If you’re having digestive issues and considering your best nutritional options, you might want to give the GAPS diet a try, and no, it has nothing to do with the brand GAP! The GAPS diet stands for Gut And Psychology Syndrome, based off a best-selling book written by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. The GAPS diet stems from the belief that certain foods that are digested in the stomach can interact with the brain, causing everything from mood problems, digestive issues, and food allergies, to a host of other issues. Many people who observe the Paleo lifestyle may try this form of eating, since the two are very similar. The GAPS diet, however, is geared more towards healing a patient’s gut to heal the entire body and other issues at hand they may be experiencing. People with IBS usually also consider this diet, because it caters well to all IBS symptoms. For more information on this diet and how you may benefit from it, check out the top 11 things you need to know about the GAPS diet.
1. It’s Not about Losing Weight
The point of the GAPS diet isn’t to lose weight, so don’t consider this your typical diet. This is more of a healing diet, which can have both mind and body benefits. This may also help those of us who have become so accustomed to eating for weight loss be able to finally eat in a more nourishing way if we’re experiencing digestive issues, outside of what size jeans we want to fit into.
2. You Should like Meat
I have news for you, if you’re a vegetarian, this diet might not be for you. It utilizes high quality grass-fed meat, wild caught seafood, organic, grass fed poultry and only allows pastured eggs in the late stages. Easy to digest vegetables are allowed, but at first, much of the diet consists of bone broth and high quality meats rich in l-glutamine and gelatin, which offer nutritional gut healing benefits. You could perhaps get by with just fish and no red meat if you wanted to, but that would make things more difficult.
3. It Has Proven to Be Effective
The GAPS diet has proven to be very effective in helping people with gut issues heal very quickly. Because bone broths are so rich in healing properties, the gut becomes less inflamed, and symptoms such as poor mood, digestive disturbances and allergies are almost always eliminated through the first week on the GAPS diet.
4. Doctor Approved
The good news is, this diet isn’t just some gimmick, but tested by an actual doctor, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. She wrote a book called Gut and Psychology Syndrome, explaining how the digestive system hosts almost all of our nerves that connect to our brains. Her philosophy is that our guts and brains are one and the same, and it’s one reason why our digestive tract is so often called “our second brain.” These neural pathways connect to each other, and whatever isn’t digested well in your stomach will affect every other aspect of your body, including the brain.
5. SCD Approved
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet actually began the study of the GAPS diet when Dr. Sidney Valentine Haas, creator of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, created a certain diet protocol to heal digestive disorders. SCD gained great popularity after a mother, Elaine Gottschall, healed her own child and became an advocate for SCD. She also wrote the popular book Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet. The SCD diet emphasizes how specific carbohydrates in grains, some fruits, legumes and dairy can interfere with the gut’s absorption ability and cause leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut syndrome occurs when food isn’t properly digested or tolerated well, isn’t absorbed and actually leaks through the gut walls, creating a systemic inflammatory response in the blood stream.
6. The Research is Impressive
Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride knows her stuff, let me tell you. She graduated with two degrees in Medicine and Postgraduate degrees in both Neurology and Human Nutrition, and has her own practice in Cambridge. Dr. Campbell-McBride specializes in nutrition for children and adults with behavioral and learning disabilities, and adults with digestive and immune system disorders. The results have been impressive, with patients noticing dramatic changes all within days of beginning the diet.
7. What You Can Gain
If you have digestive issues, the GAPS diet is something to consider. The basic idea behind the diet is that even if you eat a healthy diet full of nutritious foods, if your body isn’t agreeing with what you’re eating, it can’t function properly. Wastes get stored in the digestive tract and blood stream, creating inflammation, digestive disturbances, fatigue and many mood disorders. So, by utitlizing the GAPS diet to heal the body, not only is your digestion spot on, but your brain chemistry improves and your inflammation decreases.
8. Who Can Benefit
If you suffer any digestive disorder, or a combination of any, such as constipation, gas, bloating, diarrhea, cramping, persistent pain, multiple food allergies and/or intolerances, Crohn’s Disease or any type of certain mood changes directly after you eat, such as depression, brain fog, anxiety, or even aggression, you may want to look into this diet further.
9. What Foods Are Allowed
This diet is comprised of multiple stages, which include 6 different stages, and the beginning is tough, I won’t lie. At first, the idea is to clear out any harmful stuff still residing in the digestive tract. Food that hasn’t been digested well for years can take a few days to leave the body once starting the diet, which is the basis behind the introduction diet. Throughout the whole diet, animal-based and vegetable based broths are emphasized, along with fermented veggies or high quality fermented dairy like raw yogurt or kefir, or regular homemade kefir and yogurt. Ginger tea is utilized during this time as well. Later on, such as in a week, more whole foods are allowed, when the body can digest them without any issues. This gives the gut walls time to heal and inflammation is reduced.
10. What Foods You Can’t Eat
Legumes, grains, beans, pseudograins and processed, commercial dairy are all excluded on the diet. Also, all processed food, junk food, sugar, most sources of caffeine and alcohol are automatic no-nos. These foods contain inflammatory agents that many people react to and don’t even know it.
11. How You Can Start
If you think this diet might be for you, there are multiple resources on the GAPS website. I highly suggest you check it out for more information, helpful resources and a specific protocol and breakdown for what you need to do to get started. You can also submit questions to Dr. Campbell-McBride herself through the FAQ link on the website. To visit the GAPS website, check it out here: gapsdiet.com.
As someone with a long history of sensitivity to carbohydrates, I can tell you I’ve never looked better or felt better since eliminating foods that aren’t allowed on the GAPS diet, and for once, a lifelong battle with malnutrition, seizures and depression is gone, and I don’t even eat red meat! The GAPS diet is for more people than just your common diet obsessed woman. It’s a great resource to investigate if you think you’ve exhausted every other avenue. Do you have digestive disturbances that you think the GAPS diet might improve?