The GAPS Diet: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How

Myself, Dr. Natasha, and Dawn of Home Food Heals at the 2012 WAPF Annual Conference

Myself, Dr. Natasha, and Dawn of Home Food Heals at the 2012 WAPF Annual Conference

I am a GAPS groupie.

It’s no secret.

I have been writing about our family’s journey with GAPS for two years now, working hard to spread the hope it gives, and sharing our story in a variety of ways. GAPS has been pivotal in healing all of us.  

So what is it?  And why would I spend so much time spreading the GAPS love? Here’s a little GAPS 101.

Who:  Mamas on a Mission

The Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet was designed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride.  She was a Neurologist and practicing Neurosurgeon when her son was diagnosed with autism.  She refused to accept the no hope answers she received from the medical community.  Instead she did her own research, earned an additional doctorate in Human Nutrition, and then went on to fully recover her son of autism.

During this time she gleaned information and experience from another mama who had refused to accept the no hope answer for her daughter.  Elaine Gottschall used a well established medical healing diet called the Specific Carbohydrate Diet to recover her daughter of incurable ulcerative colitis and neurological problems.  GAPS is largely based on this on this diet.

Over time Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride modified and changed the Specific Carbohydrate Diet to include emerging science as well as her own personal clinical experience, and the intestinal healing program that evolved was coined GAPS by her patients.  Now mamas around the world are ditching the no hope prognosis for their kiddos, and finding foundational healing and a real food education through GAPS.

What:   GAPS Summary

GAPS is a medical diet designed to repair the healing and detoxification systems already present in the body.  The health of the immune system begins in the gut, so GAPS begins there. It is centered on real food, and structured 51QNEYDc9yL._SY300_into stages.  It uses food as medicine, and establishes a very specific nutrient dense diet, allowing the body to heal from the inside out.  Hold on to ‘yer britches, though.  It is no exaggeration that GAPS will provide you with a complete education on how genetics, environment, and food relate to illness and healing.

When:  Is It For You?

The real food principles established by the GAPS diet will benefit anyone.  There is not a person on the planet that would not find more health from a nutrient dense diet.  Period.

Still, that does not mean everyone should make a running leap into the GAPS diet.

Instead, I might suggest you consider if you or your child has ever had any of these symptoms:  allergies, asthma, eczema, migraines, depression, ear infections, eating disorders, chronic constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, bladder infections, reflux, narcolepsy, Crohn’s disease, seizures, failure to thrive, arthritis, OCD, ADD, SPD, celiac, anemia, diabetes, chronic fatigue, or any defined immune system deficiency. (note: This is the short list.  I could not possible list all of the defined diseases connected to the immune system, and therefore also connected to the gut.)

So?  Got leaky gut?

Where:  The Science

There are quite a few places you can get information on leaky gut (or intestinal permeability or gut dysbiosis) and how it effects the entire body.  A quick google search should bring you more reading than you could ever imagine.  For 9780969276814_p0_v1_s260x420information on the GAPS diet and the science behind it, be sure to start with Dr. Natasha’s site located at  Or you could do just what my geeky self did. I researched and read every single medical article and referenced paper quoted in the back of the actual GAPS book. Yeah.  Really.  I did.  There are 24 page of selected references listed that should keep you busy for some time.  

Breaking the Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall gives the story of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.  It includes the history of treating Celiac, and information on carbohydrate digestion.  It also has an additional 14 pages of quoted references for your investigation and reading pleasure.

Why: To Leave A Legacy of Health

I will forever hang on to the words of wisdom passed to me by another GAPS mama.  A few months into our whole family GAPS transition  I was feeling particularly sad about the adjustments affecting my first born.  The guilt was creeping in, as was the exhaustion, and I was pondering the point of the entire adventure.  Why in the world was I making my oldest endure GAPS when her symptoms seemed so minor compared to Ellie’s?  The answer I received from my mama friend is one I have hung on to for 2 years now –  Because you are helping her to have healthy babies.


That’s some legacy.  It’s not just for the here and now.  It’s not just for her dairy allergy (which is pretty important).  It’s to help your babies have healthy babies.  That’s worth it all.

How:  Getting Started

Buy the book.  No, you can’t do it without the book.  Yes, there is a lot of the information on line.  Yes, you could get started without it.

Here is the deal:  the responsible way to implement any type of medical diet is to give it a good study and investigation.  What if regardless of the digging you do, page 42 says to drink 1/2 cup of bleach 3 times a day? Or page 116 says that no improvement will be seen without a daily jig on the right foot?  Regardless of what you are persuing, you owe it to yourself and to your child to treat health and healing seriously and with effort.  Research it properly.  For GAPS, you will need more than the GAPS Cliff Notes in order to ensure success.  Chances are the book costs less than one co-payment.  Do yourself (and your child) a favor.  Just buy (and read!) the book.

-Source your food.  Begin with organic meat and bones.  Check your local Weston A. Price chapter, Local Harvest, or Eat Wild to get started.

-Find support.  This is a really important step, especially if there may be some resistance to change within your home.  Your local Weston A. Price chapter can be a place to find a connection, as can any local Holistic Mom’s group.  Online you can find a long time yahoo support group called GAPSdiet. And there is also the community I manage, GAPS Kids, where we focus on helping entire families thrive. Come join us!

So what do you think?  Do you need some intestinal healing?  Know someone who might?  Looking for hope?

Hope is contagious. Pass it on.

~ Nichole

The Gut and Psychology Syndrome
Breaking the Vicious Cycle

  1. I fight this thought. We were on GAPS full for a while, getting ready to start the intro to try to heal my sons asthma and my eczema and I got so tired I just started to buy store bread again. The part that gets me is how to prevent them from eating something outside of my home. The neighbors ALWAYS have food outside (oreos and the like, of course) and I know, though we have been a “make from scratch” family for a long time, that my kids want that food. Plus, I don’t want to make food a big deal. I can already see my kids rebelling at the ages of 5 and 3 because they think I am keeping them from something good. I spend a lot of time on our relationship, and try to encourage/influence them, but they don’t want anything to do with it (or me, it seems). I feel like the harder I try, the more they are going to run the other way. It’s like his asthma needs to become debilitating for him to finally decide that the neighbors go-gurt isn’t worth it.

    • Hi Jennifer. I totally understand where you are coming from here. Society is not kind in the amount of (fake) food it shoves at our kiddos, and doesn’t make these hard roads any easier. I have contemplated my own issues with this often, since I have two daughters – one with life threatening food issues and who I have no problem saying no to, and a 7 year old who I felt guilty for making her eat GAPS. I realized that my own insecurities were fueling a lot of her trouble with the changes. I finally had to set it aside emotionally and consciously decide it was not worth having her be 25 and ask me why she was infertile, or had a dairy allergy, or scoliosis, or teeth that were a wreck. And I decided that for us food IS a big deal – physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I am called to train my children to be set apart socially in all areas, and that includes food. It takes daily getting on my knees, but it is worth it! Best of luck on your journey. It’s hard being a mom, but no job in the world is as important. Blessings.

  2. Glad to see that the GAPS diet was able to work for you! Personally I couldn’t go through the whole program, I found it too restrictive…but I do agree with the GAPS premise of cleaning your gut in order to get rid of other diseases 🙂

    I used to have really bad eczema for over 10 years, and recently started a 30-day program to get rid of it. It’s similar to GAPS (focusing on gut health), but not as restrictive (you’re allowed to eat carbs, red meat, chocolate, etc) so it was much easier for me. The program focuses on finding out what your eczema “triggers” are, and after 30 days my eczema was completely gone! I learned that my main eczema triggers were dairy, gluten, and birth control. It’s hard to fight eczema, but clear skin is worth it!

    Great blog, it’s nice to see posts like this dedicated to helping people live healthier lives. 🙂

Leave a Reply