What is the GAPS diet
This article was written by a mother called Mary that has not only been there and done that with the GAPS diet but also inspirationally taken action to conquer it. This is her story. Note that the opinions are those of the writer.
This year, my family and I took on the mammoth, hopeful, hard task of healing ourselves from a myriad of food allergies, as well as eczema, depression and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, to name a few of our collective chronic health issues. After years of research into the subject of actually healing these supposedly unhealable issues, we decided to move ourselves onto the GAPS protocol: a medical diet aimed at healing the gut. We chose GAPS because of the logical resonance when we read the theory behind the root cause of our modern chronic health issues, and because of the thousands upon thousands of incredible healing stories that we discovered when we asked around.
What is G.A.P.S?
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. She believes that poor gut health is the root cause of so many epidemic illnesses, including allergies, asthma, eczema, IBS, and autoimmune disease to name a few. The GAPS diet is a food protocol, designed by Dr Campbell-McBride, partly based on historical, forgotten dietary treatments for people suffering from chronic health issues, particularly the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), but also incorporating all the new emerging research results on gut health.
The premise of the GAPS protocol is this:
Our modern lifestyle has damaged our bodies, in particular, our guts. This is particularly concerning because 80% of our immune system resides in our Gastrointestinal tract. Particularly damaging trends of modern living have been 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 recognised now as being chronically 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 that survive antibiotics (for example candida and staph) become prolific, and destroy the walls of your gut. Parents then pass this bacterial profile on to their kids through the birth canal and skin contact.
It has all started to unravel a bit for the human race when you 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 absorbent 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, which easily seep through the leaks and gaps in our gut lining 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. etc. as well as adults suffering from adult-onset allergies, heart disease, diabetes, dementia, obesity, autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, to name a few.
Brisbane Kids acknowledges the controversial nature of such statements. This article is being provided with the aim of informing about GAPS and alternative therapies and not commenting on its validity. Brisbane Kids recommends any changes to diet especially in children are preceded with a visit to your local doctor with their advice being undertaken as a priority. This article should never replace medical advice.
So how does it work?
The GAPS protocol 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 grass-fed 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 a daily dose of 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 grass-fed butter, ghee, tallow, lard, eggs, sour cream and yoghurt. Grains, processed 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, starting with baby potatoes.
Other allergy or digestive protocols like the RPAH Elimination diet, FODMAPS and Failsafe (which we followed for 3 years), 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 Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), I would venture to say that Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) is probably the most similar to GAPS, and people get excellent results. But while the focus on AIP 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 truly understand healthy eating, and reap the benefits, and it is therefore unlikely that you would return to the bad habits of eating processed sugars and junk foods of your past.
Many families move onto a Weston A. Price Foundation style of eating once they are healed, which is GAPS with the good grains! We have found that 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 restaurants opening up in Queensland and around the world, as more and more people turn to traditional diet to feel better.
I have started up a blog with research links, and recipes to support families wanting to make the change to health through diet. Our story has been a remarkable journey of healing an incredibly sick child, diagnosed as allergic to all food at the age of 18 months.
My name is Mary and you can read about it on my website:
Some of the very best reading resources on the topic of the gut-brain connection, and the use of food to heal:
Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
Primal Body, Primal Mind by Nora Gedgaudas
Official GAPS Website:
Please see a doctor before undertaking any drastic dietary changes. Brisbane Kids was not paid to accept this article.