Don’t get me wrong, I love the GAPS Diet. I became a GAPS certified practitioner in 2011 and I’ve helped many people recover their health on the GAPS diet protocol.
In my estimation, Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, who created the diet should be given whatever highest recognition or award that a medical doctor could receive. She is a true modern-day hero, helping thousands of people recover from chronic digestive and mental health issues.
If you or someone you know has a child with autism or any sort of serious behavioral issue, please pick up a copy of the GAPS diet book. It could be a life saver.
If you’re not familiar with the GAPS Diet, GAPS is an acronym that stands for “Gut and Psychology Syndrome.”
It’s a gut-healing protocol that removes all grains, starches, sugar and all manner of processed food. It incorporates liberal doses of bone stocks, healthy fats, meats, fruits, vegetables and fermented foods. And since there is an intimate connection between digestive health and mental health, the diet has become well-known for its effectiveness in treating mental health issues as well.
However, I don’t use the GAPS diet that much anymore. Only when I see a clear need for it do I recommend it.
Because to be perfectly honest, I started noticing a trend with many folks on the diet. And that trend was they would start out with a bang, but within a few weeks (or even days) get completely overwhelmed.
The GAPS Diet is NOT EASY. You have to make all of your own food at home.
ALL of it.
You need to find a source of bones and start making your own bone stocks. You need to make your own fermented vegetables. Your own yogurt. You need to get pasture raised meats, pasture raised eggs, wild fish and organic everything.
I did it for three months back in 2010 and by the end of it, I was SO DONE. But I’m glad I did it. I wanted to understand the ins and out of the diet from personal experience so I could better help others navigate through its challenges.
And I felt great, especially on the first stage with all the bone stocks. I haven’t slept that well since then. But spending my weekends in my kitchen, by myself, preparing all my food for the week was not exactly fun. I started to dread it.
Of course, if you have a child with autism or a serious, chronic digestive issue, it’s totally worth it.
But not everyone is ready for it and that’s my first reason NOT to do the GAPS Diet.
You can’t just start the GAPS diet tomorrow. You really need to sit down and plan it out.
I’ll never forget the woman who came to see me soon after her son was diagnosed with autism. She’d heard about the GAPS diet but didn’t know anything about it. When I started explaining to her what’s involved, she developed that deer-in-the-headlights look. I think I can still smell a faint whiff of the skid marks she left as she was high-tailing it out of my office.
She was not ready for it.
And that’s OK! You can still make progress with smaller changes. And that’s why I don’t use it that much anymore.
In the past few years I’ve noticed quite a rebound reaction to low carb diets. Many popular health bloggers, authors and researchers are showing that there can be many pitfalls to low carb diets.
Generally speaking, the standard American diet (SAD) is not only high carb it’s full of refined sugars and refined grains that can set off digestive imbalances and other health problems.
Going low carb compared to the SAD can be useful in normalizing blood sugars and other blood markers for things like heart disease and inflammation.
It can certainly help with weight loss as well. But is the true underlying dynamic because of the decrease in carbs or the fact that a low carb diet naturally makes one eat less? Maybe that’s a blog post for another day.
GAPS is ultra low-carb. No grains, no potatoes, no starches at all. The idea behind this is that starches are what feed gut bacteria imbalances. Grains, especially gluten, can also promote inflammation in the digestive tract. I’ve never seen anyone with Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease who was not eating a high-grain diet.
Remove all starches and the gut will heal. In theory.
But the fact remains that some people just don’t respond well to it. I’ve seen this on many occasions. People get constipated, moody, irritable and sluggish. There is evidence to suggest that going low carb can trigger thyroid problems in some people.
I’ve also seen folks who don’t need to lose weight start losing too much weight on GAPS.
So if someone is not responding well I’ll recommend they experiment with eating more potatoes or white rice. Even Dr. McBride recommends this.
This kinda falls under the umbrella of #1 but it is an essential part of the GAPS diet. You MUST make them at home. Store-bought stocks, bouillon cubes and soups (even organic ones) lack the gut healing nutrients (minerals, amino acids, gelatin, etc.) that are inherent in a real stock that is simmered in water for long periods.
You must do this yourself. Most Generation Xers (my generation) have no idea what a real bone stock is. Heck, I didn’t know until about 7 years ago myself!
Millenials are probably in the same boat.
And let’s not forget that many are not just unfamiliar with it but completely grossed out by it as well.
My last roommate would get nauseous every time I made a beef stock.
You also have to make your own fermented vegetables. Which leads me to #3…
I hear this all the time:
“You mean I have to leave it on the counter for 3 days?!”
Yes. And maybe longer!
In our overly sanitized, anti-bacterial-everything world, leaving food out on the counter seems like a sure date with food poisoning or even worse, an early trip to the grave.
Fred Breidt, microbiologist at the US Dept of Agriculture said in an article in the SF Gate, “With fermented products there is no safety concern. I can flat-out say that. The reason is the lactic acid bacteria that carry out the fermentation are the world’s best killers of other bacteria.”
Breidt goes on to say that there are no documented cases of food-borne illness from fermented vegetables.
But as much as I try to explain this to people, they’re still hesitant.
And basically what all this mean is….
It’s OK if you’re not immediately ready to make your own bone stocks, fermented vegetables, mayonnaise, dressings, yogurt, kefir, etc.
One day you will be!
It’s really not that hard.
And that’s why working with someone can be very helpful.
This is what I do!
My goal when I work with clients is to give you the tools to heal your gut and make it sustainable over the long-term.
Step by step, little by little, when you learn about the true pillars of gut health and you start to incorporate them into your life on a regular basis, your gut health will dramatically improve.
Simply use my contact form if you’re interested and we can set up my free 30 minute initial consultation.
Craig Fear is the creator of Fearless Eating and the author of three books, The 30-Day Heartburn Solution, Fearless Broths and Soups and The Thai Soup Secret. After years helping clients with digestive issues, Craig decided to pursue writing full-time. He intends to write many more books on broths and soups from around the world! Click here to learn more about Craig.