The Gut and Psychology Syndrome diet (GAPS) is not for the faint of heart. It requires patience and dedication, not to mention time -- up to three years. But for those suffering from asthma, food intolerance and allergy, developmental delays, depression or a spectrum of digestive disorders, it can be a miracle. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, creator of the diet, believes that all disease begins with a compromised gut and if the digestive tract is healed, so is health.
A damaged gut equals compromised health
Through poor food choices, environmental toxins or genetic disposition, the gut can develop lesions that leak toxins into the bloodstream. This opens the door to a host of dysfunctional autoimmune conditions, systemic candida infections and neurological disorders. Dr. Campbell-McBride, who specializes in neurology and human nutrition, recognizes the crucial role a well functioning digestive system plays in physical and mental health. Using the GAPS protocol, she has witnessed full recoveries from autism to irritable bowel syndrome to food allergies.
The GAPS program is intended to heal the gut, balance intestinal flora, detoxify the body, vastly improve digestion and subsequently, health. It is not a quick fix. "Rather, it is about completely pulling back from all those things that exacerbate our already over-loaded, tired, lethargic, toxin-ridden, out-of-balance and damaged system, so that our gut can truly heal," according to Stephanie Langford, author of Keeper of the Home website.
The essence of GAPS consists of high quality meats and oils, fermented foods, eggs and an abundance of produce. Grains, starchy vegetables, sugar and caffeine are strictly forbidden. Bone broth and soup along with probiotics are the cornerstone of the program. Additionally, food combining is important to minimize digestive strain. To begin, an introduction diet is followed for several weeks up to many months, depending on the constitution and reactions of the individual. Ginger tea, homemade yogurt/kefir, egg yolks, animal fats, nuts and seeds, meat stews, fermented vegetables and avocados are consumed in stages during the initial transitionary period. Nut-flour breads, cooked apples and winter squash are also included. An organic diet is recommended with a focus on grass-fed, free-range animals.
After the introductory phase is complete, the full GAPS protocol is set in motion which has much more flexibility and variety. Grains, starches, caffeine, processed and sugar-laden foods are still illegal, but specific aged cheeses are allowed. Sprouted navy beans and lentils, apple cider vinegar, whole eggs, seaweed, honey and fruit are reintroduced into the diet as well.
GAPS is not forever. It is only used until the gut is completely healed. Dr. Campbell-McBride estimates this usually takes a child six to eight months; whereas with an adult, it may take much longer depending on the severity of the damage. Once the integrity of the intestinal wall is restored, grains and starches are gradually added to the diet -- the body can now properly digest these foods. And when the gut is thoroughly healed, long standing health issues disappear.
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