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Could the GAPS Diet Help My Child…Or Me?

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My grand daughter fell on the autism spectrum around the age of two. It was a stressful time for my daughter’s family, but by the grace of God and a functional medicine doctor who was DAN certified (Defeat Autism Now), she is now a healthy, bright seven year old.

Not everyone is so fortunate…

Besides removing the toxins from her body, a huge piece of her recovery was healing her gut. It turns out she was allergic to a number of foods. Dairy and gluten in particular. That wasn’t all – she couldn’t have egg whites or yeast, either. Feeding her became problematic.

We learned quickly how many foods contained forbidden and hidden ingredients. If you missed our post Hidden Gluten Ingredients You Might Not Know About, check it out – especially if you have gluten issues.

We didn’t specifically follow the GAPS diet at the time because we didn’t know about it, but her doctor knew that healing her gut was a critical part in helping my grand daughter’s behavior and getting her well.

Since that time, as I’ve seen the burgeoning epidemic of autistic, chronically ill and learning disabled children, I’ve been ravenous about researching the gut-brain connection. When I kept seeing and hearing testimonials from parents about how the GAPS Diet helped their children, I bought the book.

Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride – Neurologist, Neurosurgeon and Nutritionist

Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, creator of the GAPS nutritional program, learned this the hard way when her son was diagnosed with autism. To learn more of her story, watch this interview of Dr. Campbell-McBride and Dr. Mercola – GAPS Nutritional Program: How a Physician Cured Her Son’s autism.

She is a neurologist and a neurosurgeon and after her son was diagnosed at age three, she went back to school and completed a second postgraduate degree in human nutrition. It was nutrition that was the catalyst that lead to her son’s recovery.

Why the need for the GAPS program?

I could sum it up in one sentence, “It’s all about healing the gut.” But that wouldn’t tell you much. From the interview with Dr. Mercola, here is a synopsis of why the GAPS nutritional protocol was developed:

      • Many children are born with abnormal gut flora. Their brains and sensory organs are fine, but their gut flora is bad. Babies get their gut flora from both parents.
      • Gut flora is vital to our human physiology. According to a Scandinavian study, “90% of all cells and all genetic material in a human body is our own gut flora.”
      • Poor gut flora means a poor digestive system. Instead of providing nourishment to a child, the digestive system becomes a source of major toxicity, allowing pathogenic microbes and toxins into the child’s bloodstream and ultimately into the child’s brain.
      • Breastfeeding in the first year of life provides protective gut flora, but since most children aren’t breastfed past the first year, this is where gut abnormalities can really flourish.
      • Abnormal gut flora can set the stage for eczema, allergies, learning disabilities and many serious health problems. (Think inflammation and the damage it causes in the body.)

So what we’re seeing today is record numbers of children suffering from a whole host of behavioral, learning, and chronic health problems like – autism, allergies, eczema, depression, obesity, ADHD, dyspraxia, celiac and other autoimmune disorders.

Why this epidemic of poor gut flora?

Dr. Campbell – McBride explains this in greater detail in her book and the interview, but it started several generations ago with the advent of wide-spread use of antibiotics, the decline of breastfeeding, amalgam fillings, birth control pills and vaccines.

Sounds strange?

It’s not.

All of them have lead to a multi-generational decline in healthy gut flora. Now we have GMO foods, high fructose corn syrup (often high in mercury) and glyphosate (RoundUp) which have contributed further to the assault on our microbiome.

Since parents pass their good (or bad) flora on to their children; with each successive generation, the intestinal flora has become more compromised, leading to staggering numbers of children presenting with  a kaleidoscope of health and behavioral issues.

Think this is a little kooky? Check out this article Gut Bacteria Might Guide the Workings Of Our Minds from NPR, it might change your thinking.

Is the GAPS Diet like the Paleo Diet?

There is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about the GAPS Diet. If you want to know what the GAPS diet isn’t – here’s a helpful post from Cheeseslave, GAPS Diet Myths: What the GAPS Diet Is and What It Isn’t.

The GAPS Diet is not a lifestyle diet like Food Combining, Paleo or Vegan. It’s a temporary, restorative, nutritional protocol designed to help heal the gut. It’s not something you do for the rest of your life.

One of the best things I got from reading her book is that you may always have a sensitivity to certain foods if you never heal your gut. So many people are getting tested for food allergies these days – including me! It was a palm to the forehead moment when I read this.

If your gut is messed up, you’ll probably always have issues with the foods you eat. It doesn’t matter how healthy or organic they are. If you aren’t digesting properly and food is passing into your bloodstream – you’re going to have problems!

I still think getting tested is a good thing because it helps you know the health issues you’re having are related to your diet, and that means they are related to your gut.

What is involved in the GAPS Diet?

I won’t lie to you. Making these changes isn’t easy – it certainly wasn’t for my daughter’s family, but it eventually got easier and they adjusted. It became routine for my husband and me, too, because we had other grand children with gut issues and tailored our menus to fit their needs.

The diet consists of three phases:

1) The GAPS Introduction Diet
2) The Full GAPS Diet
3) Coming off the GAPS Diet

Each phase serves a specific purpose in the healing process. Specific foods and supplements are used. For example, the Introduction Diet is designed  to heal and seal the gut lining quickly. It addresses inflammation and ulceration in your gut through nourishing foods, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and more.

Following the Full GAPS Diet can take one and a half to two years to complete. Don’t let that alarm you.

How much time did you spend going to college or working on a master’s degree. Isn’t your health or the health of your child worth more? If your child can’t perform well in school or has chronic health or behavioral issues because of gut issues, two years of dietary changes will be worth every inconvenience.

Coming off the GAPS Diet should be managed very slowly and should not be rushed. It involves the gradual re-introduction of  foods to the diet – in small portions and one at a time. Many people can eventually eat foods they were once sensitive to. Dr. Natasha says it best, concerning the work involved in the diet.

“…It is a very wholesome and healthy diet and will allow your patient to heal and seal the gut lining and lay a strong foundation for good health for life.  (Emphasis mine.) It means that the majority of GAPS people do not have to adhere to a special diet for the rest of their lives: once the digestive system starts functioning normally, they can gradually introduce most wholesome foods commonly eaten around the world.”

The key here is to avoid processed food!

What can the GAPS Diet help?

Dr. Campbell-McBride treats hundreds of patients a year for  depression, autism, ADD/ADHD, schizophrenia, dyslexia and dyspraxia. Remember – GAPS stands for gut and psychology syndrome. It’s about your gut’s effect on your brain.

Certainly there are no guarantees or miracle cures for any of these issues, but countless people have attested to the life changing results of the GAPS Diet. I weigh heavily on the testimony of the parents and individuals who experienced it first-hand. The earlier you start the road to recovery in children – the better your chances for success.

Listen as Dr. Natasha Campbell explains in this video about the importance of healthy gut flora.

There is so much science and research supporting the gut-brain connection. If you or your child are having learning disabilities like ADHD, autism, coordination problems, depression or other mental health concerns, isn’t the GAPS Diet worth a try?

Based on everything I’ve learned, I’d give it a resounding yes!

Do you have experience with the GAPS Diet? Please share in the comments.

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