Why Everyone is Talking about the GAPS Diet, Plus 5 Resources to Get Started

What is the GAPS Diet?

Wondering what the GAPS Diet is?  You’re not alone.  The GAPS diet is a comprehensive healing protocol developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a neurologist and nutritionist who specializes in healing of issues like autism spectrum disorders, ADD/ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia and schizophrenia by treating the root cause of many of these disorders: compromised gut health.

While it may seem strange or even unbelievable that neurological disorders like autism can be mitigated or even addressed through dietary changes, families that have been dissatisfied by currently available treatments have flocked to the GAPS diet, and many have experienced recovery.

About 10% of Nourished Kitchen readers adhere to the GAPS diet (that’s about twice the number of both vegan and vegetarian readers).  Mothers and fathers have seen autistic children begin to lose symptoms, find relief from painful gastrointestinal upset and regain the ability to express emotion after adhering to the GAPS diet.  People suffering from food intolerances and sensitivities have seen recovery. Recovery takes time, and the GAPS diet doesn’t work overnight.  Indeed, GAPS is best referred to as a healing protocol as it involves both comprehensive detoxification coupled with dietary changes and supplementation.

GAPS begins first with an introduction diet (though many people, to ease their transition begin first by incorporating the full GAPS diet and return to the introduction phases at a future date when they feel more confident in their transition).  In the introduction diet offers about six stages before the full GAPS diet can be resumed, with the beginning stages allowing little more than broth, good quality fat, easily digested vegetables, boiled meats and the juice of fermented vegetables. You eat lots of soups on the GAPS diet.

Once symptoms no longer appear, additional foods like fruit, raw vegetables and their juices, nuts and nut flours are slowly added until you’ve reached the full GAPS diet which allows most wholesome foods, but still excludes grains, starchy tubers, sugars (except for honey) and other foods that can potentially damage an already compromised gut.

Like any diet or protocol for healing, GAPS is tough – at least in the beginning – when you’re re-learning how to shop, how to cook and when you must rely exclusively on your own skills as restaurants are strictly out of the question.  So as my family works its way through GAPS, I’ve found a few resources that have helped us and that you might find helpful, if not essential to your journey of healing.

My Favorite Resources for the GAPS Diet

30 Days on the GAPS Intro

Like any elimination diet, the GAPS intro is comprehensive, omitting several foods: grains, fibrous vegetables, fruits, legumes and starchy vegetables.  Throughout the introductory stages, many of these foods are slowly re-introduced to the diet, but beginning the GAPS diet can feel overwhelming – not only in determining which foods to eat (and which to omit) depending on your stage of the introduction, but also the process of systemic detox can be confounding, particularly for those who are new to the concepts of natural family living.

What Can I Eat Now? 30 Days on the GAPS Intro is a comprehensive e-book that provides a clear, step-by-step guide to surviving the individual stages of the GAPS introduction.  Indeed, as we journey through the GAPS Intro Diet, this book has been my single most used resource.  From information on what to pick up before starting the introduction (like good quality knives and grass-fed beef) to recipes organized by stage, the e-book offers 57 pages of the most comprehensive and practical look at GAPS I’ve seen.  Better yet, it is actually approved by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride for use with the GAPS diet.

You can download a copy here.

Meal Planning Services

Adhering to the GAPS diet is more than a temporary fix, it is a comprehensive lifestyle change and that means there’s little room for compromise outside of the foods recommended on the diet.  Remember: this is about total and systemic healing, and that takes time.  There’s no eating out; there’s no quick-fixes or short stops at the drive-thru or at your grocer’s deli.  Further, many of the foods require advance preparation techniques and while these techniques require neither extensive time or skills, they do require planning: fermentation, broth making, soaking beans and legumes (permitted on the full GAPS diet, but not the intro). So if you’re not an avid meal planner or just want a little help with making dinner, meal planning services can prove invaluable.  Meal plans provide simple shopping lists, to-do lists and recipes for nourishing, wholesome and well-balanced meals – so you’re not bored or struggling for what to make for dinner.

Depending on your individual needs and those of your family, you might try the Grain-free meal plans which provides a comprehensive monthly meal plan of very basic family favorites: every meal of every day of every week is covered by this plan.  Alternatively, if you just need a little inspiration, try Simple Dinners which provides three full dinner menus each week featuring more advanced techniques and inventive, seasonal menus.  Both plans are GAPS- and SCD-compliant and teach you how to incorporate nourishing foods like broth, organ meats and ferments into your family’s regular diet.

Sign up for he Grain-free Meal Plan or for Simple Dinners.

GAPS Book & GAPS Guide

Reading Gut & Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Campbell-McBride helps you to better understand the healing protocol she prescribes, and the reasoning behind her recommendations.  In Gut & Psychology Syndrome, Dr. Campbell-McBride not only describes how and why the GAPS diet works with our digestive tracts to enable optimal healing, but she explains just how schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorders and other illnesses with neurological components can be attributed, at least in part, to compromised gut health.  And it’s through this protocol of healing that huge strides have been made for families suffering from these issues.  While the book is comprehensive, long and dry, it is enormously valuable and helps you to understand the science behind GAPS, and it’s that understanding that helps to motivate you – keeping you going through the strict elimination and slow reintroduction phases of the GAPS intro diet.

GAPS Guide is a simple guidebook that can be used side-by-side with Gut & Psychology Syndrome.  Written by Baden Lashkov, a mother who saw her own son healed through GAPS and has since taken on the calling to help other families work their way through GAPS, the GAPS Guide provides real world advice on the practical application of the GAPS diet.  You’ll see tips for managing the introduction, information on how to work with friends and family who disapprove of the diet and information on troubleshooting your progress.

You can purchase both Gut & Psychology Syndrome and the GAPS Guide online through independent book sellers.

GAPalicious IPhone App

Lastly, I love the GAPalicious IPhone app which can be purchased from the app store.  Knowing exactly which foods are permitted on which stage of the diet (and how they must be prepared) is challenging.  For instance, beans and pulses aren’t permitted until you’ve worked your way through the introduction diet and into the full GAPS diet.  Almonds are permitted once a day in nut flour pancakes on the third stage of the introduction, in bread and pancakes in the fourth through sixth stages and only served whole on the full diet.  Meats are encouraged from stage one of the introduction diet, but shouldn’t be consumed roasted or grilled until stage four and can be served any way it suits you on the full GAPS diet.  Understandably, the diet can feel complex and confusing.  Fortunately, the GAPalicious app allows you to conveniently stroll through foods, mark your stage on the diet and it will tell you not only if the food in question is permitted on your stage, but how it should be prepared.

You can download the GAPalicious IPhone App from the app store.

 Are you on GAPS? Give us your best tips!

If you’re on GAPS, give us your best tips for staying on the protocol and let us know how it’s worked for you and for your family by leaving a comment.  What you share might just help someone else who’s struggling.

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What people are saying

    • Heather says

      I’m also searching for info on it. But with a limited income and I can’t find any details except in books to purchase. Oh well, I guess this diet will remain elusive to me for a while longer. It does sound like just the think I need to get my health back on track though.

      • Jenny says

        GAPS is deeply effective, but just as deeply complicated and you *do* need to at least read Gut & Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Campbell-McBride to really understand the diet’s premise, how to do the introduction (which involves little more than broth, sauerkraut juice, boiled vegetables and meat while slowly introducing other foods) and when to transition to those other foods. Try a library or book swap, maybe?

  1. says

    I checked iphone site for GAPalicious app and came up empty. Has it been pulled? I actually don’t have an iPhone, but thought I’d check for resources, and this one sounded like it would make GAPS possible.

    • Joseph says

      The app is there as of 09/29/12.
      I no offence meent to the maker, but, it looks like it needs either a lot of additional content or a big drop in price.

  2. says

    I went on the specific carbohydrate diet, which is closely related to GAPS, a year and a half ago due to IBS. My IBS cleared up within a month, and I had lots of extra energy. The time it took to properly shop and prepare food in such a new and different manner was difficult, but I felt SOOOO much better, it was well worth the time and effort. My family was along for the ride, and my one year old had his chronic diarrhea, diaper rash, and eczema all clear up. We are not doing GAPS/SCD now, but my younger son is still grain free- it is clear that he still reacts to wheat, rice, and starches, but I would never have discovered these sensitivities if we had never tried such a healthy, restrictive diet. My gut has healed considerably, and though we still adhere to a very ‘whole’ food diet, I am able to eat any real food I like without reaction.

  3. Kathy says

    I started the GAP intro diet after reading as much as I could online about it and I have the book for Breaking the Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall. I am also a registered nurse. The soup I started a week ago Monday – so this is day 9. I made the soup using a whole chicken, water, garlic, carrots, and seasalt. That is all I ate for two days, plus taking MEGA Food Probiotics from a local co-op food store and worked up to 40 billion (2 caps) a day. I then added egg yolks , next eggs soft cooked, homemade yogurt with a lil honey (home grown). I then added a banana (my favorite treat banana, cashews, yogurt, honey all mixed up). I continued with only those things and added Acorn squash – very little. By Friday – day five I had very little stools all week. I also hardly had any discomfort at all with very little running to the bathroom.

    Saturday morning – work night shift: 4:00 AM after I had some soup I had a very real urge to go to the bathroom. For the next 45 minutes I totally cleaned out my intestines with normal looking stools (a rating of a 4). The thing was… it was a LOT!! I felt uncomfortable for a while. Then ate some yogurt and water, felt okay. Then went to sleep but woke up because my mom was going in for emergency surgery. So this weekend set me back a little but stayed true as can be with the diet.

    So this morning I had a bowel movement and it was very soft (rating 2) with some very firm chunks. I am still not going as much with less and less mucus and blood.

    Is this how it is suppose to go? Any foods I try, if I get a yucky feeling I don’t eat anymore and wait.

    I sure wish we had an educated dietician locally I can actually see and chat with :(

    Thanks, Kathy

  4. says

    Hello! Thank you for the info on the GAPS diet. We just started the diet today :) I decided to go ahead and start a separate blog just for our GAPS diet journey. I am hoping to learn from others and also be of an encouragement to those who have not yet started. I am making the first post right now but do have the “About” section finished. If you are interested in joining us in our journey, please stop by! (I think the website links right in my name above, right? so just click on my name)

    Thank you!!
    Joanne in MO

  5. says

    Greetings from Los angeles! I’m bored to tears at work so I decided to browse your website on my iphone during lunch break. I enjoy the knowledge you provide here and can’t
    wait to take a look when I get home. I’m amazed at how quick your blog loaded on my mobile .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .
    . Anyways, excellent blog!

  6. Cook says

    Let me start by saying that I love the idea of this diet! It seems to include a lot of healthy foods and gives people who have trouble maintaining a balanced diet a very clear starting point. I’m definitely going to try several of the pointers here, even though I already maintain a balanced and healthy diet overall.

    However, there is one thing that I’m a bit concerned about. Autistic people, children as well as adults, often have comorbid intestinal issues. This has been documented over and over again, so I’m all in favour of addressing that through a diet. The neurological issues that are inherent in autism often make it harder for autistic people to communicate this clearly, and so intestinal issues cause a LOT of distress. Distress which may find itself expressed in a number of ways, such as repetitive behaviours (which can be self-soothing or redirecting pain) or a seeming lack of focus and attention. Even non-verbality, because it’s really hard to concentrate on speech when you’re in constant distress. So, when you start on a diet that addresses these intestinal issues, you take away a lot of distress which may make all the ways that the autistic person expresses distress far less frequent. THIS DOES NOT MEAN YOU’VE CURED AUTISM. Autism is a way of thinking, of perceiving the world, a neurological difference that often causes communication difficulties. It’s like speaking a different language than the other people around you. So please don’t say you’ve cured our autism when you’ve only taken away a source of distress that makes us LOOK more autistic. We’re still autistic even when we’re not rocking in the corner in pain or sensory overload.

    • tandy says

      Looks like the website she refers to is now down. Unfortunate! I really wanted to learn from it as well. . . .

  7. Shelly Elliott says

    I am so thankful for having discovered this diet. I have read both the main book and the recipe book. I am on day 22 of the intro diet (Stage 3). I have several questions. My first question is regarding my multi-vitamin. I bought two different ones (super high quality from our local health food store). One is easier to digest with all the ingredients coming from plants and natural sources. This one contains yeast. I did some research to see if this yeast would help me get rid of my Candida problem and some people said yes, good yeast would help. The other one is yeast free, but the wellness lady told me it is less easier to digest. I have only taken one of each, and today my hair is flaky again. I cannot be sure which one is the culprit or if it is both. What is the best approach for taking a multi-vitamin with this diet, when you have a Candida problem? Is taking it, though it is giving me symptoms helping me heal, thus going to eventually tackle the Candida, or is it best avoided until after I rid myself of Candida? I am confused on what my body needs me to do. I am also taking enzymes, fish oil, and caprylic acid.

    My other question is regarding spicy food. I love spicy food, and that may be harder for me to give up than sweets. When can I introduce spicy peppers, crushed red pepper, ground pepper seasoning, etc. I didn’t get a clear understanding of this from the book.

    Thank you.
    Sincerely grateful to be healing,
    Shelly Elliott

  8. Dee says

    I did the GAPS diet for a year and still follow it when I can (I sometimes have severe histamine intolerance and broth is high histamine). The missing link most people miss is mercury toxicity. Mercury causes the compromised gut (and has been linked to autism, ADD and autoimmune). 50-60% of the people on the Frequent Dose Chelation Yahoo Group follow GAPS or SCD diets while they slowly and safely chelate mercury out of their bodies and brains. Many report massive gains and after a few years consider themselves recovered. It is worth checking out.

    Love this site and the straightforward way it introduces GAPS.

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