The GAPS Diet

Photo by Zach Reiner on Unsplash

“A well-functioning gut with healthy gut flora holds the roots of our health. And, just as a tree with sick roots is not going to thrive, the rest of the body cannot thrive with a well-functioning digestive system.” ~

Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride

In early 2013, I came to a breaking point. I had been working to heal my oldest son, who had been diagnosed with autism two years earlier, and while he had made great progress with his speech, sensory issues, and meltdowns, following oral surgery his health began to slide downhill again quickly. He was losing weight and fell off the growth charts. I was very concerned, because he had always been a skinny guy, and he just didn’t have the weight to lose. I wasn’t offered much help (our local dietician just told me to feed him some chocolate peanut butter from Wal-Mart) … to top it off, my youngest son was reacting to new foods weekly. He would be covered with hives, rashes; nuts made him “nuts”, eggs made him projectile vomit. We were down to four foods that he tolerated, and yet the allergist we saw wasn’t concerned.

I had heard about the GAPS diet before, but as we already ate a completely gluten, dairy and soy free diet, I thought we were doing ok.

It took reaching the breaking point of feeding one son everything under the sun without any weight gain and being unable to feed the other son anything without him reacting that made me finally give GAPS a try.

We started in February 2013. I will not claim that it was easy! However, by that fall, my oldest son was gaining weight rapidly (at one point on Intro, he gained 8 pounds in a month!) and my youngest was once again tolerating every food he ate without a reaction. He also was able to focus and sit still, something that he had never been able to do up until that point. And better still, I knew that I was giving my boys the gift of a healthy digestive system, something that would nourish their bodies and their brains for years to come.

What is the GAPS™ diet?

GAPS is short for “Gut and Psychology Syndrome”.  It is a term coined by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a physician in the United Kingdom whose son was diagnosed with autism and who she treated using the protocol outlined in her book “Gut and Psychology Syndrome”.  In her book, she concentrates on the conditions of autism spectrum disorder, ADHD/ADD, dyslexia, dyspraxia and schizophrenia.  She points out that the diet can also be helpful for patients who are suffering from allergies, asthma and eczema. (She also has a newer book out now, “Gut and Physiology Syndrome”, that addresses these).

The GAPS™ diet is based on the similar Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) which was advocated by the late Elaine Gottschall.  It is supported as a treatment for many similar conditions, but also specifically for people suffering from Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, diverticulitis, cystic fibrosis, and chronic diarrhea.  For persons that are specifically looking to use the SCD diet to treat autism, the following website may be helpful:

The GAPS™ protocol focuses on diet, basic supplementation, and detoxification, including “cleaning up” your living environment.  The diet emphasizes the healing power of traditional broths, fermented foods, and good fats.  The goal of the diet is to “heal and seal” the gut lining, which has been damaged to the point that it has become “leaky”, allowing undigested food and toxins to enter the body, causing numerous unwanted reactions.  Once this gut lining is sealed, the patient slowly introduces new foods.  The diet also involves an Introduction phase, which involves six stages, before the patient moves on to Full GAPS™.

A must read for someone that wishes to start the GAPS™ protocol would be Dr. Natasha’s book “Gut and Psychology Syndrome”, which outlines the plan that should be closely followed (she also recently released a new book, “Gut and Physiology Syndrome”, which outlines a similar protocol but for those dealing with more physical symptoms, not psychological). The following websites are also very helpful: (Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s official website) (Dr. Natasha’s blog) (A link to the Weston A. Price Foundation, where you can find many helpful resources for healthy eating)

And obviously this website is a good reference for you as well. 😉 I have posted several GAPS-specific recipes that our family enjoyed (and still enjoys!) while we were on GAPS.

I also offer a variety of classes online (and have recorded videos) that can help make learning how to follow the GAPS protocol easier. Scroll down to the bottom of this page for links to individual videos.

The GAPS Introduction Diet

The GAPS Introduction Diet is outlined in the book “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride.  Before beginning the diet, it is important to read over the information in her book outlining the stages and requirements of this portion of the diet.

The goal of the GAPS Introduction Diet is to heal and seal the gut lining quickly.  You can move through the protocol as fast or as slow as you and your symptoms need.  You can spend longer on one stage than the next, depending on what your body is permitting you to do.  The Introduction Diet is recommended for the following people:

– those with serious digestive symptoms (reflux, diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, severe constipation, etc.)

– those with food allergies/intolerances

– those without the above conditions should still go through the Introduction Diet, but they may be able to move through it quite quickly

More information on each individual stage:

Stage One

Stage Two

Stage Three

Stage Four

Stage Five & Six

If you decide to go straight to Full GAPS instead of doing Intro, remember that about 85% of your diet should be meats, fish, eggs, fermented dairy and vegetables.  Avoid baking and fruit for a few weeks, and then only limit them to snacks.  Homemade meat stock, soups, stews and natural fats are required and should be staples of your diet.  When starting with Full GAPS, you need to slowly introduce dairy as outlined in Dr. Natasha’s book on page 124-125.

Resources on this site to help you:

The following links take you to articles I’ve written that help you understand the GAPS™ diet in more detail:

The GAPS Diet – Why?

Who Should Try GAPS™?

GAPS™ and Essential Oils

Gearing Up for GAPS™ Intro

Traveling on the GAPS Diet (Part One)

Traveling on the GAPS Diet (Part Two)

A list of FAQs can be found here and is regularly updated by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride.

Working with a GAPS Practitioner

Beginning the protocol can be daunting.  Although the book explains things in detail, issues may arise as you go through the stages of the Introduction diet, leaving you unsure of what exactly you are experiencing.  Yahoo! has a GAPS™ diet group that is very helpful when you have questions.  Facebook also has a couple of groups (like GAPS Kids) for those looking for help.

Another option would be to hire a GAPS practitioner who can guide you through the roughest times. Certified GAPS Practitioners have been trained by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride and have extra experience and knowledge to help you on your healing journey.  You can look for a local GAPS Practitioner (a list of GAPS practitioners can be found here) or several GAPS Practitioners will work via long distance communication such as Skype. Please contact me if you need help in finding a GAPS Practitioner to work with you!

Although I am certified as a GAPS Practitioner, I do not have openings in my schedule for new clients at the moment (I am hoping to be able to have more availability starting in the fall of 2023). I do however offer iridology consults that are tailored to people starting the GAPS program. In these virtual consults, I am able to assess your current state of health as well as see signs of how you can best support your body as you work through GAPS. This is also part of any GAPS consultation that I do with a new client, as I find it invaluable as a guide to helping a person transition more easily to GAPS and to achieve healing more quickly.

To learn more about a GAPS Iridology consult, please visit my iridology page here.

Best wishes

~ Alicia

“GAPS™ and Gut and Psychology Syndrome™ are the trademark and copyright of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. The right of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Patent and Designs Act 1988.”