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Updated: Jun 9, 2023

What is the GAPS Protocol? | Living in Wellness GAPS Blog

GAPS* stands for Gut and Psychology / Physiology Syndrome and was created by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. It explains how the gut has a direct impact on the psychology and physiology of the body. Dr. Natasha explains that when the gut is in poor health, by extension, so too is the body. And when we work on repairing and rebuilding the gut, the body starts to rebuild and regenerate.

Equally important, Dr. Natasha also explains that the gut is also our very first defense against outside elements coming into the body. If the gut is not well equipped to handle both the good and the bad that come into the body, it will not nourish and defend the body. When we work on rehabilitating the gut, we equip the gut to handle all types of outside food and elements that make their way inside our bodies.

Based on Dr. Natasha’s research and wisdom, she has set up the GAPS* Protocol. It is a multi-faceted program created to address our gut, our body, our food, and our environment. The GAPS* protocol focusses on the five important areas described below:

  • Environmental Toxin Elimination & Reduction

  • Food Restrictions to avoid feeding the Pathogenic/Opportunistic Bacteria in the Gut

  • Re-Populating the Gut with Beneficial Flora

  • Detoxification

  • Boosting Nutrition

The GAPS protocol is a complimentary option to Western medicine that may help to address common health issues when Dr. Natasha’s suggestions and recommendations are implemented in these five noted areas above.


If you are interested in learning more, let’s take a look at all five areas in depth…

Environmental Toxin Reduction & Elimination

We live in a polluted world. Up until now you likely have either been blissfully unaware or have been optimistically ignoring this with the hopes you are unaffected! You’re not the only one, I was once like this too! Dr. Natasha’s books do a wonderful job of explaining the multiple ways we subject ourselves intentionally and unintentionally to pollution, contaminants, toxins, etc. in our everyday lives. The first area of the GAPS* Protocol addresses potential toxins in our daily environment and helps us to make better choices for living in cleaner toxin-free surroundings.

Re-Populating the Gut with Beneficial Flora

Our gut is a habitat for both beneficial and pathogenic/opportunistic bacteria which live together in a balanced ecosystem. If you are experiencing any GAPS* symptoms or issues, the ecosystem in your gut is likely tilted to hosting more pathogenic/opportunistic bacteria over the beneficial bacteria. When this occurs Dr. Natasha explains that the gut becomes “leaky” and the toxins produced from the pathogenic/opportunistic bacteria penetrate the leaky-gut into the bloodstream. So not only are there toxins in our environment to contend with, but our own gut is producing internal toxins that are getting into our bloodstream and harming our body.

Every environment has the potential to change given the right circumstances. In our gut, the ecosystem can be easily populated with more beneficial bacteria if we introduce more of them. Instead of continuing to let the pathogenic/opportunistic bacteria dominate, we make a conscious choice to outnumber them with beneficial bacteria. Dr. Natasha suggests we should consume fermented foods, cultured dairy products or probiotics that have been well documented to contain beneficial bacteria and known to kill off the pathogenic/opportunistic bacteria.

When we kill off the pathogenic/opportunistic bacteria, Dr. Natasha explains that they give off toxic gases and release toxins that then travel through the leaky-gut into the bloodstream. Although this looks counterintuitive to add more toxins to the overloaded body, it is essential that we rebalance the ecosystem in the gut so that the beneficial bacteria are the key defenders of our gut.

This is the second area of the GAPS* Protocol, addressing the population of beneficial bacteria so we ultimately reap the benefits of them being present in higher numbers.

Food Restrictions to avoid feeding the Pathogenic/Opportunistic Bacteria in our Gut

When the pathogenic/opportunistic bacteria are fed the right type of foods, they proliferate and release toxins into our body along with neurological signals that make us crave the foods that continue to feed them. If we continue to feed these bacteria at the same time as killing them off, there is the potential that more will reproduce for every one that dies off. How do we keep them under control? We kill them off at the same time as deprive them of the food that sustains them. Unfortunately, there are a lot of foods out there that have the potential to feed these pathogenic/opportunistic bacteria. Dr. Natasha explains in her books that some of the common ones are: sugar (natural & processed), carbohydrates, starch, fiber, lactose, etc.

People with gut dysbiosis have difficulty digesting food. It can come out as undigested food particles in the stool or materializes as digestive issues in the form of gas, bloating, heartburn, acid reflux, diarrhea, or other symptoms. Dr. Natasha explains in her books where digestion goes wrong and how the undigested food particles further wreak havoc on the body. In order to start to repair the gut, we need to eliminate the foods that are the hardest to digest: casein, gluten, processed sugar, processed carbohydrates, fiber, and lactose, to name a few. This gives the gut a reprieve so it can concentrate on repairing and rebuilding instead of battling the onslaught from undigested food.

The third area of the GAPS* Protocol addresses eliminating foods that either feed the pathogenic/opportunistic bacteria or eliminating foods that are extremely difficult to digest for a gut in dysbiosis.


Our bodies are storage units for toxins that come from the environment and toxins that come from our own gut. There are multiple hiding spots where toxins can find niches and conceal themselves. Dr. Natasha’s books explain how toxins accumulate in the body and wreak havoc. The fourth area of the GAPS* Protocol addresses detoxifying our bodies and the methods in which we can optimize detoxification.

Boosting Nutrition

It takes a lot of effort for our body to store toxins and prevent them from further damaging us. Our bodies are taxed with laboriously storing the toxins for such long periods of time that it runs itself exhausted and deprived. So why doesn’t the body just get rid of the toxins instead of storing them? Because that requires essential nutrients and energy. There is only so much nutrition and energy to go around before the tank runs empty.

In order for the body to detoxify and deal with removing the toxic overload, we need proper nutrition to fuel our body for this detoxification job. In the fifth area of the GAPS* Protocol, Dr. Natasha provides recommendations for feeding our bodies with nutritionally rich food & beverages that give it the opportunity to repair and rebuild itself. She explains that feeding our bodies with good food helps to fuel its “inner wisdom” for repair, rebuilding and detoxification in the sequence that is most appropriate given the current circumstances.

There are several meal plans on the GAPS* Protocol, all of which will achieve the same thing: provide nutritional food for our body to use in repairing, rebuilding and detoxification. There is a total of 6 meal programs: Full GAPS*, Intro GAPS*, No-Plant GAPS*, Ketogenic GAPS*, GAPS* Fasting, and Coming Off GAPS*. The sum of all 6 programs is called the GAPS* Spectrum. Each meal plan is better suited to address certain health issues. For instance, the No-Plant GAPS* meal plan is intended for severe gastrointestinal issues and chronic diarrhea. To find out which meal plan is suited for your particular health condition(s), book a Free Discovery Session.


Note: For more information on the entirety of the GAPS* Protocol, please read through one of Dr. Natasha’s books. A good starting point is either the yellow book called ‘Gut and Psychology Syndrome’ or the blue book called ‘Gut and Physiology Syndrome’. The above noted information is meant to be a complimentary summary of all the information presented in her books.

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