What is the GAPS Diet?

What is the GAPS Diet?

What is the GAPS diet? GAPS is based on the premise that illness–whether IBS, allergies, ADD, autism, heart disease, eczema, or other ailments, just to name a few–begins and in the gut.  Taking this a step further, the GAPS diet is designed to heal these conditions by focusing on rebuilding the gut lining and reestablishing healthy gut flora.

Before July 7, 2013, I had never heard of GAPS before. My son, Aaron, was 4 at the time. He had been diagnosed with autism one year earlier and had spent the first year of his diagnosis crashing and burning in every way imaginable. I consider myself to be an incredibly involved and pro-active parent, and so when a friend suggested to me than I was failing my son by not doing enough for him I was, well, flat out offended and angry.

We had a little argument where I quickly ran down the list of my interventions, intending to prove to her that I had done everything and more that my doctors had said I should do to help him.  I was sure that I had done my best, and Aaron was still just getting worse. It felt like she was rubbing salt in an open wound. So she listened to my rant of defense, and then she said “Just listen.”

Then she told me about her own child who, upon receiving the flu vaccine at 18 months, went catatonic upon injection. He had to be rushed to the ER. After his condition stabilized, she was told that her son had autism and that he would likely never talk, potty train, make friends, or go to school.  She was given a pamphlet for filing for vaccine injury and sent on her way.

She never wasted her money filing. Instead, she spent hundreds of thousands of dollars traveling with her son, seeking out doctors who had experience recovering children from autism.   His diagnosis was removed from his record when he was 8 years old. They were still actively involved in a few types of therapies, but all in all, this child was perfect and certainly had no less quirks than other “typical” children I’ve seen and worked with. We should all be so lucky!

Body Ecology Diet and the GAPS Diet

“What’s luck got to do with it?” That’s what she said when vocalized how I wished Aaron could recover, too. It’s not luck, its hard work. Very hard work. She told me about Body Ecology Diet and GAPS diet. From there, I was off to the races. I did my research on both and felt that GAPS was the right choice for Aaron. I knew it was going to be difficult for him, so I made the decision that our entire family would go on GAPS, too.

I believed that if Aaron was going to be able to recover from autism, GAPS was going to be the key. I realized this because after studying the diet guidelines and rules I was able to see how and why everything else I had done had failed. Suddenly, my friends outspoken accusations all came into perspective. She was right. I hadn’t done even half, even a fraction of what I needed to do to help him. In fact, vast majority of what I had done actually hurt him. This completely explained why my sweet, quiet, little guy had turned into a screaming, kicking, monster.

What GAPS taught me is that I had made decisions that led to Aaron’s onset of autism, and that I had made decisions which led to the severity of his condition. That’s a hard pill to swallow.

What is GAPS?

GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome. We say the term GAPS diet, but what we really should be saying is GAPS people or GAPS kids. Your child falls into the GAPS category when their body’s neurological, physiological, psychological, and digestive system(s) malfunction to the point that they not only exhibit abnormal behavior, but they also fall behind or fail to develop normal behavior.  (i.e. autism).

The GAPS protocol is a dietary approach to healing which totally removes all offenders from a persons central source of immunity – the gut. By focusing on healing the gut first, the human body is then free to begin correcting and balancing all other areas of function that currently aren’t working right. So GAPS is based on the premise that no matter what is wrong with you, whether it be IBS, allergies, ADD, autism, heart disease, eczema, or even depression, healing all begins in the gut.

The process is pretty simple. First, you remove all foods that are high starch, like potatoes, corn, and rice. We do this because if your gut is not working properly, then these foods feed yeast, parasites, and bad bacteria before they feed you. (Don’t worry, once you graduate GAPS you can eat them again!)

Second, you base all your meals on gelatin-rich homemade bone broths. Bone broths are essential to the healing process because they do two things.

  1. Bone broths require virtually no digestion. They are loaded with nutrients which the gut will not have to work for in order to receive. You drink the broth and you get instant nourishment with no work or effort on the GI track. Genius.
  2. Bone broths contain high amounts of collagen. This is exactly what the gut wall is made of. By drinking the broth, you rebuild the gut lining by providing the building blocks in needs to regenerate while forgoing the challenge of digesting anything else.

GAPS Rules

  • You cook everything at home from scratch. Food that comes in boxes or cans is not allowed (no canned broth!)
  • The produce ingredients you buy to make your homemade food must be organic and low starch (no potatoes, corn, or rice)
  • The poultry and dairy foods you buy must come from pastured animals, fed non-GMO supplements and no soy.
  • The meat you buy must come from grass-fed, pastured cows, with non-GMO and no soy supplementation during winter months.
  • The daily meals in a GAPS person’s diet consist of gelatin-rich broth bases, proteins, and vegetables
  • Fermented food is eaten at every meal – without fail.
  • Refined sugar or any sugar substitute is not allowed. Only raw local honey and fruit can be used in moderation.

Is the GAPS Diet Strict?

Absolutely. And is is necessary to be extremely disciplined. You cannot shortcut the healing process. The body has to do what it has to do and your job is to get everything out of the way so it can do this as quickly as possible. You don’t know what is really inside any food that you’re not preparing at home. On the GAPS diet, you can’t risk not knowing. You need to be sure you can completely control every food substance you put into your child’s body. So, everything has to be made at home with quality ingredients.

Careful attention to the rules will pay off. My child amazed us and all his doctors, for that matter, at how quickly he began to recover once we did the right things to help him. GAPS is well worth the effort and will change your life. Now, quit reading this and go make some broth!

What’s Your Experience with GAPS?

Have you tried the GAPS diet? What were your results and challenges? Let me know below!

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  • My 3 part audio series Quick Start to Autism Recovery
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  1. We used the GAPS diet to heal my son of severe, chronic constipation. We all went on it and I felt terrific. He is now healed and a happy healthy and bright little boy. Thank you for giving this the attention it deserves! Leah McCullough, The Fibro Lady

    • Hello Leah,

      GAPS is the only way to go, I agree! So glad to hear your positive and healing experience. Thank you for sharing:)



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