THE GAPS DIET
© May 2016, The Writers Group
All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
A popular diet today is the GAPS diet. The letters G-A-P-S stand for Gut And Psychology Syndrome. I am delighted that the author of this diet figured out and is sharing the intimate connection between diet and one’s psychology and behavior.
To compare GAPS with nutritional balancing (or NB) is difficult because they are so different. Here are some differences:
1.GAPS diet is primarily a diet, whereas NB is a rather complete healing system for one’s structure biochemistry, mind, emotions, spiritual development, and more.
2. GAPS is designed primarily as a therapeutic system for people with gut problems such as leaky gut syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, intestinal yeast, colitis and others. Nutritional balancing is not solely aimed at the gut, but rather at the entire body/mind/spirit system.
3. GAPS has a goal to return a person to a “regular” diet and lifestyle, as much as possible, perhaps with the exception of eating grains. Nutritional balancing has an entirely different goal. It does not seek to return a person to a regular diet and lifestyle. Instead, it seeks to promote drastically improved health and mental development. This requires a different type of diet.
3. GAPS is a temporary diet system. This means it is an elimination diet that rests and nourishes the intestinal tract so that one can later go back on a wide variety of foods without problems. Nutritional balancing is not any sort of elimination diet, but rather a building and healing system that is not temporary and does not seek to eventually return a person to a wider diet.
4. GAPS is a fairly simple system that does not require testing, in many cases, and basically treats everyone similarly. Nutritional balancing is dependent upon hair mineral testing in a special way, and each person is handled quite individually.
5. GAPS is much easier for people, as there is less to do. Nutritional balancing asks much more of its participants, and offers more, as well.
6. GAPS uses fermented foods to provide a wider diet without sugars and to help repopulate the gut with healthful flora. Nutritional balancing does not use fermented foods as they are very yin, a little toxic in some cases, raw, and not needed in most cases.
7. GAPS is a higher fat diet. In my experience, this will cause cancer eventually if one stays on it for a few years. Nutritional balancing suggests a diet that is much higher in cooked vegetables. NB only uses a higher fat diet for fast oxidizers, who are often children these days.
GAPS allows a number of foods that are not permitted on an NB program. These include most fish shellfish, peanut butter, coconut oil, avocado, palm oil and wine or vodka. These foods are seen as detrimental in nutritional balancing for various reasons that are explained below.
9. GAPS eliminates all disaccharides and polysaccharides from the diet, particularly in the introductory phase of the diet. These are the more complex sugars and starches. Eliminating them means avoiding all grains, beans and dairy foods. It also eliminates soy products and processed foods. Later some of these are reintroduced.
Starches are only permitted at first if they are fermented, such as sweet potato, because fermenting gets rid of the sugar in the vegetable. Grains are permanently forbidden.
Nutritional balancing allows some disaccharides and polysaccharides, if they are well-tolerated. However, if they are not well-tolerated, NB skips them also, and suggests trying a little in 3 to 6 months, after the intestine has begun to heal somewhat.
10. GAPS emphasizes animal protein, and meat and vegetable broths, at first. NB always emphasizes cooked vegetables, though not nightshade vegetables and others that are really fruits, such as summer squash, okra and a few others such as mushrooms, asparagus, and artichokes.
11. The more strict introductory GAPS diet contains a lot of bone broth and meat broths to help rebuild the intestines. Nutritional balancing usually does not find this necessary if one takes the recommended supplements. However, it is a good idea if one wishes to add bone broth and others to the high-cooked-vegetable diet.
12. GAPS then adds more foods when the gut is healthier. The nutritional balancing diet depends more on the oxidation type, as assessed by a properly performed hair mineral analysis. However, those with serious gut problems can modify the nutritional balancing diet in ways similar to those suggested in the GAPS protocols.
13. The GAPS protocol includes a healthful lifestyle and detoxification through juicing carrots and sweet fruits. NB includes a healthful lifestyle and more thorough detoxification by using daily coffee enemas, daily near infrared lamp sauna sessions, as well as a little carrot juice, foot reflexology and other methods that are integrated together in a special way.
There is no question that the GAPS protocol works to help many children with autism and others with digestive problems to feel better. I view it as a good starter program to help rebuild and heal a leaky gut, but then one should move on to a diet much higher in cooked vegetables, I believe.
Otherwise, a diet that is too high in fat, for example, can lead to cancer because all fats and oils contain some female hormones that can lead to the development of cancers, especially female cancers. This is unfortunate, but true, in my experience. The high-cooked-vegetable diet is more of a detoxification regimen that also provides many more alkaline reserve minerals, which all people need today at all ages.
Is the GAPS diet necessary? I have been asked whether the GAPS diet is necessary if a person has a leaky gut, or can a person just begin a nutritional balancing program? Based on our experience with nutritional balancing, I would say that GAPS is not needed, at least not in most cases I have worked with.
The slow or fast oxidizer diets, which are somewhat similar to GAPS, will work even for severe gut problems. One may have to modify these diets for a while to eliminate all grains and all dairy, perhaps, until the gut heals. This usually occurs enough within a few weeks to a few months if one follows the fast or slow oxidizer diets faithfully (which most people do not do. They do not eat enough cooked vegetables, in most cases.) Then the standard fast or slow oxidizer diets work excellently in almost all cases.
MORE SPECIFIC PROBLEMS WITH THE GAPS DIET FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF NUTRITIONAL BALANCING SCIENCE
1. ALLOWING FISH AND ESPECIALLY SHELLFISH. Sadly, most fish and all shellfish are contaminated with mercury, and often with other toxic metal, as well. Wild caught fish are just as bad as farmed fish in this regard. Shellfish are particularly bad, as they are usually caught in coastal waters where toxins are dumped directly into the oceans and streams. Fish imported from Asia are often the worst.
I do not agree with claims that the selenium content of tunafish, for example, protects one against the mercury in the tuna. Even salmon are contaminated, although baby salmon would be a little better. As a result, I do not recommend any fish or shellfish, with the exception of 3-4 cans only of sardines weekly, or other tiny fish such as occasionally some smelt, anchovies, or perhaps a little herring. For more on this topic, please read Mercury and Fish-Eating on this site.
2. ALLOWING FRUIT. We find fruit to be too yin in Chinese medical terms, and not healthful for other reasons, as well. Almost all fruit is hybridized, fertilized with NPK superphosphate fertilizers that impart a toxic form of potassium to the fruit, and fruit generally upsets digestion and blood sugar. For more, read Fruit-Eating on this website.
3. ALLOWING TOO MUCH JUICE. Juices are also too yin, with the exception of 10 ounces of carrot juice for adults, and even less for children. Fruit juices are especially sugary and can disturb blood sugar and upset digestion. The same goes for most green drinks and smoothies. For more, read Carrot Juice And Other Juices on this site.
4. ALLOWING NUTS AND SEEDS. These are also quite yin, somewhat difficult to digest, and slightly toxic in my experience. They may contribute to impaired digestion as they are not that easy to digest. An exception is some toasted almond butter, which is an excellent food. Small amounts of other nut and seed butters are okay, as well. The butters are easier to digest than the whole nuts and seeds.
5. ALLOWING FERMENTED FOODS. A little fermented food is fine for a few months to help re-establish the gut flora, as the introductory GAPS program allows. However, after this, fermented foods have the following problems: they are quite yin and raw, and most contribute to aldehyde poisoning except for yogurt and kefir. For more, read Fermented Foods on this website.
Interestingly, the GAPS diet does not allow commercial yogurt. However, I find it is usually fine, especially live culture yogurt made with goat milk or organic cows milk. The only reason to avoid it is if one is sensitive to dairy products. This sensitivity goes away on a nutritional balancing program, usually after just a few months.
6. ALLOWING SOME RAW VEGETABLES. While a little salad is okay, I find that most everyone cannot extract enough minerals from raw vegetables. Also, the raw vegetable fiber is also rather irritating for many people. As a result, eating salads mainly fills up the stomach and reduces the amount of cooked vegetables that a person can eat, which is not helpful.
The nutrient loss from cooking is negligible, compared to the benefits of cooking the vegetables. Benefits of cooking vegetables include better mineral absorption, gentler on the digestive tract, which in most people is diseased, cleaner, more concentrated so you can eat more, and other benefits. For more, read Raw Foods on this site.
7. NO GRAINS. The GAPS diet suggests avoiding all grains, basically. I agree that if you cannot tolerate them, avoid them. However, as your digestion improves, put them back into the diet in small amounts. If you do not, I find that full health cannot be restored in most people.
Blue corn, quinoa, rice, amaranth, millet, and even some oatmeal and rye are very nutritious foods, if they are tolerated, which they will be when the gut is properly healed using nutritional balancing science. Wheat and spelt are not as healthful foods today for anyone. They are hybridized, genetically modified in most cases, and generally irritating to the intestinal tract.
8. ALLOWING COCONUT PRODUCTS, PALM OIL AND AVOCADOS. These are tropical fruits, and therefore extremely yin. They also seem to build up in the liver, for some reason. While a small amount is okay, they are not the best and best avoided, no matter what other benefits they provide.
9. NO BEANS. The GAPS diet suggest avoiding most cooked, dried beans such as pinto beans, kidney beans, black beans and others because they are high in certain starches. As with the grains, some people cannot digest the beans and are best avoiding them for a while.
However, I do not think these are poor quality foods, if eaten no more than twice a week. In fact, they are rich in some important nutrients, and are okay when the gut is restored.
10. ALLOWING PIG PRODUCTS. I find that all pork, ham, bacon, lard and other products from pigs can be contaminated with trichina worm cysts and perhaps other parasites, even though the meat is well-cooked. Other problems exist with pig products as well, perhaps due to their diets of practically anything including feces and worse. I suggest avoiding all pig products. The only exception that I use is porcine pancreatin, which works very well and is free of parasites, so far.
11. ALLOWING NIGHTSHADE VEGETABLES. The GAPS diet permits foods such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. I do not recommend these for at least two reasons. They all contain solanin, an irritating toxin that upsets digestion. Also, tomato, peppers and eggplant are actually fruits because they contain seeds. As such, they are more yin and less desirable foods. They all contain more toxic potassium than is ideal for this reason. Please read Toxic Potassium for more on this important subject.
Also, the GAPS diet does not permit canned vegetables, and I am not sure if frozen vegetables are allowed. While perhaps not as good as fresh vegetables, we find that if a person will not eat fresh vegetables, then frozen ones, and even some canned ones are much better than no vegetables at all.
12. ALLOWING ZUCCINI AND OTHER SUMMER SQUASHES. Squashes are actually fruits (they contain seeds). This means they are more yin and thus, less desirable foods today. The summer squashes are very yin foods, and, for this reason, I do not recommend them. They include zuccini, sunburst and summer squashes. The winter squashes are much better, such as butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash. They are more yang, and may be eaten once or twice weekly.
13. NO MILK. The GAPS diet forbids any milk at all because milk is high in sugar. This prohibition is helpful for some people for a time. However, if one eats properly, and takes a digestive aid that we suggest, some people can tolerate up to 4 ounces of raw or organic cow or goat milk daily, but not more, when the gut heals sufficiently.
14. ALLOWING SEAWEED. The GAPS diet allows all sea vegetables. However, all of them are high in mercury today, so I do not suggest eating most seaweeds, except rarely.
However, kelp is a part of every nutritional balancing program today. It is not only rich in minerals, including iodine, that everyone needs. It is also high in alginates that bind to toxic metals and prevent their entrance into the body. Other seaweeds do not have as much or as powerful alginates or similar compounds, and for this reason are not recommended.
15. ALLOWING PEANUT BUTTER. Peanuts and peanut butter are very nutritious foods. However, most peanut butter is somewhat infected with aflatoxin, a mold that is a potent liver poison. For this reason, we do not recommend peanut butter, even natural peanut butter.
16. PLENTY OF FATS WITH EACH MEAL. The GAPS diet recommends this for everyone. We find that about 15% fat or oil are excellent for those in fast oxidation, but less is best for slow oxidizers, who have much more trouble digesting and utilizing fats and oils. I prefer that people eat more cooked vegetables, and not as much fat. As explained above, too much fat in the diet may feel good for a while, but later often leads to cancers, particularly breast and other female cancers.
17. ALLOWING MEAT STOCK AND FISH STOCK. GAPS uses this to help rebuild the intestine, and this is fine. However, as one heals it is also helpful to eat the meat or tiny fish, not just the broth, which contains more toxins, in fact.
Bone broth, which is recommended on the GAPS diet as well, is excellent. For details about how to make it, read Bone Broth. We do not suggest cooking it for more than 3-4 hours, and only 25 minutes if you pressure-cook it.
18. NO SWEET POTATOES OR YAMS. The GAPS diet forbids these nutritious foods, unless fermented, because they are high in starch. However, I find that as the gut heals, they can be excellent foods for many people once or twice weekly. I suggest having them along with another cooked vegetable that is not sweet, such as cauliflower, broccoli, spinach or others.
19. ALLOWING SCOTCH AND VODKA. I am not sure why the GAPS diet allows some alcohol. Alcohol is very irritating to the digestive tract, can inflame yeast in the body, depletes magnesium, zinc and B-complex vitamins, damages the brain and the liver, and has many other horrible effects on the body. I suggest avoiding all alcohol-containing beverages.
20. ALLOWING HONEY. I am surprised that the GAPS diet allows raw honey. Although it is better than perhaps other sugars, honey is very yin and sweet.
I would avoid honey. You may use some cooked carrots, onions, or celery to sweeten dishes. Carrot juice is also quite sweet. Stevia is another sweetener that can be used, but only on occasion. Try not to use any sweeteners with your cooking, and to train children not to need sweeteners.
In summary, an introductory GAPS diet will help many cases of leaky gut, and is excellent for this purpose. However, staying on the diet for more than a few months is not good, in my view, as it is too low in cooked vegetables, includes foods that are not ideal, does not include the proper supplements with it, and does not include the wonderful procedures suggested on nutritional balancing programs.
At this time, I do not think the GAPS diet is necessary for those with leaky gut syndrome or those with symptoms of autism. Nutritional balancing works well, in almost all cases. However, GAPS can be tried for a few weeks or months, and often works well to stabilize the digestion, in many cases. Just do not stay on it for longer, if possible.