Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS)
The GAPS Diet Isn't Just For Autistic Children
Autism diets have become popular methods of treating the behaviors and symptoms of autism. For that reason, the Gluten-Free Casein-Free (GFCF) Diet, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, and the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Diet, concentrate on secondary health issues associated with autism, rather than autism itself.
Food sensitivities, allergies, leaky gut syndrome, and gluten ataxia can all improve on the GAPS Diet. In fact, the GAPS Diet wasn't even created for autistic individuals. It was created to heal the gut. That's its purpose.
Who Can Benefit From The GAPS Diet?
Dietary approaches to health often carry no official, scientific backing, but health problems, such as Gut and Psychology Syndrome, do exist in a wide variety of unhealthy individuals. That makes the GAPS Diet equally applicable for those suffering from:
- learning disorders
- sensory processing disorder
- celiac disease
- gluten ataxia
- yeast overgrowth
- abnormal gut flora
- leaky gut syndrome
- inflammatory bowel disease
- allergies or food sensitivities
- assorted mental conditions
In addition, many health problems overlap each other, which can make it difficult to receive a correct diagnosis. Most medical interventions focus on alleviating symptoms, not finding and getting rid of what's wrong. That adds to the difficulty of regaining your health, but it also contributes to the problems of being misdiagnosed.
What is Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS)?
One of the more popular dietary therapies among the parents of autistic children is Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s GAPS approach. Gut and Psychology Syndrome is a term that Dr. Campbell-McBride uses to describe the results that occur when gut flora becomes compromised, abnormal, or imbalanced. Since gut bacteria nourishes the lining of the intestines, digestive health is dependent on the bacterial condition of the gastrointestinal system.
When a baby is born, their gastrointestinal tract is sterile. During the birthing process, the mother’s bacteria and a little from the environment populate the child’s gastrointestinal system during delivery. This initial colonization affects the baby’s health, growth, and brain development. That is one reason why the mother’s nutritional intake and health habits during pregnancy are so important.
Not only does a mother feed her baby while the baby is in the womb, but she passes her own intestinal health status on to the baby during birth.
The bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract are a mixture of pathogenic and beneficial bacteria. These microbes are involved in digestion and energy production. Starches, sugars, and proteins are broken down in the intestinal tract through enzymes created by these bacteria. These microbes also play a major role in immune system function. If a mother passes her abnormal glut flora to her baby, the baby begins life with an already compomised immune system.
Problems of Abnormal Gut Flora in Babies
Gut bacteria stimulates the production of antibodies needed to fight off infection and harmful invaders. Babies with a compromised immune system suffer with frequent ear infections, respiratory infections, and a variety of other infections.
Since good bacteria also coats the intestines to protect the body from toxins, and creates anti-virus, anti-fungus, and anti-bacterial substances, a compromised detox system, frequent sickness, and digestive problems also result. In addition, beneficial microbes help to heal intestinal damage and work to keep the pathogenic bacteria in balance.
In Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride's opinion, a compromised immune system sits at the heart of the immunization controversy surrounding autism. In the following video, she reveals how a child inherits and contracts digestive and neurological issues.
Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride Discusses Autism
And How Abnormal Gut Flora Affects the Newborn
GAPS Affects Many Body Systems
Without a well-balanced colony of bacteria, individuals cannot digest food nutrients properly. They cannot absorb vitamins and minerals, so they end up malnourished. These resulting nutritional deficiencies can affect many body systems:
- skin coloring
- brain function
- the neurological system
- the immune system
- sensory processing
- blood cells
- body organs and systemic functions
In Dr. Campbell-McBride’s clinical experience, most individuals with autism, other neurological disorders, allergies, food sensitivities, and learning and developmental disabilities actually have Gut and Psychology Syndrome. She sees these conditions as secondary to their cause, and that includes celiac disease.
She is also of the opinion that the current rise in autism rates comes from gut dysbiosis (abnormal intestinal bacteria), but sees the problem as generational and specifically resulting from food processing.
By taking the necessary steps to overcome the gut dysbiosis passed to the child from the mother and restoring nutritional status, Campbell-McBride believes that restoring proper digestion through her GAPS Diet can eliminate all food intolerances and provide the nutritional support necessary for other autism therapies and treatments to be more effective. The same would hold true for any other health condition as well.
The GAPS Diet Helps Leaky Gut Syndrome
The GAPS Diet was designed to help those with digestive problems, Leaky Gut Syndrome, and imbalanced flora. Up until recently, Leaky Gut Syndrome has suffered from the same controversy that gluten sensitivity has. However, Dr. Alessio Fasano, world-renown pediatric gastroenterologist and research scientist, as well as the Director for the Celiac Research Center at the University of Maryland, has dug deeper into the issue.
In a podcast interview he gave to Chris Kresser a few months ago, he shared how bacteria was not supposed to be in the small intestine, but confined to the colon where there are no nutrients left to steal. However, its presence in the small intestine causes it to release a large amount of zonulin, a toxin that results in the tight junctions between the cells of the instestine opening.
This opening is what is referred to as intestinal permeability, or Leaky Gut. Unfortunately, Dr. Fasano only has a partial understanding of how it works, but he stated that an intestinal breach was clearly an integral portion of the condition. Things not meant to pass through the intestinal wall get into the bloodstream, and from there cause all sorts of havoc.
If the immune system is healthy, it can clean up the mess. Plus, in a typical individual, the junctions that open close right back up again. They are only open for a very short period of time. But in some individuals, that closure doesn't happen.
Restoring Gut Barrier Integrity
When you know the cause for the intestinal breach, you can remove that cause and restore health. However, Dr. Fasano believes the cause will be different for each health condition. For example, if you have celiac disease, the cause is gluten, so you switch to a gluten-free diet. For those with dysbiosis, or bacterial overgrowth, "eventually you fix the problem, either by treating the bacterial overgrowth or with probiotics."
If the problem is genetic, it's going to be more tricky, because the defect would have to be fixed in order to totally correct the problem. So restoring gut integrity is like any other health issue. "Either you treat the symptom, in this case the leaky gut, by going after the problem or you treat the cause,"Dr. Fasano said. "If you know the cause, you remove the cause so that it will go away that way."
That's one of the reasons why the GAPS diet has such a large success rate. For many individuals, dysbiosis, as Dr. Campbell-McBride suggests, is often the cause of many health problems. Because of its huge success rate among those who have Gut and Psychology Syndrome, the GAPS Diet has become the latest dietary intervention to circulate among those who have bowel issues, as well as the autism community.
The GAPS Introduction Diet
Unlike other dietary interventions, the GAPS Diet comes in two parts. There is a GAPS Introduction Diet and a full GAPS diet. The GAPS Introduction Diet seeks to bring relief to those suffering from digestive issues, such as:
- abdominal cramps
- abdominal pain
For that reason, it is far more restrictive than the full GAPS diet and focuses on soups, stews and other easily digestible foods.
This introductory diet is not found in Dr. Campbell-McBride’s book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, but it is available at her website. She does caution, however, that although she has made the Introduction Diet available to everyone, for correct implementation, readers do need to get her book. She also recommends at-home food sensitivity testing for the diet’s allowable foods, which she explains in her book.
For that reason, the GAPS Diet is a very individualized plan. However, Campbell-McBride sees little point in identifying food triggers through expensive allergy and food intolerance testing. The only food intolerance that she recognizes as potentially permanent is lactose intolerance. However, she does believe that the casein protein found in dairy foods is toxic when it sneaks past the intestinal wall. But in her clinical experience, all sensitivities other than lactose intolerance disappear once the gut heals.
In the following video, Dr. Campbell-McBride discusses her program for healing Gut and Psychology Syndrome.
Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride Explains the Basics of Her Program
Foods to Avoid, Recommended Foods, Supplements, and Detoxification
What Makes the GAPS Diet Different?
The GAPS Diet differs from a typical diet for yeast overgrowth because it allows fruit and cheeses. It also stresses the importance of avoiding processed foods, which Dr. Campbell-McBride believes are hard to digest and interfere with proper gut flora balance.
In addition to the nutritional component that processing strips away, most convenience products do add sugar which can damage the gut flora. Keep in mind that iodized salt is made with 50 percent corn sugar in order to evenly distribute the iodine. Manufacturers rarely tell consumers on the label whether the salt they have used in their product is iodized, or not.
Once the intestines have healed, Dr. Campbell-McBride recommends retesting for food sensitivities and returning previously eliminated nutritious foods to the diet such as wheat. While the ending diet comes close to the foods allowed on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, the creator of the GAPS diet doesn’t fault carbohydrates for creating a leaky gut and, therefore, does not limit them.
In her clinical experience, patients previously sensitive to gluten or diagnosed with celiac disease have been able to eat wheat bread and pastas once the intestines have healed. If that's true, it's possible that science will yet discover additional conditions that damage the intestinal lining, other than just celiac disease.