There are many ways to heal your gut but in my personal experience, GAPS diet is the one of most effective diets for healing leaky gut. Learn to heal your gut with GAPS diet in this post.
All diseases begin in the gut.
~Hippocrates 460-370 BC
Heal Your Gut with GAPS Diet
Leaky gut might sound like a strange way to describe a condition but while the term might sound funny, it literally means the gut is not completely sealed and it is "leaky." Other terms that describes this condition is Gut Dysbiosis. And in this post, I am going to describe a protocol that heals this condition that can lead to many other health issues.
How many times have you heard, "It was a gut wrenching experience." or had "butterflies" in your stomach before a nerve wracking event? There is a strong connection between the gut and our health and I bet, you didn't even know it was real when you used those phrases.
But someone realized the connection. And that person is Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a medical doctor with Masters degree in Nutrition and Neurology and the writer of the book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, and coined the term, GAPS™ as "a condition, which establishes a connection between the functions of the digestive system and the brain."
After working with hundreds of children and adults with neurological and psychiatric conditions, she literally wrote the book on the subject. Here are just some of the conditions that have been also helped by GAPS™.
- Digestive Disorders such as IBS, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s, Chronic Constipation, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, or SIBO
- Learning or Social Problems
- Chronic Fatigue
- Food Allergies, including Gluten-Sensitivity
- Autoimmune Disorders
- Hormone Imbalances
- Eczema or Acne
- Neurological Issues
My Journey with GAPS™ Protocol
There is a strong connection between food allergies and Eczema. But merely eliminating those foods that cause or cause flare-ups is not the solution to managing Eczema. You can use the Elimination Diet and then, re-introduce the foods for some conditions but for Eczema, it didn't work for my children. In fact, reintroduction made the flare ups worse.
Furthermore, multiple food allergies, as are the cases with my children, are in fact, not real allergies but sensitivities caused by dysfunctional gut health, a.k.a. dysbiosis or leaky gut. So without fixing the gut health, their allergies or food sensitivities never went away.
There are many gut healing protocols but I heard so much about the "extreme" diet called GAPS™ diet that I decided to study Dr. McBride's protocol. After reading the book cover to cover a few times, I was determined that my children's multiple food allergies and Eczema could be cured with GAPS. And it made sense that their diet may have contributed to their food allergies because while they ate 'clean' foods when they were home before Middle School, they started eating out more during puberty, around the same time when their Eczema got uncontrollably worse.
Their Eczema started when they were babies but it disappeared in Elementary school. Then, it came back with vengeance in Middle School. I tried to cook from scratch but like most families, I didn't always cook with organic or whole ingredients when I was working full time. I took short cuts with store bought condiments, spices and probably GMO ingredients. Plus, I had no control over what they ate outside the home, like school lunches. I also didn't know that certain foods were damaging their gut lining. Their symptoms started getting worse once they hit puberty and they continued to suffer from it.
Eczema is just a symptom of their multiple food allergies and THAT's what I needed to address.
If their outward appearance of their skin look dry, scaly, inflamed, and sometimes, cracked, imagine what the membranes of the various organs looked like, especially, their gut lining.
So, while my son was home from college, I started both of my children on the GAPS™ diet. I wanted to educate them so they can understand what they could eat and avoid once he went back to college.
What is GAPS™ Diet?
To put it simply, Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS™) diet is about re-establishing homeostasis of the gut lining thru Intro and Full Diets. The goal is to avoid foods that damage your gut and add foods that help rebuild the lining with the help of good bacteria with probiotics.
The numerous foods that are allowed at certain "stages" have to be prepared in certain ways and there is a list of foods that you are never allowed to eat (i.e no carbs or grains) during the diet.
The foods have to be prepared by mainly boiling or roasting to retain the flavor and nutrients and never grilling to char the meat or the fat. Fermented foods (which we love!) are always welcome and adding good fats, pastured meats, grass fed beef, eggs and dairy is a must. The diet involves a lot more and it is a proven protocol for improving many health issues.
I put myself on this protocol too since I didn't want to cook different foods for them. And the surprising bonus for me was losing 5 lbs. even though I've been eating fatty foods at every meal! I had more energy and I never felt bloated or sluggish. I stopped taking vitamins and I never felt tired! My children went through some "detoxing" issues but they slowly improved.
I admit; I had a semi-melt-down with all the prep and cooking and cleaning I had to do. I also had to research so much in order to avoid mistakes. And even with all the research, I'm sure I made a few.
To make your GAPS journey easier, refer to these food lists that I culled from various sources.
Full GAPS Diet APPROVED Foods List (Printable)
Foods to AVOID on Full GAPS Diet List (Printable)
How can you get started on GAPS™ protocol without having a meltdown?
Like I mentioned in the past, there are many online classes and programs that I'd recommend for gut health. But GAPS Protocol is a very specific diet of healing your gut while using certain foods. As you can imagine, it's not easy to be on GAPS™ if you are not committed. If you need guidance and help you go through the diet, there are GAPS practitioners all over the world who can help you. These are certified GAPS practitioners who are doctors, Chiropractors, nutritionist who go through training to be certified.
UPDATE: My son went back to college and my daughter started college after the GAPS Protocol. They went through the strict stages while they were home. However, as you can imagine, it would have been impossible to adhere to the protocol on college campuses. So they transitioned to the Paleo Diet with foods that were less strict than GAPS.
My son had flare ups, especially, when he was stressed. Foods rarely gave him issues since he stuck to the foods that he should eat. My daughter was a little different since she was only 4 hours away and I drove her whenever she went back to school. So I'd pack frozen bone broth and proteins she can cook on campus. She loves to cook so she adhered to more strict Paleo style than he was able to since he didn't cook on campus. But still, he chose Paleo friendly dishes when he ate.
GAPS protocol definitely helped them improve and was the starting point for our journey into Paleo lifestyle.