By Marianna Duba, Holistic Nutritionist
You may have already heard that our body is inhabited by a large population of various microorganisms, the majority of which reside in our gastrointestinal tract. On average, we carry about 1.1 to 1.4 kg of bacteria in the gut. This internal ecosystem harbours health-promoting bacteria (Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli) as well as opportunistic microbes (bacteria, yeasts and molds), which can adversely affect our health under certain conditions. In a healthy individual, the pathogenic flora is controlled by the strong population of beneficial bacteria which outnumber the pathogens. However, an offset of this balance between the friendly bacteria and opportunistic microflora, called dysbiosis, can lead to a whole array of physiological and psychological chronic conditions based on what body functions are impacted most severely.
The concept of the GAPS (Gut and Psychology/Physiology Syndrome) Nutritional Program is based on the connection between the state of our digestive system and the overall health of our body. It was created by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a medical doctor, who first applied this protocol in treating her autistic son and later introduced it into her clinical practice for other disorders as well. She worked with children and adults suffering from various neurological and psychological conditions, including, but not limited to: autism, hyperactivity, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia and eating disorders. In addition, her program has also been implemented with success in the treatment of physiological conditions such as digestive insufficiencies, various autoimmune and endocrine disorders, fibromyalgia, asthma, migraines and food intolerances.
As all these seemingly unrelated health problems are associated with the state of the gastrointestinal tract, the main focus of the GAPS protocol is to restore balance in this part of the body, which subsequently affects the other areas where symptoms present themselves. The program consists of three parts which are equally important to follow:
- Detoxification and lifestyle changes
What distinguishes the GAPS Diet from other diet protocols is that it not only removes those foods that may be irritating and inflammatory, but it also introduces foods supporting the natural healing process in the gut and helping to rebuild its beneficial flora. Thus, specific foods that a GAPS individual is sensitive to, and processed goods as well as grains and starchy vegetables need to be removed as they are difficult to digest. Alternatively, healing foods and drinks such as meat and bone broth, stocks, fermented foods and freshly pressed vegetable and fruit juices, need to be consumed on a regular basis. These provide essential nutrients and beneficial microbes that promote the gut healing processes.
The second part of GAPS is detoxification: the elimination of accumulated toxins from the body. A gentle, but effective, way to remove various toxins is daily juicing. Drinking 1 to 2 cups of freshly extracted vegetable and fruit juices provides a concentrated source of vitamins, magnesium, selenium, zinc and other minerals, amino acids and phytonutrients. In addition, it is equally important to reduce further toxin exposure by introducing some lifestyle changes (minimizing toxic household chemical and electromagnetic field exposure, filling your house with plants, etc.). GAPS individuals are encouraged to do detox bathing, dry skin brushing and, of course, be physically active to further reduce the general toxin load.
The final part of the program focuses on a supplementation regimen which, although tailored to the person’s specific needs, always includes a therapeutic strength probiotic, cod liver oil, essential fatty acids and digestive enzymes. Based on Dr. Campbell-McBride’s suggestions, any additional supplementation needs to be kept to a minimum.The program’s major healing modality is the GAPS diet and in some cases, certain supplements may interfere with the healing process in the gut.
Depending on the severity of symptoms and individual circumstances, the program can be started by following the Full GAPS Diet, which allows the consumption of all the foods allowed right from the start. The other option is to begin with the strict Introduction Diet which only allows a handful of foods at the early stages followed by a gradual introduction of the remaining GAPS-friendly foods in a strict manner. In general, starting with the Full GAPS is recommended for people who do not have severe digestive symptoms, who are busy adults and travel frequently, or for those who find making radical diet changes very difficult. Implementing the GAPS Introduction Diet at the beginning is optimal for individuals suffering from severe digestive symptoms, for autistic children, people diagnosed with celiac disease, severe food allergies and intolerances, chronic diarrhoea, etc.
It is important to understand that we are all unique, thus every person will respond to the diet and lifestyle changes differently. Consequently, the protocol needs to be tailored to the individual’s needs. It is equally important to carefully monitor one’s progress and modify the regimen when needed.
For more detailed information on the GAPS program, I encourage you to visit Dr. Campbell-McBride’s website: http://www.gaps.me/
To learn more about the GAPS program and to discuss how it can address your specific health concerns, book a complimentary 15-minute phone or in person consultation with Marianna Duba, certified GAPS practitioner.