The GAPS Diet – A Comprehensive and Research-Based Assessment

The GAPS Diet: An Evidence-Based Review

In recent years, the GAPS diet has gained popularity as a potential treatment for a wide range of health conditions, including autism, digestive disorders, and mental health issues. Developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, the GAPS diet focuses on healing the gut through dietary and lifestyle changes.

One of the key principles of the GAPS diet is the belief that many health issues stem from an imbalance of gut bacteria, commonly referred to as “leaky gut syndrome.” The diet aims to restore the balance of gut bacteria by eliminating certain foods that can worsen gut health and promoting the consumption of nutrient-dense, gut-healing foods.

The GAPS diet is often described as a modified version of the traditional Paleo diet, with a focus on fermented foods, bone broth, and probiotics. These foods are rich in beneficial bacteria, enzymes, and other nutrients that support gut health and overall well-being.

While anecdotal evidence and individual success stories abound, it is important to note that scientific research on the GAPS diet is limited. Many of the claims made about the diet are based on personal testimonials rather than rigorous scientific studies. As such, it is always advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before making any significant changes to your diet.

In this article, we will dive deep into the principles of the GAPS diet, examining the scientific evidence behind its claims and exploring its potential benefits and drawbacks. By the end, you will have a better understanding of whether the GAPS diet is a viable option for your health goals.


Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. They are commonly found in fermented foods and supplements. The GAPS diet recognizes the importance of probiotics in supporting gut health and overall well-being.

Studies have shown that probiotics can help restore a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut, which is essential for proper digestion and immune function. They can also support the production of certain vitamins and nutrients in the body.

Specific strains of probiotics, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, have been shown to have positive effects on gastrointestinal conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

While the GAPS diet encourages the consumption of probiotic-rich foods, such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir, it is important to note that not all probiotics are created equal. The effectiveness of a probiotic supplement depends on the specific strains and dosage.

It is essential to speak with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian before starting any probiotic supplementation. They can help determine the appropriate strains and dosage for an individual’s unique needs.

In conclusion, probiotics play a significant role in the GAPS diet, supporting gut health and overall well-being. However, it is essential to choose high-quality probiotic supplements and consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplementation.

Essential fatty acids and cod liver oil

Essential fatty acids and cod liver oil

Essential fatty acids are crucial for maintaining overall health and well-being. They play a vital role in brain function, cell growth, hormonal balance, and inflammation regulation. The GAPS diet recognizes the importance of essential fatty acids and encourages their consumption through the inclusion of foods rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Cod liver oil is a popular supplement that contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fatty acids have been extensively studied for their numerous health benefits, including reducing inflammation, supporting heart health, and promoting brain function.

The GAPS diet recommends incorporating cod liver oil into the daily regimen to ensure an adequate intake of essential fatty acids. This can be achieved by taking a tablespoon of cod liver oil daily, either on its own or mixed with food. However, it is important to choose a high-quality brand of cod liver oil that is free from additives and contaminants.

While cod liver oil provides omega-3 fatty acids, it is also a rich source of vitamins A and D. These vitamins are essential for immune function, bone health, and vision. Together with the omega-3 fatty acids, cod liver oil provides a powerful combination of nutrients that can support the overall health of individuals following the GAPS diet.

It’s worth noting that while cod liver oil can be a beneficial addition to the GAPS diet, it should be consumed in moderation. Excessive intake of cod liver oil can lead to vitamin A or D toxicity, as these vitamins are fat-soluble and can accumulate in the body. It’s always advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian before making any significant changes to your diet or starting any supplementation.

Digestive enzymes

The GAPS diet emphasizes the importance of digestive enzymes in improving digestion and nutrient absorption. Digestive enzymes are proteins that help break down food into smaller molecules that can be easily absorbed by the body.

There are several types of digestive enzymes, each with its own specific function. For example, amylase breaks down carbohydrates, lipase breaks down fats, and protease breaks down proteins. These enzymes are produced by the pancreas and released into the small intestine to aid in digestion.

In some cases, people may have insufficient levels of digestive enzymes, which can lead to digestive problems such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea. The GAPS diet includes foods that are rich in natural enzymes, such as raw fruits and vegetables, fermented foods, and bone broth, to support healthy digestion.

In addition to consuming foods with natural enzymes, some people may also benefit from taking digestive enzyme supplements. These supplements can help break down food more efficiently and improve nutrient absorption. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplements, as they may interact with certain medications or have other contraindications.

It is worth noting that while digestive enzymes can be beneficial for some individuals, they are not a cure-all for digestive issues. Addressing underlying gut health issues, such as dysbiosis or leaky gut, is also important for long-term digestive health. The GAPS diet aims to improve gut health through its emphasis on whole, nutrient-dense foods and the elimination of processed and inflammatory foods.

Common digestive enzymes Function Food sources
Amylase Breaks down carbohydrates Saliva, pancreas
Lipase Breaks down fats Pancreas
Protease Breaks down proteins Stomach, pancreas

The elimination diet

The elimination diet is a key component of the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet. It involves removing certain foods and ingredients from your diet in order to determine if they are causing symptoms or reactions in your body. This can be particularly helpful for individuals with conditions such as Leaky Gut Syndrome or food sensitivities.

During the initial stage of the GAPS diet, you will eliminate a wide range of foods that are known to be common triggers for gut inflammation and other health issues. This includes foods such as grains, sugar, processed foods, and industrial seed oils.

By eliminating these potential problem foods, you give your body a chance to heal and repair. This is important because inflammation and damage in the gut can lead to a leaky gut, which allows toxins and undigested food particles to enter the bloodstream and cause a host of symptoms.

Once you have eliminated these trigger foods for a period of time, typically several weeks to a few months, you can then start reintroducing them one by one to see if they cause a reaction. This process is known as the reintroduction phase.

It’s important to note that the elimination diet is not meant to be a long-term solution. Its purpose is to help identify problem foods and allow your body to heal. Once you have determined which foods are causing issues, you can then create a customized diet plan that works best for your individual needs.

It’s also worth mentioning that the elimination diet can be challenging, especially in the beginning. It requires discipline and commitment to sticking to the restricted foods list. However, many people report significant improvements in their symptoms and overall health after completing the elimination diet.

In conclusion, the elimination diet is a fundamental part of the GAPS diet. By removing potential trigger foods, you can identify which foods are causing symptoms or reactions in your body. This can be an effective way to support gut healing and improve overall health.

Dietary supplements

Dietary supplements

The GAPS diet recommends the use of dietary supplements to support the healing process. These supplements are intended to fill in any nutritional gaps that may be present due to the restricted nature of the diet. While the GAPS diet focuses on whole, natural foods, supplementation may be necessary to ensure adequate nutrient intake.

Some common dietary supplements recommended on the GAPS diet include:

  • Probiotics: These supplements contain beneficial bacteria that can help improve gut health and digestion. They may help restore the balance of bacteria in the gut and strengthen the immune system.
  • Fish oil: Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil supplements may help reduce inflammation and promote brain health. They can be a good source of essential fatty acids when certain foods are restricted on the GAPS diet.
  • Vitamin D: This vitamin is important for immune function and bone health. Since it can be difficult to obtain sufficient amounts of vitamin D from food sources alone, supplementation may be necessary.
  • Digestive enzymes: These supplements can help improve digestion and nutrient absorption. They may be particularly beneficial for individuals with digestive disorders or imbalances in gut bacteria.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium is involved in hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body. It can help support energy production, muscle function, and overall well-being. Supplementation may be necessary if magnesium-rich foods are restricted on the GAPS diet.

It is important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new dietary supplements, as they may interact with medications or have unintended side effects.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new diet or supplementation program.

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