Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAP Syndrome or GAPS) is a condition establishing a connection between the functions of the digestive system and the brain. This term was coined by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD, MMedSci (neurology), MMedSci (human nutrition) in 2004 after working with hundreds of children and adults with neurological and psychiatric conditions, such as autistic spectrum disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD/ADD), schizophrenia, dyslexia, dyspraxia, depression, obsessive –compulsive disorder, bi-polar disorder and other neuro-psychological and psychiatric problems.
Gut and Physiology Syndrome includes chronic physical conditions which stem from an unhealthy gut, such as all autoimmune conditions (celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes type one, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, autoimmune skin problems, Hashimoto disease and other hormonal problems, etc.), asthma, eczema, various allergies, food allergy and intolerance, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple many endocrine disorders (thyroid, adrenal and other), chronic infections, many neurological diseases and all chronic digestive disorders (such as irritable bowel syndrome, gastritis, colitis, etc).
The collective bacteria that reside along the GI tract is referred to as your gut microbiome. Clinical research continues to reveal how significant the health and function of the gut flora are to every physiological action in the body including metabolism, digestion, nutrient production and absorption, neurotransmitter production and transport, inflammation, detoxification, etc. Through dietary intervention, targeted supplementation, detoxification, and lifestyle changes, the GAPS nutritional protocol is designed to restore digestive function, brain function, and overall health.
GAPS patients have impaired digestion, making it difficult to break down foods into useful nutrients, leading to malnutrition and systemic inflammation. Low stomach acid, impaired liver function, holes in the digestive lining (leaky gut), and an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria disrupt the proper digestive process, potentially leading to serious conditions including autoimmune, neurological, allergies, impaired skin barrier, asthma, IBS, chronic fatigue, mood disorders etc.
The GAPS Diet restricts all grains, commercial dairy (apart from hard cheeses), starchy vegetables, processed carbohydrates, and refined sugars. These nutritionally void items are replaced with easily digestible and nutrient dense foods in order to give the cells of the gut lining and bacterial layer a chance to heal and rebuild. These foods include homemade meat stocks and bone broths, organic meats including chicken, beef, pork, turkey, venison, and duck, non-predator fish, fresh shellfish, organic fruits and vegetables, probiotic foods, nuts, and seeds.
The nutritional part of the GAPS diet is divided into two sections: The Introduction Diet and the Full GAPS Diet. Once a patient has moved through the Full GAPS Diet, there is an additional stage outlined in Gut and Psychology Syndrome called Coming Off the GAPS Diet
It generally takes patients 3-6 weeks to complete all six stages of Intro, however it is very individual. The Introduction Diet is designed for patients with severe digestive issues including chronic diarrhea, IBS, Crohn’s, gastritis, and Ulcerative Colitis as well as patients with serious neurological conditions including autism, schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar. Some patients may exhibit neurological conditions with no clear digestive symptoms and may be able to move through the Introduction Diet more quickly, listening to their body and observing for negative reactions.
Once a patient has moved through the six stages of the Introduction Diet, they are ready to move onto the Full GAPS Diet. For patients who skipped the Introduction Diet, Dr.Campbell-McBride recommends following the Dairy Introduction Structure outlined in the Gut and Psychology Syndrome book when introducing dairy products. It is important to remember the majority of the patient’s diet should consist of antibiotic-free and hormone-free meats, non-predator fish, organic eggs, fermented/probiotic foods, and vegetables. Overindulging in baked goods made from nut flours and fruit can be detrimental to the healing process and should only be consumed in moderation. For patients suffering from yeast overgrowth, temporarily eliminating fruit, honey, and nuts may be beneficial.