What the heck is the GAPS diet?
GAPS stands for Gut And Psychology/Physiology Syndrome. This elimination diet, developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, is intended to help heal and seal the gastrointestinal tract lining, which helps support a wide variety of conditions particularly related to the health of the brain. The GAPS diet provides the body with nourishing substances like amino acids, gelatin, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals in easily absorbable forms. This diet improves inflammation and irritation to the gut and helps to replenish healthy levels of bacteria due to its gentle and healing nutrients.
Who Should Follow the GAPS Diet?
Those who may suffer from the following conditions may benefit from the GAPS diet:
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s or Colitis)
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Leaky Gut Syndrome
- Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Other mental disorders
- Autoimmune Diseases
- Multiple food sensitivities
General Overview of the Diet:
- This diet is intended to be followed for 1 to 2 years, but will change over time as the body begins to heal and repair, essentially tolerating more foods
- The elimination diet starts with an introduction period that includes 6-phases
- Each of the 6 phases generally lasts between 1 to 7 days depending on the tolerance of the new foods introduced
- Overall, the introduction period may last 1 week or up to a few months!
- Thereafter comes the full GAPS diet, which is essentially the maintenance plan safe for long-term use (as needed)
Getting Started on the GAPS Introduction Diet:
- The major staple of this diet is homemade meat and/or fish stock
- Try making your own using the recipe below and store in the fridge for up to a week. Due to the time it takes to make, store extra in the freezer for later use.
- You may also purchase stock from “good” suppliers, but NEVER use the boxed or canned stuff they sell at the grocery store….that is not the quality we are after! I recommend this company.
- Bones* – poultry, fish, shellfish, beef or lamb
- Cold water- enough to cover the bones or 2 cups per 1lb of bones
- Vinegar (any kind)- 1-2 tablespoons, or substitute with fresh lemon juice
- Vegetables**(optional, as tolerated), consider peeling and removing the seeds
- Combine bones, water and vinegar in a pot, bring to a boil, remove any scum that has risen to the top and reduce heat.
- Simmer 6-48 hrs for chicken, 12 –72 hrs for beef. The longer the better (24 hrs is best). To reduce cooking time, you may smash or cut bones into small pieces first.
- If desired, add vegetables in last 30 minutes of cooking (or at any point as convenience dictates).
- Strain through a colander and discard the bones. If uncooked meat was used to start with, you may reserve the meat for soup or salads.
- *Cooked bones from a previous meal, with or without skin or meat, raw bones, with or without skin and meat (can be browned first for flavor), or use a whole carcass or just parts (good choices include feet, ribs, necks and knuckles)
- **Try celery, carrots, onions, garlic, parsley, zucchini, etc.
- ***Cold broth will gel when sufficient gelatin from the bones is present. Broth may be frozen for months, or kept in the refrigerator for about 5 days.
- Include the liquid (1 to 2 teaspoons) of homemade or store bought sauerkraut
Introduction: Phase 1 (lasting 1 to 7 days):
- INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING DAILY:
- >3 cups of bone/stock broth
- Ginger tea with a bit of honey between meals
- If you do not tolerate ginger, just use warm water with lemon
- You can grate 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger root and add it to boiling water, steep for 3-minutes, then pour through a sieve to remove ginger
- Well-cooked vegetables with skin and seeds removed (carrots, zucchini, squash, onions, etc.)
- If you do not tolerate any veggies, avoid them at first!
- Well-cooked, boiled meats like chicken, fish or beef. Boil them in the broth and avoid using seasoning.
- Sauerkraut juice- add 1 teaspoon to each cup of broth you eat during the day
- DO NOT ADD IN NEW FOODS BEYOND PHASE 1 UNTIL THE DIARRHEA/Gastrointestinal SYMPTOMS HAVE RESOLVED.
Introduction: Phase 2 (Lasting 1 to 7 days)
- Same as phase 1, but also add in new foods one at at time:
- Raw, organic, free-range egg yolks
- Add to your soup
- Start with 1 egg yolk per day and increase to 3 per day
- Eventually add in soft-boiled eggs (white cooked, yolk is runny)
- Ghee or coconut oil
- Add 1/2 teaspoon to broth, as tolerated
- Use digestive enzymes (like Dipan9 by Thorne) to help digest fats as needed
- Increase the amount of sauerkraut juice- add 2 teaspoons to each cup of broth
- Raw, organic, free-range egg yolks
Introduction: Phase 3 (Lasting 1 to 7 days)
- Same as phase 2, but also add in new foods one at a time:
- Whole sauerkraut (not just the juice)
- Scrambled eggs
- Ripe avocado (1 to 3 teaspoons to your soup)
- Roasted or grilled meats
Introduction: Phase 4 (Lasting 1 to 7 days)
- Same as phase 3, but add in new foods one at a time:
- Cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil (1 to 2 tablespoons per meal)
- GAPS Pancakes
- Fresh pressed vegetable juice, starting with just a few tablespoons of well-filtered carrot juice. Buy or make this at home!
Introduction: Phase 5 (Lasting 1 to 7 days)
- Same as phase 4, but also add in new foods one at a time:
Introduction: Phase 6 (Lasting 1 to 7 days)
- Same as phase 5, but also add in new foods one at at time:
- Raw fruit like peeled apple, pineapple and mango
- Raw, local honey (up 2 tablespoons per day). Find this at your local farmer’s market or health food store.
Stay tune for my next article where I’ll review the Full GAPS diet plan. Most of all, remember this diet is for very unique, severe cases and should be done under the supervision of a medical professional and/or nutritionist. Please reach out if you have any questions or concern or need help getting started with this plan.