Have you heard of the GAPS Diet?
Unfortunately, many people find it overwhelming, irrelevant, or unapproachable. Today I'd like to demystify it.
For more details, follow along in our GAPS series.
The Heart Of The Matter
Or rather, the guts. 😉
The author of the GAPS Diet, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, believes that we cannot be healthy without a healthy gut.
A healthy gut is a healthy, thriving population of beneficial organisms — she calls it a “micro-world” — that functions both to protect and nourish us.
GAPS is an acronym that stands for Gut And Psychology Syndrome.
If the gut is not healthy, we cannot be nourished well or protected against infection.
“A human digestive tract is a long tube open to the outside word at its start and at its end. Whatever harmful things there are in the outside world, our digestive system is a perfect entrance for them into our bodies. We eat and drink plenty of micro-organisms, chemicals and toxins every day.
How do we survive?
One of the major reasons is the fact that the whole length of the digestive tract is coated with a bacterial layer, much like a thick layer of turf, … providing a natural barrier against invaders, undigested food, toxins, and parasites.
And, just like a soil unprotected by turf becomes eroded, the gut wall suffers if its protective bacterial “turf” gets damaged.
How do our indigenous bacteria protect the gut wall?
Apart from providing a physical barrier, they work against invasive pathogenic microorganisms by producing antibiotic-like substances, anti-fungal volatiles, anti-viral substances … that dissolve membranes of viruses and bacteria, they engage the immune system to respond appropriately to invaders. In addition, by producing organic acids, the beneficial bacteria reduce pH near the wall of the gut to 4.0–5.0, making a very uncomfortable acidic environment for growth and activity of pathogenic “bad” microbes, which require more alkaline surroundings.
… if the beneficial bacteria in the gut are damaged and are not functioning as they should, then the “walls of the city” are not protected very well. Without protection, the gut wall is open to invasion by anything that comes along: a virus from vaccination or the environment, a ubiquitous fungus such as Candida Albicans, various bacteria and parasites and toxic substances, all of which are very capable of damaging our digestive system and causing a chronic inflammation in its walls.
… To make the situation even worse, without well functioning gut flora the gut wall not only becomes unprotected, but also malnourished. Normal gut flora provides a major source of energy and nourishment for the cells, which are lining the digestive tract. The beneficial bacteria living in the gut … digest the food, converting it into nourishing substances for the gut lining. … When the gut flora is compromised, the lack of nourishment it would produce adds to the damage of the digestive wall structure, which would further impair its ability to digest and absorb nutrients.”
–Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, GAPS book (page 16-17).
A Quick Review
That was a long quote. 😉 In other words, the human gut is open to the world. It takes in harmful substances, day in and day out. We survive the onslaught if the human gut is protected by a thick and healthy bacterial layer. If the bacterial layer gets damaged, it cannot digest food well, nor can it protect us from invading parasites, fungus, virus, and harmful bacteria.
“A well-functioning gut with healthy gut flora holds the roots of our health. And, like a tree with sick roots is not going to thrive, the rest of the body cannot thrive without a well-functioning digestive system.” –Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, GAPS book (page 24).”
So… a healthy gut is vitally important!
Finally, there's 1 more question to answer before we get to the implications of having a compromised gut and then the basic principles of healing. What causes this damage to the gut lining, leaving it susceptible to enemy invasion?
How Does The Gut Get Damaged In The First Place?
First, diet. Today's diet of sugary foods and processed carbohydrates, as well as low fiber, feeds the bad bacteria. They looooovvvveeee sugar.
Then, antibiotics. They kill good and bad organisms in the body.
Bottle-feeding is another biggie. Babies are born with a sterile gut. Breast milk passes a healthy mix of bacteria to the baby (provided the mother is healthy). Bottle-feeding gives a different mix of bacteria that leaves the child pre-disposed to health problems.
Infectious diseases can also damage gut flora.
Although our gut can usually recover from short-term stress, prolonged stress can permanently damage healthy gut flora.
Finally, other facts include physical exertion, old age, alcoholism, pollution, exposure to toxic substances, extreme climate, babies born via C-section, etc.
Pretty much everyone in today's world has suffered from 1 or more of those factors. Could it be that most people are ideal candidates for the GAPS Diet? Very possibly.
The Huge Implications
A compromised gut — abnormal gut flora — leads to all kinds of psychological and physiological ailments. Like autism, ADHD, depression, and schizophrenia. But also eating disorders, fatigue, food allergies, environmental allergies (this is my story), nutritional deficiencies, infections (virus, bacteria, yeast, fungus, parasite), joint pain, hormonal imbalances, anemia…
As you can see, healthy gut flora is incredibly important! If it is damaged, our health suffers.
Abnormal gut flora produces toxins in our bodies, disrupts or blocks important body systems (like hormones, metabolism, immune system), and eats our nutrients. That's the bad news.
The bad guys need to be stopped and gut health restored!
So let's get to the hopeful part of GAPS. 🙂
Reversing The Damage
We've laid out the problem, now let's talk about the solution.
The GAPS Diet reverses damage in the gut and provides true nourishment for a nutrient-starved body.
First, by depriving bad bacteria of what they like to eat (sugary, processed carbohydrate foods) so they die off and therefore quit disrupting body systems, producing toxins, and generally wreaking havoc.
Second, by out-competing the bad bacteria with a high-quality probiotic supplement such as Bio-Kult.
Third, sometimes people need to be under the care of a GAPS physician to treat specific parasitic or fungal infections.
Another goal of the GAPS Diet? To nourish the body. We do that by eating nutrient-dense, easy-to-digest, non-sugary foods, like:
Now you know about the GAPS Diet in a nutshell.
Where Do You Go From Here?
Read the GAPS book!
Additionally, check out our weekly GAPS series.
Also, I recommend the meal plans and eBook from Cara at Health, Home and Happiness.
If you missed the first post in this series, please check out Why I'm On The GAPS Diet.
Finally, for more information about phasing off of the GAPS diet, check out Why, When, & How To Phase Off Of The GAPS Diet.
What do you think about the GAPS Diet?
Disclaimer: Please realize that I'm not a doctor and that I'm not giving medical advice in this post. Please consult your health care professional to for medical advice.
This post was featured in 82 Ways To Heal Your Gut.
We only recommend products and services we wholeheartedly endorse. This post may contain special links through which we earn a small commission if you make a purchase (though your price is the same).