Not only is the GAPS diet a healthy way to quit eating processed foods and junk, it also helps reduce weight and fight disease-causing bacteria and infections in the body.
The GAPS diet has long been one of the healthiest ways to detox and boost gut flora. If you consider it is a way of life- and not just eating- you can reap all of its health benefits. So what are the health benefits of a GAPS diet? Starting from curbing sugar addiction, it can help you lose weight faster, clear up toxins from the bloodstream, and improve immune health.
1. The GAPS Diet Combats Sugar Addiction
The Gut And Psychological Syndrome, GAPS, incorporates a sugar elimination diet to treat various diseases. These diseases include Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome, leaky gut syndrome, autoimmune disease, and autism.
One of the primary goals of the GAPS diet is to reduce consumption of sugar down to zero. You eliminate processed sugar and sweet preservatives from your diet. A sugar-free diet plan may seem impossible to you now, but with the help of the GAPS diet it’s much simpler.
A sugar-free diet includes all kinds of sodas, snack bars, chocolate, sweets, and desserts. Substituting sugar-based foods with vegetables and fruits that contain high amounts of protein should be your GAPS diet goal.
Evidence suggests that sugar addiction or the consumption of excess sugar in the day can lead to behavioral, cognitive, physiological, and metabolic disorders. Having found this, based on brain imaging and clinical discoveries, it is proven that sugar withdrawal can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in humans. (1,2)
Key Takeaway: Consuming too much sugar also leads to high blood pressure and diabetes. So cutting back on your sugar consumption to decrease risk of metabolic disorders such as IBS or leaky gut syndrome is important.
2. The GAPS Diet Treats Severe Symptoms of Candida
Candida is a form of yeast infection, commonly found on the skin or outer tissue layers of the body. There are many forms of candida such as oral thrush or vaginal yeast infection. Candida is an infection of the digestive tract which can affect the lungs, birth canal, bladder, and other parts of the body.
Only with the help of a certain kind of diet and medication can candida be prevented and controlled. The key to treating candida is to eliminate certain kinds of food that weaken the digestive tract. Instead, the GAPS diet encourage a higher intake of foods that weaken candida and starve them until they disappear.
Foods that are high in sugar are the potential feeding sources of candida. They weaken the gut and establish an infectious inner ecosystem. With the GAPS diet, you can limit gluten intolerance and other gut sensitivities. It also promotes better nutritional absorption in the gut to restore energy and strengthen the immune system. (3)
Key Takeaway: It is well-established that candid, which is a form of yeast infection targeting the gut, can be prevented and treated with the GAPS diet. The GAPS diet is a sugar-free, gluten-free, and probiotic diet which strengthens the gastrointestinal system, while building a stronger inner ecosystem.
3. The GAPS Diet Encourages Healthy Gut Bacterial Growth
The GAPS diet eliminates consumption of canned, processed, sweet, fast foods in large amounts. Instead, it encourages a diet rich in organic foods, vegetables, fish, fresh meat that’s hormone-free and grass-fed, and cold-pressed oils and fruit juices. The primary focus of a GAPS diet is to introduce the inner ecosystem with good bacteria to cleanse out the toxins from the body.
For example, one of the key foods to consume during the GAPS diet is sauerkraut. Sauerkraut affects gut health by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. The nutrients present in sauerkraut promote a healthy digestive flora as they deliver probiotics. (4)
Another reason why sauerkraut is good for gut health is because it contains isothiocyanate compounds which aids digestion and combats constipation and diarrhea. (5)
Eating raw vegetables, such as spinach, boosts gut bacteria. That’s because spinach contains sugar sulfoquinovose which is a digestive enzyme that promotes healthy gut bacterial growth. All leafy green vegetables contain this digestive enzyme. These have antimicrobial properties that treat severe conditions including autoimmune disease or leaky gut syndrome. (6)
Key Takeaway: According to plenty of evidence, the GAPS diet is a healthy way to boost good bacterial growth in the gut. Eating fresh vegetables and probiotic-dense foods that are close to nature and aren’t processed that cleanse the gut of harmful toxins. This is a major step towards preventing candida, IBS, and autoimmune diseases.
4. A Consistent GAPS Diet Might Reverse Autism
As previously mentioned, the GAPS diet includes a balance of healthy nutrients such as probiotics to remove toxins away from the gut. There is evidence that suggests that beneficial gut bacteria play a major role in the development of autism.
Dietary supplements and digestive enzymes associated with a change in diet and lifestyle has a clinical effect on autism spectrum disorder. The impact of such probiotics on the gut, including essential fats and digestive enzymes, isn’t clear enough on autism. (7)
One study prescribed that the intake of digestive enzymes is beneficial for managing symptoms of autism. So it may be a potential clinical protocol for treating autism disorder symptoms, in the long run. (8)
Key Takeaway: There isn’t any conclusive research that suggests that the GAPS diet can treat autism. But the diet encourages getting rid of toxins and using digestive enzymes and probiotics for promoting the development of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
5. The GAPS Diet Helps Ease Autoimmune Disease
There are many serious markers for autoimmune disease, including leaky gut syndrome and the absence of beneficial gut bacteria. Studies suggest that balancing the number of beneficial gut bacteria can ease the symptoms and development of autoimmune diseases.
Multiple sclerosis is a common autoimmune disease which is trigger by many factors including environmental contamination, alcohol consumption, unhealthy food choices, and strong medication. This is also a common cause of leaky gut syndrome, which causes the depletion of beneficial gut bacteria.
Symptoms of this autoimmune disease are irritability, chronic pain, food sensitivities, lack of sleep, and skin problems. So you need a healthy and balanced gut flora to treat such a severe autoimmune disease. (9)
The GAPS diet mimics a very common process which leads to autoimmunity against leaky gut syndrome and autoimmune diseases. This process is known as molecular mimicry.
Molecular mimicry is a cycle that alters the way the gut microbiome responds in the epithelial cells of the gut. It reverses the development of leaky gut by preventing the flow of toxins and infections into the bloodstream. This lowers the chances of your immune system attacking the body causing an autoimmune disease. (10)
Key Takeaway: According to research, the development of certain autoimmune diseases is directly associated with gut disorders such as leaky gut syndrome. This can be corrected by making some dietary changes prescribed in the GAPS diet.
6. The GAPS Diet is Good for People with Food Allergies
The GAPS diet consists of certain important steps divided into 2 phases: namely the introduction phase and the full-on GAPS diet phase.
These gut healing phases can be further narrowed down into 6 essential stages. The GAPS diet, for most people, can last from 3 weeks up to one whole year. The duration of any GAPS diet is depending on the treatment of the medical condition. For example, people with food allergies can incorporate the GAPS diet to rebalance the gut bacteria and control the overgrowth of pathogens in the gut. This is necessary to curb the production of histamine which is one of the leading causes of food allergies in children.
The first stage of the GAPS diet prescribes food that is homemade, dairy-free, and sugar-free. It includes probiotic foods, bone broth, ginger, chamomile tea, honey, kefir, and unpasteurized yogurt.
The second stage prescribes food that is organic such as raw eggs, ghee, stew, and fresh fruits and vegetables. It also includes hormone-free and grass-feed meat.
The third stage includes meals rich in fermented vegetables, avocado, eggs, goose fat or ghee.
The fourth stage brings in consumption of grilled and roasted, hormone-free and grass-fed meat, cold-pressed oils, fresh vegetables juices, and bread.
The fifth and sixth stage includes raw fruits and vegetables.
The introduction of the GAPS diet forces healthy gut bacteria production which drives away toxins and infection from the bloodstream. On the other hand, the withdrawal of the GAPS diet forces detoxification which reverses the overproduction of histamine in the body. (11)
Key Takeaway: The GAPS diet lowers the symptoms of food allergies or food sensitivities in children and adults. The staples of this diet include organic, dairy-free foods, raw fruits and vegetables, and probiotic-rich foods.
7. The GAPS Diet Helps Detoxify the Gut for Weight Loss
Digestive wellness is extremely important for weight loss and weight management. Unhealthy gut is a symptom of many illnesses including diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. It even causes unexplained weight gain which keeps growing every day.
According to many scientists, a heathy gut is considered as the second brain. This is because any kind of gut discomfort can lead to emotional and psychological distress. That said, your gut contains all kinds of enzymes that help digest food, secret hormones, and produce healing compounds to fight infections and viruses.
If you want to lose weight, treating an unhealthy gut condition is the right way to go. You need the right kind of nutrients to fight off bad bacteria, yeast, or parasites. This has a direct effect on your body’s inner ecosystem comprising of your gut and the function that regulates proper bowel movements. (12)
The GAPS diet is directly linked to weight loss as it promotes the growth of healthy microbiome in the gut. It reduces inflammation, insulin resistance, and unhealthy fats. It does this by replacing bag bugs like acidic compounds and fats with healthy fats. So the consumption of fats by coming omega acids, present in fish, is an essential process to promote weight loss.
Key Takeaway: Gut healing is extremely beneficial for weight loss. Studies show that the best way to promote weight loss, coupled with lifestyle changes, is to increase production of healthy gut bacteria. It plays a role in gut healing as well as fat burning for better nutrient absorption in the bloodstream.
8 GAPS Diet-Inspired Recipes
The GAPS diet is an advanced meal plan to treat many illnesses including autoimmune diseases, anxiety, depression, autism, and leaky gut syndrome. It incorporates a diet rich in probiotics, hormone-free meat, omega-3s, and raw vegetables and fruits for healing.
That said, you need easy-to-digest recipes and foods that keep your gut healthy and well-rested. The GAPS diet avoids food that are processed, contain artificial chemicals or preservatives, and contain grains or sugar. While this may be hard to implement on your own, you can start by incorporating these delicious recipes in your diet.
1. Paleo Teriyaki Salmon
Salmon and Teriyaki go way back. But this health-inspired paleo recipe won’t disappoint in its flavor or nutrition.
For teriyaki sauce:
1/3 cup of tamari sauce, gluten-free and fermented
1/4 cup of honey
2 tbsp of coconut vinegar
1 and a half tsp of arrowroot flour
For vegetables and Fish:
2 tbsp of coconut oil
2 sliced bell peppers
16 oz. of salmon, made into 4 pieces
5 chopped green onions
1 tbsp of sesame seeds
- Combine tamari sauce, honey, vinegar, and flour in a saucepan. Stir on low heat for 5 minutes.
- In a pan, add 1 tbsp of coconut oil with bell peppers and cook until brown. Set the bell peppers aside from the heat. Add 1 tbsp of coconut oil to the pan and place the salmon pieces. Cook on both sides for 3-4 minutes, each side.
- Serve the cooked salmon on a plate with teriyaki sauce, bell peppers, chopped green onions. Garnish with sesame seeds. Serve immediately.
2. Paleo Meatballs Spaghetti
Spiralized veggies with meatballs? This recipe will have you bid farewell to the traditional spaghetti and meatballs recipe.
4 spiralized zucchinis
2 cups of Nomato sauce
1 pound of ground beef
1 chopped onion
3 minced garlic cloves
1 tbsp of herbs
2 tbsp of ghee or cooking fat
- Marinade the beef with onion, garlic, and herbs. Make 16 meatballs. Meanwhile, toss the spiralized zucchini with salt and pepper.
- In a cooking pot, add 2 tbsp of cooking fat and cook the meatballs. Combine with Nomato sauce and some more herbs. Cook for 10-15 minutes.
- Add the zucchini and stir well. Garnish with seasonings and serve hot.
3. Creamy Kales & Shallots
Looking for a new way to cook kale? Try this creamy and delicious version of cooking shallots with kale this season. It’s the best way to incorporate a nutritious meal in your daily diet.
1 and a half lbs of chopped kale
3 tbsp of cooking fat
2 sliced shallots
1 chopped garlic clove
1 tbsp of arrowroot flour
Half cup of coconut milk
Half cup of coconut cream
1 tsp of sea salt
1/4 tsp of black pepper
Saffron to taste
- Boil kale in a pot of hot water. Boil for 6-8 minutes. Strain the moisture from the kale and set aside in a refrigerator.
- In a pan, add butter and shallots. Cook for 10 minutes. Add in the garlic and flour. Cook for another 30 seconds.
- Combine with coconut milk and cream. Stir continuously and allow the mixture to boil until it thickens. Add saffron and black pepper for taste.
- Gently stir in the boiled and drained kale in the creamy mixture. Add more seasoning if needed. Serve immediately.
4. Paleo Tuna Salad
Fish lovers won’t get enough of this Tuna salad, which goes well with dressing, main course dinners, and even as an evening power snack.
5 oz. can of drained tuna
1 diced celery
Half cup of coconut butter mayonnaise
1 chopped carrot
1 chopped shallot
1 tbsp of cilantro
1 tbsp of lemon juice
1 tbsp of brine
- Combine tuna, celery, carrot, shallot, and coconut butter mayo in a mixing bowl.
- Season the salad with cilantro, lemon juice, and brine. Serve with toasted garlic bread for added taste.
5. Paleo Chicken Wings
You won’t miss the traditional hot chicken wings once you’ve tasted these. They’re healthy, paleo-friendly, and simply delicious!
4 lbs. of chicken wings
4 tbsp of ghee or cooking fat
2 tbsp of herbamare
- Divide the chicken wings into two baking pans lined with parchment paper. Gently coat each chicken wing with ghee and season the wings with herbamare.
- Roast in a 400 degrees preheated oven for 30 minutes, each side. Set aside to cool down for 10 minutes before serving with a homemade dip.
6. Coconut Milk Kefir
While there are many variations to cooking kefir, this coconut milk kefir recipe is my favorite.
4 tbsp of milk kefir grains
4 cups of organic coconut milk
- In a mason jar, combine coconut milk and kefir grains.
- Using the cheesecloth to cover the mason jar. Set aside at room temperature for half a day.
- Make sure the mixture is well-fermented after 12 hours.
- Strain the milk grains and pour some fresh coconut milk. Keep the fermented coconut milk in the refrigerator.
7. Paleo Cauliflower Rice
An immune-boosting recipe designed to heal digestive problems in less than a day!
1 tbsp of cooking fat or ghee
3 minced garlic cloves
1 cup of chopped sweet onion
1 pound of pork, grounded
1 cup of chopped carrots
3 tbsp of coconut aminos
Half tsp of black pepper
1 tsp of fish sauce
1 cups of shredded cauliflower
Half cup of chopped green onions
- Heat garlic, onions, and cooking fat in a pan. Stir well for 3 minutes.
- Combine with ground pork and cook for 8 minutes. Gently break the pork pieces apart using a wooden fork or spoon.
- Add the carrots, coconut aminos, pepper, and fish sauce.
- Set aside from the wok while you scramble the eggs.
- Combine the pork and eggs mixture with cauliflower and green onions. Mix and cook for 5-10 minutes. Garnish with green onions for taste.
8. Coconut & Chocolate Bites
Nothing beats the pleasure of devouring healthy chocolate-covered coconut treats at the end of a long and tiring day.
For the coconut filling:
1 cup of coconut cream
1 cup of coconut, shredded
2 tbsp of coconut oil
1 tbsp of vanilla essence
2 tbsp of organic honey
Sea salt or Himalayan salt to taste
For chocolate layer:
3/4 cup of cocoa butter
3/4 cup of cocoa powder
6 tbsp of organic honey
Half tsp of vanilla extract
1 vanilla pod seeds
1 tbsp of organic coffee
- In a pan, combine all the coconut ingredients and cook until it melts.
- Transfer the coconut mixture on a baking dish and freeze for 4-24 hours.
- After it’s frozen, cut the coconut mixture into squares. Put all the coconut squares in an airtight container and store in the freezer.
- Melt the butter in a glass bowl placed over boiling water in a saucepan. After the butter melts completely, remove from heat and mix with the cocoa powder. Add honey, coffee, and vanilla, and stir continuously.
- Remove the coconut squares from the freezer. Take one coconut square, place it on a fork, and dip the fork into the chocolate mixture. Lift the fork up and place each chocolate-covered coconut bites on a flat baking sheet.
- Store them in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Serve cool.
Wrapping It Up
By the looks of it, a healthy gut is the only way to a healthy life. So to renounce a good gut is to deny the comforts of a strong immune system and a sharp mind. If you think a leaky gut affects only your gastrointestinal system, think again. It has the power to affect much more than including your immunity, cognitive health, and thyroid.
A great deal of research has shown that removing toxins bacteria and infections from the bloodstream can not only help with weight loss, but can reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and skin infections. That’s why incorporating the GAPS diet is the best way to avoid unhealthy and processed foods, which is good for your mental and physical health.
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.