What if you could tie all your health problems to one central system in the body? What if skin disorders, allergies, depression, and learning disabilities could all be cured by repairing this single system? Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride proposes just this in her book Gut and Psychology Syndrome.
Dr. Campbell-McBride believes your overall health is a direct reflection of the health of your gut. A thread that runs through the entire book is the importance of gut flora:
“Anatomical integrity of our digestive tract, its functionality, ability to adapt and regenerate, ability to defend itself and many other functions are directly dependent on the state of its microscopic housekeepers–our gut flora.”
“A well-functioning gut with healthy gut flora holds the roots of our health. And, like a tree with sick roots is not going to thrive, the rest of the body cannot thrive without a well-functioning digestive system.”
“If the gut flora is damaged, the best foods and supplements in the world may not have agood chance of being broken down and absorbed.”
According to Dr. Campbell-McBride, there are several primary ways gut health is damaged: antibiotics, steroids, birth control pills, a poor diet and stress are just a few examples. She also explains how gut health is inherited, which helps explain why our health problems are getting progressively worse with each generation.
It was fascinating for me to read that our gut has the capacity to neutralize the myriad of toxins we encounter in a given day–if gut health has not been compromised. But because so many of us have poor gut health, we can no longer handle all of these toxins in our food, water and environment (which is probably why detoxification is such a popular trend in the alternative health arena).
In the book, Dr. Campbell-McBride speaks in detail about:
- Why the current explosion of autism cannot be explained solely by genetics or modern diagnostic procedures.
- Why dietary fiber is beneficial but may cause problems in those with poor gut health.
- How restoring gut health can correct many vitamin deficiencies.
- Why the gut is the “cradle of the immune system” and how gut health directly affects the strength of our immunity against viruses, bacteria and fungi.
- How the growth of specific strains of pathogenic bacteria can affect the digestion of certain foods so dramatically that these foods can actually affect us just like consuming alcohol and or using recreational drugs.
- Why the popular gluten-free/casein-free diet may not be enough for most autistic children.
- How you can actually heal the gut to the extent that a GAPS patient may eventually be able to tolerate formerly intolerable ingredients (such as both gluten and casein).
- What Dr. Campbell-McBride thinks about vaccinations and their link to the current autism epidemic (it may not be what you think!).
- Why stomach acid is essential for digestive health and nutrient absorption.
- Why everyone should be on a therapeutic dose of high-quality probiotics.
- Which supplements are most essential and why getting nutrients from food is more effective than pills.
- How to assist healing by implementing very simple detoxification methods and getting rid of common everyday toxins.
- How ear infections happen, why they reoccur, and how we can properly prevent and treat them (I didn’t know much about ear infections so this was really interesting to me!).
- What role genetics really plays in our predisposition to specific health issues.
The Actual Diet
“Yet appropriate nutrition is the cornerstone of any successful treatment of any chronic disease.”
The diet for GAPS is considered by most to be very strict, and rightfully so. While not necessarily low-carb, the GAPS diet could be considered close to Paleo standards–cutting out all grains and starchy foods, eliminating almost all dairy products, focusing on traditional fats, proteins, vegetables and fruit. (Most of these changes are required during the beginning of the diet, but many foods are reintroduced in moderation as time goes on.)
Traditional broth and fermented foods are a staple of the GAPS diet because of their ability to heal the gut and replenish it with healthy flora. Cod liver oil and liver are valued for their vitamin A content. Coconut fat also has a special place in the GAPS diet–from page 184:
“It is a good idea for GAPS patients to have coconut on a regular basis.”
This says it all for me. This is one of the only books I have reviewed that heartily recommends animal foods, saturated fats and other traditional foods as part of a healing diet. That alone is pretty impressive to me.
My biggest quibble with the diet is that most people tend to put a tremendous focus on eating lots of nuts (and nut flours, nut milks, etc.) while eating GAPS style. My personal concern would be the immense omega-6 fatty acid content in nuts and how easy it would be on such a diet to consume a serious excess of these fats. Most of the food in the modern diet is drenched in omega-6 fats. I’m really not too sure we need to consume a whole lot more of them.
Since the diet is so strict, the recipes and meal ideas in this book (as well as in the GAPS guide book) are essential and will no doubt come in handy to anyone embarking on the diet.
Who Belongs on the GAPS Diet?
I will come right out and say I’ve never tried the full GAPS diet. (I’m just too wimpy to give up my raw milk.) But in spite of that, I’ve still made several lifestyle changes based on what I’ve read in the GAPS book, including eating sauerkraut daily, taking a good probiotic, eating a lot less gluten, taking hydrochloric acid as needed, using broth more often, etc. Sure, there are other nutritional programs that teach some of these practices, but let me tell you: I did not take any of this half as seriously as I did after reading GAPS. I now put my gut health on a pedestal where it belongs. So while not everyone needs to do the full GAPS diet, I’m convinced that darn near everyone can benefit from reading the book.
What about the GAPS Guide?
I have both Gut and Psychology Syndrome as well as the GAPS guide by Baden Lashkov. While it isn’t necessarily essential to have both books, it certainly helps. Dr. Campbell-McBride’s book is the foundation of the GAPS diet: it is in-depth and comprehensive. The GAPS guide is more of a condensed, how-to version that provides a little further direction in how you should go about actually implementing the diet. It also includes detailed instructions for doing the GAPS intro diet, which many people have found to be an essential part of the healing process. I personally found both books very helpful and would recommend using them together.
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