The GAPS Diet
In short, the GAPS diet, which stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome, is best defined as an extensive healing protocol for restoring gut health which consists of a dietary change and comprehensive detoxification process.
GAPS was created by neurologist and nutritionist, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. Specializing in the healing of issues like autism spectrum disorders, ADD/ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia and schizophrenia - Dr. Campbell-McBride works to heal these disorders by treating the root cause: compromised gut health.
Many families have been dissatisfied with the currently available treatments for neurological disorders such as autism and have adopted the GAPS diet as an alternative.
In fact, Dr. Campbell-McBride began her work with the GAPS diet in order to help her autistic son heal. You can read more about his journey to autism recovery here.
The GAPS diet is also a wonderful protocol for those suffering from food intolerances and sensitivities as restoring the gut often leads to full recovery of those issues.
How to Start the GAPS Diet
GAPS begins first with an introduction diet (the Intro Diet) which restricts the types of food consumed to little more than stock, a few boiled vegetables and meats, and the juice of fermented vegetables.
The Intro Diet consists of 6 phases and each on lasts 1 day to 1 month, depending on the reactions of the person on the Intro Diet. My family of 3 completed all 6 phases in about 14 days. And each phase of the Intro Diet also adds additional foods (such as fruit, raw vegetables and their juices, nuts and nut flours, honey, and so on...) so the diet becomes drastically less restrictive with each new phase.
Some people opt to skip the Intro Diet and to straight to "Full GAPS" for a while before coming back to the Intro Diet. This can be done, and is far better than not doing it at all, but I would recommend doing the Intro Diet first if you can.
Once you have completed the Intro Diet and have made your way to the full GAPS diet you will be eating a wide variety of wholesome foods. However, the full GAPS diet does still exclude grains, starchy root vegetables, sugars (except for honey) and other foods that may cause damage to an already compromised gut.
See below for a full list of approved and non-approved food list for the GAPS diet.
Like any other extreme diet and lifestyle change, GAPS can be difficult to get used to - especially because you will need to cook everything as dining out and buying pre-made foods is really out of the question. However, once you adapt to a new way of shopping and cooking, it is a wonderful healing diet that your family will enjoy together!
Below are some frequently asked questions regarding the GAPS diet that will help you prepare for this new healing journey.
Are GAPS and Paleo the same thing?
While there are many foods that overlap on the list of approved foods between the GAPS Diet and the Paleo Diet, they are not the same thing.
There are many foods allowed on the Paleo diet that are not allowed on GAPS, such as coconut sugar and tapioca starch.
In addition to the basic allowed foods, the fundamentals of the GAPS diet is that you drink stock or broth with every meal and have high quality fermented foods each day as well. This is not the case for the Paleo diet where those foods are "allowed" but not encouraged as part of the healing regimen.
GAPS Diet Approved Foods
Here is a list of foods that are allowed on the full GAPS diet. If you are doing the Intro Diet, then please refer to that list for the foods you are allowed at various stages.
Almonds, including almond butter and oil
Apricots, fresh or dried
Avocados, including avocado oil
Bananas (ripe only with brown spots on the skin)
Beans, dried white (navy), string beans and lima beans properly prepared
Beef, fresh or frozen
Beets or beetroot
Berries, all kinds
Black, white and red pepper: ground and pepper corns
Canned fish in oil or water only
Cashew nuts, fresh only
Cellulose in supplements
Cherimoya (custard apple or sharifa)
Chicken, fresh or frozen
Coconut, fresh or dried (shredded) without any additives
Coffee, weak and freshly made, not instant
Coriander, fresh or dried
Dates, fresh or dried without any additives (not soaked in syrup)
Dill, fresh or dried
Duck, fresh or frozen
Fish, fresh or frozen, canned in its juice or oil
Game, fresh or frozen
Ghee, homemade (many store varieties contain non-allowed ingredients)
Ginger root, fresh
Goose, fresh or frozen
Haricot beans, properly prepared
Herbs, fresh or dried without additives
Juices (freshly pressed from permitted fruit and vegetables)
Lamb, fresh or frozen
Lettuce, all kinds
Lima beans (dried and fresh)
Meats, fresh or frozen
Monterey (Jack) cheese
Mustard seeds, pure powder and gourmet types
without any non-allowed ingredients
Nut flour or ground nuts (usually ground blanched almonds)
Nuts, all kinds freshly shelled, not roasted, salted or coated (any roasting must be done at home)
Olive oil, virgin cold-pressed
Olives preserved without sugar or any other non-allowed ingredients
Peanut butter, without additives
Peanuts, fresh or roasted in their shells
Peas, dried split and fresh green
Peppers (green, yellow, red, and orange)
Pheasant, fresh or frozen
Pickles, without sugar or any other non-allowed ingredients
Pigeon, fresh or frozen
Pork, fresh or frozen
Port du Salut cheese
Poultry, fresh or frozen
Prunes, (dried without any additives or in their own juice)
Quail, fresh or frozen
Seaweed fresh and dried (once Introduction Diet has been completed)
Shellfish, fresh or frozen
Spices, single and pure without any additives
Squash (summer and winter)
Tea, weak, freshly made, not instant
Tomato puree, pure without any additives apart from salt
Tomato juice, without any additives apart from salt
Turkey, fresh or frozen
Uncreamed cottage cheese (dry curd)
Vinegar (cider or white); make sure there is no allergy
Vodka, very occasionally
White navy beans, properly prepared
Wine dry: red or white
GAPS Diet Non-Approved Foods
These are the foods that are NOT allowed on the GAPS diet. Please refer to the FAQ section for information about "cheat meals".
Agave syrup - main carbohydrate is a complex form of fructose
Algae - can aggravate an already disturbed immune system
Aloe Vera (ingested)
Amaranth - is a grain substitute, contains starches
Apple juice (commercially prepared)
Arrowroot (is a mucilaginous herb and loaded with starch)
Astragalus - contains polysaccharides
Baker's yeast - contains saccharamyces cerevisae
Baking powder and raising agents of all kind (baking soda can be used)
Balsamic vinegar (most found in stores have added sugar)
Bean flour and sprouts
Bee pollen - irritating to a damaged gut
Bhindi or okra
Bicarbonate of soda
Bouillon cubes or granules
Burdock root - contains FOS and mucilage
Canned vegetables and fruit
Carrageenan - a seaweed and high in polysaccharides
Cereals, including all breakfast cereals
Cheeses, processed and cheese spreads
Chestnuts and chestnut flour
Chewing gum - contain sugars or sugar substitutes
Chickory root - contains high amounts of FOS
Chocolate (store bought, see FAQ)
Cocoa powder - see "FAQs" for more information
Coffee, instant and coffee substitutes
Cream - contains lactose
Cream of Tartar
Dextrose - in commercial products it is not the pure form
Fish, preserved, smoked, salted, breaded and canned
Flour, made out of grains
Fruit, canned or preserved
Ketchup, commercially available
Margarines and butter replacements
Meats, processed, preserved, smoked and salted
Milk from any animal, soy, rice, canned coconut milk
Nuts, salted, roasted and coated
Okra - mucilaginous food
Pasta, of any kind
Quinoa - 60% starch
Sausages, commercially available
Soda soft drinks
Sour cream, commercial
Sugar or sucrose of any kind
Tapioca - starch
Vegetables, canned or preserved
Whey, powder or liquid
GAPS Diet FAQ
Do I have to do the intro diet?
While it's not 100% required, it is recommended. If you don't think you can do the Intro Diet right away, then just go to the full GAPS diet for a few months, then go through the Intro Diet.
I have done it both ways. Many years ago we did full GAPS and just stayed there without ever going through the Intro Diet. While we saw improvements in our health, it wasn't until we went through the diet with our son and started with the Intro Diet first, that we saw true results!
Am I only allowed broth for a whole month?
NO! This is a common misconception about the GAPS Intro Diet. However, while broth/stock is the main component of the first phase of the intro diet, it is allowed and encouraged that you add boiled meats and vegetables to the stock.
Also, keep in mind that each phase of the Intro Diet lasts only as long as you need it to (until the symptoms subside ). We were only on phase I for about 3 days before being able to move on to phase II...
Can I ever have a cheat meal?
While technically you CAN cheat, it will set your healing back dramatically according to the author of GAPS, Dr. Campbell-McBride.
So, if you are following the GAPS diet for healing, then cheat meals are out of the question. Keep in mind it doesn't last forever though!
Do I have do to GAPS forever?
Nope! The GAPS diet is considered a "therapeutic diet", meaning that it is only intended to be followed for a period of time, not forever.
How long does the GAPS diet usually last?
The average amount of time the GAPS diet lasts is about 2 years. This will vary by person, and there are ways to know if you are done with the diet.
Can I do the GAPS diet with my kids?
Absolutely! Gut health is a wonderful gift that you can give your children through the GAPS diet!
Will I ever be able to have wheat again?
Yes! Once you have completed your journet on GAPS, you will be able to once again have wheat.
However, it will need to be introduced slowly and in fermented forms such as sourdough.
Will I be able to eat a "normal" diet again?
This is unlikely due to the fact that the Standard American Diet is brutal on gut health. You will find yourself needing to do GAPS again if you go back to your old ways for an extended period of time.
Making things from scratch will be the best option! So, if you want to have hamburgers, don't go to a restaurant, make the buns from scratch with Einkorn flour (easy on the gut) and have them at home!
Is chocolate allowed?
Yes! Recently Dr. Campbell-McBride stated that once you are on Full GAPS, you can test your system with a small amount of cocoa. Wait 2-3 days to see if you have a reaction or reoccurrence of symptoms before continuing.
If none appear, then you may use cocoa in your cooking! This squash flour chocolate cake is excellent!
We prefer to use raw cacao as it has not been processed as cocoa has, and contains many benefits as well.
To make your own GAPS approved chocolate bar, use this honey sweetened chocolate recipe!
Is alcohol allowed?
There are a few alcoholic drinks that are allowed very occasionally on the GAPS diet, and only once the Intro Diet has been completed.
- Wine: Dry Red or Dry White Wines ONLY
Ready to get started?
Grab the official "GAPS Diet" book by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride and start your gut healing journey today!