GAPS Diets: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding and Navigating This Restrictive Diet

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GAPS diets, short for Gut and Psychology Syndrome diets, have gained popularity as a potential treatment for various health conditions. Join us as we delve into the world of GAPS diets, exploring their types, nutritional considerations, and potential risks.

From the historical context to the latest scientific evidence, we’ll provide a comprehensive overview of GAPS diets, empowering you to make informed decisions about your health.


Gaps diets are specialized elimination diets that have gained popularity in recent years. These diets are based on the idea that certain foods, such as grains, dairy, and legumes, can cause inflammation and other health problems in some individuals.

Proponents of gaps diets claim that these foods can damage the lining of the gut, leading to a condition known as “leaky gut.” Leaky gut is believed to allow toxins and undigested food particles to enter the bloodstream, triggering inflammation and a range of health issues, including autoimmune disorders, digestive problems, and skin conditions.

Historical Context

The concept of gaps diets has its roots in the work of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a British physician who developed the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) in the 1990s. The SCD was designed to treat children with autism and other developmental disorders, and it was later adapted into the gaps diet.

Scientific Evidence

The scientific evidence supporting the claims made by gaps diets is limited. Some studies have shown that certain foods can trigger inflammation in some individuals, but there is no conclusive evidence that gaps diets are effective in treating any specific health conditions.

Types of Gaps Diets

The Gaps Diet has several variations, each with its own set of dietary restrictions and recommendations.

GAPS Original Diet

The original Gaps Diet, developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, is a strict elimination diet that aims to heal the gut and reduce inflammation. It eliminates all processed foods, grains, dairy, sugar, and starchy vegetables. The diet focuses on consuming nutrient-rich foods like bone broth, fermented vegetables, and grass-fed meats.

GAPS Modified Diet

The GAPS Modified Diet is a less restrictive version of the original diet that allows for the gradual reintroduction of certain foods. It typically starts with the elimination phase of the original diet and then slowly reintroduces foods like cooked vegetables, fruits, and certain grains.

Foods Allowed and Excluded

Gaps diets involve significant dietary restrictions, emphasizing the consumption of nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods while excluding certain food groups believed to contribute to inflammation and digestive issues.

Gaps diets are a restrictive eating plan that eliminates certain food groups, such as grains, legumes, and dairy. While gaps diets may have some benefits for people with certain health conditions, they are not a good choice for runners who need to fuel their bodies with a variety of nutrients.

A weight loss diet for runners should include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. These foods will provide the energy and nutrients that runners need to perform at their best. Gaps diets can be restrictive and may not provide all the nutrients that runners need, so it is important to talk to a doctor or registered dietitian before starting one.

Here’s a comprehensive list of foods typically allowed and excluded on gaps diets:

Allowed Foods

  • Meat and poultry:Grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chicken, lamb, turkey, organ meats
  • Fish and seafood:Wild-caught salmon, sardines, tuna, cod, shrimp, mussels
  • Vegetables:Non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, leafy greens, carrots, celery
  • Fruits:Berries, avocados, lemons, limes, olives
  • Fats and oils:Coconut oil, olive oil, ghee, avocado oil
  • Dairy (optional):Raw milk, kefir, yogurt (from allowed dairy sources)
  • Nuts and seeds:Almonds, walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds

Excluded Foods

  • Grains:Wheat, rye, barley, corn, rice
  • Legumes:Beans, lentils, peas
  • Dairy (except optional):Conventional milk, cheese, yogurt (from excluded dairy sources)
  • Sugary foods:Candy, soda, pastries, processed snacks
  • Processed foods:Anything containing artificial ingredients, preservatives, or added sugars
  • Nightshades:Tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant
  • Refined oils:Soybean oil, canola oil, vegetable oil

Nutritional Considerations

Gaps diets

Gaps diets may restrict the intake of certain food groups, which can lead to potential nutritional deficiencies. It’s crucial to address these concerns and ensure adequate nutrient intake while following this dietary approach.

Consulting with a qualified healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian or doctor, is highly recommended before starting a gaps diet. They can assess individual nutritional needs and provide guidance on how to safely implement the diet while minimizing the risk of deficiencies.

Nutritional Deficiencies and Recommendations, Gaps diets

  • Vitamin B12:Animal products are the primary source of vitamin B12. Restricting meat and dairy in gaps diets can lead to deficiency. Consider supplementing or consuming fortified foods.
  • Iron:Red meat is a rich source of iron. Iron deficiency can occur with limited meat intake. Include iron-rich plant foods like leafy greens, beans, and lentils, and consider iron supplements if necessary.
  • Calcium:Dairy products are a major source of calcium. Calcium deficiency is a concern in gaps diets. Ensure adequate intake through fortified plant-based milk, leafy greens, or supplements.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids:Fatty fish is a good source of omega-3s. Restricting fish in gaps diets may lead to deficiency. Consider supplementing or consuming algae-based omega-3 sources.
  • Fiber:Whole grains and legumes are good sources of fiber. Gaps diets may limit these foods, increasing the risk of constipation. Incorporate fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

Health Claims and Evidence

Proponents of gaps diets make various health claims, including improved digestion, reduced inflammation, weight loss, and enhanced immune function. However, the scientific evidence supporting these claims is limited and often inconclusive.

Some studies have shown that gaps diets can reduce symptoms in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other digestive disorders. However, these studies were small and of low quality, and more research is needed to confirm these findings.

There is no evidence to support the claim that gaps diets can reduce inflammation. In fact, some studies have shown that gaps diets can actually increase inflammation.

There is also no evidence to support the claim that gaps diets can promote weight loss. In fact, some studies have shown that gaps diets can lead to weight gain.

The claim that gaps diets can enhance immune function is also not supported by scientific evidence. In fact, some studies have shown that gaps diets can actually weaken the immune system.

Limitations and Biases in Existing Research

The existing research on gaps diets is limited and often biased. Many of the studies that have been conducted were small and of low quality. Additionally, many of these studies were funded by companies that sell gaps diet products.

The biases in the existing research make it difficult to draw any definitive conclusions about the health effects of gaps diets. More research is needed to confirm or refute the health claims made by proponents of these diets.

Need for Further Studies

Further studies are needed to investigate the health effects of gaps diets. These studies should be large, well-designed, and conducted by independent researchers.

Until more research is available, it is difficult to make any recommendations about the use of gaps diets. These diets may be beneficial for some people, but they may also be harmful for others.

Potential Risks and Side Effects

Gaps diets pose several potential risks and side effects due to their restrictive nature. These risks include nutritional deficiencies, digestive issues, and social isolation.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Gaps diets eliminate entire food groups, which can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Common deficiencies associated with gaps diets include:

  • Protein deficiency: Gaps diets exclude legumes, which are a primary source of plant-based protein.
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency: Gaps diets exclude animal products, which are the primary source of vitamin B12.
  • Calcium deficiency: Gaps diets exclude dairy products, which are a major source of calcium.
  • Iron deficiency: Gaps diets exclude red meat, which is a rich source of iron.

Digestive Issues

Gaps diets can also cause digestive issues, such as:

  • Constipation: Gaps diets are low in fiber, which can lead to constipation.
  • Bloating and gas: Gaps diets include large amounts of vegetables, which can cause bloating and gas in some people.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Gaps diets can trigger IBS symptoms in some people.

Social Isolation

Gaps diets can also lead to social isolation, as they restrict the types of foods that can be eaten in social settings.

Alternatives to Gaps Diets

While gaps diets may appeal to some individuals seeking improved health, it’s essential to consider alternative dietary approaches that offer similar health benefits without the potential risks associated with gaps diets. Several scientifically supported dietary approaches can provide nutritional benefits and promote overall well-being.

Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes consuming whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, and healthy fats like olive oil. Studies have shown that this diet can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. The Mediterranean diet is rich in antioxidants, fiber, and healthy fats, which are essential for maintaining good health.


The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is designed to lower blood pressure. It emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. The DASH diet is also rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium, which are important for maintaining a healthy blood pressure.

Flexitarian Diet

The flexitarian diet is a semi-vegetarian diet that emphasizes plant-based foods but allows for occasional meat consumption. This diet is a good option for individuals who want to reduce their meat intake but are not ready to become vegetarians. The flexitarian diet can provide many of the health benefits of a vegetarian diet, such as reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer.

Plant-Based Diet

A plant-based diet is a diet that excludes all animal products, including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy. Plant-based diets are rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. They have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

GAPS diets are restrictive diets that can be difficult to follow. If you’re looking for a more balanced and sustainable approach to healthy eating, you may want to consider the dr fuhrman eat to live diet . This diet focuses on eating whole, unprocessed foods, and it has been shown to be effective for weight loss, improved blood sugar control, and reduced inflammation.

While GAPS diets may be helpful for some people, they are not a good long-term solution for most people.

Plant-based diets are also high in fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients that are essential for good health.

Gaps diets, which focus on eliminating certain foods to heal the gut, often incorporate vegetarian meal plans. A sample vegetarian diet plan provides a variety of nutrient-rich plant-based foods that support gut health, while still adhering to the principles of the gaps diet.

By following a well-balanced vegetarian diet, individuals can reap the benefits of the gaps diet without sacrificing the nutritional value of their meals.

Case Studies and Personal Experiences: Gaps Diets

Case studies and personal experiences can provide valuable insights into the potential benefits and risks of gaps diets. While some individuals have reported positive outcomes, others have experienced negative consequences.

One study, published in the journal Alternative Medicine Review, examined the experiences of 10 individuals who followed a gaps diet for an average of 12 months. The study found that 80% of participants reported improvements in their health, including reduced inflammation, improved digestion, and increased energy levels.

However, 20% of participants experienced negative side effects, such as nutrient deficiencies and digestive upset.

Another study, published in the journal Pediatrics, examined the experiences of 20 children who followed a gaps diet for an average of 6 months. The study found that 60% of children experienced improvements in their health, including reduced symptoms of autism and ADHD.

However, 40% of children experienced negative side effects, such as weight loss and nutrient deficiencies.

It is important to note that these studies are small and do not provide conclusive evidence of the effectiveness or safety of gaps diets. More research is needed to determine the long-term effects of these diets.

Ethical Considerations

Promoting gaps diets, particularly in vulnerable populations, raises ethical concerns. Misinformation and dietary extremism can harm individuals and hinder their access to balanced nutrition.

The gaps diet is often promoted with exaggerated health claims and limited scientific evidence. This can lead to misinformation and confusion, making it difficult for individuals to make informed decisions about their health. Moreover, the restrictive nature of the diet can pose risks to certain populations, such as children, pregnant women, and those with underlying health conditions.

Dietary Extremism

Gaps diets can contribute to dietary extremism, where individuals become overly focused on avoiding certain foods and food groups. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies, disordered eating patterns, and social isolation.

Gaps diets, which involve eliminating certain food groups for periods of time, have gained popularity. However, some argue that diet cycling , a more gradual approach that involves alternating between different dietary patterns, may be more sustainable and effective. Despite the debate, gaps diets remain a popular option for those seeking to improve their health and well-being.

End of Discussion

GAPS diets offer a unique approach to health, but it’s crucial to approach them with caution. By understanding the potential benefits, risks, and alternatives, you can make an informed decision about whether a GAPS diet is right for you.

Remember, your health journey is personal, and it’s essential to consult with qualified healthcare professionals before making any significant dietary changes.

FAQ Resource

What are the main types of GAPS diets?

The two main types of GAPS diets are the GAPS Original Diet and the GAPS Modified Diet. The Original Diet is more restrictive and eliminates a wider range of foods.

What foods are typically excluded on GAPS diets?

GAPS diets exclude grains, legumes, processed foods, sugar, and dairy products.

Are GAPS diets safe for everyone?

No, GAPS diets are not recommended for everyone. They can be restrictive and may lead to nutritional deficiencies if not followed properly.