Nutritional healing with the GAPS diet

GAPS diet was designed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride to heal the digestive system and restore intestinal lining barrier in people with digestive and immune system disorders. This diet is largely based on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) created by Dr. Sidney Valentine Haas and is also a great place to start if you would like to overcome your food allergies or need to determine if you have any.

Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride also uses GAPS diet to help children and adults with behavioral and learning disabilities by improving their digestive health and was first to incorporate pobiotics into her treatment protocol.

Some patients with autoimmune diseases including Hashimoto’s try the gluten-free diet and do not see much improvement in their symptoms. There are many other types of proteins in corn and gluten-free grains that can act similar to gluten and still cause an overreaction of the immune system. GAPS diet is more suitable for those who did not do well on the gluten-free diet and have multiple food allergies because it has healing properties and is completely free of grains, starchy vegetables, legumes and sweeteners.

Most degenerative and autoimmune diseases are initiated in the gut and can be healed by treating the gut. Our intestinal lining consists of millions of tiny finger-like hairs that are called villi. The villi are covered with a protective layer of healthy intestinal flora building an effective semi-permeable barrier which supports the absorption of nutrients but prevents bacteria, viruses, parasites, yeasts, candida overgrowth, microbes and many other pathogens from entering into the body. When the intestinal lining becomes compromised foreign particles and proteins enter into the bloodstream and can set up a pattern for any degenerative disease and overreaction of the immune system.

Another important function of the villi is to secrete an enzyme which is necessary for the proper digestion of disaccharides and is called disaccharidase. As the villi becomes destructed and cannot produce enough of these enzymes the digestion of disaccharidesis becomes impaired.

These complex sugars feed harmful bacteria, candida and other pathogens preventing proper function and gut repair. GAPS diet does not contain any foods with disaccharides and polysaccharides such as those in all grains, most beans, foods high in carbohydrates and most sweeteners.

The GAPS Diet Consists Of 2 Parts:

1. GAPS Introduction diet is intended to repair and restore the integrity of intestine by using the healing power of foods and complete avoidance of foods that contain disaccharides such as all grains (including gluten-free), most beans, starchy vegetables, most artificial sweeteners and dairy products.

Introduction GAPS diet is recommended for patients with serious digestive issues such as constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, leaky gut syndrome, autoimmune diseases, food allergies and intolerances. The main goal of the Introduction diet is to heal the intestine and prepare the patient for the second part which is Full GAPS diet.

As long as the gut walls stay damaged and leaky gut syndrome is present, it is difficult to identify and treat any food allergies. Many people develop multiple food allergies and show a delayed allergic reaction in a day, a few days or even a couple of weeks later. According to GAPS diet, once the intestinal permeability of the gut walls is restored, the foods will be digested properly again. As a result, most food allergies and food intolerances will disappear.

Foods Recommended During The Introduction GAPS Diet

GAPS Introduction diet consists of 6 phases when the new foods are slowly introduced to support healing and to ensure that you do not have any negative reaction to it. Meats, fish, eggs (if tollerated), fermented dairy and vegetables make about 85% of foods on the Introduction GAPS diet.

It is recommended to make homemade meals and fermented foods in order to avoid added sugars, additives, preservatives, artificial chemicals and colorants which are contained in many commercially prepared products. Fermented foods should be prepared without using  vinegar which can irritate intestinal walls and prevent it from healing.

  • Homemade meat and fish stock are an important part of the diet since it helps cell growth in the gut lining, soothe the inflammation and heal the digestive system. It is very important to use bones and joints for the meat stock preparation and consume all the fat in the stock as it provides the healing substances.  Add some probiotic food into every cup of stock. Here are some tips how to make bone broth that has healing properties.
  • Commercially available soup stock granules or bullion cubes are highly processed and full of detrimental ingredients and are not suitable for gut healing purposes.
  • Homemade soups should be based on fish stock and grass-fed and pastured meats without hormones and antibiotics. You can use well cooked chopped or sliced vegetables such as onions, carrots, broccoli, leeks, cauliflower, courgettes, marrow, squash, pumpkin and add garlic. Very fibrous vegetables such as all varieties of cabbage and celery should be avoided. No starchy vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes and beets as well as nightshades and mushrooms should be used.
  • Homemade stews and casseroles should be made with meats and vegetables and some probiotic foods should be added to every serving. The higher the consumption of fresh animal fats in these meals then the faster the recovery. However, use only salt and fresh herbs and avoid spices as it can be irritating to the intestinal lining. In the later stages roasted and grilled meats but not barbecued or fried are also slowly incorporated into the diet.
  • It is essential to introduce dairy or vegetable based probiotic foods right from the beginning.  It should be done gradually starting with 1-2 teaspoons a day of a juice from a fermented vegetable for the first 2 to 5 days and slowly increasing it’s amount during the following days so you can add a few teaspoons into every cup of meat stock and bowl of soup. In the later stages you can add 1-2 tablespoons of sauerkraut or fermented vegetables per every meal and gradually increase with time.
  • If you do not react to dairy you can add homemade yogurt or kefir.  If there is a dairy sensitivity present then add some juice from homemade sauerkraut or fermented vegetables into every cup of meat stock or soup. It should not be hot when you add probiotic foods in order to avoid destruction of beneficial bacteria by heat.
  • If you cannot tolerate dairy then fermented vegetables and water kefir are great alternatives to the milk kefir and yogurt.
  • Natural fats, ghee or clarified butter contain practically no milk proteins or lactose and are generally well tolerated.
  • Ginger tea made from a fresh ginger root and a little honey (optional) between meals.
  • Still mineral or filtered water.
  • No fruits and no baking initially. On the later stages you can gradually introduce freshly pressed vegetable juices and start to bake bread with almond or any other nut and seeds flour and pancakes made from squash, marrow or courgette with organic nut butter. Raw vegetables, salads and avocados can be included during the last stage of Introduction GAPS diet as well as some fruits such as apples, pineapples and mangos. However, avoid citrus fruits. Baking of cakes and other sweet things allowed on the diet should be slowly introduced and dried fruits can be used as a natural sweetener in the baking.

Full GAPS Diet

Full GAPS diet starts with a slow introduction of different foods. You would be able to establish what foods you are allergic to and what foods you can eat again after the healing process is completed.

Full GAPS is a gluten free diet that is based on fresh whole foods such as meats, fish, vegetables, fruits in moderation, eggs (if tolerated), nuts, seeds, garlic and olive oil. You are also allowed to eat certain kinds of beans and have fresh pressed vegetable and fruit juices. According to GAPS, fruits should be eaten separately from the meals as a snack in between because it interferes with digestion of other foods.

The Full GAPS diet does not include casein and lactose containing foods such as milk from any animal, soy, rice and canned coconut milk. All grains, baker’s yeast, beer, milk products and any processed, packed and tinned foods should not be comsumed.

On the later stages of the GAPS diet, cheese and higher quantities of fermented foods such as home-made yogurt, kefir, water and coconut kefir, raw sauerkraut, combucha (sweetened mushroom tea) and fermented vegetables are slowly introduced. Fermented dairy products such as yogurt are largely lactose free as a result of the fermentation process where by the fermenting bacteria consume lactose.

Fermented foods are dietary sources of  good gut bacteria and have much higher count than supplements. They are easy and cheaper to prepare at home using starter cultures. You can better regulate the amount of good bacteria and taste of a home made probiotic foods as compared to commercially prepared ones. Probiotic supplements can contain millions to 100 billion beneficial bacteria which is not nearly as much as 500 billion or more possible in naturally fermented foods.

For many patients the GAPS diet should be followed for at least two years. After you restore your gut integrity, you may be able to eat the foods you formerly eliminated. The only exception for people with Hashimoto’s disease is gluten, which requires life-long avoidance.

How To Start The GAPS Diet?

After reading about so many food restrictions and requirements to meal preparation you may get an impression that it is very difficult to follow GAPS diet. Below you will find about 2.5 hours interview where Dr. Mercola talks to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride about principles of the GAPS diet and its implementation to “heal and seal” the gut to improve autoimmune diseases, chronic conditions and autism in children.


Below you will also find books on GAPS diet written by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, legal GAPS recipes and meal plans that can help you to make it easier to incorporate it in your life.

You could find a detailed description of the GAPS diet in the book Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. The GAPS cookbook Internal bliss is a collection of grain-free, sugar-free and lactose-free recipes.

GAPS Diet Books

Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, Add/Adhd, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Depression, Schizophrenia by N. Campbell-M’Bride, Medinform Publishing, 2010

Internal Bliss – GAPS Cookbook (Recipes designed for those following the Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet), International Nutrition Inc., 1st edition, 2010

GAPS Guide (Simple Steps to Heal Bowels, Body and Brain) by B. Lashkov, One Hill Productions; 1st edition, 2009



 GAPS Cooking

Cooking with GAPS DVD is an official set created by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride and is complimentary to her book Gut and Psychology Syndrome (see above). Caroline Barringer and Kris Gustafson show you how to prepare quick, simple and inexpensive nutritious meals in accordance with the GAPS Protocol. The DVD includes recipes for GAPS Introduction diet for stages 1 through 6 and how to make a transition to the Full GAPS diet.

GAPS Meal Plans

What can I eat now?  A 30 Day GAPS™ Intro Meal Plan is a getting started step-by-step guide for those who feel overwhelmed with so many rules and restrictions of the Introduction GAPS diet and need help. This is a digital e-book that is available for immediate download and covers all core components of the GAPS diet- from rotating detox baths to gradually increasing juicing, to slowly introducing new foods and ready to print recipes that are simple and easy to prepare for even the most beginning cook.

GAPS Legal Meal Plans created by Tarena and Brenda who have their families on the GAPS diet. The meals are GAPS/ SCD suitable, grain and gluten free and contain no sugar. This a subscription service available for 3, 6 and 12 months where you will get a menu with recipes for 6 dinners, shopping and prepare ahead lists, recipe notes and colourful photos sent to you per e-mail once per week.


30 Days of GAPS Legal Lunches with 48 recipes that are grain-free, gluten-free, nuts free, no processed foods and sugars.  For those who are sensitive to dairy there are 26 dairy-free recipes to choose from.

If you deside to by 30 Days of GAPS Legal Lunches before 15th of March 2012 you can get $6 off with a Promotional Code:  eatgoodlunch



A Whole Food GAPS Holidays is an e-book that contains 48 GAPS and SCD friendly,  grain and gluten free, no sugar recipes for those who have a compromised immune system. This book provides you with a Sample menue, Grocery List, Day-By-Day To Do List and Master Grocery List that includes ALL ingredients used for recipes. Without having to spend hours planning ahead you can have a stress-free holiday and prepare healthy GAPS legal meals.



GAPS and SCD Thanksgiving Leftovers Recipes is an e-book with 24 great recipes for lunches and dinners using whole foods and your Thanksgiving leftover turkey. In this book you will also find how to prepare GAPS and SCD legal BREAD and SANDWICHES!



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About Marina Gutner, PhD

Marina Gutner, PhD, researcher, medical writer, thyroid blogger, founder and Admin of Outsmart Disease who writes about life-changing treatments for hypothyroidism, Hashimoto's thyroiditis and autoimmune disease and how to balance hormones in women