What is the GAPS Diet?

Before we began eating real foods, my hubby and I did one month gluten-free (December of 2010). While looking for gluten-free recipes, I stumbled across something called the “GAPS” diet. After reading through the basics I thought, “I could NEVER do that!!” Well, on Saturday my family is starting GAPS. Never say “never”, right? ;-)

Why GAPS?

GAPS stands for “Gut And Psychology Syndrome”. It is a temporary diet that is meant to heal the digestive tract (“gut”). You can read a bit about the creator of the GAPS diet, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, and the history of the diet here. The gist of it is that a problem in the gut is often the root cause of “mental health” problems. Diseases such as autism, ADD, ADHD, depression, anxiety and more have been found to be drastically improved and even cured for some people when they use the GAPS diet.

Damage to the digestive tract and the wrong bacteria and yeast taking over can cause “leaky gut syndrome”. In this situation, undigested foods are able to get into the bloodstream. This can cause so many problems throughout the body, but it’s surprising how much of an effect it can have on the brain and emotions.

Along with mental health and psychological issues, many chronic health problems are improved or eliminated by following GAPS. Food allergies, immune system problems and inflammatory diseases are some of the things people find relief from. You can read some testimonials here, if you’re interested.

The Food

The GAPS diet has two parts: “Intro” and “Full” GAPS. Intro is broken down into six steps and each step adds in some more foods. On intro, only highly nutritious and easily digested foods are eaten. Homemade broth/stock, boiled meats, well-cooked veggies, probiotic-rich foods, raw egg yolk, fresh-pressed juices and other healing foods are added slowly so that any adverse reaction can be spotted. If a certain food causes problems, it is removed for several days or a week and then tried again. You can read the details of the intro diet on the GAPS site. Some people can go through the intro in about a week, but other people can take several weeks or even months in extreme cases.

Once all the foods on the intro diet are well-tolerated, Full GAPS is started. Meats, cultured dairy, nuts, fruits, veggies and plenty of other nutritious and tasty foods are available. Here is a list of foods available on Full GAPS, along with a list of foods to avoid. It is a grain-free diet and uncultured dairy is not recommended for anybody who has problems with it.

My Thoughts

  1. I love that this diet is meant to be temporary. I have known so many people who are avoiding certain things (especially gluten or dairy) and plan to do so for their entire lives. That method avoids reactions, but it doesn’t heal the cause. Many of them might be able to overcome their digestive problems by being on a stricter diet for a short amount of time and then be able to eat the foods they are avoiding.
  2. The fact that this is not a low-carb diet is another plus in my book! My hubby and I tried low-carb several years ago and weren’t crazy about the exhaustion that goes with it. Although this is a grain-free diet and highly starchy foods, such as potatoes, are out there are still plenty of carbs to choose from. Once on full GAPS fruit and raw honey are allowed, so I’ll be making fruit salad with our delicious dressing! :-)
  3. Both of those points are part of my final thought. None of the real foods are bad! God gave us all these amazing foods and said they are good, so I’m not crazy about the “grains are evil” and “don’t eat meat” type movements. The problem lies with damage that has been done to our bodies. We aren’t able to digest these foods the way we used to be able to. Antibiotics and other “safe” drugs, artificial “foods” and all the nasty chemicals that we are exposed to every day have wreaked havoc on us. It’s so much better to try to heal the damage and eat all foods than to avoid them for life. If, after following GAPS a person still can’t tolerate a certain food, they haven’t lost anything. All they’ve done is eaten some extremely nutritious foods!

My next post will be about our personal GAPS plans. :-) Also, here’s a post of all the most helpful *free* GAPS resources I’ve found, so far!!

Have you done GAPS? Are you thinking about trying it?

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14 comments to What is the GAPS Diet?

  • Christin

    Good for you!!! I just started my own GAPS journey about a 1 1/2 months ago for a laundry list of health problems (starting with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue) I’ve been dealing with for 10 years. Doctors have washed their hands of me. I don’t know much, so far, but the diet is not an easy road. You can do it, though!!! If there’s any advice I can give, don’t just jump in. Spend a month or so preparing tons of food in advance and freezing!!!!!! It makes the rough days easier, and you will be much less likely to want to quit. Are you starting with the intro or full diet? Good luck and God bless!

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Christin! That is great advice about prepping the food in advance. I’ve been doing that the last few weeks and will be posting about it. The next few days I’ll be doing a bunch more prep work and then we’ll start my hubby on intro and myself and the girls on full GAPS.

      Just out of curiosity, before starting GAPS were you eating a “real foods” diet or lots of processed food? I’m not sure we could have gone straight to GAPS from our SAD (Standard American Diet). Having almost two years of unprocessed foods has made it seem so much less intimidating! :-)

      I pray that GAPS does wonderful things for you and you are able to regain your health quickly! Blessings!

      • Christin

        I can’t wait to read all your posts about your prep work and your journey on GAPS!

        Our family was definitely not eating a “real foods” diet before I started GAPS. While I tried to make a lot from scratch, it was food made from regular white pasta & rice, regular meats from a grocery store (nothing organic), plenty of veggies – but all frozen and nothing fresh, lots of fresh fruit but nothing organic, regular skim milk – all the SAD. We were a basic potato, meat, and veggie family. That said, the worse my health got, and the busier my husband got, the more I turned to frozen pizzas and chicken nuggets and prepared foods, and when my husband was in charge of a meal, McDonalds or Wendy’s – the WORST of the WORST. At my lowest, I was in bed for 3 months with a never ending migraine that even the strongest pain meds and migraine meds couldn’t get rid of. Two months after that add in a move to a different state this summer, the start of new jobs a month after the move, and my husband writing and finishing a thesis during these 6 months (he turned in the final draft last week) – and I’m TOAST! (did i mention we have a 3 yr old and 5 yr old boys?) :-) Long story short, I went Gluten-free in August. I went completely sugar-free in September and started intro GAPS, cold turkey (BAD idea, doing it cold turkey!!!!!) I felt great, eating the diet, but the die off was and is so bad that I cannot prepare food or take care of my kids. I had to stop, switch to the full GAPS, which I can feed my entire family, and not have to prepare two sets of meals.

        Going from processed foods to GAPS has not been easy, but if I can heal my health, it is TOTALLY worth it. My taste buds have changed already – I don’t crave the junk food. I have always LOVED sweets, but I can sit in front of them and not even feel like I’m missing out. They are poison to my body.

        Right now I’m going day to day, or making several days food at a time for my family, but as the energy returns I plan to do a “restart” and prep a bunch of food. I think it will just take time. I’m no worse than I was a year ago or 5 years ago. It took a lifetime to get to this low level of health, so it will take a long time to improve, too! God is my strength and I am so thankful for running into this information on GAPS and for placing all this info in my hands! I’m also thankful for moving to an area where we are within a 1/2 hr from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. And God led us to buy a house where we are do not have a home owner’s association preventing us from building our own garden – we almost bought a house where we couldn’t have a garden! It wasn’t a priority 5 months ago, like it is now! God is good! I will get better! What’s a year or two of improvement, if I have the rest of my life to live well?!

        Sorry for the book here! Can’t wait to read your GAPS series! Hope your experience with it goes well!

        • I’m so glad you found GAPS, too! I hope that your energy gets better and better and that your bad symptoms disappear. Going straight from processed food to GAPS must have been brutal! I have a fabulous list of resources with some delicious looking recipes that might be helpful to you. It’ll post on Monday morning. :-)

  • Yeah, we need to. I am looking forward to seeing your journey through it, so I can learn a thing or too. I really do not want to have sensitivities to dairy, wheat, and corn in our family (plus whatever Mark is sensitive to) forever! So, we plan on doing this as soon as we can.

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