Minding the Gap: Improve Brain Function by Improving Gut Health
Brain fog, mood imbalances, lack of concentration. It seems as if these are just part of the daily routine these days. Our lifestyles certainly could be to blame, but I believe treatment of any imbalance takes a holistic approach with a great importance on we put in our body.
The GAPS diet was designed by Dr. Sidney Valentine Haas for patients suffering from learning disabilities, psychiatric and psychological disorders, immune, digestive, and neurological disorders. GAPS stands for Gut And Psychology Syndrome and was recognized by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride in her book Gut and Psychology Syndrome. Her work focuses on natural treatment for patients suffering from intestinal and neurological disorders. The main focus of the GAPS diet is to rebalance the gut bacteria to improve symptoms of mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, ADD, and ADHD.
Our gut is the direct source of energy for our brain. It can either be a source of nourishment or a source of toxicity. The bacterial environment in our gut, or our microbiome, can become imbalanced if we are not getting the proper nutrients and health promoting probiotics. An imbalanced ecosystem in the GI tract may lead to more serious health problems, and according to many experts, may also exacerbate mental health symptoms.
Rebalancing gut bacteria involves removing foods that are difficult to digest and that damage gut flora and replacing them with nutrient dense foods that will allow the intestinal lining to heal itself. When the gut is healthy, the immune system becomes rebalanced and the bacterial ecosystem in the GI tract will be restored.
To implement the GAPS diet effectively, you will have to follow the book Gut And Psychology Syndrome, as mentioned above. If you have severe symptoms, it is
recommended you start with The Introduction Diet which is divided into six stages and takes 3-6 weeks to complete. This essentially is made out of meats, fish, eggs, fermented dairy and vegetables. Baked goods and fruit should be avoided for the first few weeks. The staples of the diet should be homemade meat stocks, soups, stews, and natural fats.
The Full GAPS Diet involves following the protocol for at least 18-24 months. It is similar to The Introduction Diet, but eventually reintroduces dairy products in a structured way. It is recommended to consume a cup of bone broth or meat stock with every meal. While supplementing with a quality probiotic is helpful, it is even more important to get the natural probiotics from fermented food. These can include fermented vegetables, yogurt, kefir, and sour cream. Fermented beverages include kombucha and water kefir. You can find a full list of recommended foods and food to avoid at gapsdiet.com.
A few supplements are recommended to complement the GAPS protocol. They include a quality probiotic, essential fatty acids, Vitamin A, digestive enzymes, and a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement. These will help support the process of rebalancing normal flora in the gut. Again, if you are thinking this diet may help alleviate symptoms of a psychological or neurological disorder, you will need to purchase the GAPS protocol book. It is certainly a commitment and a more involved way of eating, but may be worth it if it improves mood, mental clarity, depression, or other mental health condition that has affected your quality of life. It is also all natural!
*Remember: you didn’t develop this imbalance overnight so it may take some time to heal. Try to be patient with yourself and listen to your body. Listening to what your body is telling you is a critical tool for leading you back to balance. Please let us know if you need guidance in finding the best treatment for you. Our knowledgeable staff offers free consultations and truly cares about the best fit for your situation. Thanks for reading!
Shawn Clavelle earned her bachelor’s degree in Nursing from the University of Vermont. She earned her certification in Holistic Health Coaching from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. Shawn’s vast clinical experience and knowledge of the healthcare system makes her proficient at helping others design their own treatment plan through structured goal setting and continuous evaluation of progress. Using a holistic approach with a focus on nutrition, she helps uncover the obstacles to good health and provides simple options for making better lifestyle choices.