Though we aren’t on the Gut and Psychology Syndrome diet any more, I still write primarily about GAPS.
Because the diet helped my daughter (autism) so much. Because it helped my son (eczema) and myself (dairy and seasonal allergies) too.
Because I get questions by email and Facebook about GAPS daily. Because I feel like it’s a highly nourishing diet, and even if you don’t need to be on the diet the principals behind it are really interesting and useful to understand.
The Gut and Psychology Syndrome Book by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride
I’m going to talk about not doing GAPS today
1. GAPS Is a Temporary Healing Diet.
If you think you do need GAPS, I would encourage you to get on it, make a considerable effort to do it well, and then hop right back off as soon as you can! The diet is intended to be temporary. My son and I were on GAPS for only 6 weeks and my dairy allergy was healed, and his eczema vanished. My daughter was on it over 2 years, but she had some more significant issues. The point is to view it as a temporary lifestyle change.
I personally feel very well nourished when I eat grain free, but there is no reason to be fanatical about it now, in fact, having to monitor every bite you and your family eats all day every day is stressful, and stress itself can cause leaky gut! (source)
2. The Goal is To Be Healthy.
We want to be healthy so we can enjoy life and do our life’s work without poor health slowing us down. We want to be able to play tag with our kids, take our dog for a hike, and still have plenty of energy left over to help a friend move, mow the yard, and create an income.
We don’t want to make an occupation out of finding problems with ourselves or our family. If there is something glaringly obvious like eczema, food allergies that cause us to have to change our lifestyle, autism, ADHD that is more than just ‘active childhood’, or more severe psychological problems, by all means, GAPS is often going to be something that works for you.
But if your child who is in 1st grade gets a few colds throughout the school year, that is ok. If you eat a large grain heavy meal after normally eating grain free, and then you have a stomachache, that’s normal. Your body just isn’t used to that. If your baby isn’t meeting his milestones as fast as his cousin, that’s also not something to start GAPS over. If your teenager has gotten really thin this past year as he’s also grown 6 inches taller, go ahead and see if his body mass catches up. If your toddler still isn’t really talking much and he’s 2, first check to make sure he isn’t SO BUSY trying to climb everything that talking isn’t a priority in his life at the moment.
Obligatory reminder: I am just a mom giving her opinion. None of this is medical advice. All decisions for you and your families’ health should be made under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional, which I am not :)
If you have mild GAPS symptoms (some seasonal allergies, food sensitivities minor digestive issues) you may want to start with something low key like taking homemade milk kefir daily, which can help ‘plug’ a leaky gut with beneficial cultures. You can always look up other less time and energy intense ways you could correct health problems and then try them prior to starting GAPS.
I don’t want people thinking that if anything is ever wrong with them, they absolutely have to spend 2 years on the GAPS diet.
3. Being on GAPS Doesn’t Make You A Better Hippie
I saw this ‘one up-mom-ship’ thing going on in playgroups when my kids were babies.
I had a natural childbirth, how was your baby born?
… Well, I had a home birth
……. That’s nothing. My child was freebirthed near a river in a cob hut that I constructed myself during pregnancy
I’m nursing, are you breastfeeding?
… yes, and he’s never even had one ounce of formula
….. of course! And no artificial nipples either
……… Yes, babies are born to be breastfeed. We’ll breastfeed on demand until he self weans, whenever he chooses that to be.
We don’t need to do that with GAPS.
You’re not an inferior parent if you haven’t done GAPS (or if you birthed in a hospital, or if your child had’artificial nipples’*, or…). If your child is developing healthily, congratulate yourself, you’re doing a great job! We should be choosing to do GAPS as an individual choice, not because all the crunchy mamas in the playgroup are doing it.
* I’m sorry, but the wording ‘artificial nipples’ is totally cracking me up right now. I use it (it refers to pacifiers and bottles) when talking about breastfeeding, but I don’t think I’ve ever typed it out before.
4. GAPS isn’t the only solution to problems
We chose to do GAPS with our family, but I have no doubt that there are other treatments out there that are equally as effective. We haven’t only done GAPS, we’ve done lots of other alternative and mainstream treatments as well- I just didn’t dive into learning about any of them as much as I dove into GAPS.
GAPS deals with healing the digestive system through nourishing foods and avoiding inflammatory foods. By healing the gut, psychological symptoms are also alleviated.
But what if it worked the other way around? The brain is powerful, and I suspect that an intense therapy with something like SonRise, Floortime, or ABA could also influence the brain in such a way that the brain was able to ‘tell’ the body to get back in balance.
Or Eastern medicine can bring healing to a child through balancing the qi. Chiropractic can remove subluxations that are interrupting the flow of electricity within the body. Essential oils, homeopathy, and/or plant essences in the right combinations for a particular child could bring him back to balance.
GAPS, and all holistic treatments, have a goal of bringing the body back to a balanced ‘normal’ and optimally functional state. ‘Normal’ for the body is healthy and when the body is healthy, its own systems work to maintain that health.
There is no one size fits all approach to treating conditions such as autism. Different families will be drawn to different things, go with your mommy instinct, your family situation, and your financial abilities.
We have done a combination of all of the above. Due to money limitations, we were pushed into dietary intervention first. Though GAPS is more expensive than feeding your child non-GAPS foods, it is much much less costly than appointments with professionals. As our financial situation improved, we were able to see more professionals and add other treatments listed above to what we were already doing through therapeutic diets.
GAPS made the most noticeable difference in her life, but many other things also made a difference as well, I am sure there are many other effective things out there.
5. GAPS is great, if you need it.
If you have your family on GAPS, or you’re working toward it, and you are seeing good changes, then you rock! Keep up the good work, and it’s a LOT of work, I know. I did it for years and I don’t regret any of the pots of chicken stock, batches of nutbutter brownies, or gallons of 24 hour yogurt that I made.
Here at Health, Home, & Happiness we are so happy that you’re taking the best steps for your families’ health, whatever they are.
Great post. Moms forget that it’s not a race or a competition. We need to empower and support one another. Food choices, practices, diets are all part of our journey. We are all finding our way and no one is perfect and knows everything. Thank you again for highlighting the fact that we need to be compassionate with each other and ourselves.
Thank you so much for continuing to write about GAPS! Your blog has been invaluable for us as we start our journey. We are doing the intro diet right now, and even if it doesn’t provide much help for my son’s autism symptoms, just the fact that he is eating a more nourishing diet makes me a happy and proud mama! It took a couple weeks, but now he is happily eating veggies and meat. Thanks again, and thanks for the reminder that we don’t have to be perfect.
I’m glad you’re able to do well! You might not notice symptoms until they come back- I know I thought it wasn’t doing much but every time she got something illegal she’d have night terrors/lose eye contact/ etc
Thank you for posting this. I needed to hear this. I have tried GAPS for two years because of eczema. The eczema is gone, it took a long time for it to go because I could not follow every aspect of GAPS, but it is gone. At times I feel iklings of it coming back, so I try to make adjustments in what I am eating to keep it away. I can say that being able to eat some grains has made me feel like I have energy again to do all that I need to. On GAPS I felt drained. Eczema has plagued me for the last 10 years…it was debilatating, it is so good to have it gone. GAPS was hard, very hard and when people ask me about it, I almost cringe to suggest it for them, because I know the struggles of doing it. I have learned so much, and feel confident that I do not have to have eczema take over my life thanks to GAPS.
I’m glad you found healing :) I was tired on GAPS I think mostly because of detoxing. I’ll still detox when I go on intro, but I don’t think I have any significant problems so I’m going to just let my body process the toxins slowly instead of doing it quickly with intro.
You said very well something that shouldn’t have to be said. Of COURSE it isn’t for everyone, nothing is. Of COURSE you aren’t judging other parents by how closely their parenting choices match yours! I, too, thank you for the number of posts you spend talking about GAPS because your research and time spent has certainly reduced the time I needed to spend covering the same ground. I am particularly thankful for your recipes and meal plans. Today my husband and I are staring the GAPS Intro after being on full GAPS for nearly a year. After this allergy season we will be leaving the GAPS protocol behind us, adopting an eating plan that should work for the rest of our lives. I hope to be able to be an encouragement and source of information for others after our experience with GAPS, just as you have been. (obviously I’m not the same commenter as the previous “Terri”)
Right? But you’re a mom who has been a mom for a while. I think it’s more common with newer moms to think they need to be doing more for their kids. No, healthy kids should just be healthy! :) Parenting a healthy child isn’t that complex… healthwise, at least :)
Thanks for this well written & kind post. Many people who choose certain diets, such as Paleo, Vegan or Weston Price, spend more time putting others down than explaining why they’ve chosen that diet/lifestyle. The truth is, even the scientists disagree. I think it will be years before we know all we need to know about nutrition. I appreciate that you are willing to help, and you don’t have an agenda to push. Thanks again!
Thanks Pam :)
This post is one of the reasons I have loved reading your blog. You seem like one of the most down to earth people and your “just do your best” attitude is so refreshing!
Thanks Amy :) I know nobody wants to be judged, and I want to make sure my blog isn’t making it look like ‘all the good moms do GAPS’ :) I just want families to be healthy and happy :D
I couldn’t agree more. I did GAPS for a couple of years for gluten intolerance and yeast. I now have a healthy diet that incorporates some of those principles but is easier to stick to and not so antisocial. I am also a great believer in the old adage one man’s meat is another man’s poison and that we should learn to listen to our bodies to know what is best. Great post – thank you
Hi Cara, I love all your GAPs posts you really have covered the topic fairly comprehensively and in a straightforward and down-to-earth way that is very reassuring and helpful. I’m so happy GAPs helped your family so much. I feel you are so right with this post, that there’s not just one way to heal. Personally I recovered from ME/CFS using NLP methods before we even started on GAPs. We have been on GAPs for coming up to 2 years and I don’t think it’s done a lot for us (my daughter is dyslexic and son of 12 has autism) but i really appreciate the modest gains we have made and all it has taught me. At the moment i’m not sure what would be a better diet for my son so I think we will stick with it for a while longer and like you we add in other treatments and therapies as well.
My son and I both have dairy sensitivities/ allergies. I can tolerate goat’s milk but he cannot. Do you think if we incorporated a bit of kefir every day it might help? I hate to do something as drastic as GAPS if it’s not needed but it would be so nice to be healed of these allergies! Thanks!
I think it would! If his reaction isn’t too severe, you might start with just a tiny bit of goat milk kefir that’s been cultured 24 hours and is quite tart.
Hello Cara- Thank you for this post. Ironically, I found it linked from Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s FB page, on Day 2 of GAPS intro. diet. After years of eating organic, local food, with emphasis on the Weston A. Price Foundation’s principles, I’ve decided to challenge myself, so-to-speak and try GAPS. Mainly, because after all I’ve done to ensure my son’s health: nutrient dense pre-conception diet, homebirth, no vaccines, delaying solids, cod liver oil, good food, breastfed until three and a half, there are some nagging issues that I think GAPS might help finally remedy: his of and off eczema, nightly tooth grinding, digestion and elimination issues, and chronic congestion. Knowing the health histories of myself and my son’s father, I think GAPS will help us. I’m so glad I found this post today! It is so true that stress is one of the greatest hindrances to vibrant health. For example, in my first years as a single mother, both mine and my son’s immunity took a down turn as a result of the stress.
Thanks for sharing!
Cara: What an utterly, absolutely, awesome post! All *perfectly* said!
Baden! So good to see you here! I spent many hours in my glider nursing my baby and reading your little black paperback The GAPS Guide at the start of all this!
I LOVE this article. I love GAPS, too, but this was really good. Thank you!
We love your site. My daughter was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder when she was 2.5. She is 5.5 now, and is transitioning off of GAPS, which she was on for 16 months. She no longer qualifies for the diagnosis. I consider her cured.
Keep talking about GAPS, it’s not right for everyone, but it’s been such a God-send in our lives! I recommend it to anyone who will listen (and who could use it)… but I always make sure to qualify it with how hard the diet is I don’t want anyone getting into it ignorant and then giving up!
Thanks for all your help Cara!
I am glad I found your Facebook page and was able to link to these articles. I love this post. I love even more that you mentioned SonRise (I am guessing you mean the Barry Kaufmann book). I read it as a teenager (in the early 90s) back when I was working with an autistic boy in a New Beginnings program. (At the time I wanted to work in special education). I eventually went on to attend the Options Institute and learn the Dialogue process. I got to meet Bears AND Raun!! Yes, Raun, the severely autistic boy from the book who now has his PhD and teaches!
Anyway, I am not really following any GAPS protocol, but I am doing raw milk, raw milk kefir, fermented veggies, bone broth, and doing all sorts of detox and providing good nutrients for my body. I am off all sugar and most gluten (I do sprouted wheat, though).
I am totally intrigued by all of this and see a naturopathic doctor. My biggest “issue” is my adrenals, because I don’t know how to handle stress in my life, and I have a LOT of it :) As a result I am SO SO SO tired all the time and when I get colds, it is during a high stress time, and stress wreaks havoc on my immune system.
Nice to meet you!
Thanks, it is really encouraging to hear success stories that don’t involve being on such a restrictive diet for 2 years! I am transitioning from 11 years of vegetarianism into a diet with meat, but it’s been enough of a learning curve that I cannot go all the way into GAPS until after I get the hang of meat! At the same time, I do think I would really benefit from even a month on GAPS (chronic allergies/sinus problems, some minor eczema and IBS type issues), so I’m working towards it.
Um… GAPS is actually a medically prescribed diet too, it’s not just a lifestyle choice. Dr. McBride prescribes this diet for her patients to treat various medical conditions. I think you are dispensing advice too freely in an area in which you are not as well trained as a medical doctor who specializes in nutritional therapy, especially nutritional therapy for children with developmental disorders. Making a statement indicating that the diet is always a temporary one is misleading, especially for parents who are trying to implement the diet without help from a medical doctor (because of cost or because of a lack of access to medical doctors who specialize in this). I have Crohn’s disease and my son is on the autism spectrum. We have been on the diet for years and most of my symptoms stemming from my Crohn’s disease and his symptoms from Autism have diminished or been eliminated. We are both able to have grains very occasionally, but are still for the most part on the diet. Getting off of the diet for even a full day causes some symptoms to come back for both me and my son. Dr. McBride also writes about patients she has that need to remain on the diet permanently. I’m very thankful that you are supporting GAPS for people who are looking for answers so I’m not bashing you in any way. It’s just that so many parents have to implement alternative treatments on their own, and you don’t want to mislead them in any way. Thank you again for posting on GAPS.
Hi Julie, I should go change my wording in the first paragraph to ‘intended to be a temporary diet’, I took all my information from the GAPS book, where Dr Natasha also indicates how to introduce foods to come off GAPS. I’m also not dispensing medical advice, as I indicated in the post- everyone who reads here should understand that I am just a mom and clearly if they have been prescribed GAPS for life by a doctor who knows their medical situation, my opinion would not override that. My daughter was healed from autism using the GAPS diet :)
Honestly, I would say that if you are able to occasionally eat grains, you have made excellent progress! The first year on GAPS if my daughter got as much as a bite of grains, she would lose eye contact and have night terrors for days afterwards.
I wrote this post because I was repeatedly getting people coming up in person and on facebook/email thinking that if they had anything wrong, they should go on GAPS full time for the rest of their life. That’s not how it’s designed to be used. There is a big buzz about GAPS on the internet right now, and since I’m part of it, I wanted to make sure I was letting people know that it’s not for everyone.
I wish you the best success as you continue healing alongside your son :)
We are on GAPS for a few weeks,and I noticed that my 3-year old son lost some weight although he eats a lot. Is it normal?
I think if your child is losing weight, you may need to be followed by a doctor. My kids gained (stayed the same on growth charts) while on GAPS
This is such a helpful article. I’ve been considering keifer to help my 20 month old daughter overcome food sensitivities. How much a day and for how long do people drink it before they start seeing results? It will help me be consistent if I have a timeframe in mind.
Thanks so much,
Thanks. I couldn’t agree more as a holistic nutritionist. I did GAPS intro, then full GAPS over the course of 2 months and quickly went back to just plain ole healthy eating. I got the results that I wanted from that 2 month period and more, including getting rid of a mild almond allergy that was annoying, completely clearing out my dairy sensitivity (which wasn’t bad anymore after a few years on real milk), and balancing my hormones. The balancing hormones made my following pregnancy a breeze in terms of morning sickness with only a few days of nausea here and there. I appreciated it, but know that no/low carb isn’t a good fit for me. I felt much better after re-introducing grains and other carbs back into my life, but still love and appreciate GAPS for what it did. I will re-do it again next time I get off-course too far to help me re-balance life.
My heart needed this post today. Tank you for being so passionate and yet accepting.
My heart needed this post today. Thank you.
Hi, I have been on gaps for 6 months. I became very sensitive to wheat after the birth of my daughter 4 years ago and eventually couldn’t eat it at all. I did FODMAP to try and work out what else I was allergic too and it came back with almost everything! So I Started on gaps. Well Christmas time rolled around and I was doing very well with temptation until I opened a packet of potato chips. And that was it. 6 months with no starch, sugar, wheat etc and I binged! I ate crisps, chocolate, lollies and trifle. Wheat sponge, berries in syrup, custard and cream trifle. 2 days in a row. And the bizarre thing was that other than being very full and tired I was totally fine. No horrendous stomach cramps, no hives and I actually slept better! So now I’m really confused. Do I haul myself out of my binge and keep going with gaps or am I healed? I just don’t want to ‘waste’ 6 months of gaps diet by going off it if I still need it but by the same token if I don’t need to remain on it that would be amazing.
Obviously I would not be eating the crazy Christmas food food if came off gaps. Honestly would just like some roast potatoes and some peanut butter toast. Any advice you could give would be much appreciated!
Just curious – will can kefir and/or bone broth help with food allergies without also doing GAPS, or do they have to be done together? Thanks!