Described in detail in Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s book Gut and Psychology Syndrome, the GAPS diet is most commonly used in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, leaky gut syndrome, autism, ADHD, depression, anxiety and autoimmune disease.
Inspired by the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) developed by Dr. Sidney Valentine Haas in the 1920s to heal digestive disorders, the GAPS diet has taken the natural health world by storm.
The “GAPS Diet” is an advanced meal plan that is designed to:
- Repair the gut wall (leaky gut)
- Rebalance probiotics in the micro-biome
- Stop toxic overload from bad bacteria strains that dominate the gut environment
- Prevent toxins from entering the bloodstream, which causes an array of autoimmune disorders
- Suggests easy to digest foods your your gut and body can rest and heal itself
GAPS Diet Benefits
Taking it at face value, the GAPS Diet offers a complete array of health benefits by simply taking a common sense approach to eating.
Take me, for instance. When I went on a grain-free eating plan years ago I didn’t even know that I was following the “GAPS Diet”. I knew from studying what our ancestors ate and what science has already shown us that I needed to reduce my grain intake, consume lots of probiotic rich foods and start drinking bone broth.
Like me, the health benefits most people start to experience from the GAPS Diet all start with healthy, regular digestion. Those who have followed the GAPS diet in individual cases studies have found the following GAPS diet benefits:
- Boost Immunity
- Reduce Food Sensitivity
- Improve Neurological Function
- Heal Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Reverse Type II Diabetes
- Improve Lactose Digestion
- Kill Candida
- Support Detoxification
- Reduce Anxiety and Depression
- Improve Autism
In addition, research has linked eating fermented foods, as the GAPS Diet recommends, to killing several different types of cancerous tumors in animal studies. The Journal of Dairy Science, for example, published a study that evaluated the immune cells in mice and discovered that regular kefir consumption helped stop breast cancer growth.
If we scientifically evaluate how each individual component of the GAPS Diet cures disease like this, we not only see the wide array of diseases it can reverse, the synergistic effects of all of these components coming together seem limitless!
GAPS Diet Foods to Avoid
To follow the GAPS diet, you will want to avoid:
- Processed foods
- All Grains
- Processed sugar
- Starchy carbs and potatoes
- Artificial chemicals and preservatives
- Conventional meat and dairy
In Dr. Campbell-McBride’s words, “Try to buy foods in the form that nature made them, and as fresh as possible.”
GAPS Diet Legal Foods
In a nutshell, Dr. Campbell-McBride recommends the following foods as part of the introduction GAPS diet:
- Bone Broth
- Steamed (non-starchy) vegetables
- Organic wild meats
- Fish (wild caught)
- Egg yolks
- Fruit and Avocados
- Healthy Fats: coconut oil, ghee and olive oil
- Sprouted nut butter
- Probiotic rich foods
- Sea Salt
Some other important takeaways from the GAPS Diet include:
- Be sure to include 1 tbsp raw fermented vegetable juice (like sauerkraut juice) with meals, as they contain vital enzymes to assist digestion of the meats.
- Fruit should be eaten on their own, not with meals, as they have a very different digestion pattern and can make the work harder for the stomach.
- Ghee and Coconut oil are the best oils for cooking.
- Slowly add in probiotic rich foods including: sauerkraut, yogurt, and kefir. It’s important to note, you should NOT consume store bought yogurt, only raw dairy fermented 24 hours or more.
- It is recommended to take a cup of warm meat or fish stock with every meal as a drink as well as soups and stews made with the meat or fish stock.
GAPS Diet Recipes
You can find some GAPS diet recipes here.
You can also checkout the full GAPS diet food list and introduction stage by printing out this GAPS diet shopping list.
GAPS Diet Controversy
Because no clinical trials evaluating its effectiveness have been published yet, a slew of experts have been surfacing on the Internet barraging the GAPS Diet for being “experimental” and “unfounded on science.”
But just because there isn’t a double-blind study backed by a pharmaceutical company, doesn’t mean this diet isn’t “scientific” and effective.
As I’ve shared before, science has shown that 80% of the human immune system is housed in the gut and an imbalance of healthy probiotics and harmful pathogenic bacteria is linked to most chronic diseases today. Although the GAPS Diet hasn’t been thoroughly studied directly, countless research studies have substantiated the underlying premises indirectly. Essentially, it has been proven because it’s a theory based on solid research and countless personally testimonies.
Secondly, Austin M. Mulloy, PhD (Assistant Professor of Special Education and Disability Policy at Virginia Commonwealth University) is currently conducting a study that is evaluating how GAPS performs in a clinical setting. Granted, it’s only one study, but in the future you will see more and more studies coming out on how following a diet similar to GAPS can greatly improve someone’s overall health.
How about you? Are you on the GAPS Diet Plan? Has it helped enhance YOUR health?