gaps diet for 4 yrs old n 7 yrs old…stages n recipes..from where can i get please?

    • Melanie Christner

      Hello Samina,

      Thank you for your question.

      Here are some options:
      1. For the Do-It-Yourselfer, I would recommend the Heal Your Gut cookbook, which has recipes for all the stages of GAPS.
      2. My website has a lot of resources for GAPS, namely the GAPS Class which includes recipes, stages, and so much more of the details…including myself as a GAPS practitioner doing Q & A in a private forum.
      3. Here is a free online class I’ve done on the GAPS Introduction diet for Families that you may find useful – https://honestbody.wistia.com/medias/8aza3vzhy4

      May these resources be of use to you 🙂

      Warmly,
      Melanie

  • Samina Noor

    Im living in UK

  • Angela

    Hello Melanie,
    I want to start the GAPS diet with my three year-old daughter. She has a speech delay but the problem is that she doesn’t want to try any new foods. I struggle a lot to try to feed her new meals and new drinks. I’m in the process of getting rid of milk, which she loves. Please help me start this diet with a very strong-willed girl. Thank you for sharing any books, websites, or other information.

    • Melanie Christner

      Hello Angela,

      I would recommend that you add in 1 GAPS meal per week, substituting GAPS versions of her “normal” foods, and introducing the nourishing foods, while at the same time removing the main offenders (in her case milk). At some point you’ll probably meet resistance…meet it with patient, cheerful resistance right back 🙂 She is three, you are mom, what food is provided is what is available to eat. This is the BEST time to have her learning nourishing food habits.

      It is also helpful to get therapeutic doses of probiotics in to start displacing the not-so-helpful bugs that want the food that they want.

  • Rachael

    Thank you for this post! I’ve just finished reading the GAPS book and went online searching for additional advice for converting myself and my 2 yo on the spectrum to the diet. I found your info super helpful! I had been thinking about the gelatin trick to make the broth more jello like but was unsure if that was legit or maybe not diet friendly. Thank you thank you thank you 🙂

  • cwray

    Thank you for this information. I am thinking that my daughter is sensitive to eggs. What can I use in place of them for the recipes and breakfast? Thank you <3

    • Melanie Christner

      Hello cwray,

      If she is sensitive to eggs you have a few different options:
      1. Try duck eggs instead…many can tolerate duck who can’t tolerate chicken eggs.
      2. For baking, use a gelatin egg (outlined in this post http://deliciouslyorganic.net/best-egg-replacement-baking/)
      3. Replace egg options with meat or soup options…sugar free bacon is an option for example – Pederson’s Paleo bacon is one I like -http://pedersonsfarms.com/whole30-approved/

  • Camille

    This is so overwhelming – I don’t know if the GAPS diet is our answer or Salicylates are the problem

    • Melanie Christner

      Hello Camille,

      Salicylates are ultimately a gut health issue, so gut healing is an important piece of the picture. It is possible to reduce salicylates while doing GAPS.

      Kindly,
      Melanie

  • Joy Wilcox

    I think this is a great way to do GAPS diet! My question for you is …

    Doing the GAPS diet for families as you recommend above, how long do you see it taking to 1) start journaling where you are to 2) getting the family on Full Gaps diet to 3) Doing Intro to completing Intro and then finally being on Full Gaps and being done with intro.

    I was going to start Intro diet in early January, but I think it will be easier to do it your way.

    • Melanie Christner

      Hi Joy,

      This can be pretty individual to what each family/person is going through, and what their calendar looks like.

      Journaling can start…today 🙂

      As for going backwards and then forwards, I think a month is a good timeframe for easing into Full GAPS, and then about another month to go through Intro (give or take). Then you are on the main protocol for as long as needed…generally you aren’t transitioning to non-GAPS foods until you’ve been symptom free for about 6 months.

      Kindly,
      Melanie

  • Heather Schwartz

    My one year old has a dairy and egg allergy. Can you give me some suggestions for breakfast?

    • Melanie Christner

      Hello Heather,

      Your little one will benefit from plenty of steamed veggies, lots of animal fats, minced meats, avocodo, cod liver oil, a little bit of banana & berries, and ferments…those kind of foods can be served at all meals. Re-think “breakfast” foods.

      Kindly,
      Melanie

  • Emily

    so i am thinking of venturing this way but how do you do this for a child who has high sensitvies per sensitivity test levels of 1-6 of Dairy 3-4 all, Eggs-All 6, amaranth-3, Oatmeal-3, almonds-3, green beans-2.5, Kidney beans 2.5 it is from us biotek. We are gluten free due to my issues and he had had some gluten and it didnt even register. It is very hard to think of fun things but we eat a very nutrient rich diet. We did this due to my son acting terrible, he was a jerk, terrible outburst, terrible sleeping.

    • Melanie Christner

      Hello Emily,

      It is entirely possible to do the GAPS Diet without eggs & dairy…as for oatmeal, kidney beans, and amaranth…they are not on GAPS anyway.

      Use many other vegetables besides green beans, and replace eggs/dairy with meats/stocks/soups for now, and you may find that you can introduce properly fermented dairy and eggs after a time.

      Kindly,
      Melanie

  • Rita

    Hello, I’m trying to start the GAPS diet for my son who suffers from Eczema really bad. It’s taken over his life. How can I start this diet with him having so many allergies to Fish, all dairy, wheat, etc.

    • Melanie Christner

      Hello Rita,

      You may find my article on Eczema remedies helpful – https://honestbody.com/gaps-diet-eczema-remedies-tips/

      Also, focus on the nourishing foods that are not his allergens…for example, use beef, bison, chicken, lamb, turkey, or pork if he is allergic to fish…use the fats (which are intensely healing), the meat, the bones, etc.

      The GAPS Protocol can remedy allergies. Maybe not all for everyone, but there are many who have had allergy symptoms reverse because it addresses the root cause.

      Kindly,
      Melanie

  • Courtney Elkins

    Hi there, I’m about to begin the GAPS protocol with my son Tom, who is 2 years old. Tom is intolerant to fructose, sucrose and lactose, and I can’t seem to find anything in the Gaps book or on the internet about what to do regarding intolerances. Do I just avoid initially? At what point am I supposed t try reintroducing? Or is it not until the end? Thanks in advance for any clarity you can offer on the subject! Courtney.

    • Melanie Christner

      Hello Courtney,

      Yes, you can avoid food intolerances initially. Sucrose & lactose are not part of GAPS anyway (for example, all dairy is fermented for 24+ hours so that there is no lactose remaining).

      I suggest retrying his food intolerances (1 at a time) at about 6 weeks in…and you can retry every 6 weeks or so, if you are not able to successfully introduce something.

      Kindly,
      Melanie

  • Indre

    Hello,
    On 10th of April my son was diagnosed with measles, he was given lot of antibiotics and since then he is having chronic diarrhea, doctors say that he is recovered from measles, but his gut got weak that’s why he still have diarrhea, Is GAPS diet the right thing for as to try?

    Thanks Indre

    • Melanie Christner

      Hello Indre,

      Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride recommends a round of Intro whenever someone is ill like this…especially for diarrhea. So, yes, I would suggest the GAPS Intro diet.

      A time of soothing & nourishing foods like meat stock soups, fermented vegetable juice, 24+ hour cultured yogurt or kefir, and probiotics like BioKult will be most helpful.

      Kindly,
      Melanie

  • Leoncia Flynn

    Hi,
    We have started the GAPS intro cold turkey as my 8yr old son has recently been diagnosed with olgioarthritis which is affecting his knees quite badly. He is limping and it’s very painful & swollen (we’ve had them drained 3 times now & cortisone injected in but this didn’t prevent inflammation from returning).
    Because our Dr wants to start us on Methotrexate next week I became quite desperate and started the meat stock & broths 2 days ago but I still don’t have a strong pro-biotic yet (all store bought ones I found had fructose & my home-made sauer-kraut is still not ready however Bio-Kult is on its way but could take couple more days) so I found a sugar-free store bought sauer-kraut and have bought kefir and yoghurt (my son has never liked diary and so it’s a real struggle to feed him these last couple) I spoon feed 1/2 teaspoons of sauer kraut juice with every meal. He isn’t really drinking the meat broth so well but he’s drinking ginger tea & water.
    This morning he complained of feeling sick and vomited (very small amount)
    I gave him an epsom salt bath and have just made him some tea.
    I read you go backwards through the diet so I’m wondering whether I allow him some eggs this morning as he’s struggling with broths (he’s weak and has no energy) and just keep the sugar and grains out for now until we can start again properly with a proper pro-biotic?
    Thanks for any advice. I’m looking to find a nutritionist too that specializes in auto-immunity.
    Warm wishes,
    Leoncia

  • Anonymous

    Evening,

    We are starting the GAPS diet for all of my family because my 3year old has autism and we are keen to get him well back on the road to recovery, We are starting with the full GAPS diet and will go back and do INTRO at a later date, but just wondering if anyone who is currently doing the diet would have any suggestions for a snack for a fussy 3 year old. I currently give him fruits that are on the GAPS allowed list, but wanting something to substitute something substantial, eg cake bar or crisps.

  • Amy Woodcock

    Evening,

    We are starting the GAPS diet for all of my family because my 3year old has autism and we are keen to get him well back on the road to recovery, We are starting with the full GAPS diet and will go back and do INTRO at a later date, but just wondering if anyone who is currently doing the diet would have any suggestions for a snack for a fussy 3 year old. I currently give him fruits that are on the GAPS allowed list, but wanting something to substitute something substantial, eg cake bar or crisps.

  • Clare

    Hi Melanie
    I am extremely interested in doing the gaps intro with my four year old. There is nothing wrong with her in the sense of eczema, diarrhea, learning delays etc, but, she was prem, 576g at 29 weeks and is now 10kg at 4. She eats plain rice, pasta, tuna, apples, sausages, bacon, chips, and of course donuts, crackers etc!! In fact she would live on sweet things if I let her. ButI try my hardest not to. Im a chef and eat mainly whole food cooked from scratch. I love and believe in the work of weston price and think dr natasha’s work is amazing. My main question is, my motivation for wanting to do the gaps intro is to reset my daughter’s fussy eating, and is this whatthe intro will do? As she has no real medical issues (that I know of at the moment) she would only need to do the into to then be open to all the lovely real food that I crave to cook for her that she turns her nose up at?!

  • Anonymous

    Hello
    I will love to start the gaps diet for my 4yr old son who has got ASD. My problem.is he only takes cereal and wouldn’t try new foods. Please, how can I introduce him to gap diet?

  • Priya

    Hi
    My 2 year old son recently diagnosed with autism.he has digestion issues (Some times diarrhea and some times constipation).I have seen so many sucess stories in the internet through this GAPS intro diet.Just Wondering how many days do we need to follow stage 1 and then how many days to follow stage 2…….upto Stage 6.
    And i have one more question if i start GAPS diet to my son does he become skinny or lean.?I cant see my son like that.can you please help me to recover my son through GAPS diet..?
    Thanks

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