The GAPS Diet is a way of eating that helps reverse gut dysbiosis or leaky gut. It is frequently referred to simply as GAPS or the leaky gut diet.
GAPS is an acronym for Gut and Psychology Syndrome. And, it was publicized by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride. It came from the Specific Carbohydrate Diet(SCD) created by Dr. Sidney Valentine Haas.
He developed it as a way to naturally treat chronic inflammatory. The chronic inflammation caused conditions in the digestive tract such as celiac disease as a result of a damaged gut lining.
This diet has been life changing for me as you can read in GAPS Diet Experience.
In fact, there was such a difference in my health, that we tried it as a family and the GAPS Diet Results were again amazing.
I had chronic health problems, such as, rheumatoid arthritis and severe digestion problems from my teen years. All were the result of leaky gut which the diet addressed and corrected.
However, I am not a doctor and this information is in no way intended to give medical advice. I am sharing what has worked for me and from testimonials, many others also.
What is Leaky Gut or Gut Dysbiosis?
While the two terms can be used interchangeably, “Leaky Gut” is probably the more widely used term.
According to Harvard Medical:
Leaky gut, is also called increased intestinal permeability … Inside our bellies, we have an extensive intestinal lining covering more than 4,000 square feet of surface area. When working properly, it forms a tight barrier that controls what gets absorbed into the bloodstream. An unhealthy gut lining may have large cracks or holes, allowing partially digested food, toxins, and bugs to penetrate the tissues beneath it. This may trigger inflammation and changes in the gut flora (normal bacteria) that could lead to problems within the digestive tract and beyond. The research world is booming today with studies showing that modifications in the intestinal bacteria and inflammation may play a role in the development of several common chronic diseases.
There is growing evidence that gut dysbiosis or leaky gut is associated with intestinal disorders and other health issues.
- inflammatory bowel disease,
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- celiac disease
While extra-intestinal disorders include:
- metabolic syndrome
- cardiovascular disease
- obesity (Source)
What is the GAPS Diet?
The GAPS diet is a type of elimination diet whose goal is to starve the harmful bacteria while feeding the good or beneficial bacteria. And, this allows the gut to heal and have good lining integrity.
When the harmful bacteria are growing and flourishing in your gut, they can release toxins. It is these toxins that many times cause physical and psychological problems and illness.
At the same time, while depriving the harmful bacteria of their food source, foods that encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria are eaten.
Since only easy to digest foods are eaten, time is given which allows the gut time to heal. And, these easy to digest foods are introduced in a specific order.
If the gut lining is not intact, undigested proteins are allowed to enter the bloodstream which can cause an autoimmune response.
GAPS Diet Stages
The GAPS Diet consists of two parts. The GAPS Intro Diet and the Full GAPS Diet.
The Introduction Diet has 6 stages. Each stage adds food chosen for their ease of digestion. The first phase is more restrictive than the sixth stage.
The Intro diet is designed not only to allow the gut to heal but as foods are added, any adverse reaction can be noted.
Why Follow the GAPS Diet?
Leaky gut is a condition in which the lining of the intestines or gut is sick. It allows proteins to pass through into the blood stream without being completely digested.
The proteins in the blood can cause
- Autoimmune problems – See GAPS Diet Experience
- Psychological problems
- Autism – Dr. McBride, the author of the Gut and Psychology Syndrome book, uses it in her practice with autism and has had amazing results.
How Long Does it Take to Reverse Leaky Gut?
In the “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” book, Dr. McBride states that children can healing as little as sic months. Adults, however, take longer and it can require about two years.
I was on it for just at two years before I began transitioning off the GAPS Diet.
Benefits of the GAPS Diet
I went from being in so much pain with my rheumatoid arthritis that I was unable to cut my pancakes at breakfast to active, healthy living.
Others testify of reversing autoimmune illnesses, eczema, autism, psychological and emotional problems along with celiac.
History of GAPS
This is an updated version of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet or SCD. According to Stanford Medical:
The specific carbohydrate diet (SCD) is a nutritionally complete grain free diet, low in sugar and lactose. It was developed by Dr. Sidney Haas, a pediatrician, in the 1920’s as treatment for celiac disease.
Dr. Haas had great results with the diet in his celiac patients. And, he realized that other conditions chronic conditions were being reversed, such as autoimmune diseases.
This was due to the diet’s ability to allow the beneficial gut bacteria in control of the patients’ gut, as well as, the foods eaten allowing the leaky gut to heal.
What Foods are Allowed or Not on GAPS?
The diet puts a heavy focus on probiotics foods, as well as, bone broth for its healing properties to the gut lining. See 15 Benefits of Bone Broth.
All grains are avoided, as well as, foods that tend to feed bad or harmful bacteria like:
- processed sugars
- processed foods
- white potatoes
- dried beans
Most fruits and non-starchy vegetables can be eaten freely.
For a full list of foods to include and foods to avoid, see the Gut and Psychology Syndrome pages 159 – 167.
Why Can You Have Honey on the GAPS Diet?
Honey, like pure maple syrup, is a monosaccharide which means it requires very little, if any, digestion before being absorbed.
It does not feed the harmful bacteria and is easily absorbed so, both honey and pure maple syrup are included in the diet.
Plus, when using raw local honey, you are also gaining beneficial enzymes that can help boost your immune system.
How Can I Start the GAPS Diet?
The first step to success with the diet is to understand why and how the diet works.
I highly recommend reading the Gut and Psychology Syndrome book to gain a clear understanding of why you are doing the diet.
Read my Gut and Psychology Syndrome Book Review for an overview. But, it is not to take the place of reading the book!
You can also benefit from my GAPS Diet: How to Start Guide in which I give a timeline for preparation and steps to implement throughout the diet.
Can We Do GAPS as a Family?
Yes, in fact, I did it with my family.
However, it may be a bit more challenging with younger children. At least, that is what I found.
But, the benefits of healthy living are worth the effort.
Do I Need Supplements or Vitamins on GAPS?
The beauty of the GAPS diet is its use of foods rather than vitamin supplements.
The major supplementation is done with probiotic foods that you can make at home. Here are a few of my favorite GAPS recipes:
- How to Make Bone Broth
- How to Make Chicken Broth
- Fermented Carrots
- How to Make Yogurt
- How to Make Kefir
- Homemade Sauerkraut
Some choose to take probiotic supplement and digestive enzymes. While I focused mainly on using probiotic foods, I did supplement a bit. See GAPS Supplements – Then and Now.
Are Fermented Foods Part of the GAPS Diet?
Yes, fermented foods or cultured foods are part of the GAPS diet. They are used to introduce healthy bacteria into your system.
This includes the foods listed in the links above – kefir, sauerkraut, yogurt…
If your family is skeptical, be sure to check out How to Get Your Family Interested in Cultured Foods.
Is Lacto-Fermentation Part of GAPS?
Yes, lacto-fermentation is part of the GAPS diet. Lacto-fermentation is the process in which lactobacillus is produced in an anaerobic environment.
The process happens when the starches and sugars within the vegetables are converted to lactic acid by the friendly bacteria lactobacilli.
These beneficial bacteria, lactobacilli, produce helpful enzymes. Antibiotics and anti-carcinogenic substances help with the process too.
The term “lacto” refers to the lactic acid which is the main by-product of lactobacilli and has two important jobs:
- It helps preserve vegetables and fruits.
- Promotes the growth of healthy flora (or bacteria) throughout the intestines.
However, for more detail, see Lacto-Fermentation Explained
Recipes that use the lacto-fermentation process are
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