Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPs)


In May 2015 Jenny traveled to Sydney to train in person with Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, founder of the GAPs diet protocol and is proud to be a fully certified GAPs practitioner.

The GAPs diet is widely recognised as the gold standard for gut healing.

To get you started and to introduce the philosophy of GAPS, I encourage you read this article – “One man’s meat is another man’s poison”, by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride.

Please contact me for a free 15 minute consult to decide if GAPs is right for you

What is GAPs?

GAPs, which stands for Gut and Psychology syndrome was created by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride MD, MMedSci (neurology), MMedSci(human nutrition) in 2004 after working with hundreds of children and adults with neurological and psychiatric conditions. Some of these conditions include Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), ADD/ADHD, schizophrenia, dyslexia, epilepsy and depression.

By healing the gut many of the symptoms of these neurological conditions can be improved and even resolved.

GAPs also works for auto-immune conditions, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue (CFS), Eczema and other atopic conditions.

“The purpose of the treatment is to detoxify the person, to lift the toxic fog off the brain to allow it to develop and function properly. In order to achieve that we need to clean up and heal the digestive tract, so it stops being the major source of toxicity in the body and becomes the source of nourishment, as it is supposed to be. As more than 90% of everything toxic floating in our blood (and getting into the brain) comes from the gut, healing it will drop the level of toxicity in the body dramatically.”

80% of the immune system is located within the gut. By healing and sealing the gut the overwhelmed immune and detoxification systems can start to function properly again, and the body can slowly but surely heal itself. It takes time, and it is gentle but profoundly powerful.

How does GAPs heal the gut?

First we need to understand what has gone wrong…

The gut can become damaged pretty easily from a number of causes such as stress, infection, sub-standard diet, food irritants, toxins etc. The extent of the damage will depend on how long the onslaught lasts, or perhaps even more importantly the health of the person’s microbiome.

The microbiome is the helpful ecosystem of synergistic bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites living within you. In actual fact our microbes outnumber our own cells 10 to 1 and their DNA outnumbers our DNA by 150 to 1! They help us, and we provide a home for them.

The gut flora perform a number of important roles, and we would not survive without them

  1. They help us digest our food
  2. They turn the fibre in that food into the short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) including butyric acid which feeds and nourishes the protective gut lining
  3. They manufacture B vitamins and vitamin K for us, and researchers now think humans used to be able to make vitamin C too. (makes sense since we can’t store it)
  4. The microbiota constantly scan the contents of the gut to determine what is friend and what is foe, thereby educating the immune system as to what to attack (the bad stuff – toxins, pathogen) and what to let through (the good stuff – nutrients)
  5. They stand guard protecting the gut wall from inflammation and damage
  6. Have an epigenetic effect by constantly influencing the expression of our DNA so we can adapt and respond to our environment

When you’re dominated by “bad” bacteria ie. opportunistic flora which can become pathogenic and disease-causing the gut wall becomes susceptible to damage.

The gut wall is only one cell thick which is both a good thing and a bad thing. The gut wall must withstand a huge amount of wear and tear all day every day (except perhaps while you sleep, but even then there is a huge amount of activity and detoxing going on in the gut). For this reason it is replaced every 4-5 days. The good news is you are only 4-5 days away from a healthier gut wall, the bad news is that at only one cell thick it doesn’t take much to put holes in the gut wall and the gut becomes leaky (technical term: intestinal permeability).

When this happens food particles, microbes and their metabolites, inflammatory molecules and toxins can breach the gut wall and get into circulation.  This not only sets off an immune reaction and associated symptoms, but these foreign compounds can travel to any area of the body, including the brain. Diseases will ensue where-ever there is a genetic weakness.

how GAPs heals the gutto re-build a strong intact gut wall we need to supply the enterocytes (gut wall cells) with specific nutrition and also created the right conditions by removing irritants, inflammation and stressors. Without these healing imputs, the enterocytes grow poorly and don’t work properly (see picture)

The sickly enterocytes are missing the enzymes that accomplish the last steps in digesting food, which then impairs your digestion and absorption. The structure of your gut wall changes and disease can set in, leading to malabsorption, nutritional deficiencies, and food intolerances. Sound familiar?

The enterocytes are normally packed close together with only microscopic gaps in between known as tight junctions. The tight junctions are formed and maintained by very special proteins, which are like glue. Unfortunately, many pathogenic microbes in abnormal gut flora produce toxins that dissolve that glue and open the tight junctions, so too does gluten. The gut then becomes porous and leaky, allowing substances through which shouldn’t be there. The immune system attacks these partially digested foods and this is how food sensitivities develop

There is nothing wrong with the food, it’s the damaged gut lining that is the problem. Food intolerances can manifest as many symptoms in the body from headaches, abnormal behavior, to arthritis, and the reaction can occur immediately, in a few hours, or in a few days. As these reactions overlap with each other, it becomes impossible for you to figure out what you’re reacting to on any given day.

the answer is to heal and seal the gut, and many food sensitivities will simply go away, so too will pain and dysfunction throughout the body.

The GAPs diet

The GAPs diet is a starch-free, nutrient-rich diet that replaces grains and starchy foods with bone broth, grass-fed meats, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds and fermented probiotic-rich foods such as sauerkraut.

the GAPs diet proceeds through 6 introduction stages on the way to the “Full” GAPs diet. Foods are introduced in an order that is appropriate to the level of gut healing.

The GAPs diet is based on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, a diet created by the late Elaine Gotschall as a healing protocol for people with severe digestive disorders and distress such as Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis.

Both GAPs and SCD rule out all polysaccharides and disaccharides as these can not be digested due to a lack of appropriate enzymes which are not being adequately produced due to a damaged gut wall. This rules out all starches including all grains, all pseudo grains (eg quinoa, arrowroot etc), potato, sweet potato and corn. Dairy which contains the disaccharide lactose is also forbidden unless it has been fermented as is the case with yogurt, cultured cream and kefir. The fermentation process breaks down the lactose into the single sugars or monosaccharides glucose and galactose which require no further digestion.

By avoiding starches and double sugars the enterocytes can grow stronger and more integral.

The GAPs diet is also rich in probiotic and prebiotic foods that encourage a healthy beneficial microbiota which then crowd out the bad bacteria that do all the damage and cause all the mischief. These foods provide the specific nutrients needed to rebuild the gut such as glutamine, zinc, vitamin A and vitamin D, plus foods and nutrients that sooth the gut and cool inflammation.

It takes time to repair the gut and ensure future generations of enterocytes will be strong and healthy. It takes time for nutrient deficiencies to be corrected so that body systems can once again function normally. If the diet is stopped too soon you will find yourself back at the drawing board.

The GAPs diet turns lives around I have seen it in my own family and with many clients. Having someone to guide you and help you get started, especially in the first few weeks when there is much to learn and much to prepare can make or break success for some people.  If you have a GAPS gut you already don’t feel well, your brain is hurting and not functioning well, and on top of that there is die-off. A GAPs practitioner can ease the way for you, explain what is a normal reaction and what isn’t and what to do about it.

After just 2-3 weeks everyone reports back that it was not nearly as hard as they thought and the new level of health they are now starting to experience is absolutely worth it. There is light at the end of the tunnel getting brighter every day!