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Spotlight on… Gut & Psychology Syndrome (GAPS)

An adaptation of the SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride.

What is it?

As the original name suggests, this diet allows SPECIFIC types of Carbohydrates only. It aims to heal the gut by avoidance of foods that require more digestion and which (when the digestive system is irritated and/or damaged ) can cause bacterial and yeast overgrowth.

There are 3 types of carbohydrates –

  • Monosaccharides – a single sugar molecule that is easily absorbed (examples fruits, non starchy vegetables, honey)
  • Disaccharides – a double sugar molecule which requires a healthy gut and villi on the gut wall for digestion (examples lactose, sucrose, sugar)
  • Polysaccharides – multiple sugar molecule. Hardest of all to absorb and digest, requires good digestion and gut function (examples grains, starchy vegetables, rice)

GAPS only allows the Monosaccharides, the carbohydrates that are easiest to digest and absorb. It is very strict but has achieved some incredible gut healing results. The diet moves through various stages where different foods are able to be introduced, in specific order.

What can you eat?

Meat, fish, chicken, eggs, fruit, non-starchy veges, honey, seeds, nuts, fruit & vegetable juices (used for detox), animal fat, ghee, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, some beans, almond & coconut milk, nut flours. In advanced stages fermented dairy is allowed.

What’s not allowed?

Grains – (none at all – no rice, quinoa, buckwheat etc even though they are gluten free), Starchy veges (potato, sweet potato, parsnip etc), Starchy beans (soy, chickpea), Lactose (milk, yogurt), Sugar

Why is it effective?

  • Basically there are no packaged foods at all, so immediately you have a very clean and healthy diet.
  • There are lots more vegetables and fruit in the diet, no additives, good levels of protein and fats which are good for blood sugar stabilisation and gut & brain development.
  • It includes a lot of broths and fermented foods which are great for digestion and mineral absorbption
  • The gut is not being irritated by the hard-to-digest carbohydrates so it’s able to heal as well as detox the overgrowths of bacteria and/or yeast that were being fed by the polysaccharides.

What’s the drawbacks?

  • You have to do a lot of cooking, there will be basically nothing you can pick up that is GAPS legal and premade.
  • There are stages to go through and the Introduction Diet begins with just soups and broths. This can be very difficult for kids with sensory issues as well as trying to feed kids at school and kindy.
  • If your kids have issues with eggs and/or nuts then this can be extremely difficult to implement and the list of allowed foods will be too restrictive
  • Many people do not do the stages properly and just substitute nut meals for flour and include a whole lot of cakes/biscuits/muffins in the diet. This can mean they eat too many nuts and honey which can lead to other problems
  • There is a lot of meat consumed on GAPS and not all blood types do well with this (Type A for example – see more in Blood Type diets following)
  • If there are underlying oxalate problems then GAPS may exacerbate it as many GAPS-legal foods are high in oxalates (see more in Low Oxalate Diet following)
  • Kids who have salicylate issues may not be able to tolerate the large amount of veges and fruits and juices so the list of allowed foods reduces even further

This is just a very quick overview. If you are going to try GAPS please read “Gut & Psychology Syndrome” by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, visit the website and consult a Certified GAPS Practitioner.

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