Behaviour, Mental Health, Diets | February 7, 2018 | Author: Naturopath
Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAP Syndrome or GAPS) is a condition, which establishes a connection between the functions of the digestive system, our microbiota and the brain. The diet includes foods high in nutrients and eliminates those which are difficult for the body to digest. The aim is to improve digest health, reduce toxin load and to improve many aspects of a person’s health.
The GAPS diet was originally inspired by the specific carbohydrate diet— developed in the 1920’s to treat digestive disorders. The term GAPS was created by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride in 2004 after working with hundreds of children and adults with neurological and psychiatric conditions, such as autistic spectrum disorders, ADHD/ADD, schizophrenia, depression, obsessive –compulsive disorder, bi-polar disorder and other neuro-psychological and psychiatric problems.
Grains, starchy vegetables and refined carbohydrates are all eliminated from the diet and replaced with nutrient-dense foods that are easy to digest.
The GAPS diet meal plan is introduced in six stages, with the GAPS diet stage 1 being the most restrictive. As the diet progresses, more and more foods are added back onto the GAPS diet food list.
The purpose of the GAPS diet is to gently detoxify the person, reduce inflammation and to lessen the toxic burden of the whole body, including the brain, so that it can develop and function properly.
To achieve this the lining of the digestive tract needs to be repaired so it can stop being the major source of toxicity and switch to a source of nourishment.
Most toxins floating in our blood (and getting into the brain) comes from the gut—healing it will drop the level of toxicity and inflammation in the body dramatically.
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On the GAPS diet, starchy vegetables, grains and certain types of dairy are removed and replaced with non-starchy vegetables, meat, fish, healthy oils and nuts.
Meat: eggs, wild-caught fish and organic, grass fed beef, chicken, duck, lamb and turkey
Dairy: raw aged and grass-fed goat, sheep or cows cheese, sheep yoghurt and kefir
Flours: almond and coconut flour
Vegetables: asparagus, avocado, broccoli, garlic, kale, seaweed, tomatoes and pumpkin
Fruits: apple, banana, berries, rock melon, cherries, coconut, pineapple, pears and pomegranate
Nuts and legumes: nut butters, navy or lima beans (soaked), walnuts, pine nuts and almonds
Fats/oils: avocado oil, almond oil, butter, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, olive oil and ghee
Condiments and spices: apple cider vinegar, sea salt, turmeric, thyme, cinnamon and basil
Beverages: almond milk, coconut milk, herbal teas, raw vegetable juices, spring water, bone broth and wine in moderation
Sweeteners: raw honey and dates
Although research is quite lacking in this area, there is evidence to suggest that certain components of the diet are beneficial. Here are some common reasons why you would opt to follow the GAPS diet.
The microbiome in our gut is a mini ecosystem which promotes optimal digestive function and immune health. The GAPS diet solely focuses on foods to restore levels of healthy bacteria by including fermented foods and probiotics. Improving our microbiome can assist disorders which affect the gut i.e. IBS, Crohn’s disease and leaky gut and even autoimmune diseases such as hashimoto’s disease, eczema and allergies. It does this by reducing intestinal permeability, reducing inflammation and avoiding foods that cause disruption to proper digestive function.
A 2015 study conducted on patients with inflammatory bowel disease following the specific carbohydrate diet found that they had a significant improvement in their symptoms, some of which had managed to discontinue their immunosuppressive agents.
The specific carbohydrate diet follows many of the same principles as the GAPS diet, and researchers noted the improvement was due to positive changes in the intestinal lumen, a reduction in dysbiosis and an improvement in the microbiota.
Autism is a developmental disorder that begins in childhood— resulting in impaired communication and interaction with others. Certain dietary exclusions such as gluten (found in wheat, rye and barley) and casein (found in dairy products) have been found to produce favourable results.
In 2016, a study investigated the effect of a gluten-free diet on gastrointestinal symptoms and behavioural indices in children with autism spectrum disorder. In the gluten-free group, the prevalence of gastrointestinal symptoms and behavioural disorders decreased significantly after intake of a gluten-free diet compared to the control group. Another small study in 2017 showed that a gluten-free, casein-free diet helped reduce symptoms in children with autism.
Although there is no specific research which investigates the effect of the GAPS diet on mental health, there is plenty of research that demonstrates improvements in mood if the health of your gut has been improved.
One study in the American Journal of Nutrition found that a higher intake of grains and high glycaemic index foods were associated with a higher risk of depression.
Meanwhile, fruits and vegetables, which are included as part of this diet were associated with a decreased risk of depression. Reducing the intake of grains and increasing intake of fresh fruit and vegetables are components of the GAPS diet.
The GAPS diet is not intended to replace traditional treatment for conditions like digestive disorders, autism or depression. Use the GAPS diet to improve your gut health but also follow the advice of your healthcare practitioner if you suffer from any of these conditions.
Ghalichi F, et al. Effect of gluten free diet on gastrointestinal and behavioural indices for children with autism spectrum disorders: a randomized clinical trial. World J Pediatr. 2016 Nov;12(4):436-442