What is GAPS?
GAPS is an acronym that stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome. This is a condition in which a connection is formed between the brain and the digestive system. Dr. Campbell-McBride discovered this connection while working with patients with neurological and psychiatric conditions. Not only were these patients suffering with mental disorders, but most were also physically ill. Malnourishment, digestive issues, asthma, eczema and allergies were also plaguing these patients.
After studying hundreds of patients, Dr. Campbell-McBride came to the conclusion that gut dysbiosis was to blame. She developed the GAPS diet as a way to help the patient heal and restore the gut’s natural balance.
What Causes the Imbalance?
Most people today give little thought to their gut, even though it plays a vital role in the body’s overall functioning. Because of poor eating habits and antibiotics, many people are lacking in the beneficial bacteria that helps you digest food and properly absorb its nutrients. Yes, probiotics can help, but to really change your internal gut for good, you need to take a holistic approach to what you put into your gut.
Dr. Campbell-McBride also believes that this same imbalance is at least partially to blame for children developing psychiatric or neurological conditions. Babies are born with a sterile gut. The gut flora that they develop will be from their mother. If the mother is suffering from gut dysbiosis, the baby will also develop the same problem. As a result, they suffer with digestive problems, nutritional deficiencies and eventually, psychological issues.
With the GAPS diet, many are able to minimize or completely eliminate their symptoms. The healing process first begins with an introduction diet and moves onto the full GAPS diet. In a nutshell, the diet eliminates all sugars and starches. This includes pastas, breads, potatoes, rice and sugars that aren’t naturally found in fruits.
The Introduction Diet
The introduction diet is comprised of six stages. Every person will move through each stage at their own pace.
During stage one, homemade fish or meat stock becomes the primary food of choice. These nutrient-rich stocks aid in digestion and were once used in folk medicine to heal the digestive track. Commercially-prepared stocks and buillon cubes are not recommended. Instead, the stock should be made from scratch using bones from meat or fish. Vegetables can also be eaten, such as broccoli, cauliflower, squash and onions.
Probiotics should also be consumed. This may be in the form of fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, yogurt or keifr.
During stage 2, the same foods from stage 1 can continue to be consumed. Raw and organic egg yolks are also added if tolerated. Fermented fish, stews and ghee are also introduced. Larger servings of probiotic foods should be consumed.
In addition the above foods, avocados are also introduced. Pancakes made from nut butter, eggs and winter squash are also introduced. During this stage, the goal is to increase fat intake and also add more probiotic-rich foods.
Meats can now be eaten. They must be prepared either by roasting or grilling. They should be paired with fermented vegetables for optimal digestion. Olive oil and freshly pressed juices are also introduced in this stage. Juice should be introduced gradually.
Apples are introduced (in the form of apple puree) as are some raw vegetables. Juicing is also continued (you must test your water).
Raw apples can be eaten if their cooked counterparts are well tolerated. Raw fruits and honey can be gradually introduced.
The Full GAPS Diet
Only after you have gone through the six stages of the introduction diet you should move onto the full diet. The following foods are recommended:
- Fresh meats
- Fresh vegetables
- Olive oil
Both cooked and raw vegetables should be consumed. Raw foods provide essential enzymes needed to break down foods and absorb nutrients. Fruit should be eaten on an empty stomach and on its own. It’s best as a snack in between meals. Natural fats are also important. For this reason, GAPS dieters should eat plenty of ghee, olive oil, coconut oil and meat. Fermented foods are also a huge part of the diet as they provide probiotics and help rebuild the gut flora.
As a general rule, processed foods are avoided. Canned foods are also not recommended. Fresh and natural foods are recommended. Organic foods are best.
Dr. Campbell-McBride recommends adhering to the full GAPS diet for at least two years. Many who follow the diet have been able to resolve issues with ADD, ADHD, autism, schizophrenia and a host of other neurological and psychological disorders.