Many of you know that Eowyn & I (and, when he eats with us, Ryan) are on a long-term diet called the 'Gut and Psychology Syndrome' diet, or GAPS diet. Its goal is to heal the gut, in four ways: (1) giving it a "break" from anything hard to digest during the Intro stage, (2) replenish the bacteria ("gut flora") necessary for proper digestion, immune function, overall and mental health (3) starve off opportunistic yeasts & harmful bacteria ("bad gut flora"), and (4) provide foods rich in healing properties and nutrients. It's been used to successfully treat many types of chronic conditions, from dyslexia to autism (ASDs) to epilepsy to acid reflux. Quite a tall order for a diet, which is why those who go on it expect to stick to it for at least 18 months- 2 years, longer for long-established problems. Properly-prepared gluten-free grains may be reintroduced if desired after that point (2ish years) in addition to GAPS-approved foods.
So what kinds of foods hurt the gut? First off, SUGAR-- so no refined sugar in any forms, and limited natural sugars (in the earliest stages of the Introduction diet dried fruits & most fresh fruits are eliminated). Also grains, raw fibrous veggies at first (until the gut is mostly healed) improperly prepared beans, nuts & lentils, and anything processed (no MSG, no artificial flavorings, no propa-hexa-muta-gora-bora-bora... you get the idea). Fertilizers, pesticides, and other remnants of commercial farming make their way into foods and upset guts trying to heal, so as much as can be bought organic should be. The fresher the better, too!
What heals the gut? Lots of bone broths & stocks, fermented foods (saurkraut- which I HAVE learned to like, natural pickles... AMAZING, yogurt, kombucha, kefirs of all kinds), ginger, coconut & natural, whole-food fats (ghee, butter, tallow, lard, olive oil, palm oil, coconut oil, and cream once dairy is introduced). While pasteurized dairy is not allowed, raw milk & cream, and fermented dairy products like yogurt, sour cream, pima cream & most cheeses are encouraged. I've had fun learning to make my own of most of the above-- thanks to modern appliances, most is REALLY easy! (For those familiar with Weston A. Price's work, or with the Whole/Traditional Foods or Slow Cooking movements, it's like a WAPF diet without grains and most beans, with extra emphasis on fermented foods.)
Anyway, it is a learning curve, and many people get about a month into the diet and get super bored. If you're used to cooking a lot of grain-based meals it's definitely intimidating. Eowyn & I went through the six-step Introduction Cycle in 2 weeks, which is kind of the minimum suggested. While both of us had warning signs of imbalanced gut flora-- for me, my Celiac's disease, bad morning sickness during pregnancy, recurrent ear infections (3 in as many months after 20 years without them) and the beginnings of renewed yeast imbalances (urg, after being free for 4 years!!!) were signs. For Eowyn, signs that my bad gut flora had been passed on to her (through delivery and subsequent breast-feeding) were severe enough acid reflux to be prescribed medication (HUGE RED FLAG IN BABIES!!!), and food reactions (to blueberries, to peanuts, to wheat, to who knew what). What's motivated me? Well, the recurrent ear infections were getting annoying, and my doctor was about to refer me to an ENT, because "adults aren't supposed to get ear infections." While regular chiropractic care was keeping the fluid draining enough to delay infection, I could still feel the fluid in my ears all the time. Also, if I do get pregnant in this coming year, I'll do ANYTHING to avoid morning sickness, and ANYTHING to try and pass on GOOD gut flora to my next baby!!
I highly recommend Dr McBride's book Gut & Psychology Syndrome, for anyone interested in nutrition, mental health, learning disabilities, and child-rearing in general. Actually, truth be told I think all moms should read it. In our generation, it's become normal to be prescribed anti-nausea medication during pregnancy and to need to either radically change your diet while nursing (no dairy, no chocolate, no peanuts, etc) or give your baby Prevacid for 5 months, and food intolerances or learning disabilities in kids are ubiquitous.
Next is a list of meals that have worked for us, lest anyone think we are starving (and for anyone who's on GAPS and would like some fresh ideas!).
PS- so far, Eowyn has shown NO reactions to any of the foods she seemed to react to before!! She's eating all sorts of nuts, including peanuts, all berries, and hasn't had red cheeks or diaper rash at all! Praise the Lord!