Using GAPS Diet Principles to Help Recover after a Viral Infection
The last few months have seen an increase in people getting sick with viral infections. Whether due to the continuing circulation of COVID variants, to influenza and RSV, to the common cold, many people have been sick in the last few months. Many of these people are also reporting a difficulty in fully bouncing back to their pre-sickness states quickly. Brain-fog, fatigue, muscle achiness, digestive upsets, and odd neurological symptoms are just some of the things people are experiencing that can linger on well after the illness has passed.
One intervention that we have seen be helpful is making dietary changes, and one of the diets that has been helpful for many people has been the GAPS diet. GAPS is an acronym for Gut And Psychology Syndrome and was formulated by a British doctor named Natasha Campbell-McBride. She took an older diet called the Specific Carbohydrate diet that was used successfully in patients with Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, like Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis, and modified it to help those with psychological problems and psychiatric diagnoses. Dr Campbell-Mcbrides early trials saw success in helping people with Autism, ADHD, Scizophrenia, Depression, and other problems.
Essentially, the diet focuses on healing the digestive tract so that the body can decrease inflammation that could be contributing to not feeling optimal. We usually describe the GAPS diet as a Paleo-type of diet with four components:
- Limiting of Carbohydrates – especially from grains
- Regular intake of Bone Broth soups which contain collagens and other nutrients that can promote tissue healing
- Increased intake of healthy fats from grass fed animals, wild caught fish, organic egg yolks, avocados, and coconut oil.
- Regular intake of fermented foods and probiotics such as sauerkraut, kimchee, kombucha tea, etc.
The diet has an introduction stage where you start off pretty limited and then add things in gradually. The website gapsdiet.com has a great guide (https://www.gapsdiet.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/IntroductionDietInformation.pdf) showing the foods allowed at each stage. How quickly you move to the next stage depends on when you start feeling improvement. In our experience, it can be as little as 2 days at each stage and up to 2 weeks. On average, approx. 3-4 days at each stage works well for most people. At each stage you continue the previous foods and add in new foods.
After going through the 6 stages, you enter the full diet. Again the gapsdiet.com website has a useful list of approved foods and foods to avoid. You can see it here: https://www.gapsdiet.com/full-gaps-diet/
The GAPS diet is generally safe, but the intro diet is not recommended for pregnant women (who can generally just do the full diet if needed). It is also not recommended to persons who are underweight or have an eating disorder without medical supervision.
We have recommended the GAPS diet over the years for multiple different patients and have seen benefit with allergies, autoimmune conditions, neurological conditions, and others, in addition to those who find benefit for their mental and emotional states. It is generally safe and can be transitioned away from when someone feels better or the principles can be kept ongoing. As it is a form of an elimination diet, you can then challenge new foods as you put them in. To do this, we suggest trying a new food every 3 days, waiting for up to 72 hours for any potential negative interaction.
You can also schedule an appointment to talk with one of our doctors to see if this approach is right for your personal needs or if a different approach would be better.