If you’ve spent any time at all trying to improve your digestive health then you’ve probably heard of the GAPS Diet.
Almost as controversial as it is famous, the GAPS diet has been said to treat everything from autism to IBS. But what makes this diet so special and why is it so effective at treating disease?
Keep reading to discover why the GAPS Diet has become a powerful tool for healing the root cause of ill health.
What Exactly is GAPS?
GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology
Dr. Campbell-McBride created the diet to treat a number of disorders including inflammatory bowel disease, autism, leaky gut syndrome, ADHD, depression, anxiety, and autoimmune diseases.
There are two separate parts to the diet: the Introduction Diet and the Full GAPS Diet.
The Introduction Diet: Depending on how severe your condition is, you’ll likely want to start with the Introduction Diet. The Intro Diet is divided into six different stages with the initial stages being much stricter in terms of what foods you’re allowed to eat.
As you progress through the different stages, you add more foods until you transition to the Full GAPS Diet. The Introduction Diet is especially useful for people with severe gastrointestinal issues (e.g., Crohn's) or neurological conditions (e.g., autism, bipolar disorder).
Full GAPS Diet: After completing the Introductory Diet, you can then move to the Full GAPS Diet. While the majority of your meals should still be focused on meats, eggs, vegetables, and fermented food, you’ll be able to enjoy the occasional tropical fruit, handful of nuts, or honey in your tea.
Although it’s suggested you start with the Introduction Diet, many people start with the Full GAPS Diet and then gradually transition to the Introduction Diet. If you’re coming off of a Standard Western Diet, cutting out foods like dairy, grains, legumes, processed foods, and sugar can be a bit too much for some people to handle all at once!
How Does the GAPS Diet Work?
You may skeptical as to how a diet could be the cure for so many different health conditions. Last time you checked, practitioners weren’t prescribing antidepressants for IBS and immune suppressors for depression. But that’s the beauty of the GAPS diet because it addresses the cause of disease, which is rooted in the digestive system.
According to Campbell-McBride, too many bad bacteria (gut dysbiosis) can cause a number of conditions and diseases. Triggers like stress, antibiotics, infections, a diet high in refined and processed foods, prescription drugs, steroids, and birth control can all disrupt the normal flora in your gut.
And when the bad bacteria, yeast, and parasites start to take over they begin to create holes in your gut. If someone went down with a scope they wouldn’t be able to see these holes because they’re not visible to the naked eye, but they are big enough to allow undigested food to pass through the intestinal lining.
And just to be clear:
You never want undigested food floating around in your bloodstream. The casein protein from your milkshake, and the gluten protein from your ham sandwich can quickly put your immune system on high alert, attacking the protein, causing widespread inflammation, and potentially attacking your own body.
Over time, your leaky gut can start causing you a lot of problems like allergies, acne, mental illness, digestion problems, and autoimmune disorders.
Fortunately, you don’t have to put up with poor digestion.
The GAPS Diet heals the gut by removing hard-to-digest food and replacing them with easily digestible and highly nutritious food to heal the gut, calm the immune system, and starve pathogenic bugs. Over time, as your digestion improves and your symptoms abate, you can begin to add different types of food back into your diet.
So What Am I Actually Allowed To Eat On This Diet?
At first, even the thought of starting something like the GAPS Diet can seem overwhelming. Many of us grew up on diets with cereal and pasteurized milk for breakfast, a Wonder Bread sandwich with bologna for lunch, and white pasta with canned tomato sauce for dinner. If you cut all of these foods out then what’s left to eat?
Although the change can seem extreme at first, with time you’ll get used to cooking with these GAPS-approved foods.
Allowable Foods on The Full GAPS Diet
● Bone Broth: A potent healer that assists in healing leaky gut, inflammation, and boosts the immune system.
● Gently Steamed Vegetables (non-starchy): Cooking the vegetables makes them easier to digest.
● Fish (wild and not farmed): The omegas found in fish are excellent at reducing inflammation.
● Eggs: In the beginning stages, you’ll need to avoid the whites.
● Fruits: In moderation, and should be avoided if you have yeast issues.
● Good Fats: Animal fats, coconut oil, olive oil, ghee.
● Fermented Foods: Sauerkraut, kimchi, and fermented milk products (if you can tolerate dairy).
● Sea Salt: Salt is especially important if you have adrenal issues and chronic stress.
● Sprouted Nut Butters: Sprouting the nuts makes them easier to digest. Although nuts can be eaten, they are best eaten in moderation.
● Organic Meats: Avoid conventional meats that often have high levels of inflammatory omega-6 fats and may have been raised with antibiotics.
Foods You’ll Need To Avoid
● Grains: This even includes gluten-free grains like rice, and pseudograins like quinoa.
● Processed Sugar
● Starchy Vegetables: This includes potatoes and corn, although you can still have winter squash, parsnip, and pumpkin.
● Artificial Chemicals and Preservatives: Whether or not you’re following GAPS, everyone will benefit from avoiding artificial additives.
● Processed Food: Avoid fast food and packaged food.
● Conventional Dairy and Meat
Are you having trouble coming up with GAPS-friendly recipes? Check out Carrie Vitt’s website, Deliciously Organic, for an abundance of mouthwatering recipes free of grains, soy, refined sugar, and legumes.
But Why Can’t I Eat Certain Foods?
Maybe you’re still shaking your head in disagreement. Your family has been eating bread and drinking milk for generations, so why should you stop now?
It’s true that in the past, these foods didn’t seem to cause the problems that they are today. But you also need to account for the fact that people’s digestions are in a much worse state than they were fifty years ago due to the rampant use of antibiotics, birth control, prescription drugs, and junk food.
What’s the bottom line?
If you really want to optimize your digestion to give your body a chance to heal, then you need to remove those foods that are preventing your body from healing. Primarily, people who have impaired digestion need to avoid two kinds of molecules found in certain foods:
● Disaccharides: Disaccharides means ‘double sugar’ and can be found in many types of carbohydrates including grains and milk. Someone with a weak digestion doesn’t have the proper gut flora needed to break down the bonds between these sugar molecules, leaving a feast for pathogenic bacteria, yeasts, and parasites.
● Starches: Starches, like those found in potatoes, can also be tough to digest because the molecular structure of starch is quite complex with hundreds of sugars connected in branch-like strands.
So although it may be difficult to give up your daily bowl of cereal with milk, this potent combination of refined grains, pasteurized milk, refined sugar, and artificial flavours and colours, is really not doing your body any favours. It’s best to switch this deadly combination for a more traditional breakfast like eggs.
Beyond Diet: How GAPS Is More Than Just About The Food
While most people focus on the foods allowed at each stage of the diet, Campbell-McBride’s comprehensive GAPS protocol involves more than simply cutting out toxic foods and replacing them with nutritious and wholesome alternatives. In fact, most people with chronic disease are toxic in more ways than just the undigested food rotting in their guts.
Detoxification is an important part of the GAPS Diet, and it’s essential that you focus on helping your body eliminate the toxins that are going to be liberated after consuming more healthy foods. Support your body’s natural elimination pathways by:
● Juicing with fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
● Coffee enemas to speed up liver detoxification.
● Eat detoxifying foods like spirulina, chlorella, bee pollen, seaweed, and probiotics.
● Remove amalgam fillings.
● Bathe in Epsom salts, clay, and bicarbonate of soda.
Overall, the GAPS Diet can be a powerful healing tool, especially if you struggle with poor digestion or a leaky gut. If you want to learn more about the GAPS Diet, you should check out Dr. Campbell-McBride’s website and order a copy of her book!
If you are looking for extra guidance implementing these protocols, you may want to consider a naturopathic consultation.
Looking for more information? Check out this video by Dr. Axe, who provides a summary of the GAPS Diet.
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