what is GAPS?

A GAPS friendly pumpkin bread freshly baked by my non baking partner

A GAPS friendly pumpkin bread freshly baked by my non baking partner

To most people, GAPS means absolutely nothing, but for those who follow it, and that includes me, it makes total sense. The theory behind it is quite simple, and I will preface this by saying that this is my interpretation of GAPS (or Gut and Psychology Syndrome). The second thing I will preface this by saying, is that I am an intensive care nurse, and have been for a really long time, and in my experience of conventional medicine, the gut is completely overlooked as an organ of any importance. If something is going in one end and coming out the other, then all is well.

I believe that the gut is the source of ALL health. Healthy gut = healthy everything. For a lot of people the equation is, processed and chemical laden food + poor lifestyle (antibiotics/contraceptive pill/stress/external toxins etc) = altered bacterial balance in the gut, poor gut wall health and eventually a raft of inflammatory and chronic health issues. GAPS is a gut healing protocol which essentially heals the gut wall and let’s it get on with its job of nutrient absorption.

I first heard about GAPS by chance through a school mum I met just over 2 years ago who was, and still is, studying to be a naturopath. Her kids were eating homemade food which was all made entirely from scratch. They were snacking on nuts and kale chips, drinking vegetable juices and smoothies packed with nutritious ingredients, and generally consuming foods which I would never have expected a child to enjoy. But they did! There was nothing processed, and as I soon came to realise, they ate no grains, at all.

As our friendship blossomed, so did my curiosity and interest. It turned out that my friend’s eldest son had had quite severe epilepsy from birth. GAPS has been the icing on the cake for him and his family on his path to recovery, to being an alert, intellectually normal, super healthy, happy kid. He is now drug free, and it has been a miraculous journey to watch and follow.

So what is *GAPS? In really simple terms, if the balance of the flora (bacteria) in the gut is out of whack, then the health of the gut is out of whack. If there is imbalance, there is generally overgrowth of unhelpful bacteria or fungi and the gut wall becomes inflamed, damaged and no longer capable of doing its primary job optimally, which is to absorb nutrients. This is where I became really interested, because I had had quite severe hayfever since my early 20’s and it started about the same time I first had symptoms of candida. I only really made the link between the two conditions recently.

So a damaged gut wall can leak large food molecules into the bloodstream (which are not meant to get through) and this results in an immune response to what are seen as ‘foreign bodies’ in our blood. There has been a massive increase in the number of people who have food and general allergies in the last few decades, and this is thought to be the reason. These allergies can manifest as a multitude of inflammatory disorders (eg eczema, hayfever, anaphylaxis etc) and can also affect the way our brains function. As the GAPS anacronym suggests, there is a very strong connection, and also a linked intelligence between the gut and the brain.

The protocol was initially developed as a result of the dead ends that Dr Natasha Campbell- McBride (a neurologist) came up against when she was looking for answers to help her with her autistic son. She cured her son using the protocol, when her own medical profession offered nothing.

For me there have been several benefits to following a gut healing protocol. In essence it is an elimination diet, so you can easily work out which foods your body is more sensitive to and introduce them more slowly. It means I need to acknowledge that my passion for milk and dairy needs to be reigned in for the time being, but that at some point in the future we will be reunited and happy together. My candida symptoms have disappeared completely, and I am no longer medicated for hayfever which is phenomenal.

My partner suffers from an inflammatory skin condition and has had severe allergies since 2004 when he first started doing serious numbers of Ironman Triathlons. He did 4 races plus training that year alone. The races involve over 9 hours of intense exercise where the gut is getting a poor blood supply and being fed high concentration sugar gels for energy. He has just started on the GAPS full diet, and as you can see by his baking, he is embracing the challenge and hoping to be off the allergy medications he takes every day, very soon!

GAPS resource

*GAPS is not the only gut healing protocol, there are other protocols to suit people with different food preferences.

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9 thoughts on “what is GAPS?

  1. A really interesting post…I have family members who are wheat and dairy intolerant It’s probably a gormless question, but what is in the banana bread as a flour substitute? 🙂

  2. Great post! Defo going to look into this more! Do you know of any gut healing protocols that are meat free?

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