Integrative Nutrition Blog

Is the GAPS Diet the Cure for Autism and ADD?

May 6, 2015

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What if there was one approach to eating that could cure depression, attention disorders, autism, digestive dysfunction, and more? Would you try it or recommend it to people with certain conditions?

Integrative Nutrition visiting teacher Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride developed the GAPS Diet after working with hundreds of people suffering from neurological and psychiatric disorders.

While we at Integrative Nutrition do not promote any one way of eating for everyone, Campbell-McBride may be onto something with her suggestions for people suffering from the specific conditions mentioned above.

What is the GAPS Diet?

GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome, a condition where psychological or neurological disorders such as autism, ADD, schizophrenia, depression, and OCD are said to be caused by imbalances in the gut. 

Digestive issues, asthma, eczema, allergies and more are thought to be directly linked to leaky gut syndrome, where bacteria and other toxins move through damaged areas of the gut lining into the blood stream, creating toxicity in the body.

The GAPS Diet was developed to heal these disorders through healing the gut. GAPS is a diet based on restricting certain foods to allow the digestive system to repair and reinoculate.

Stage one of the GAPS Diet limits dieters to broths, soups, and some probiotic-rich foods like kefir. In stage two, you add in raw organic egg yolks, mostly whisked into stocks and soups. You may also eat stews and casseroles made from meat and vegetables.  

In stage three, you continue with foods consumed in stages one and two, but you add ripe avocado and sweet vegetables like squash. In stage four, you add roasted and grilled meats, cold pressed olive oil, fresh juices, and almond bread. In stage five, you add cooked apple, raw vegetables, and more fruit juices. Stage six allows for raw fruit, unprocessed honey, and dried fruit.

The general long-term full GAPS Diet includes meat and fish, including organ meat, eggs, fermented dairy like yogurt and kefir, vegetables, fruits, bone broth, nuts and seeds, garlic, natural animal fats, herbal teas, and unprocessed honey.

The diet also encourages ridding your home of toxic chemicals and using natural personal care products. Supplements including probiotics, essential fatty acids, vitamin A, and digestive enzymes are encouraged.

General foods to avoid include grains, beans, cheese, milk, sugar, fake sweeteners, and more.

Who might benefit from it?

There is a wide range of people who might benefit from a short or long term experiment with the GAPS Diet. If you have irregular digestion or skin rashes, or a more serious disorder such as depression or schizophrenia, GAPS might be the answer for you – maybe forever, or maybe for a short period. See what happens. 

The key here is to tune in to your body, notice how you feel from moment to moment, day to day, and week to week, and make adjustments accordingly.

Like with most nutrition claims, there are objections to the GAPS Diet. Many MDs say that it’s not scientifically proven and is very difficult to follow even if you are interested. Dr. Andrew Weil, an IIN favorite, acknowledges the lack of scientific proof behind GAPS.

The only way to really know if this approach works is to try it out for yourself. Every body is different.

You might be thinking, isn’t there a simple solution that works for everyone? The answer is no, because of bio-individuality. Integrative Nutrition Founder Joshua Rosenthal teaches that no one diet or way of living will work for everyone. Each unique person has different physical, emotional, and mental needs.

That said, we expose students to over 150 diets as they go through their year at Integrative Nutrition. We do this so they have a good idea of the pros and cons of every diet, who each diet might work for, and what to be cautious of when recommending any one diet. 

The GAPS Diet is no different – it may be hugely beneficial for some people, and detrimental for others. And still for others, it will be neutral – not especially helpful or harmful.

What are your thoughts on the GAPS Diet? Would you try it? Do you have any of the conditions it’s said to help? 

Share as much or as little as you’d like below. We can’t wait to hear from you!

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