An Analysis Of The GAPS Diet: An In-Depth Look

     An Analysis Of The GAPS Diet: An In-Depth Look

    Martin Alvarez

    Martin Alvarez
    Nutritionist/Dietitian Professional Guide

    Updated on 11/26/2022

    The GAPS diet is an elimination diet that is quite stringent and demands its adherents leave out all of the following:

    • Grains
    • Pasteurized dairy
    • Starchy vegetables
    • Processed carbohydrates
    • People with disorders that impact the brain, such as autism, are said to benefit from using it as a natural therapy.

    Despite this, it is a controversial therapy that has received widespread criticism from medical experts, scientists, and nutrition specialists due to its stringent protocol.

    This article discusses the components of the GAPS eating plan and investigates whether or not there is any evidence to support the claims that it is beneficial to one's health.

    What Is The GAPS Diet, And Who Strictly Should Follow It?


    The abbreviation for "Gut and Psychology Syndrome" is "GAPS." Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, the person responsible for developing the GAPS diet, also came up with this name.

    She hypothesizes that a leaky gut is the root cause of various illnesses that manifest in the brain. The phrase "leaky gut syndrome" refers to an increase in the permeability of the gut wall due to a condition known as "leaky gut."

    According to the GAPS theory, having a leaky gut makes it possible for chemicals and bacteria in your food and environment to enter your blood when they usually would not.

    It is said that once these foreign compounds reach your bloodstream, they can influence the function and development of your brain, leading to symptoms such as "brain fog" and diseases such as autism.

    The goal of the GAPS protocol is to repair the gut, which will, in turn, reduce "toxicity" in the body by reducing the number of harmful substances that can enter the bloodstream.

    On the other hand, it is not yet known if or how a leaky gut contributes to the development of illnesses.


    According to what Dr. Campbell-McBride writes in her book, the GAPS dietary program successfully treated autism in her first kid. She currently advocates for the diet as a natural treatment for a wide variety of mental and neurological problems, including the following:

    • Autism
    • ADD as well as ADHD
    • Dyspraxia
    • Dyslexia
    • Depression
    • Schizophrenia
    • Tourette's syndrome
    • Bipolar disorder
    • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
    • Abnormalities of eating
    • Gout
    • Wetting one's bed as a youngster

    Children, particularly those who suffer from a health problem that conventional medicine may not wholly comprehend yet, such as autism, are the patients who utilize the diet the most frequently.


    Additionally, it is said that the diet might assist youngsters who suffer from food intolerance or allergy.

    It's possible that following the GAPS diet will be a process that takes years. It requires you to avoid eating items that Dr. Campbell-McBride believes lead to a leaky gut as this is a dietary requirement. This includes all grains, dairy products that have been pasteurized, vegetables high in starch, and processed carbohydrates.

    May break down The GAPS technique into three distinct phases:

    • The diet is known as the GAPS introduction diet.
    • The whole GAPS
    • A gradual resumption of previous eating habits, often known as the reintroduction phase

    The abbreviation for "Gut and Psychology Syndrome" is "GAPS." An exclusion diet is being promoted as a treatment for illnesses linked to impairments in brain function, such as autism and attention deficit disorder.

    Phase I: Elimination As An Introduction

    Phase I: Elimination As An Introduction

    Because it restricts the consumption of many items, the diet's introduction phase is considered the most challenging. This period, referred to as the "gut healing phase," can last anywhere from three weeks to one year, depending on the severity of your symptoms.

    This stage may be divided up into the following six parts:

    First Stage

    In the first stage, you will consume bone broth cooked at home, juices made from probiotic foods and ginger, and tea made from mint or chamomile with honey between meals. Yogurt or kefir that has not been pasteurized and was created at home can be consumed by anyone who does not have an intolerance to dairy products.

    Second Stage

    In the second stage, incorporate raw organic egg yolks, ghee, and stews made with vegetables, fish, or meat.

    Third Stage


    Stage 3 includes the previous stages' meals, fermented vegetables, avocado, GAPS-recipe pancakes, and scrambled eggs cooked with ghee, duck fat, or goose fat.

    Fourth Stage

    In the fourth stage, you will incorporate grilled and roasted meats, olive oil that has been cold-pressed, vegetable juice, and bread made according to the GAPS recipe.

    At this stage, the patient is allowed to have cooked apple purée, raw vegetables beginning with lettuce and peeled cucumber, fruit juice, and tiny amounts of natural fruit; however, citrus fruits are not permitted.

    Sixth Stage

    In the sixth stage, you will finally start eating more raw fruit, especially citrus.

    The diet mandates that you introduce foods gently during the introduction phase, beginning with modest quantities and working up to the full recommended serving size.

    As soon as you feel you can handle the meals you have been permitted to eat, the diet instructs you to go to the next step. When you have regular bowel movements after eating a food, it is regarded that your body can tolerate the food.

    After you have finished the GAPS introductory diet, you can then transition to the complete GAPS diet.

    The phase of the diet known as "introduction" is the one that is the most restricted, and it eliminates all starchy carbohydrates from your diet and can last up to a year. Instead, you will focus on eating broths, stews, and meals rich in probiotics.

    Maintenance Phase: The Whole GAPS Diet 

    Maintenance Phase: The Whole GAPS Diet

    The whole GAPS diet might last anywhere from one and a half to two years. During this stage of the diet, individuals are instructed to base the majority of their diet on the items that are listed below:

    • Fresh meat, ideally devoid of hormones and derived from grass-fed animals
    • Raw butter, ghee, lard, tallow, lamb fat, duck fat, and other animal fats, including lamb and duck fat.
    • fish
    • shellfish
    • organic eggs
    • Foods that have undergone the process of fermentation, such as kefir, homemade yogurt, and sauerkraut
    • vegetables
    • Diet adherents are also permitted to consume a limited number of nuts and baked products prepared according to the GAPS recipe and made with nut flours.


    Along with following the whole GAPS diet, several other guidelines should follow. These are the following:

    • Eat neither meat nor fruit at the same time.
    • When at all feasible, switch to organic foods.
    • Eat animal fats, coconut oil, or cold-pressed olive oil at each meal.
    • Drink bone broth alongside each of your meals.
    • If you can handle them, consume significant quantities of fermented foods.
    • Avoid eating items that have been packaged or canned.

    During this diet phase, you should abstain from eating other foods, focusing on refined carbohydrates, artificial preservatives, colorings, and flavorings.

    The maintenance phase of the GAPS diet, which can continue anywhere from one and a half to two years, is termed the entire GAPS diet. It comprises animal fats, meat, fish, eggs, and vegetables as its primary food sources. It also covers foods that contain probiotic bacteria.

    Coming Off GAPS And Moving On To The Reintroduction Phase

    Coming Off GAPS And Moving On To The Reintroduction Phase

    Before you can begin reintroducing different foods into your diet, you will need to be on the entire GAPS diet for at least one and a half to two years if you follow the diet to the letter.

    It is recommended that you begin the reintroduction phase of the diet if you have had regular digestion and bowel movements for at least six months before starting the diet.

    As with the other phases of this diet, the final step, in which you gradually reintroduce meals over several months, may also be time-consuming. The diet recommends beginning with a tiny amount of each meal introduced one at a time. You should be able to progressively increase your quantities if you haven't had any stomach troubles after two to three days.

    The diet does not include specific instructions on the sequence or the items that should introduce. On the other hand, it recommends that you begin by consuming gluten-free grains that have been fermented and fresh potatoes.

    Even after completing the procedure, you should continue adhering to its whole-food philosophy by avoiding highly processed and refined high-sugar meals. This is the case even after you have stopped following the regimen.

    During this stage of the GAPS diet, you will begin reintroducing items not permitted on the complete GAPS diet. It would be best if you still tried to avoid foods containing a lot of processed carbohydrates.

    GAPS Supplements

    GAPS Supplements

    According to the person who developed the GAPS diet, the diet is the most critical component of the GAPS protocol.

    On the other hand, the GAPS regimen also suggests taking a few other nutrients. These are the following:

    • Probiotics
    • Necessary fatty acids
    • Digestive enzymes
    • Oil made from cod liver


    Dietary additions of probiotic supplements can aid in reestablishing a healthy balance of bacteria in the digestive tract.

    It is highly advised that you select a probiotic that contains strains from a diverse collection of bacteria, such as different types of lactobacilli, bifidobacteria, and bacillus subtilis.

    You should choose a product with at least 8 billion bacterial cells per gram and gradually include the probiotic into your diet.

    Essential Fatty Acids, As Well As The Cod Liver Oil

    Essential Fatty Acids, As Well As The Cod Liver Oil

    People who follow the GAPS diet are encouraged to take cod liver oil and fish oil supplements regularly to ensure they get adequate nutrients.

    In addition, the diet recommends that you consume in moderation a mixture of cold-pressed nut and seed oil that contains omega-3 fatty acids in a ratio of 2:1 to omega-6 fatty acids.

    Digestive Enzymes

    According to the person who developed the diet, persons with illnesses associated with GAPS also have inadequate stomach acid production. She proposes that those who follow the diet take a dose of betaine HCl with added pepsin before each meal to remedy this problem.

    Hydrochloric acid is one of the primary acids created in your stomach, and this supplement is a synthetic type of hydrochloric acid. Pepsin is an enzyme also generated in the stomach, and its primary function is to aid in the digestion of proteins by breaking them down.

    Specific individuals could benefit from taking extra digestive enzymes to ensure proper digestion. Followers of the GAPS diet are encouraged to consume cod liver oil, digestive enzymes, probiotics, and vital fatty acids as part of their daily routine.

    Does The GAPS Diet Work?

    Does The GAPS Diet Work?

    The GAPS dietary program includes an elimination diet and nutritional supplements as essential components.

    The Diet With No Added Ingredients

    As of yet, no research has been conducted to investigate whether or not following the GAPS diet program can alleviate the signs and behaviors linked with autism.

    Because of this, it is hard to know how it may benefit individuals with autism or whether it is a beneficial therapy. This makes it impossible to determine whether or not it is an effective treatment.

    Diets that are gluten-free and casein-free, in addition to the ketogenic diet and other diets that have been studied on persons with autism, have shown promise in terms of their ability to assist in the improvement of some behaviors that are linked with autism.

    But because the trials have been on a smaller scale and the dropout rates have been high, it is still unknown how these diets may function and who they may assist. No additional trials have also been conducted to investigate the impact of the GAPS diet on any of the other illnesses it is said to cure.

    Supplements To One's Diet

    Supplements To One's Diet

    The GAPS diet encourages the consumption of probiotics to reestablish a healthy balance of bacteria in the digestive tract.

    A promising area of investigation is probiotics' impact on the digestive tract.

    According to one study, children with autism have significantly different gut microbiota compared to neurotypical children, and taking probiotic supplements was beneficial.

    According to the findings of other studies, certain strains of probiotics can lessen the severity of autism symptoms. In addition, the GAPS diet recommends consuming digestive enzymes and supplements containing necessary fatty acids.

    However, research conducted to this point has not shown any evidence that consuming supplements containing essential fatty acids affect those who have autism. Similarly, research on the impact of digestive enzymes on autism has shown contradictory findings.

    In general, it is unclear if taking nutritional supplements may enhance the behaviors associated with autism or a person's nutrition status. Before the impacts, there must be more research of high quality.

    To this day, no peer-reviewed research has been conducted to investigate whether or not the GAPS diet is effective in treating autism or any of the other conditions it purports to address.

    Is There Any Danger In Following The GAPS Diet?

    Is There Any Danger In Following The GAPS Diet?

    The GAPS diet is a highly stringent plan that asks you to refrain from eating a great deal of food that is high in nutrients for extended periods.

    Additionally, it does not offer much in the way of instruction on how to ensure that your diet has all of the essential elements.

    Because of this, the risk of being malnourished is the one that is most visible when following this diet. Due to the severe limitations imposed by the diet, this is especially important for young children who experience rapid growth and have an increased demand for a wide variety of nutrients. Additionally, individuals with autism may already have a limited diet and resist trying new foods or altering their current eating routines, which might result in stringent limitations.

    Some skeptics are concerned that ingesting significant volumes of bone broth may increase exposure to lead, which can be harmful in high concentrations.

    However, the concerns about lead poisoning on the GAPS diet have not been established, and as a result, the exact risk is unknown.

    The GAPS diet is a very restricted eating plan that might put a person in danger of not getting enough nutrients in their diet.

    Does Leaky Gut Cause Autism?

    Does Leaky Gut Cause Autism?

    Most people who give the GAPS diet a shot are autistic children whose parents search for treatment or improvement for their child's condition.

    This is because the primary claims advanced by the diet's creator are that a leaky gut brings on autism and that the condition may be healed or cured by adhering to the GAPS diet.

    Autism is a disorder that leads to alterations in brain function, influencing how a person with autism perceives the world around them.

    Autism is a developmental disorder that can have a wide range of effects, but in general, those with it struggle with speech and social engagement. It is a complicated disorder that is believed to be caused by a variety of causes, both hereditary and environmental.

    It is interesting to note that studies have found that up to 70 percent of persons who have autism also have poor digestive health, which can result in symptoms such as vomiting, acid reflux, stomach discomfort, and diarrhea.


    People with autism with untreated digestive symptoms are more likely to exhibit more severe behaviors, such as increased irritability, tantrums, aggressive behavior, and sleep disturbances. According to a handful of studies, some children diagnosed with autism have been found to have increased intestinal permeability.

    On the other hand, the findings are contradictory, and further research has shown no difference in intestinal permeability between autistic children and children who do not have autism.

    In addition, no studies at this time demonstrate the presence of a leaky gut before the development of autism. Even if autism is connected to a leaky gut in particular children, it is unknown whether the leaky gut is a cause or a symptom of autism.

    The hypothesis that autism can be traced back to a leaky gut is met with skepticism.

    Some researchers believe that the explanation above oversimplifies the factors contributing to a complicated illness. More research is required to understand the connection between ASD and leaky gut.

    Some patients diagnosed with autism have been shown to have the leaky gut syndrome. To identify whether or whether they are connected, further study is required.

    The Bare Essentials


    Even though these findings are anecdotal, some individuals believe that the GAPS diet has benefited them.

    On the other hand, this elimination diet is exceedingly restricted for a significant amount of time, making it very challenging to follow through with. It is possible that those most susceptible to its effects, namely young people, will be the most negatively affected.

    The GAPS diet has come under fire from various medical experts because many of its assertions are not substantiated by evidence from scientific investigations.

    If you are interested in giving it a shot, it is highly recommended that you get the assistance and support of a healthcare expert who can ensure that your nutritional requirements are met.