What Is GAPS Diet?

The Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet (GAPS) was created to address the connection between the gastrointestinal system and the brain. The GAPS diet was created by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. She believed that leaky gut affects the health and function of the brain. Leaky gut occurs when you consume foods for which you have a food sensitivity or intolerance. These foods increase the permeability of your intestinal wall, allowing bacteria, food particles, and chemicals to enter your bloodstream. When this occurs, it can impact your brain function and brain development.

Benefits of GAPS Diet

This elimination diet was designed to address a number of symptoms including-

  • Severe digestive issues
  • Extensive immune system problems
  • Significant learning disabilities
  • Serious neurological conditions

The GAPS diet is designed to heal the digestive tract, improve gut flora, replace key nutrients, remove foods that are difficult to digest, prevent toxins from entering the bloodstream, and thus lowering the toxicity levels in your body. The GAPS diet has been advocated to be a natural cure for a variety of neurological and psychiatric conditions, including:

  • ADD
  • ADHD
  • Autism
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Dyslexia
  • Dyspraxia
  • Eating disorders
  • OCD
  • Schizophrenia
  • Tourette’s syndrome

Stages of the GAPS Diet

There are three stages to the GAPS diet – the introduction diet, the full GAPS diet, and the reintroduction diet. Let’s take a look at each stage of the diet and what is involved.

Introduction Phase

The introduction phase is the most difficult part of the GAPS diet. During this phase, numerous foods are eliminated to help heal your digestive tract and you are only allowed to eat certain foods. Because of the intensity of this phase, it is further broken down into the following six stages:

  • Stage One – You may enjoy bone broth made from scratch, juices from a variety of probiotic foods, and chamomile or mint tea with honey. Individuals who do not have a dairy intolerance may eat homemade, unpasteurized kefir or yogurt.
  • Stage Two – During this stage, you will add in a stew made with vegetables and lean meat or fish, ghee, and organic egg yolks.
  • Stage Three – During stage three, you will add in fermented veggies, avocadoes, scrambled eggs, and duck fat.
  • Stage Four – Stage four adds in a few more foods, including roasted or grilled meat, vegetable juice, and olive oil.
  • Stage Five – Stage five allows you to enjoy raw veggies (begin with peeled cucumbers and lettuce), cooked apple puree, fruit juices, and small amounts of raw fruits other than citrus fruits.
  • Stage Six – The last stage of the introduction phase allows you to enjoy more raw fruits, including citrus fruits.

Foods are introduced slowly and in small amounts. As you find that you are tolerating the introduced foods, you will be able to move to the next stage of the diet. Tolerating a stage is determined when you begin having normal bowel movements.

The length of introduction stage of the GAPS diet varies based on your symptoms, the health of your gastrointestinal tract, and food allergies. Some people get through this stage in a matter of weeks while it may take a year for others. Because of the strict food choices, it is recommended that you consult a holistic nutritional specialist.

Maintenance Phase

The next phase of your GAPS diet lasts one and a half to two years. During this time, you will be able to enjoy fresh meat, animal fat, organic eggs, fish and shellfish, vegetables, and fermented foods. However, there are several rules that should be followed.

First, avoid artificial colorings and preservatives and refined carbs. Choose organic foods if possible. Do not eat meat and fruit at the same time. Continue to have bone broth with every meal. Avoid canned or packaged foods. Eat as many fermented foods as possible.

Reintroduction Phase

During this phase, you will begin reintroducing all other foods. This stage will begin after you have experienced normal bowel movements and digestion for at least six months. This final stage allows you to reintroduce foods slowly, looking for any digestive issues. You should only add foods one at a time with a period of five days between foods.

After you have completed the GAPS diet, you should continue to avoid refined, sugary foods and highly processed foods. Instead, you should choose whole foods that are packed with nutrients. Throughout your GAPS diet, you should include digestive enzymes, omega 3 fatty acid supplements, probiotics, and cod liver oil. Each of these supplements reduces systemic inflammation and helps heal the gastrointestinal tract.

GAPS Diet and Your Digestive Health

Following the GAPS diet will improve your overall gut health. The diet eliminates processed foods and replaces them with whole foods. Unfortunately, this diet may not provide you with all of the nutrients that your body needs. When following this diet, you must ensure you are getting the vitamins and minerals needed to avoid nutritional deficiencies. A holistic nutritionist can help determine any nutritional supplements that will be needed throughout your GAPS diet.

Impact of Digestive Health on Brain Health

A gut is sometimes referred to as the second brain. Studies have shown that your gut microbes can affect your brain function. Gut imbalances can lead to a number of complex behavioral problems, including autism spectrum disorder, depression, schizophrenia, and more.

Autism is a developmental disorder that impairs a child’s ability to interact and communicate with others. The GAPS diet has been shown to decrease the symptoms of autism. GAPS eliminates grains, starchy veggies, and refined carbs, which can damage the gastrointestinal tract and can cause a spike in blood sugar levels. High glucose levels can damage the blood vessels in the brain and lead to cognitive impairment. The GAPS diet helps regulate your glucose levels and reduce the risk of damage to your brain.

GAPS Diet for Leaky Gut Syndrome

When you suffer from leaky gut syndrome, it can affect all aspects of your health. Your immune system can become compromised, you may have systemic inflammation, and you may have psychiatric and cognitive problems. The GAPS diet eliminates foods that can damage the intestines and replaces them with whole foods that are rich in probiotics to help heal your intestinal tract and improve your cognitive health. Our functional medicine doctors specialize in treatment of leaky gut and other digestive disorders.