As I am often asked about what I do as a dietitian and a certified GAPS Practitioner, I decided to compile all of the questions into an FAQ format.
What childhood and adult conditions do best on GAPS?
Parents usually decide to try the Gut & Psychology System (GAPS) Protocol for neurocognitive disorders such as those on the autism spectrum, sensory processing or integration challenges, ADHD and eczema. These children typically present with food intolerances or parents have seen a small degree of success with the removal of some foods such as gluten or refined sugar, but symptoms are still present. GAPS has varying degrees of success with children, and are typically good, depending on ability to follow the dietary and supplement protocol, which can be challenging with young palates.
Adults often seek out GAPS to recover from a flare up of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis), autoimmune diseases including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, and lupus. GAPS has also been effective in adults with depression, depression, obsessive–compulsive disorder, bi-polar disorder and anxiety.
What is GAPS?
GAPS or the Gut and Psychology Syndrome is explained as a condition, a collection of symptoms. The syndrome’s etiology is rooted in the connection between the functions of the digestive system, the brain and the immune system. The GAPS Protocol was developed by Natasha Campbell-McBride,MD, a UK based neurologist and has been used to successfully treat the above conditions in thousands of children and adults in the last 10 years.
Why does GAPS work?
The purpose of the treatment is to heal intestinal permeability and dysbiosis, decrease inflammation and detoxify the individual’s digestive system. Intestinal Permeability is also called “Leaky Gut” in the lay press, and refers to the seal between the cells of the intestines being dysfunctional and “loose”, thereby allowing proteins from food and toxins to pass from the gut into the bloodstream and potentially even cross the blood brain barrier. This process can trigger an immune response and produce everything from GI distress to fatigue, headaches and neurological challenges like the aforementioned. GAPS also has a treatment strategy to correct the imbalance of pathogenic microbes to beneficial microbes with titrated doses of probiotics and probiotic rich foods like cultured vegetables.
What about dairy?
Dairy is not included in the GAPS diet beyond fermented dairy products such as kefir or home-made yogurt. The lactose in these products are consumed by bacteria during the fermentation process making it easier to digest. Dr Campbell McBride advises that while the lactose is consumed during fermentation, it is often the milk protein casein that causes the problem. Casomorphins from poor digestion of the milk protein casein get absorbed through the gut wall into the bloodstream and across the blood brain barrier which may affect the function of the brain.
What supplements do I need
- An effective therapeutic strength Probiotic like Bio-Kult or Prescript Assist or VSL-3
- Essential fatty acids
- Cold Pressed Cod Liver Oil
- Fish Oil with a higher ratio of EPA to DHA
- Ox bile acid (if having trouble digesting fat)
How long does it take?
This is very personal to the individual and when condition started. Some patients see results as soon as 3-6 months, but with long standing cases of depression, anxiety, or in pediatric cases such as autism or ADHD, true symptom relief is not seen until a minimum of one year.
How do I start on GAPS?
Depending on your symptoms, you will either start on the Introduction Diet or the Full GAPS protocol and then potentially progress from one protocol to the next.
The Introduction Diet is divided into six stages and is designed for patients with severe digestive issues including chronic diarrhea, IBS, Crohn’s, gastritis, and Ulcerative Colitis as well as patients with severe neurological conditions including autism, schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar. It generally takes patients 3-6 weeks to complete all the stages, however some patients may take longer, depending on the individual. You do not advance from stage to stage until most of the foods listed at the stage are tolerated. The Full GAPS protocol often follows after the Introduction diet but for some people, it works best to do the Full GAPS protocol for 4 – 6 weeks and then do stages of the Introduction Diet. It is very personalized to your symptoms and your body. Some people also experience relief by just using the Full GAPS Protocol. See the attached PDF that gives a synopsis of the GAPS Protocol.
Overwhelmed still? There is a reason that Dr. McBride trained a number of health care professionals in the GAPS Method. It is not easy, but it can be made much more so with a qualified GAPS practitioner. Case dependent, you or your child may not need a protocol as intense as GAPS. Contact Nicole for a free 15 minute phone call about how she would approach your particular case. Functional gut testing to see if leaky gut is present and what pathogenic microbes you or your child have can help personalize your treatment and save many frustrating weeks or months.
Campbell-McBride, N. (2004). Gut and psychology syndrome: Natural treatment for autism, dyspraxia, A.D.D., dyslexia, A.D.H.D., depression, schizophrenia (10th ed.). Cambridge: Medinform Publishing.