Whether you suffer from GI distress, leaky gut or are just interested gut health, there’s many protocols that promise to help you heal your gut through dietary and lifestyle changes. Here’s a quick look at a few of them so that you can find one that best suits your individual needs.
Specific Carbohydrate Diet
Developed by Dr. Sidney Haas and popularized by Elaine Gottschall in her book Breaking the Vicious Cycle, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet was designed to help gravely ill children suffering from gastrointestinal illnesses. It’s one of the most well-known gut-healing protocols. It is also the protocol upon which other protocols, like the GAPS diet, are based.
Like most gut-healing protocols, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet restricts many starchy and sugary foods and, instead, emphasizes high-quality meats, fats and well-cooked nonstarchy vegetables.
- What You Avoid on SCD: You’ll avoid sweeteners (except limited amounts of honey), grains, most beans, and most tubers.
- What You Emphasize on SCD: You’ll emphasize good-quality meats, most vegetables, many fruits and nuts as well as long-fermented dairy products like aged cheeses.
- Resources for SCD: Breaking the Vicious Cycle
The GAPS Diet is based upon the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and was developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride who penned the book Gut and Psychology Syndrome, and is a systematic and incremental approach to healing the gut which begins first with an introductory diet largely based on broth with small amounts of vegetables and then progresses slowly through multiple stages to include other foods until a nonrestrictive whole foods, traditional diet is adopted.
When introducing new foods and transitioning to a new stage of the diet, patients are encouraged to carefully monitor their system for reactions.
- What You Avoid on GAPS: New foods are introduced in stages, with early stages being more restrictive than later stages. The diet is grain-free, sugar-free and largely free of fiber-rich vegetables until they’re slowly reintroduced.
- What You Emphasize on GAPS: GAPS emphasizes broth, fermented vegetables, high-quality fats like ghee, grass-fed meats and other nutrient-dense foods.
- Resources for GAPS: 30 Days on GAPS Intro, 30 Days Grain-Free, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, Heal Your Gut Cookbook
Body Ecology Diet
The Body Ecology Diet is a diet developed by Donna Gates who wrote a book of the same name as well as the Baby Boomer Diet. The diet is designed to support gut health, as well as many other conditions which Gates associates with gut health. It leans heavily upon the largely debunked theories of acid/alkalinity and food combining, yet adherents to the diet sing its praises.
Unlike other gut-healing protocols and diets, the Body Ecology Diet is more vegetarian-friendly since it de-emphasizes (though still allows) meat and emphasizes pseudocereals, sprouted beans and starchy vegetables instead. While fermented vegetables tend to be a cornerstone of most (though not all) gut-healing protocols, Gates encourages you to avoid wild fermented foods and to use her starter cultures in order to emphasize very specific strains of beneficial bacteria.
- What You Avoid on BED: Like GAPS, the Body Ecology Diet progresses in stages, with more foods restricted on earlier stages than later stages. The diet nixes grains, dairy, sugars, and sweet fruits.
- What You Emphasize on BED: Body Ecology leans on food combining with only certain foods eaten at the same time. Fermented foods, using specific bacterial strains, as well as coconut kefir play a large role in the Body Ecology Diet. Quinoa, amaranth and other pseudocereals are emphasizes as well as sour fruits, stevia, leafy greens and good fats.
- Resources for BED: Body Ecology Diet and Body Ecology Starter Cultures
The Candida Cure is an older gut-healing protocol that also progresses in stages, with earlier stages more restrictive than later stages, and there’s many adaptations of this particular approach. Like other gut-healing protocols it recommends avoiding high-sugar foods, including many fruits, as well as starchy foods. Unlike most other gut-healing protocols, it recommends avoiding fermented foods.
- What You Avoid on Candida Protocols: These diets typically recommend that you avoid high-sugar and high-starch foods including most fruits, most grains, most dairy, certain fish and shellfish, certain meats, almost all condiments, and fermented foods.
- What You Emphasize on Candida Protocols: These diets emphasize non-starchy vegetables, sour fruits, poultry, wild-caught salmon and sardines, pseudocereals, fermented dairy, good fat and noncaloric sweeteners.
- Resources for Candida Protocols: The Candida Cure and The Candida Cure Cookbook
Developed by Dr. Alejandro Junger, author of Clean and Clean Eats, Clean Gut is similar to other gut-healing protocols in its restriction of many foods, including most grains, dairy and soy. Unlike the earlier stages of the GAPS diet, there’s a lot of emphasis on plant foods like leafy greens, non-starchy vegetables and berries. He has developed a 21-day program to help reset the gut, and sells resources like probiotics and shake mixes from his online store.
- What You Avoid on Clean Gut: You’ll avoid dairy, gluten, most grains, potatoes and almost all fruits.
- What You Emphasize on Candida Protocols: You’ll enjoy plenty of non-starchy vegetables, berries, and wild-caught fish.
- Resources for Clean Gut: Clean Gut Book and Clean 21-Day Program
So which gut-healing protocol is right for you?
These are seriously restricted diets, even beyond the typical restrictions and emphases you see in any whole foods diet. So don’t undertake the burden unless you’ve sound reason to do so.
All gut-healing protocols encourage you to limit sugars, sugary fruits, and starchy vegetables. Most will encourage you to avoid grains, though some allow you to enjoy pseudocereals like quinoa and buckwheat in abundance. Most will have you avoid dairy, though some allow for dairy products that are fermented, like yogurt, kefir and certain cheeses. Almost all allow you to enjoy grass-fed and pasture-raised meat and eggs and wild-caught oily fish in abundance. Fermented foods are included, and emphasized, in almost all of the gut-healing protocols.
It’s important, further that you are an individual with individual needs and that your nutrition and healing process likewise needs to be individualized. To this end, I recommend seeking out and working with a health care provider who can help you to individualize any program you undertake (I consult with and recommend Amy Love, a nutritional therapist and close friend).
Healing Your Gut? These resources will help!
Microbiome Sequencing. Consider having your microbiome sequenced before, during and after you undertake a gut-healing protocol. Sequencing not only provides amazing insight into your individual microbiome, but you’ll also gain insight as to whether your gut-healing protocol really is changing your microbiome. We’ve had ours sequenced through UBiome and you can get 10% off with the coupon code Discount10.
Meal Planning. When undertaking any new way of eating, you need a system to help you be successful, and meal planning can keep you on track. Look for one that not only generates meal plans for you, but that you can also input the specific parameters of your protocol so that your entire meal plan is customized to your needs. Real Plans does just that.