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I find that I am speaking to many people these days about the GAPS diet. I am finding an increasing number of friends and acquaintances who are having issues with their gut health, although they don’t usually realize that gut health is a problem for them.
I don’t believe the GAPS diet is for everyone. So who should go on it? First let me summarize a bit of essentials about the GAPS diet. GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome and it is a diet developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride based on the specific carbohydrate diet. It is a healing diet that eliminates all grains and sugar for a period of time to heal the gut and restore a healthy balance of gut bacteria so that the beneficial bacteria can run the body properly. It is not an easy diet but it is effective. And it is not just a diet. It also involves particular supplements, detoxification strategies, and often some other disciplines like homeopathy. For an earlier post I wrote about the GAPS diet go here.
So who should be on the GAPS diet?
1) Anyone who has tried to heal with other nutritional methods and not been successful. That will include those who have tried probiotics on a regular basis and still struggle with health issues, those who have tried other less severe diets like paleo or specific carbohydate and still have health issues.
2) Anyone with an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune disease are those in which the body starts to attack its own cells and systems. Some of the more common autoimmune diseases include lupus, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, etc.
3) Those who have irritable bowel syndrome. Irritable bowel syndrome is one of those vague diagnoses which simply describe a problem but don’t really get to the why. I believe in most situations the root cause is an imbalance of beneficial and harmful bacteria in the gut. When the harmful bacteria have taken over the body is not able to detox properly and the beneficial bacteria are not able to do their jobs. This category includes people with Crohns, ulcerative colitis and any other digestive diseases as well.
4) Those with some kind of mental or brain issues. Dr. NCM developed this diet because her son had autism symptoms and she was able to see him heal significantly and live a normal life after some time on this diet. In her book she develops very clearly the various brain effects of an imbalanced gut including autism, ADD, ADHD, depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia. She is not saying that an imbalanced gut causes all of this but rather that this will set off a particular tendency of a person to go in a certain direction when gut health is not good. For more on this issue there is a great article called What Does My Belly Have to do With My Brain.
5) Those with food intolerances, especially gluten and casein (dairy) intolerances. Food intolerances are one of the early signs of gut issues as the small intestine is not absorbing food as it was meant to but rather proteins from the gluten and dairy are going through the cell wall and causing havoc other places in the brain.
6) Anyone fed up with the medical system throwing medication at them without really working to treat the root causes of a problem. It seems anymore most doctors just give pills that treat symptoms but do not really try to figure out the underlying cause of a problem. So in most situations people don’t get better; their problems just seem to be managed.
7) Women planning and trying to get pregnant. This may not be such an obvious one but when you realize that women pass their gut health on their infants at birth and through breastfeeding it makes much more sense. In a sense gut health is not quite inherited but it passed down from generation to generation. As we have seen a decrease in gut health over the past few generations we see each generation getting sicker and sicker. Those who want to have a baby would do well to make sure they are in the best place they can be healthwise for their sake of their little one before they are born.
8) Those with eczema, psoriasis, and other skin issues. One of the bodies detoxification pathways is through the skin. If the intestines are not doing their job then the body needs to utilize other pathways and the skin is one of those. Various creams and salves can help temporarily for these skin conditions but there will not be real change until gut health is cleaned up and maintained.
The GAPS diet is not the only healing diet out there. There are a number of others including the auto-immune protocol, the body ecology diet, the specific carbohydrate diet, and many others. If you are struggling with poor health then start somewhere. These health problems are a sign of inflammation in the body and inflammation begins in the gut. Begin to research the options and start cutting out grains and increasing probiotics and making more and more of your food yourself. Most of these dietary changes can be very challenging and sometimes expensive but there is hope for real change.