Gut and Psychology Syndrome or Gut and Physiology Syndrome (GAPS)™ is a condition which establishes a connection between the functions of the digestive system and the brain. This term was created by Dr Natasha Campbell–McBride, in 2004 and developed after her clinical work with children with autism. She also found that many of her patients had gastrointestinal disturbances and these improved considerably after treatment. When gut health improved, so did many of their psychological and immunological problems.
Dr Campbell McBride also found that the same protocol was also successful in improving digestive problems, allergies, auto immune problems, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, ADHD and eating disorders.
GAPS is becoming increasingly common and is a caused mainly as a result of modern lifestyles choices, diet and antibiotic use. Damage to normal gut flora causes an imbalance of these protective and very useful bacteria and can lead to permeability in our gut wall. When the gut wall is ‘leaky’ this allows undigested food proteins into our bloodstream where they react with our immune system and affect liver function in susceptible individuals these toxins can cross a weakened blood/brain barrier and provoke symptoms of mental illness.
This level of toxicity created by a dysfunctional gut can have a profound effect on other body systems. There are many people who suffer from IBS, coeliac disease, allergies, eczema, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis and other auto-immune disorders who do not have any mental or psychological problems but are nevertheless affected by GAPS. Other Symptoms can include fatigue, digestive disorders, muscular weakness and hormonal imbalances.
The Gaps diet protocol uses a comprehensive, structured diet programme along with a few chosen supplements to restore the integrity of the digestive tract and utimately the health of the body. There are three main aims of the diet.
1)Healing and Sealing of the gut– All foods that are difficult to digest and irritate the gut are avoided such as grains, processed food, sugars and starchy vegetables. These are replaced by foods that are easily digestible and will nourish and heal the gut.
2) Repopulating the gut with beneficial bacteria– This is done by avoiding all foods that feed the opportunistic (bad) bacteria/gut flora. Fermented vegetables and diary and good quality probiotics are introduced to help repopulate the gut to reinstate gut health
3) Getting rid of toxins– An overgrowth of yeast, bad bacteria, fungi, parasites and anything else that stems from gut dysbiosis (an unhealthy, improperly functioning intestinal tract),can lead to the production of harmful toxins which can alter brain chemistry, cause auto-immune reactions, reduce our immunity against infections etc. The GAPs protocol limits the diet to only foods that can be easily digested and eliminated. Strengthening the gut and introducing beneficial bacteria helps the body deal with deal with toxins in a natural way. Fresh juicing and lifestyle changes can speed up the elimination of toxins from the body.
4) Supplementation. Whilst supplementation is kept to a minimum, it can form an essential part of the GAPS protocol.
There are two types of GAPS protocol
1) The GAPS introduction diet
2) The full GAPS diet.
A GAPS practitioner will take an in depth consultation to decide which type of protocol is most suitable and the best way of implementing it for optimum healing benefit. The GAPS protocol can involve a major dietary and lifestyle changes so support is important along this journey. This is given by the practitioner and through local GAPS groups where support can be shared by others on the GAPS protocol.
The protocol needs to be followed for at least 6 months and up to 2 years depending on the severity of the condition.
Edwina Hodkinson is a registered GAPS practitioner having trained with Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride.