If you’ve experienced the mental and physical agony of digestive issues or if you have unexplained weight gain or mental and emotional disorders you’re striving to find a cure for, it’s likely you’ve come across the GAPS diet in your quest for improved health.
The GAPS diet has been widely recognised as having healed thousands of people from all manner of issues from gut disorders including IBS, Crohn’s disease and Leaky Gut to allergies, insulin resistance, A.D.H.D, mental health issues and Autism – all conditions which have evidence to show they may begin in the gut.
GAPS, an acronym for Gut and Psychology Syndrome, was developed by Dr Natasha Campbell McBride with an aim to ‘heal and seal the gut lining, rebalance the immune system, and restore the optimal bacterial ecosystem within the gastrointestinal tract’.
Following the diet calls for the elimination of all grains, sugar, starches, alcohol, dairy and processed food in order to heal the gut and body from damage caused by poor diet, chronic stress and toxins. These foods are replaced predominantly with lots of bone broths and fermented vegetables to repair the gut lining and rebuild the microbiota, and meat.
Despite its proposed successes, the GAPS diet is not necessarily recommended for everyone experiencing gut or mental health issues and its use has actually become somewhat controversial. Before diving headfirst into home fermentation, it is worth noting some of the reasons the diet may not be for you:
- Firstly, the protocol is incredibly strict and requires a great deal of willpower and forward planning to follow successfully. Eating out is near impossible and drinking alcohol is strictly prohibited, making socialising difficult, which can in turn increase stress levels.
- All food needs to be prepared at home, including your bone broths and fermented vegetables which must be made from scratch to ensure they are packed with sufficient nutrients and devoid of added ingredients often found in shop-bought varieties.
- Total adherence is paramount to the success of the GAPS diet; following it half-heartedly will render your efforts redundant, so before you embark you need to be sure you’re ready to take it on.
- If you do manage to make it through the entire protocol successfully, you need to be aware that returning to your previous eating habits is not advised….Even once the diet is over, a steady, careful reintroduction plan must be followed to ensure that your digestive system and body can handle it and to identify foods which cause issues. Although it is common to find that once the detoxification enforced by the GAPS diet has taken place and the body is cleared of toxic irritants, foods which original were not tolerated are able to be enjoyed again without issue.
- The diet often offers almost immediate relief from chronic conditions, leading people to believe it is somewhat of a panacea for poor health. For some it certainly does offer long-term relief, whereas others quickly begin to experience side effects.
- Weight loss is not uncommon on GAPS because of its highly restrictive nature and its subsequent low carbohydrate levels. Be mindful of sudden and unnecessary weight loss and be prepared to increase your calorie consumption or add in white potatoes or plain white rice if you feel very low on energy after a few days.
- On the flip side, returning to a normal carbohydrate intake (which, as low carb diets are largely unsustainable and unadvised, you will eventually have to do) can cause potential rebound effects including weight gain and binging while your body strives to rebalance itself from the restriction. Reducing your carbohydrate intake during the diet itself can also result in low energy, constipation, sluggishness, anxiety, sleeplessness and irritability, and can also leave people prone to orthorexia.
- Enemas, specifically, coffee enemas are encouraged to aid the detoxification process and help eliminate waste. Enemas themselves are a controversial procedure and should be approached with careful consideration.
- If you are a devout vegan, GAPS is not the gut-healing protocol for you as the diet relies heavily on bone broths and animal proteins.
Whilst there are multitudes of circumstantial testimonies to the diet’s ability to fix gut issues, it is important to be aware that there are currently no clinical studies backing its effectiveness, so make sure you do your research before deciding whether or not to try it for yourself, and consider seeking a reputable practitioner to guide you, should you decide to go for it. For more information on the different phases of the GAPS diet and ha more in depth guide to whats involved, head over to www.gapsdiet.com.
words by Rachel Bednarski