If you’ve heard of the GAPS diet, you know it can be a little intimidating. If you’re considering the GAPS intro diet, you know it can be VERY intimidating! The GAPS intro diet offers tremendous healing, however, and it’s worth pursuing if you’re in need. (Learn more about how your food may be causing inflammation.)
How do you know if you are, indeed, in need of the GAPS intro diet? Good question.
First, what is the GAPS intro diet?
Let’s start with an overview of the GAPS diet: it is a grain, sugar, and starch-free, gut-healing diet, which allows only honey and fruit as sweeteners and only dairy if it has been cultured (Learn how to make delicious milk kefir, a staple in the GAPS intro diet, and how to make creme fraiche, aka sour cream).
The GAPS intro diet includes all of the above restrictions, but goes through six healing stages. Starting with the very restrictive first stage, which allows only meat stock, and non-starchy, non-fibrous vegetables and meats cooked in the meat stock. If tolerated, one can also eat cultured dairy from day one, as well as the liquid from homemade sauerkraut.
From there, a little bit is added to each stage, until you work your way up to the full GAPS diet.
I know, it sounds sort of miserable.
The goal, eventually, is to be able to reintroduce properly prepared grains, starchy vegetables, and more sugars. I can attest that the GAPS intro diet works! Our family has experienced so much healing as the result of doing it. You can read about our experience during our first week on the GAPS intro diet here.
(If you’re considering doing GAPS, be sure to pick up the book Gut and Psychology Syndrome, then consider the fabulous GAPS cookbook The Heal Your Gut Cookbook, which will make intro go much easier for you.)
5 signs you need the GAPS intro diet
If you are wondering why in the world you would want to put yourself through such an intense diet, let me ask you this: do you have any health issues that you would like to improve? What if I told you the GAPS intro diet can heal everything from ADHD to fibromyalgia to asthma?
The GAPS diet (especially the intro portion) offers intensive and effective healing. Here are some specific reasons you might want to try it:
#1-You Need the GAPS Intro Diet If You Have An Autoimmune Disease
Autoimmune disease occurs when your immune system is malfunctioning.
Did you know that the majority of your immune system resides in your gut? When your gut is unhealthy then your immune system suffers, making your body vulnerable to a host of health problems.
When the gut has become damaged by convenience foods and toxins in our water and environment, it develops holes in the lining resulting in leaky gut syndrome. Other gut systems are also damaged like the enterocytes, which help to break down food, as well as the enzymes and acids which are also needed to properly break down and digest foods.
When food proteins are not broken down properly, they leak through the gut and lodge into other areas of the body. This causes the immune system to become confused and attack the body’s own cells.
Because the GAPS intro diet quickly heals and seals the gut, it heals and reprograms the immune system.
Once your gut begins properly digesting your food, undigested food proteins and particles no longer leak through your gut effectively healing autoimmune disease.
#2-You Need the GAPS Intro Diet If Your Child Has A Behavioral Or Developmental Disorder
The GAPS diet was created, first and foremost, to heal behavioral and developmental disorders like autism and ADHD. If you’ve heard the saying “the gut is the second brain,” you can understand how healing the gut also heals disorders considered to be neurological in nature.
Just like leaky gut can result in autoimmune disease, it can be the cause of neurological disturbances. Certain food proteins have the ability to pass the blood-brain barrier.
The proteins in gluten and dairy may be converted into opioids when they are not broken down effectively by the gut. These opioids then disturb brain function, resulting in behaviors we know as autism, hyperactivity, and more.
Furthermore, there is a nerve called the vagus nerve that directly connects the gut to the brain. It allows the brain and gut to communicate back and forth, further allowing gut health to influence behavioral and neurological health. (Read more about how food causes ADHD.)
#3-You Need the GAPS Intro Diet If You Have Digestive Abnormalities
It’s clear why an intensive gut-healing diet like GAPS intro would be beneficial for those suffering from digestive abnormalities. Because the GAPS intro diet relies heavily on good, animal-based fats like cultured cream, tallow, lard, and ghee; it helps ease constipation. It’s equally helpful for those suffering from chronic diarrhea because it is gentle on the gut, promoting easily digestible foods, and removing those that are more likely to cause loose stools.
If you are suffering from chronic, profuse diarrhea then it’s advised that you remove vegetables until the diarrhea clears. Usually this only takes a few days.
#4-You Need the GAPS Intro Diet If You Have An Emotional Or Psychiatric Disorder
For the same reason the GAPS intro diet is beneficial for children suffering from behavioral disorders, those with psychiatric conditions like depression, anxiety, and even schizophrenia can be helped by the diet.
Not only does the diet reduce toxic load on the brain and heal the gut, the nourishing fats promoted in the diet are excellent for brain health.
Our brains are made primarily of fat, so a diet high in good fats is automatically nourishing to the brain!
From ghee which contains omega fats (ideal for brain health) to cod liver oil and coconut oil, the fats eaten on the GAPS intro diet are brain superfoods.
Additionally, our guts contain the highest concentration of serotonin (the neurotransmitter responsible for calming) found in the body. The gut is also host to other neurotransmitters, like dopamine, so it’s easy to see why gut health has such an influence on mood, behavior, and brain health.
#5-You Need the GAPS Intro Diet If You Live In An Industrialized Nation
Even if you don’t suffer from any of the above maladies, I would venture to say anyone could benefit from doing the GAPS intro diet once a year as a reset and to detoxify our bodies from the increasingly toxic world we live in. Particularly in industrialized nations, where we swim in a chemical cocktail day in and day out. From lawn chemicals, to those put into our water like fluoride and chlorine, to pesticides sprayed in the air, and the emissions from our vehicles and industrial plants, we have little control over our exposure to toxins.
Though we can’t always limit our exposure, we can strengthen our immune systems so that these chemicals don’t make us sick. When our immune systems are strong, our bodies are better able to filter out these toxins and properly detoxify on a regular basis.
Do you need the GAPS intro diet?
Do I have you convinced yet? Doing the GAPS intro diet is one of the best things our family has ever done!
After completing the diet last year, my son was healed from symptoms of PANDAS and oppositional defiant disorder (Read more about Camden’s extraordinary story of healing). We plan to do the diet again this fall as a regular reset and to continue healing our bodies on a deeper level, as we do each time we do GAPS intro.