If you’re working to help heal the gut of a child who has autism, it’s time to move beyond the basic “autism diet” and get your child on a true special diet. There’s one that is perfect to start you off – the Gut And Psychology Syndrome Diet (GAPS). What is the GAPS Diet? Here I’ll take a look at this diet and show you how it can help and what resources you’ll need.
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In which I need to really, really get it right…
Last month we, rather belatedly, did some testing for our homeopath to follow up on and Amy came up some interesting results. I figured that sooner or later, food would figure in and it did. Amy’s results showed that Zoe could benefit from the GAPS diet.
WHY USE THE GAPS DIET
What is the GAPS Diet? You can learn all about the GAPS diet at the official website, but let me run down the basics. GAPS stands for “Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, Dyspraxia, A.D.D., Dyslexia, A.D.H.D., Depression, Schizophrenia,” the title of a book by Dr. Campbell-McBride. It is recommended you read this book BEFORE starting the diet.
According to the site, Dr. McBride based the GAPS diet the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which was developed for celiac disease and other gut issues. It eliminates difficult to break down carbohydrates and limits what you can eat.McBride “evolved it further to create a full protocol for healing digestive disorders and subsequent issues,” to create the GAPS diet.
Now, you may have heard of GAPS as a recommended diet for everything from eczema to ADHD. I do know a little about healing the gut, as I recently wrote an article for Mamavation on fermentation, another for ShiftCon on the importance of Gut Health, and my article for The Soft Landing on what to do for your child after a stomach virus.
What Is The GAPS Diet Good For?
According to the book, this diet can help with:
GAPS DIET BASICS
Here is the SUPER simplified version: Basically, your intestines have been created tons of good bacteria in them, which help regulate all kinds of issues in your body, from inflammation to immunity. The problem is when we eat too much sugar, starches and grainy foods, we can throw things out of whack and the gut bacteria gets out of balance. When that happens, we can have yeast overgrowth and that can lead to all kinds of illnesses AND negative behaviors. For symptoms, check this informative article over at one of my favorite autism websites: TACA’S list of symptoms of yeast overgrowth.
You don’t know unless you test, though, or do an elimination diet. For testing, you can do stool sample, like we did for Zoe in 2011 when were seeing a DAN! (now called MAPS) doctor and doing biomedical treatments. He put her on Diflucan for a bit, with supporting supplements.
Now, after homeopathic supports have been in place nearly a year, she has again tested as having yeast issues. She is on an enzyme (one of the ways to balance gut), and appropriate supplements but now we have to go deeper and address her diet as well -after all you cannot eliminate yeast if you are still feeding it.
WHAT IS THE GAPS DIET?
GAPS has some key elements you need to keep in mind:
- The traditional diet comes in several stages to clear the gut and takes some time. We are forwarding to the Full GAPS diet.
- There are no grains allowed, so that is pretty dramatic. I don’t just mean no glutens. I mean if you must bake a cake, you are limited to nut flour or coconut flour at Full GAPS. That’s IT.
- No corn, although we don’t do this anyway.
- No additive ANYTHING. Pretty much everything needs to be homemade.
- Fermented foods and bone broths are a must. These are the foods that are essential for rebalancing your gut.
- GAPS + other eating issues mean highly restricted foods. So, for example, if you’re allergic to tree nuts, you can see that you’re not going to do very much baking. Zoe is reactive to dairy so, again, this limits what we can give her. (Daiya and Silk Almondmilk are no-nos.)
HOW WE ARE IMPLEMENTING GAPS
While I had initially considered it for the whole family, I want to get Zoe on as soon as possible. This means that while I’m still seeking solutions to WHAT she can eat and WHAT I can create, I’m keeping her to mostly meats, eggs, coconut oil, Organic SunButter and produce. I’m off the Earth Balance and back on ghee, and finding fresh coconut milk. You can get everything you need with that sort of diet, but I’m hoping to expand so she can have more filling meals and snacks while on this.
In the meantime, we have implemented it so that it’s not TOO far off what we eat now (thank God we’ve already eliminated corn!). I will need to figure out nut milks, nut milk ice cream and nut cheeses, as well as fermenting. I’m using this beautiful book, The Heal Your Gut Cookbook: Nutrient-Dense Recipes for Intestinal Health Using the GAPS Diet, recommended by Amy for our course through GAPS, and it has some compelling content. It’s non-threatening and easy to understand so I’mg going to step WAAAAAAY out of my cooking comfort zone and try some things.
What is the GAPS diet without a meal plan? Difficult! That is on deck – and yes, I will be sharing them with you as well. In addition, I may try my hand at canning and fermenting. I’m pretty sure you can’t blow up your kitchen doing that, although if it’s me, I KNOW I can make a 4 star mess.
I read some interesting effects with thyroid, so I may not implement it myself, although we will stop buying bread. I will keep Amelia close to a GAPS diet, but probably not 100% – although we are losing the chocolate. (Yea, no chocolate on GAPS, augh!)
SHOULD YOU DO GAPS?
I have heard lots of great stuff all over my green and autism groups about how wonderful GAPS is, but as noted, it can be an overhaul on your system. Since GAPS is such a dramatic diet, so I recommend working with a skilled and knowledgable practitioner, speaking with people who people who are on it, joining a support group and reading those two books above and the GAPS website – not just one of those things, all of them. Learn what conditions it’s good for, what it can conflict with and what to do to integrate with other allergies before deciding to commit, and plan, plan, PLAN! As for our family, the signs had been there a long time telling me to try it, so I believe I have Divine support too 😉
If you want a quick, affordable read first, check out What is the Gaps Diet? Find out if the Gaps Diet is the Right Diet for You
As a final note, Amy told us that GAPS is not intended for a lifetime. It is a healing, restorative diet, and combined with homeopathy, I hope that it resolves some issues for our girl. We will wait to see if the rest of us will also join this diet and for how long.
I hope that answers your question about what is the GAPS diet. It can help you and your family start on a lifetime of healing!
MORE GAPS DIET RESOURCES
Remember if you are doing a special diet, you can use my Autism Planning Workbook to track progress, infraction, reactions and more!
Here are more great books:
Gaps Diet Made Easy: How to Beat Autism With Food: Eating the Right Food to Succeed On the Gaps Diet
GAPS Introduction Diet Cookbook: 100 Delicious & Nourishing Recipes for Stages 1 to 6
GAPS Diet One Pot Delights Cookbook: Delicious Slow Cooker, Stockpot, Skillet & Roasting Pan Recipes
GAPS Diet Cookbook: Heal Your Leaky Gut and Restore Your Health Naturally; GAPS Recipes for Every Stage of the GAPS Diet With Photos, Serving Size, and Nutrition Facts for Every Recipe
Vegetarianism Explained: Making an Informed Decision
Mastering Stocks and Broths: A Comprehensive Culinary Approach Using Traditional Techniques and No-Waste Methods‘
The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from around the World
Noelle (@singerinkitchen) says
THIS is SO interesting!! I need to read more into this!! Who is the publisher? I think this would be helpful to ME and my daughters. Thank you for such an informative article!
Gina B says
Heal Your Gut is Chelsea Green Publishing. I don’t have the GAPS book, so I’m not sure. It’s a pretty old and famous book, though. Maybe self-published? Good luck!
I keep seeing the GAPS diet mentioned, but had no idea what it was. Thanks so much for explaining it! It sounds like it would require quite an adjustment period, but may be beneficial.
Gina B says
Yea, I’m thinking tonight that quick and easy dinners are not in this book lol…
Reesa Lewandowski says
The Whole30 seems very much like GAPS, but it seems like the GAPS is even more limiting. I did very well getting rid of so much out of my diet. I felt better than I had in my entire life. I really, truly need to do this again. I need to look this book up.
Gina B says
First time I heard about Whole 30 was this week! I need a sugar detox but for my needs GAPS is extreme. But today I found some great recipes so we’ll see!
Carrie MkgLemonade says
Thanks for this great overview. I have a friend who just started her daughter on GAPS and I’ve been meaning to learn more about it.
Gina B says
Good for you! Those of us who practice special diets definitely could use support, so it’s great to hear that you want to learn. What a great friend you are!
Green Bean says
Look forward to seeing how this works for you. My oldest was GFCF for years but eventually transitioned back to a regular diet. He’s had some other issues crop up recently and I’m thinking we need to revisit the food front.
Gina B says
I’m looking forward to figuring it out and making it less difficult! It’s a big challenge right now.
Anna @Green Talk says
Really interested in your journey and see how it helps your kids. Keep us posted.
Gina B says
Thanks, will do!
Gina B says
Thanks, Lori. It’s been pretty challenging so far, but I’m TERRIBLE at planning! Getting there 🙂