What is GAPS or the GAPS Diet?
All diseases begin in the gut- Hippocrates
Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAP Syndrome or GAPS) is a condition, which establishes a connection between the functions of the digestive system and the brain. This term was created by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, a medical doctor, with postgraduate degrees in both neurology and human nutrition, in 2004 after working with hundreds of children and adults with neurological and psychiatric conditions, such as autistic spectrum disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD/ADD), schizophrenia, dyslexia, dyspraxia, depression, obsessive –compulsive disorder, bi-polar disorder and other neuro-psychological and psychiatric problems.
Other conditions affected by GAPS can be autoimmune issues, infertility, food allergies, colds, allergies and compromised immune systems, leaky gut syndrome, overall toxicity in the body, obesity and other common maladies. By addressing the health of the gut, we address the health of the entire body.
GAPS Diet usually refers to the treatment program that people with GAPS (Gut and Psychology/Physiology Syndrome) go on to heal.
The purpose of the treatment is to detoxify the person, to lift the toxic fog off the brain to allow it to develop and function properly. In order to achieve that we need to clean up and heal the digestive tract, so it stops being the major source of toxicity in the body and becomes the source of nourishment, as it is supposed to be. As more than 90% of everything toxic floating in our blood (and getting into the brain) comes from the gut, healing it will drop the level of toxicity in the body dramatically.
More than just a diet, the program involves three steps:
1. The Diet. GAPS conditions are essentially digestive disorders. The digestive system is a long tube; what you fill that tube with has a direct effect on its well-being. That is why the diet is the most important and the number one treatment. Everything else takes a second place.
The diet is implemented in two parts- first is called GAPS Intro (or the Intro Diet) which an intensive healing diet that restricts food to mostly boiled meat, homemade bone broth and boiled veggies for a period of time until digestive symptoms clear. Then, through a series of several stages, each introducing a few more foods, you move into Full GAPS. Full GAPS is a much less restricted diet that includes plenty of healthy proteins and fats, along with vegetables and some fruits. Harder to digest starches and sugars are avoided to allow the gut time to heal.
2. Appropriate Supplementation. Probiotics, essential fatty acids, fermented cod liver oil and digestive support are generally recommended.
3. Detoxification and Lifestyle Changes. Reducing stress, making sure to get proper sleep and reducing toxic load in the home and personal care products are all important.
The History of the GAPS Diet
The GAPS diet is based on the SCD (the Specific Carbohydrate Diet). SCD has been invented by a renowned American pediatrician named Dr. Sidney Valentine Haas in the first half of the 20th century. Dr. Haas and his colleagues have spent many years researching the effects of diet on celiac disease and other digestive disorders. The results of this research were published in a comprehensive medical textbook “The Management of Celiac Disease”, written by Dr. Sidney V. Haas and Merrill P. Haas in 1951. The diet, described in the book, was accepted by the medical community all over the world as a cure for celiac disease and Dr. Sidney V. Haas was honored for his pioneer work in the field of pediatrics.
Unfortunately, when celiac disease was defined as a gluten intolerance or gluten enteropathy, the SCD was forgotten as outdated information. It was brought back to life by Elaine Gottschall. Following the success of the SCD with her daughter, Elaine Gottschall over the years helped thousands of people, suffering from Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, diverticulitis and various types of chronic diarrhoea. But the most dramatic and fast recoveries she reported in young children, who apart from digestive problems had serious behavioural abnormalities, such as autism, hyperactivity and night terrors. She devoted years of research into biochemical and biological basis of the diet and published a book, called “Breaking the Vicious Cycle. Intestinal Health Trough Diet.”