What is the GAPS diet?

September 9, 2015

Wondering what the GAPS Diet is?  You’re not alone.  The GAPS diet is a healing protocol developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a neurologist and nutritionist who specializes in healing of issues like autism spectrum disorders, ADD/ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia and schizophrenia by treating the root cause of many of these disorders: compromised gut health.

All diseases begin in the gut! The Father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, made this statement more than two thousand years ago. The more we learn with our modern scientific tools, the more we realise just how correct Hippocrates was: all diseases do begin in the gut! Science has discovered, that about 90% of all cells and all genetic material of the human body belongs to the gut flora – a mixture of various microbes, which live inside our digestive tract. So, in reality your body is just a shell, a 10%, providing a habitat for this mass of micro-creatures living inside you; and their role in your health and physiology is monumental. Our modern world poses many dangers for human gut flora, and once it is damaged, the health of the whole body enters a downward slide towards disease.

Mothers and fathers have seen autistic children begin to lose symptoms, find relief from painful gastrointestinal upset and regain the ability to express emotion after adhering to the GAPS diet.  People suffering from food intolerances and sensitivities have seen recovery. I personally have felt so much better after starting the GAPS diet.

How does it work?

1-Healing the gut– By avoiding all foods that irritate it, and by consuming only foods that will nourish and heal it.

2- Repopulating the gut with beneficial bacteria– This is done by avoiding all foods that feed opportunistic (bad) bacteria/gut flora. As well, high quality probiotics are used to actively repopulate the gut while all this cleansing/starving of the bad bacteria is taking place.

3) Getting rid of toxins– This happens in a number of ways. By limiting the diet to only foods that can be easily digested and eliminated, by strengthening the gut and the beneficial bacteria so that they can deal with toxins thoroughly, and by fresh juicing to speed up the elimination of toxins.

GAPS begins first with an introduction diet (though many people, to ease their transition begin first by incorporating the full GAPS diet and return to the introduction phases at a future date when they feel more confident in their transition).  In the introduction diet offers about six stages before the full GAPS diet can be resumed, with the beginning stages allowing little more than broth, good quality fat, easily digested vegetables, boiled meats and the juice of fermented vegetables. You eat lots of soups on the GAPS diet.

Once symptoms no longer appear, additional foods like fruit, raw vegetables and their juices, nuts and nut flours are slowly added until you’ve reached the full GAPS diet which allows most wholesome foods, but still excludes grains, starchy tubers, sugars (except for honey) and other foods that can potentially damage an already compromised gut.

I recommend reading Gut & Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Campbell-McBride helps you to better understand the healing protocol she prescribes, and the reasoning behind her recommendations.  In Gut & Psychology Syndrome, Dr. Campbell-McBride not only describes how and why the GAPS diet works with our digestive tracts to enable optimal healing, but she explains just how schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorders and other illnesses with neurological components can be attributed, at least in part, to compromised gut health.  And it’s through this protocol of healing that huge strides have been made for families suffering from these issues.  While the book is comprehensive, long and dry, it is enormously valuable and helps you to understand the science behind GAPS, and it’s that understanding that helps to motivate you – keeping you going through the strict elimination and slow reintroduction phases of the GAPS intro diet.

I also recommend getting the Heal your Gut cookbook by Hilary Boynton & Mary G Brachkett. When I first started the GAPS intro diet this book was what guided me along the stages & what to make.

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