What is GAPS anyway?
GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) is a term used by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, a neurologist and nutritionist, to describe children and adults who suffer from a range of symptoms as a result of a damaged gut. This is believed to be the root cause of so many epidemic illnesses, including allergies, autism, IBS, and autoimmune disease. The GAPS diet is a food protocol, designed by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, based on historical, forgotten dietary treatments for people suffering from chronic health issues, particularly the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). Dr Campbell-Mcbride first used the GAPS protocol to heal her non verbal autistic son.
The premise of the GAPS protocol is this:
Our modern lifestyle has damaged our bodies, in particular, our guts. This is particulalry concerning because 80% of our immune system is based in our Gastrointestinal tract. Particularly damaging trends of modern living have caused the eradication of good bacteria from our diet, through the pasteurisation of food (to extend shelf life), the use of antibiotics and the use of antibacterial products around the home. Antibiotics in particular are overused in our society, and very rarely offered with a broad-spectrum probiotic script, along with detailed instructions on how to protect or rebuild your gut health.
This critical omission means that the pathogenic bacteria and fungii that survive antibiotics (namely candida and staph) become prolific, and destroy the walls of your gut. Parents then pass this bacterial profile on to your kids through the birth canal and skin contact.
Then combine our damaged guts with the massive increase in toxins in our lives: we've allowed them into our food supply, with preservatives and chemicals, into our water supply, through the use of chlorine and fluoride, and onto our highly absorbant skin through the use of cosmetics, medications, laundry powder etc. We cook our food in toxic teflon, we wrap it in toxic plastic, and we wash it in toxic dishwashing detergent. A leaky gut combined with high levels of toxins in our daily life have lead to our bodies being completely overloaded, unable to eradicate the toxins, allowing more toxins to seep through the leaks in our guts and into our bloodstream, and the end result is a generation of kids with epidemic levels of allergies, autism, adhd, eczema, speech delays, sleep issues, anxiety, sensory processing disorders, etc as well as adults suffering from adult-onset allergies, heart disease, diabetes, dementia, obesity, to name a few.
The GAPS diet is founded on a return to traditional, organic and probiotic healing foods, in order to allow our guts to heal. In more severe cases, patients are encouraged to follow the GAPS Introduction Diet, which strips our food back to highly gut-healing broths and vegetable soups made with grassfed or pastured organic meat, fermented foods, to bring the bacteria back into balance, fat and vegetables. The patient then slowly introduces eggs, nuts and fruit for their nutritional benefits, as tolerated. GAPS also promotes the old-school habits of daily Fermented Cod Liver Oil, Fish Oil, the use of coconut oil and olive oil, as well as a focus on very good-quality fat: so the use of organic grassfed butter, ghee, tallow, lard, eggs, sour cream and yoghurt. Grains, sugars and starches are removed for the duration of the treatment because they feed the pathogenic bacteria, although small amounts of raw honey are allowed, because of its excellent bacterial profile.
Once the diet has been followed for a year or two, and there are no remaining symptoms of damaged gut, the patient is encouraged to reintroduce properly prepared grains, like sourdough bread, and starches, like potato.
Other allergy or digestive protocols like the RPAH Elimination diet, FODMAPS and Failsafe, focus solely on symptom management through the elimination of foods that the patient is reacting to, but they fail to treat the root cause. Other than the SCD, Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) is probably the most similar to GAPS, and people get excellent results, but while the focus is on healing, it is not a protocol that recommends the reintroduction of certain foods like properly prepared grains. You eliminate these foods for life on AIP. I believe from the extensive research that I have done, that GAPS is the most complete overarching protocol for healing, because the focus is on fixing the root cause of the problem, and then being able to get on with your life. GAPS is a phase of your life, during which time you will come to understand truly healthy eating, and it is very unlikely that you would return to the bad habits of eating processed sugars and foods of your past.
Our personal plan is to move onto a Weston A. Price Foundation style of eating once we are healed, which is GAPS with the good grains! We are also able to eat mostly Paleo while we are on Full GAPS, which is great, as there are more and more Paleo style cafes and restuarants opening up in Queensland and around the world, as more and more people turn to traditional diet to feel better.
Some of the very best reading resources on the topic of the gut-brain connection, and the use of food to heal:
Official GAPS Website:
Below you will find some GAPS recipes, in particular the Essential Food recipes for homemade Broth, Yoghurt, Sour Cream and Sauerkraut. I have also written a recipe ebook, Nourishing Party Food, to help you throw grain-free, refined sugar-free parties. All recipes are Full GAPS legal.