The GAPS diet, which means Gut and Psychology Syndrome, is a healing eating pattern aimed at managing mental health disorders, inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. The diet does not target weight loss, but those with inflammatory bowel and digestive diseases, for example, leaky gut syndrome, can benefit from it. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride is the scientist who created the GAPS diet. The idea is that poor nutrition leads to bad gut health, which can be linked to several mental, neurological, and behavioral issues. According to her, microbial diversity can affect such diseases as depression, anxiety, and ADHD. There are also reasons to consider that autism signs can also be alleviated by cutting down on certain foods.
The main idea of the diet is to cut down hard-to-process foods as they can harm gut microbial diversity. Instead, you should consume more nutrient-dense dishes like fermented vegetables and broths made from scratch that boost and support intestine health.
The list of potentially harmful products contains grains, refined carbs, starchy vegetables, and some dairy. Processed products, as well as sugar, antibiotics, soy, oils, and butter, are also among the restrictions.
There are various diet levels. The first one is the introductory phase, followed by a strict period. During this, homemade meat and fish, fermented foods, and soups are allowed. Do not forget to add healthy fats from eggs and avocado. Basically, at this stage, you can consume many dishes if they are made from scratch using organic meat, dairy, eggs, and vegetables. Even though this diet allows dairy, it is better to choose fermented options. Do not skip dairy, as the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) advises consuming it every day to fulfill the calcium need.
After a patient notices an improvement in his or her digestive signs, they are ready to switch to the final level, which is a reintroduction. This stage targets gradually finishing the diet and allows adding oil, fried meat, juices, bread, and raw vegetables.
Pursuing this way of eating for about two years can be sufficient to reduce almost all of the signs. Usually, by this time, a person can consume all the listed foods without experiencing unpleasant symptoms. In this case, a patient can finish the diet and start eating non-compliant products.
To boost the healing results, you can make other lifestyle changes. Regular moderate exercising, reducing stress, and learning stress-management techniques are among the healthy habits that improve your overall health. Also, proper sleeping patterns directly affect your mental and physical health.
Even though this diet is extremely beneficial in some cases, it is not suitable for everyone. People, who opt for plant-based nutrition, can find it challenging to follow this diet, as it contains many animal-based products.
So, it makes sense to consult a healthcare specialist if you consider trying or already following the GAPS diet.
How to avoid possible nutritional deficiencies
This diet is quite strict, so it may eliminate some nutritious ingredients. Such a restrictive way of eating can result in fiber, calcium, vitamins B-1 and B-9, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, manganese, and selenium deficiency. Hence, you should pay attention to the listed foods when planning your meals in order to avoid nutritional deficiencies.
- Fiber: almonds, walnuts, pecans, berries, pears, avocado, apple, banana, carrots, beets, broccoli, artichoke, brussels sprouts, and rhubarb.
- Calcium: cheese, yogurt, sardines, beans, almonds, collards, kale, spinach, rhubarb, and figs.
- Vitamin B-1: salmon, navy beans, asparagus, and beans.
- Vitamin B-9: beans, asparagus, eggs, beets, orange, brussels sprouts, broccoli, nuts, beef liver, papaya, banana, and avocado.
- Vitamin C: black currants, cantaloupe, parsley, kale, kiwi, cruciferous vegetables, lemon, papaya, strawberries, and orange.
- Magnesium: avocado, almonds, Brazil nuts, beans, fish, bananas, and collard greens.
- Iron: liver, red meat, fish, legumes, turkey, broccoli, and greens.
- Phosphorus: poultry, liver, sardines, salmon, dairy, Brazil and pine nuts, almonds.
- Manganese: pine nuts, spinach, pineapple, hazelnuts, pecans, and bananas.
- Selenium: Brazil nuts, yellowfin tuna, sardines, salmon, beef, turkey, chicken, eggs, mushrooms, spinach, and bananas.
You can also consider taking probiotic and prebiotic supplements to support bacterial balance in the digestive system. Enzymes and fatty acids are great to fulfill your nutritional needs while following the diet.
Tips on improving your dieting experience
Exclude prepackaged and processed dishes.
- Drink bone broth daily.
- Opt for organic ingredients.
- Snack with fruits, but don’t add them to your meals.
- Add fermented dishes to every meal.
- Consume protein foods with vegetables to keep average body acidity levels.
The GAPS diet wants further research to investigate the effect on autism signs and behavior typical for this mental condition. Many healthcare specialists highlight that the diet’s effects are not proved by scientific evidence. While the result of such conditions is doubtful, this diet really helps eliminate digestive struggles.
Remember that this diet is quite limiting and can be harmful to people, so it is best to consult a doctor before you start it.