The GAPS diet (created by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, author of the book Gut And Psychology Syndrome) was designed to clear up a variety of health issues stemming from gut dysbiosis, an imbalance in the microorganisms of the gut that generally goes hand-in-hand with compromised gut integrity (leaky gut syndrome and damaged gut lining). Symptoms that are helped are digestive issues, autism spectrum disorders, ADD/ADHD, brain fog, hormone imbalances, food sensitivities, systemic inflammation, and behavioral issues. Many people with more serious complications like autoimmune disease need to go further than this diet, while many others can do a less-intense option like Paleo (which allows starches like sweet potatoes and arrowroot). It is important to find what works for you, but I have found GAPS to be incredibly useful for my children and myself, beginning with Oliver who had a compromised gut and was unable to break down food as a small toddler. It turned out that I was feeding him incorrectly and had damaged his digestive tract. Another post will need to be written on this later.
GAPS has been my go-to whenever the kids have seemed to be craving sweets (like fruit) in lieu of proteins (it's been a very long time since this has happened, though), and also whenever a stomach bug comes around, to resolve diarrhea. I find it to be overall a highly beneficial diet for keeping the immune system strong, clearing up acne, and keeping the body from becoming too acidic (signs of this are fungal issues like athlete's foot and yeast infections, canker sores, cold sores, and sore tongue). In general we eat a combination of GAPS and Paleo plus plenty of potatoes at our house.
Here is a list of our current menu items that would fit the full GAPS diet. Two items are up for debate: navy beans and red lentils are allowed on full GAPS for people who tolerate them so it is up to you to figure that out. If you have digestive issues you may want to avoid all legumes. Hard cheeses, sour cream, and butter are allowed on full GAPS as well, but again with the same caveat that the person should be able to tolerate them fine. Most people on full GAPS benefit from having ghee on a regular basis.
On full GAPS you can enjoy (this list is relevant to our current menu as of posting date and would change accordingly):
- all our broths (chicken, beef, pho, and fish), an indispensable "medicine" for healing the gut!
- all of our soups are suitable with one caveat: simple chicken, fish soup with greens, butternut squash soup (contains ghee), and Harvest Gold lentil soup (only if lentils are tolerated)
- salmon salad
- chicken tenders
- beef Bolognese
- beef & navy bean chili (if beans are tolerated)
- turkey meatballs with NO quinoa
- our meatball, burger and sausage mixtures are all suitable and highly nutritious especially if you add the organ meat option. These do require some prep work on your part unless you select the meatball "in the pan with sauce" option.
- breakfast custard (dairy option contains sour cream, non-dairy option contains coconut milk which is completely additive-free--both are delicious!). One custard contains only 2 tbsp of honey, so if you cut it into 8 pieces each piece has 2/3 tsp of honey. The custard makes a GREAT snack if you're able to have honey.
- pate (there is a butter option and a no-butter option). VERY nutritious and energizing
- Paleo granola (contains honey but it is completely grain-free)
- cashew bread (toast first, or fry in a pan with some butter or unflavored coconut oil like you are making a grilled cheese sandwich. I like this cooking method for making open-faced salmon salad or tuna salad sandwiches.)
- almond flour sandwich rounds
- red velvet loaves
- desserts: our chocolates + our cashew silk pie are GAPS-approved, but depending on the health issue you are dealing with you may want to avoid all added sugars. Keep in mind that chocolate, nuts, and sweeteners can all make your body more acidic.
- all our ferments are delicious and are an essential part of a healthy daily diet for everyone
It can be hard to get enough carbs on GAPS so have on hand plenty of very ripe bananas (with brown spots so there is no starch left in them), butternut & other winter squashes (rich in carbs but no starch), green peas (frozen is fine), carrots (cook them before eating), and beets if you like them. These are all non-starchy sources of carbs. I've also found avocados to be my best friend since they are filling, and salmon and tuna salad (get some of our Primal Kitchen mayo, or grab it at the store if you're going to make one of these). I would really recommend the granola, pate, and the breakfast custard since having something you can quickly grab and snack on is really important. You can dip veggie sticks in the pate or put it on the cashew toast.
In summary, a diet free of grains and refined sugars is usually beneficial for just about everyone, and going a bit further than that with GAPS by further limiting diet while adding in HEALING foods can help clear up many pesky health and behavioral issues. Keep in mind that the vast majority of the dietary intake should be savory items like vegetables, bone broths, meats/poultry, seafood, eggs, raw kefir & cheese (where tolerated), ferments, and healthy fats, with fruits and nuts taking up the rear, followed by occasional allowed treats that use natural sweeteners.
If you are interested in learning more I highly recommend the book Gut And Psychology Syndrome; it is a fascinating and enlightening read and you will likely learn a lot from it even if you decide not to use the diet in an intensive way yourself. I think of it as a good guideline for a healthy and nourishing diet for the general population, but if you are a parent of a baby or a soon-to-be parent then it is INDISPENSABLE reading for you. You can save yourself a lot of grief and save your little one(s) as well if you understand from the get-go how the very delicate infant digestive system works and how to properly transition your baby to solids.
Please email me through our contact page for help finding what you need from our menu selections to suit your special diet.