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The GAPS Diet is a gut healing protocol developed by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride many years ago when her son was diagnosed with Autism and she felt that there was more to it. She connected the gut bacteria to brain function in a way that was well before its time.
Many of us now know what only a few did before, gut health is a big contributing factor to our brain function, immune system, skin conditions, thyroid function, joint and muscle pain, adrenals, autoimmune conditions as well as the more obvious digestive and bowel function.
Over the years I have treated a number of people and supported them through the steps of The GAPS Diet. Originally my patients were mainly those on the spectrum but as I continued to work with a variety of people I began to see the benefits many of them had doing The GAPS Diet.
Like anything worth doing, The GAPS Diet can be tough, especially in the initial stages so whenever you’re thinking of doing something like this it’s really important to be super organised and is a good idea to get some help, especially in the early parts.
So for those of you that don’t know, what is The GAPS Diet?
The GAPS Diet stands for Gut and Psychology or Gut and Physiology Syndrome and works in three phases.
Within this phase there are 6 stages. I explain these stages like that of weaning a baby from breast or bottle milk to solids, we don’t start them on a steak! The aim is to take a step back, remove all the inflammatory foods in your diet such as grains, nuts and legumes (to name a few) and focus on high nutritional, gut healing, whole foods.
The foods are all well cooked, low fibre and easy to digest with lots of meat stocks and ferments along the way. When you start to notice some improvements in the symptoms that drew you to The GAPS Diet in the first place you can often move to the next stage.
The thing to note here is that it’s during these early stages that you will probably find yourself needing a practitioner to work with to make sure you’re not going too fast or too slowly. I generally find it’s during these early stages that my patients need me the most but once they get the hang of things they’re off and racing.
You will notice that not too much changes except that we start to introduce eggs and fermented fish (well some people do anyway). Again there’s always some variations as we begin to reintroduce foods which is based on previous allergies or intolerances and how your body is feeling throughout the process.
Again you will get to a point where you feel ready to move on so here to go.
I remember this stage still to this day as my son was so excited to have scrambled eggs (something he’d never eaten before) and of course the nut pancakes hit the menu. I always laugh at the memory of the day I made those pancakes as you’re generally supposed to only start with a very small pancake or a half of one.
I stood in the kitchen, cooking the pancakes and putting them gently on a plate for us to try and my son, who wasn’t very tall at this stage (he was only 6 when we did The GAPS Diet), reached his little hand up to the bench took a pancake and sat under the kitchen benach to eat it. That was fine until the little hand reached up again and again and again until before I knew it he’d eaten FIVE pancakes.. a few more than I would recommend on first go.
So once again, you look at how your symptoms have been going and make a decision, am I ready for Stage 4?
If you are, well it’s about to get pretty exciting!!
This is when we incorporate roasting and grilling our meat and fish and is when the eating plan starts to feel “normal” as you can start to “chew” your food as I like to tell my patients.
Up until this point everything is so well cooked it just melts in your mouth and is a combination of soups, stews and meat stocks so to be able to cut into a piece of protein and eat some roasted vegetables, I just can’t tell you how happy that will make you.
You can also start baking GAPS friendly bread and add in some freshly pressed juices.
I remember when we hit this stage it also made packing the kids lunchboxes much easier as they did sometimes find it difficult to manage soups and stews at their age at school.
I guess you’re wondering “how could this get any better?” Well is does.
Here we add in vegetables we may have not added in previously and even better it’s time to have a salad!! Never have raw vegetables tasted so good I can tell you.
By now my patients are well on their way to Full GAPS and doing the diet independently.
Stage 6 is just putting the finishing touches on things, you can now fire up the BBQ (just don’t blacken or burn the meat), fry up an almond crusted schnitzel, experiment with baking and even better, you can add in some fruit.
Pretty much, once you’re here you’re ready to move onto phase 2, The Full GAPS Diet.
One thing I always remind my patients of once they’re heading to The Full GAPS Diet is don’t forget some of the essentials from The Introduction Phase which are your meat stocks and fermented foods.
On the upside, the best part of being on The Full GAPS Diet is it becomes much easier to get your social life back and eat out. With the popularity of things such as the Keto Diet and the Paleo Diet it has meant restaurants and pubs have started catering for that style of eating.
I remember when we hit The Full GAPS Diet our livestyle became so much easier to manage and pretty much went back to what it had been before we started The GAPS Diet.
Just one thing to note, when we embarked on The GAPS Diet it was in the middle of winter (the July school holidays to be exact) which I found to be a great time to do it. Socially it’s cold so you don’t tend to be as active in that area and eating soups and stews comes very naturally in the colder weather. By the time everyone was coming out of their winter hibernation period we were on The Full GAPS Diet.
So to end this little story there’s still one more step and that is Phase 3, Coming Off The GAPS Diet.
Well many would say this is the best part, when we come off The GAPS Diet and start reintroducing a few things into our diet.
By this time you have probably been doing The GAPS Diet, in total, for around 18-24 months (for severe cases it may be longer) so I often find for some patients they don’t really mind staying on Full GAPS as they’re really not missing much now.
For those that have struggled through it and are desperate to get a couple of luxuries back in the diet we start with something easy.
Small chat potatoes are a good way to start, roasted with lots of yummy good fats you’ll definitely remember what the fuss was all about.
After that it’s an option to try a proper, well fermented spelt or rye sourdough bread. Generally the best ones are those made by proper sourdough bakers not the commercially available options at most supermarkets.
After that you can try some gluten free grains and so on and so one.
The one essential thing to remember out of all of this is to continue to avoid those processed foods that you have been avoiding for so long. You don’t want to have done all that work to slowly go back to your old habits and end up where you started.
Trust me.. if you hear nothing else hear this…
You only want to do The GAPS Diet once!!