Have you heard of the gut-brain axis? Perhaps you’ve been told that your gut is your ‘second brain’? Have you ever noticed a connection between your digestive symptoms, think IBS, heartburn, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, or nausea, are closely correlated to your mood or mental health symptoms? Well the GAPS protocol may be for you.
One of the first things we discuss with all of our patients here in the clinic is their gut health. We like to find out what is going for them currently and what their history of gut health has been like. Even if a patient has come in for something that appears unrelated to their gut, we deep dive into their digestive health to explore what might be causing their other physical and emotional symptoms. Why? Because all disease begins in the gut!
The GAPS protocol is an abbreviation for Gut and Psychology Syndrome and is a very specific healing program developed by neurologist and nutritionist, Dr Natasha Campbell McBride. The protocol was initially developed to treat Autism in children, and whilst most of the research is focused on Autism, over the last twenty years, practitioners all over the world have used this method to help countless patients heal their digestive issues which in turn has helped improve their mental health and emotional wellbeing.
How it works?
First, lets take a step back and discuss the purpose of our gut. A healthy functioning digestive system is home to trillions of bacteria. It is estimated that we have up to 5kg of tiny microbes in our body and that 90% of these bacteria reside in our gut. The digestive system along with this tiny microbial community are responsible for digestion of food and absorption of nutrients, neutralisation of toxins, and synthesis of vitamins, hormones and neurotransmitters. Our gut is also ground zero for our immune system and without a well-functioning digestive system and microbial community we begin to see cracks in our immune function. The delicate balance of microbes is easily upset by stress, alcohol, diet, medications, chemicals in food and drink, environmental toxins and so much more. When this happens gut flora becomes imbalanced and pathogenic microbes impair digestion and absorption of food, leading to damage to the gut wall lining causing ‘leakiness’ and allowing toxins and undigested food to enter the bloodstream, resulting in an inflammatory response. Pathogenic microbes can also cause toxicity in the gut leading to dysfunction to hormone and neurotransmitter production and malabsorption of nutrients, all of which are required for mental wellbeing. There is growing evidence that gut dysbiosis and inflammation of the gut is connected to mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, schizophrenia and autism and that resolution of gut flora imbalance, healing digestive symptoms and improving nutrient absorption can improve emotional and neurological symptoms.
The main underpinning of the GAPS protocol is based on eating wholefoods that are nutrient dense and easy to digest. The GAPS diet removes all processed and refined foods and is heavily based on traditional diets from around the world, with a focus on home cooked meals using natural wholefood ingredients. The restoration of gut health is through a food as medicine approach, as the diet focuses on foods that maximise absorption of nutrients but also repair and optimise gut function. The GAPS diet does this by healing and sealing the gut wall lining, rebalancing gut flora, support the immune and endocrine systems, facilitate vitamin and neurotransmitter synthesis and normalise the digestion of food to ensure we are able to absorb maximum nutrients.
The GAPS protocol is a targeted approach to restoring gut health and promoting mental wellbeing, but it isn’t the only approach. If you feel you may benefit from improving your digestive health, whether that be through the GAPS protocol or a more personalised approach, give us a call 02 4961 4075. We would love to help!