What is Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS)?

Posted by Eric Lancaster on

Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) is a collection of symptoms believed to be caused by poor digestive health and affects the brain. The syndrome was first introduced by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. Dr. Campbell-McBride has a degree in medicine and postgraduate degrees in human nutrition and neurology. She believes that poor diet and an unhealthy gut lead to serious conditions, but by making dietary changes patients can see notable improvements in conditions such as hyperactivity and autism.

GAPS Theories
Conditions such as dyslexia, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, and dyspraxia frequently overlap. These psychiatric and neurological conditions may have a common root cause: GAPS. GAPS may begin in children within the first days of their lives. Parents, particularly mothers, pass on a unique gut microflora to babies. Microflora are bacteria in the intestinal tract. The right balance of bacteria creates a healthy gut. If bad bacteria overgrows, it affects people both physically and mentally. When mothers breastfeed, their babies develop natural microflora in the gut. Babies who are bottle fed have completely different microflora. Even a mother who breastfeeds her babies but was not breastfed herself can pass on a compromised gut microflora to her children, which predisposes babies to future health complications. As children age, they are vaccinated and generally take antibiotics, which destroys healthy gut microflora. Antibiotics kill all bacteria, not just the bacteria that cause infections. Without a healthy balance of microflora in the gut, around 500 pathogenic and opportunistic microbes are free to grow out of control in the intestinal tract. This growth is further fueled by diets comprised of unhealthy processed foods.

Eating a poor diet means that women have signs of abnormal gut flora by the time they are ready to have children. Many mothers-to-be have issues such as digestive abnormalities, chronic fatigue, skin problems, allergies, and auto-immunity. Almost all women who have psychiatric and neurological conditions demonstrate these signs of abnormal gut flora, also called gut dysbiosis.

GAPS Symptoms
People with GAPS and abnormal gut flora are likely to experience problems such as allergies, eczema, digestive issues, and asthma. Over time, their problems can develop into neurological and psychiatric disorders. Each individual will experience unique signs and symptoms due to the differences in microflora and bacteria, viruses and fungi that grow in their body.

Common bacteria groups found in the gut of people with GAPS are yeasts and Clostridia family. These microbes digest food, resulting in large amounts of toxins. The toxins get into the bloodstream and eventually end up in the brain, where they cross the blood-brain barrier.

The specific toxins that reach the brain affect the resulting symptoms and problems people experience. It is this link between the microbes in the gut, the resulting toxins and the toxic effects on the brain that led to the naming of GAPS. People with GAPS may show symptoms associated with disorders such as:

  • Obsessive-Compulsive disorder
  • Autism
  • Attention Deficit Disorder
  • Allergies
  • Crohn's disease
  • Asthma
  • Dyslexia
  • Schizophrenia
  • Depression
  • Eczema

GAPS Treatment
Dr. Campbell-McBride recommends testing all children and adults with psychiatric or neurological disorders for abnormal gut flora. Using diet and probiotic supplementation to balance the gut microflora may treat GAPS. Following a GAPS diet is a natural treatment for the syndrome. Dr. Campbell-McBride worked with hundreds of neurological and psychiatric patients, both children and adults, before coining the term GAPS in 2004.

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