What is the GAPS diet?

GAPS (Gut and Psychological Syndrome) is a healing protocol for your gut.

Let’s start from the beginning. Why would someone need a healing protocol in the first place? Well, if your gut isn’t healthy, you aren’t healthy. According to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, author of Gut and Psychological Syndrome, gut dysbiosis – an imbalance of the gut ecosystem - is the root cause of such diverse illnesses as autism, anorexia, eczema, schizophrenia, asthma and more.
Understanding the human gut
As Dr. Campbell-McBride explains, “the human body is like a planet inhabited by huge numbers of various micro-creatures.” 
They are everywhere in our bodies, but the largest colonies are found in the gut. They can be categorized as either:

1. Beneficial Flora – the bacteria that keep us healthy

2. Harmful Flora – microbes capable of causing disease if they get out of control

3. Transitional Flora - that enter our bodies with food and drink, and usually leave without doing any harm. 
The key to health is maintaining equilibrium between the beneficial and the harmful flora. When the ecosystem is in balance, the body can successfully handle harmful transitional flora and toxins. 
 
What causes gut dysbiosis?
It isn’t one event that upsets the balance of the gut, rather it’s a combination of events and habits. You inherit gut flora from your parents, so some babies are born with their guts already compromised. Then in addition, some combination of the factors listed below damage the gut flora further, until illness slowly - or suddenly- sets in. Note: the list below is only a partial list. 
  1. Antibiotics – While antibiotics have saved billions of lives and clearly are sometimes necessary, they also kill the good flora along with the bad. They should be used only when truly necessary. To help the beneficial flora recover, probiotics supplements or fermented foods [http://www.ruthsrealfood.com/2011/07/for-love-of-fermented-foods.html] should be given whenever antibiotics are prescribed.
  2. Birth Control Pills
  3. Other medications
  4. Chronic stress
  5. Infections
  6. Vaccinations - Like antibiotics, vaccinations have saved many lives. However, when they are given - often a few at a time - to a very young child who already has gut dysbiosis, a vaccination can often be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. What the parents see is that the child suddenly shows signs of autism following a vaccination.
  7. Poor diet: starting with bottle feeding in infancy and young childhood and then continuing with a typically unhealthy Western diet.

The gut is supposed to be a closed system from the mouth to the exit hatch. In a compromised gut, the gut wall isn’t protected by beneficial flora so it is constantly vulnerable to attack by pathogenic microbes. The result is that the gut wall becomes permeable. 
With a permeable gut, called leaky gut, partially digested food, which was meant to stay in the closed system of the digestive tract, enters the blood stream. We experience this as food allergies and intolerances. These are the substances that create havoc in the body. Different substances cause different problems. This is explained in detail in the book. 
Other protocols concentrate on removing these foods from the diet, and this may bring relief, but the GAPS protocol goes to the root of the problem and heals the integrity of the gut. After a period on the GAPS diet, food intolerances should disappear.
It isn’t only undigested food that exits the digestive system through the holes in the gut wall. Microbes and toxins enter the body, causing other types of damage. This is why, though the root cause is one, namely gut dysbiosis, the resulting symptoms and illnesses can be extremely varied. Often, gut dysbiosis leads to multiple problems in the same individual.
In day-to-day life, the gut is unable to heal because it is constantly dealing with an onslaught of those very factors - such as unhealthy food and antibiotics - that damaged it in the first place.

How does the GAPS protocol heal the gut?
GAPS is a sort of vacation for the gut. 
  • All potentially harmful substances are temporarily removed from the diet. This includes foods that a person with a balance gut ecosystem would be able to eat with no problem.
  • Large quantities of foods that heal the gut are consumed daily. These incluce such as bone broth and fermented foods, are consumed daily.
  • Probiotic capsules
  • Supplements: These are kept to a minimum, and are supplement that are basically food, such as cod liver oil.
 Who is the GAPS diet for?
The diet was created first and foremost for children with autism, but what manifests itself as autism in one child, may appear as asthma or learning disabilities in another or schizophrenia in a young adult.
Dr. Campbell-McBride explains the connection between the gut and many physiological and psychological disorders. While she talks about more extreme cases of gut dysbiosis, virtually no one living in the Western world has a gut in optimal condition. This suggests that the GAPS diet may be helpful for just about anyone.

Why I’m going on the GAPS diet
By cutting out all processed foods and learning to cook and eat in traditional ways, I have become much healthier and now feel much better. I would like to discover what further healing could come about from going on the GAPS diet for a period of time.
I’m planning to provide more information on GAPS in future posts, including posts on the connection between gut dysbiosis and specific illnesses such as autism and anorexia. I’ll also report on what I’m eating and any changes - good or bad. 
If you’re interested in finding out more, you can purchase Dr. Campbell McBride’s book:

Gut and Psychological Syndrome




9 comments:

daisy said...

Looking forward to your future posts about this diet. It can be very intimidating!

Ruth @ Ruth's Real Food said...

It IS a little intimidating.
Right now, I'm just thinking about getting ready for Stage One of the Introduction Diet. Going to start tomorrow morning!

Anonymous said...

An additional point to mention of the GAPS protocol is the removal of all chemical products (cleaning solutions and body care products). GAPS "diet" is really much more than a diet, it is a huge lifestyle change. While it may seem intimidating/overwhelming at first, it really becomes quite natural, and many things are much more enjoyable.

Since we have gone on the GAPS we make our own laundry detergent, dish soap, deodorant, deodorizers, and much more. This limits the amount of chemicals your body will need to detox (and make it easier for you to detox the backup of chemicals already in your system.)

Ruth @ Ruth's Real Food said...

Very true. I think it is worthwhile making the effort to reduce chemical products whether you do GAPS or not. I'm managed to get rid of some but not all.

Treasures Evermore said...

This sounds very interesting...we have a daughter with Autism and I am always looking for ideas...I never thought about this aspect of things.

Thanks for sharing.
Connie

Ann said...

I have done the GAPS diet and the results at controlling my celiac disease and diabetes are pretty amazing. The first couple of weeks are tough, but once you make it to full GAPS and are out of intro it doesn't feel like it's all that bad. I find that there are lots of things to eat. And I don't really miss grain based foods all htat much.

Hannah said...

I'm on the GAPS diet as well. Personally I find I can eat more things now than I could before because I can eat with freedom. The freedom of knowing that what I'm eating won't make me feel sick, and that's a great feeling!

I hope you have wonderful success Ruth, and I'll look forward to hearing your progress.

Jill@RealFoodForager.com said...

Thanks for linking your great post to FAT TUESDAY. Hope to see you next week!

http://realfoodforager.com/2011/09/fat-tuesday-september-20-2011/

symptoms of autism said...

I'll be sure to research more about this, thank you very much for sharing and have a nice day.

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