The GAPS diet: for a healthy brain

GAPS diet
GAPS diet

Healthy intestines mean more energy, good metabolism and a clear mind. Sounds good! That is the purpose of the GAPS diet. In this article, we’ll tell you more about the connection between the gut and your brain. What the GAPS diet is and how it works.

What is the GAPS diet?

GAPS stands for ‘Gut and Psychology Syndrome’. Literally translated, this means gut and psychology syndrome. A crazy name, isn’t it? So what does it mean?

The diet was created by Dr. Campbell-McBride. She is even convinced that this diet cured her child of autism. Campbell noted in her study of the brain that people with ADHD or autism, among other things, often also have problems with their intestines.

She argues that the toxins that enter the blood through the intestines affect the development of the brain. Problems such as dyslexia, ADHD and depression, as well as food intolerances and allergies, could arise or worsen.

She then devised a diet to remedy or improve problems in the brain by making the intestines (more) healthy. Whether this is really the case, opinions are still divided.

In this diet you remove certain products from your diet, so that your intestines can then recover. This mainly concerns grains, dairy, starchy vegetables and refined sugars. You will read more about that later.

By changing your diet you ensure healthy intestines. Intestines that are not irritated on a daily basis. As a result, your body has less stress, the metabolism can do its job better and you feel better overall.

For whom?

If we look at the diet as Campbell-McBride means, the diet is primarily aimed at children with psychological complaints. Especially with abnormalities that we have not yet fully understood, such as autism.

But now the diet is used much more widely and you could say that it is for people with dram complaints. Such as digestive forces, reactions to certain foods or a leaky gut.

The three phases of the GAPS diet

The GAPS diet is anything but easy. Not your typically house, garden and kitchen diet with a few lines on how much you can eat and move . Nor is it a diet for a few weeks or months. It is a very lengthy process consisting of three long phases.

Phase 1: introduction phase

Every beginning is difficult, because that is when you start the change. In this case it is extra difficult, because you are only allowed to eat and drink a few products. Without exceptions. Do not be alarmed, this phase lasts 3 weeks to a year!

This phase can be divided into six parts. When your bowels feel good and you have normal bowel movements, you can move on to the next step. As you can see, you start with a very basic diet.

  1. Your complete diet consists of eating and drinking bone broth, ginger and probiotic juices, chamomile tea or mint tea. And possibly yogurt and kefir.
  2. Add egg yolks, ghee, vegetable stews and fish or meat.
  3. Now also add avocado, fermented vegetables, scrambled eggs and duck or goose fat.
  4. Add grilled meat, olive oil, vegetable juices and bread(according to GAPS recipe).
  5. Add applesauce, raw vegetables, fruit juice and fruit, but not citrus fruits.
  6. Finally, more raw fruit and citrus fruits.

With every product you add, you check how your body reacts to it. If you notice a difference with a certain product, then you know that your body has difficulty with that product.

Phase 2: The Complete GAPS Diet

After the first long and difficult period, this phase is relatively easy. You can eat a little more. On the other hand, this phase takes longer than phase 1. It is 1.5 to 2 years.

You eat all products from phase 1 that you had no problems with and add some more. You are allowed fish, meat, and shellfish, lots of organic vegetables, healthy fats, nuts and seeds, and probiotics.

There are also various recipes you can make that are ‘GAPS-proof’. For example, special pancakes and cakes made with almond flour.

There are also a number of guidelines. Such as not having equally meat and fruit at the same time. Drinking bone broth with every meal and not canned or packaged food. You have finished this phase if you are free of complaints for a longer period, at least 6 months.

 Phase 3: reintroduction phase

You have now followed a very limited diet for 1 to 2 years. Without sweets, biscuits, and chocolate. And without pizza, canned food, or a ready-to-eat meal. In the last phase, you can add some other products.

When adding a new product to your diet, you should start with a very small serving. And also that you will not all eat these new products at the same time. This way you can continue to monitor the reaction to the product properly.

But beware: products with added sugars and processed products are still not recommended. These products are known to be not good for your intestines. And after all that time it would be a shame to suddenly start eating all kinds of unhealthy things.


Difficult to sustain

Now imagine having to stick to this diet for years? That requires a lot of perseverance. You will need to have a clear goal. And also have to learn to deal with difficult situations in terms of food, such as birthdays and holidays.

Everything or nothing

While other diets often allow for occasional snacks, this is not the case with this diet. After all, eating a piece of cake or ice cream can have a direct effect on the intestines. So it is all or nothing! For many this is impossible.

Not for everyone

The diet is its original form and is also not suitable for vegetarians and people who want to eat vegetables. Remove all animal products and very little will be left. Some products can be replaced by vegetable variants, but not all.

Read more?

Do you want to read more about this diet? There are several books you can read, including one by the inventor himself. You can buy the book ‘Gut and psychology syndrome’ by Natasha Campbell-McBride online. A bestseller 400 pages thick.

Note: this does go very deeply into the matter. It is not a book with a simple step-by-step plan and eating schedules. If you find this book interesting, Natasha has also written other books about heart disease and an explanation about plant-based food.


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