The gut is one of the often overlooked parts of our bodies. But the gut is amazingly important!
The gut is where our food is digested and if it is not working correctly, we are unable to pull the nutrients needed out of our food. So a diet can be full of good nutrients, essential vitamins and minerals, and healthy fats, and yet the body still isn’t able to use them properly so the person is actually deficient in these nutrients.
Another important function of the gut is to get waste out of our body. This isn’t just unusable food parts like fiber, but also the toxins that our body so wonderfully separates out to be discarded so they don’t affect how our body works.
If the gut isn’t working properly, these toxins aren’t being expelled as efficiently as they could be, so an overload of toxins can occur.
I hadn’t looked into intestinal health until I was looking for help for my daughter with autism. I had heard of the GAPS diet, but thought it was too overwhelming to start (being honest here!). But once we saw amazing improvement on the gluten-free-casein-free diet, only to have quick regression, I knew I needed to look more into the ways the gut and diet can affect brain function.
The gut depends on good bacteria (flora) to plug holes, neutralize toxins and metabolize vitamins
The intestine is naturally porous, and we depend on a symbiotic relationship with friendly bacteria to ‘plug the holes’. This prevents large proteins (like gluten and casein) from going through the gut wall and into the bloodstream, and the bacteria also provide a barrier against toxins entering our bloodstream.
As the gut flora neutralize, metabolize, and further break down our food they also are transporting vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients across the gut wall.
Bad bacteria in the gut can emit toxins, which affect brain function like a drug
In addition to not having enough good gut flora, the presence of bad ‘opportunistic’ flora creates problems by releasing toxins into the bloodstream, which affect the brain. We get bad flora in our system by wiping the entire system out with antibiotics, allowing the bad bacteria to establish colonies because there aren’t enough good bacteria already established to crowd them out.
In the case of a baby, babies get their first dose of bacteria by coming through the birth canal, so if mom has a history of having antibiotics and has bad gut flora, the baby’s first ‘dose’ of bacteria are often bad ones.
On a personal note, I believe this to be the difference between my child with autism and my ‘typical’ child. With my autistic child I had eaten a pretty standard diet during and prior to the pregnancy, with the my childhood punctuated with antibiotics for sinus infections here, ear infections there.
The ‘Second Brain’ is in the Gut
There is neural tissue actually right in the gut. The gut can be damaged by toxins and other products of our modern lifestyle, but it can also be damaged by stress.
Have you ever had digestive upset when stressed? Don’t feel like eating? That’s the neural tissue in your gut telling you that it’s not doing well. The ‘gut brain’ is primarily dealing with emotions. There is even evidence (and I’ve seen this personally) that when we are under extreme stress the gut becomes more damaged, increasing psychological symptoms and food allergies.
You get gut flora from your parents
As I talked about up in the previous paragraph, the baby’s first interaction with bacteria is as they are born. Parents who have poor gut flora pass on the gut flora through the birth canal.
For babies born via cesarean, they still get natural flora from mom’s skin as the baby nurses, and just in the environment around them.
How does dad’s flora get into this picture? Assuming that mom and dad are having relations during the pregnancy, they are also sharing gut flora then, so the gut flora of both parents is present in the birth canal.
How vaccines and environmental toxins play a part in gut health
So, what is with the vaccination debate? Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride talks about this in her Gut and Psychology Syndrome book as well.
She explains that a person without good gut flora will have an inferior detoxification system, and the toxins that are in vaccines along with the inactive viruses are just too much for the body to handle and the toxins end up affecting the brain.
ADD, ADHD, Depression, Autism, Anxiety, even Rheumatoid Arthritis and Celiac disease are all thought to be related in that they all originate in the the gut from poor gut flora. What an interesting concept!
Reading the GAPS book was the first time that the connections had been made for me, but it makes perfect sense. All these conditions are on the rise, as we as a population are taking in more vaccines than ever, using more pharmaceutical drugs than ever, and administered more antibiotics than ever.
What Can Be Done?
After all this, if you’re in my generation you are most likely thinking that you or your children actually are affected by what Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride calls GAP Syndrome. You have signs of having poor gut flora.
The good news is that there is a diet that can slowly starve out the bad bacteria in your gut and replace it with healthy flora. It’s the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and is what the Gut and Psychology Syndrome diet is based on.
It is a grain free sugar free starch free diet that gives the gut a rest from the constant flow of complex carbohydrates that feed gut flora. I personally have seen great results in it, both in my daughter, and in myself.
5 Delicious Keto FatBombs
Sign up to get my 5 Best Keto Fatbomb Recipes sent right to your inbox! Plus a bonus pizza recipe :)
Great post! I knew about the gut brain connection because my husband had IBS for 20+ years. Once I met him I researched everything. (I’ve worked in natural healthcare for many years and wanted to find the cause for him). In the end a course of antibiotics for thumb surgery cured his IBS! He had some bacterial strain causing it that was not killed by the typical antibiotics used for IBS. And the other drugs are anti-dperessants (brain drugs) to help with the gut. Anyway, we dosed him up on probiotics afterwards and he’s never looked back. Of course, now he eats real, whole foods. Mostly plant-based with a little animal protein and he has been IBS free for 3 years!
Re: kids and detoxification. It was my understanding from what I’ve read that children’s livers do not function fully until age 7 and can not process toxins the way adults can. I think there is something to the good flora/bad flora and the predisposition for autism. Thanks for writing this. I still think vaccines add a body burden that cannot be handled in some children, especially in light of the age their livers fully function and considering the blood brain barrier doesn’t fully form until about age 3.
Interesting to hear that your daughter is on the spectrum and never been vaccinated. It sounds like you are doing a great job healing her.
I know this post is a couple years old but I hope you’ll receive my reply. I have a similar IBS issue. About 5 years ago i ate a huge amount of raw sauerkraut for 3 weeks to heal my facial acne. While the kraut healed my acne, I was left with a debilitating intestinal pain. Ive seen several docs and no one knows the cause AND the pain happens the same time every month, with the onset of ovulation. The pain is lessened or vanishes when i take probiotics or food enzymes. I also did the body ecology diet for a month and my pain was worse, as if my body cant handle fermented foods well. I obviously have a flora imbalance. Im thinking I might have gotten a weird strain of bacteria and maybe that’s the cause of the painful inflammation. Ive considered taking antibiotics and then replenishing with probiotics. However, I’m kinda terrified of antibiotics. Do you have any insight or can you recommend a protocol for replenshing the gut after a round of antibitoics?
Thanks in advance…
Just came across this Russian Study I thought you might be interested in.
Thanks! Ours was breastfed, but I had a leaky gut so it’s likely that molecules of cow milk protein got through to her- interesting study.
Thanks for posting this subject! I am reading about the GAPS diet and thinking of doing it. It does seem so overwhelming but you make it seem so simple.
So are you doing no potatoes etc and no grains with your daughter? Did you buy both books on the GAPS site? Are they both needed to understand the diet?
Also, I do love the tooth chips you recommend!!! Thanks for telling us about them.
I have had my daughter on the GAPS diet since 11/1/09, so over a year now! I bought Breaking The Vicious Cycle, The GAPS Guide, and Gut and Psychology Syndrome prior to starting the diet. It is really overwhelming at first, but it gets better.
I’m working on a menu plan that should be out in January to make it less overwhelming :)
Thank you so much for sharing. I was first introduced to GAPS in your past posts and finally order the book and got started. My second son has many of the things mentioned allergies, eczema, asthma, and some attention/ behavioral issues. We are a few weeks into it and have seen such drastic improvement in his behavior, skin ( the coconut oil is fabylous!), and allergies. It is so amazing to see the difference in him. He is finally eating again and all very nourishing foods. He is energetic and gaining weight. He was so skinny and unhealthy and he is thriving now. He no longer even asks for the forbidden foods because they make him so ill and he knows now what it feels like to feel good. I am so grateful to have found GAPS. Thank you for continuing to post on how to make it easier. We were pretty sure we could never pull this off but after seeing such amazing results we realized that we have no other choice, his health comes first.
Hi there! I appreciate all the info you are sharing
We are about to undertake the GAPS diet in our home. It was recommended by our naturopath. Excited about the possibilities, but a little daunted by the whole thing!
The cranberries muffins look so yummy, but unfortunately my boy has lots and lots of food allergies. We started the GAPS diet since April 2009. We were hopeful that by now he can tolerate apples, pears, bananas, berries, citrus fruits, seeds, dairy, eggs, nuts, avocado, lentils, cold pressed oil etc, but 18 months, we still have no luck of giving him these food. I’m running out of ideas to give him for school lunch and snacks. Anyone have any good snack or lunch receipes? I love to hear from you. He had enough of pumpkin and squash for his meals. Every meal he would start nagging. I really need more food ideas for him. Help would be appreciated. :)
Anne, that’s so tough! I hope someone can give you suggestions to help you, I can’t think of much other than jerky.
Hi Anne, this is years later, but I hope you still working on the healing diet. For you and others reading, I want to recommend the book Internal Bliss. My daughter started turning around after 18 months of a roller coaster ride. When the bad stuff dies off, it can be really rough. The detox baths are very important (alternating baking soda, and Epsom salts and bath salts). Also it helps to poach fruit. Spices like cinnamon help the digestion as well as flavor. Nuts must be soaked! I am lucky my daughter loves to have a small glass of sauerkraut juice or kvass. Crème fraiche is a gentle way to improve gut flora. We are now able to have snacks of high fat cheese on celery sticks. IT takes a lot of experimenting for sure, and a lot of commitment. Wishing you well.
Wonderful blog! I have fibromyalgia/CFIDS and just started eating gluten free a little over a week ago and I can not believe the changes I have seen already!
I also have fibromyalgia and my son has not been diagnosed with any disorder but, he does seem unfocused at times. I was wondering what really does the GAP diet consist of. I also have a lot of allergies and typical symptoms of fibromyalgia and have went almost completely to all fruits and vegetables but, I need some protein and some kind of starch I would think. What would you suggest as for a breakfast,lunch and dinner meal that I could make working full time.
Thanks for sharing this. I’m just learning about GAPS since the WAPF conference. I’d heard of it, but hadn’t felt impressed to study it until now. Hearing Dr Mcbride speak made lightbulbs go off in my head. First that my daughter is a picky eater- so she might benefit. I’ve had joint pain for a few months, at a pretty young age to have “arthritis” so I’m debating on trying the gaps diet, to see if it helps relieve that. For some reason i’m very resistant to trying the full diet- but I’m thinking about it and wanting to learn more.
Is breaking the vicious cycle have anything to do with getting kids to change what they eat?
I think it’s a good thing for most people to at least try for a few weeks. Arthritis- GAPS might help, also, do you have any root canals? I had one that caused arthritis, I had it pulled and the arthritis stuff went a couple weeks later.
Hi Cara – just found your site! I’m thinking I have a dairy issue, and was wondering if in your experience, the Maker’s Diet or the SCD is more effective. I see you went carb-free for a few months. Why do you suppose it healed you from dairy? Very interested!!
The Maker’s diet is a great place to start, and then from there you could go to SCD. SCD is actually what I was on (with their allowed carbs) and it is a diet that works to heal the gut to get rid of the source of allergies. Hope that helps!
Hey Cara! As you know, I have a child on the spectrum as well. I am fully convinced that vaccines played a huge role in her issues. Since your children were never vaccinated, I am wondering about what you have found to be the root cause of your daughter’s autism. I am sure you play detective like I do. :) Is it all gut? I would love to hear more on your theories.
I do remember – I remember you getting him raw milk :) I think it is mostly in the gut- I’ll tell you everything I’m pretty sure contributed to my daughter’s asd.
* my husband and I were both on many rounds of antibiotics when we were young
* I was on the birth control pill prior to her conception (we haven’t used it since we were TTC her)
* My diet was pretty poor when I was pg with her (I had lots of raw milk, eggs, and probiotic rich food when pg with my NT son)
* I was fully vaccinated and may not have detoxified the toxins in them as well as I should have, leaving a buildup to go into her in utero
Oh wow. I can pretty much check off everything you mentioned, PLUS she had all the recommended vaccines on schedule. Sigh. I have a long road ahead to recover her! Thanks for your insight!
Her! Sorry about that!
Have you checked out the GAPS book? Dr. NCM really made it make sense to me. It’s frustrating how little I knew before getting pregnant, a big part of me thinks that if I just had eaten a little better food and taken a probiotic she may have been fine…
I am very close to your story! No vaccines in my daughter. I took probiotics since before pregnancy and ate ok (could have been better). I have given my daughter probiotics since the day she was born. She was still diagnosed PDD. But I had undiagnosed Lyme and think my daughter might too. Plus I was induced, had IV antibiotics and c-section. I still don’t know why is causing my fibromyalgia… Or my daughters’ PDD…
Hi My name is Leanne Girotto. I am a Neuro Developmental Learning therapist. I develop children with developmental Delay. There are solutions for your daughter and I would love to help you with them. The IV antibiotics would have contributed to gut dysfunction and so did the c section. If your daughters have opotunistic bacteria in their gut they will have altered glucose convertions in body which cause serious problems with development by attacking the protein in the mylein of the brain. The opotunistic bacteria also cause brain irrritations and behavioural issues and affect the immune system. I am also a primitive reflex therapist where I work with early development movements to give the children a second chance to develop brain connections. If you want to know more you can ring me 0407559629. My business is called Brain tree Learning Solutions in Melbourne Victoria.
Thanks for the information.
My sister and I (both grown adults) have recently speculated that we may be gluten sensitive and suffering from poor intestinal flora.
We grew up in a whole-food, healthy family, but don’t seem to digest or receive the nutrients our bodies are eating.
My family has been using Nourishing Traditions for a little over a year now, but I haven’t strictly incorporated the sour-dough bread or soaking/preparing all our grains properly.
I too, am greatly intimidated by the thought of no grain…but at this point, I’m ready to be truly healthy! So, to the library I go!
Thanks for sharing your insight and experience!
I know it’s a lot to think about! But going gluten free is a good start, I think. I hope you find good health soon :)
Cara, I have to ask if you have ever tried Feingold with your children? I’m just looking through the menus and seeing I will have to make some sub for a few things due to them being high in salicylates. I know my son reacts to high sals and so do many other ADD, ADHD, and autistic kids.
Hi Holly, I haven’t tried Feingold. I know part of the program is eliminating any food colorings, and we did do that (and noticed a reaction when the kids accidentally got some) but that’s as far as we got. I should try looking more into it.
This an excellent article. I wish I’d read it before my most recent post at solvingtheibspuzzle.com. I was reading recently that a study at McClean University showed that the behavior of mice changes when their gut bacteria was destroyed by antibiotics. In another part, they gave mice from a timid colony gut bacteria from a more adventurous mouse colony. The timid mice then became more adventurous!
Now I need me some adventurous gut bacteria.
Holly, maybe your son will tolerate salicylates better if his gut flora changes? I know it’s more complicated for some kids than others, but for my son, I think whacked gut flora was a significant part of why he became intolerant to sals (he wasn’t always, another indication that it isn’t as involved for him as for some others). A probiotic supp with l. plantarum was really helpful here. And I was able to “cheat” quite a bit using No-Fenol enzymes–which again, I know don’t work for everyone, but it made life so much easier.
Does this mean that if you give enzymes with high sal foods, you don’t notice a reaction? What are no-fenol enzymes?
Just found this blog, some great info here!I know you post is a bit older, I hope you are all fairing well now!
I am ADD & have recently been diagnosed with leaky gut. I found out I have intolerances to corn, gluten, dairy. So I am essentially gluten, casein free plus. I am responding to your earlier mention in the post about having a noticable improvement initially on the diet and the a quick regression, this is what happened to me as well. Any thoughts on why this happens(or happened to you) and what made you decide to go with the GAPS diet instead? i also have a son, 3, who is going through testing as well for intolerances/leaky gut.
Thanks for your info here , I can’t imagine going through all this without the internet.(yeah, I know it can be a double edged sword too)
I tried gluten free for a few months. At first I thought that I felt fantastic but by the end of a few months it didn’t seem to make much of a difference. So I am back on the grains but trying home ground vs crappy store bough flour with nothing in it. I was just wondering what you thought. I come from a line of bad guts/nervous guts. Ive heard of and looked a little into GAPS but am so pumped to start making my own flour and being self sufficient in that way that giving up grains again doesn’t sound good. I have a son with Hirschpurngs Disease, he had his entire colon removed (he didn’t have the cells that a normal person does to push the food through) as a baby and part of his small. He drinks rice or coconut milk and we avoid the dairy for the most part but no label reading. He doesn’t do to bad with hard cheese and small amounts of ice cream. My daugher was dx with juvenille dermatomyositis march 2011. it is an auto immune disease that affects skin and muscles. She is off all meds but methotrexate. Wondered your thoughts on this as well. Thank you so much!
Hi Aimee, We switched to GAPS when gluten free ‘stopped working’ and we saw improvement for the 2 years my little one was on GAPS. GAPS should help with autoaimmune diseases too, I’m not sure about Hirschpurngs though. I’m not a doctor, or medical professional, though- just a mom :)
I wish you had been more specific about how the bad toxins in your gut effected the brain. My brain becomes unseated when my gut is bad and I have to lie down and rest until things change. I wonder if I’m the only one and if there’s something I could do beforehand to avoid these “bad” days altogether. Thanx.
Hi, I do believe this is an excellent blog. I stumbledupon it ;) I’m going to return once again since I book marked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to help other people.
What’s up, all is going well here and ofcourse every one is sharing data, that’s in fact fine,
keep up writing.
Thanks so much for this post! I’ve shared it on my FB support group I recently created and we’ve all benefited from your perspective! https://www.facebook.com/groups/ALittleGutFeeling/
I completely agree with what you said. My son has had major ADHD and behavioral issues that I found that were related to his gut! IgG food allergies and Candida. Anyway, I’ve had people tell me I should make a blog (http://alittlegutfeeling.blogspot.com/) about my experiences…and so I am creating one right now to bring awareness about this gut/brain connection and help others who were like me, going from Dr. to Dr. with no real help. Thanks so much for your time sharing this information. It’s soooooo important!!! So many kids are on pills for behavioral issues and it just makes them worse….when we can heal them with nutrition and the right knowledge. Look forward to reading more of your blog. So much to learn!
Thanks so much for your Nutritional Protocols page…you posted about Amino Acids….Where can I get these for my 3 year old? I wasn’t able to find L-Carnitine (did you mean Carnosine or was that a typo?) B6, and 5HTP. Know where I can get those or have you tried them? These were all recommended by Dr. Shaw who’s lab did the IgG testing and Organic Acids test we had done. He has high Candida and IgG allergies to milk, eggs, yeast, mushrooms, honey, & pineapple. :-) This lab is really awesome. Have you heard of them? They changed our lives. http://www.greatplainslaboratory.com/home/
Lots of great research on their website!
Anyway, where can I get the Amino Acids that you recommend?
Amino acid supplements as listed here have very
minimal (if any) side effects. Particularly the
amino acids L-Carnosine, dimethylglycine
(DMG), and GABA are used in children with
developmental issues (I would recommend trying
one at a time). The controversy surrounding
amino acid supplements primarily is if they are
effectively crossing the blood-brain barrier or not.
It looks like in some children they cross the
barrier well and are effective, in others they are
not. They help to promote eye contact, increase
language, improve behavior, and prevent seizures
Being a Chinese, rice is our staple food, so how do I go on a grain free diet if we’ve been eating rice all our life.
I would be lost on planning our meal or eating out if there’s no rice in our menu.
I thought of becoming a vegetarian due to religious reasons, so does GAP work for vegetarians?
Would appreciate some advise.
I read just yesterday that nuts contain enzyme inhibitors. These inhibitors are there to conserve the nuts until they have favourable conditions to grow i.e. water. The inhibitors go away when the nuts are soaked and the enzymes are thus liberated making the nuts easier to digest. To consume the nuts later, just dehydrate them after soaking; the enzymes won’t be destroyed. To make nut flour the lady uses a VitaMix.