GAPS diet to help brain, gut, mental health

The GAPS diet has worldwide fans who use it to help gut disorders, autism, learning disorders, mood disorders, and mental illness. This is known as Gut and Psychology Syndrome. I asked Penelope Ferguson, a Certified GAPS practitioner and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, to help explain the GAPS diet in a podcast interview (her description below).

Gut and Psychology Diet origins:

It is a nutrition system developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. She is a Medical Doctor and a specialist in human nutrition. She developed the GAPS approach during her experiences first in trying to help her own child with severe learning disabilities. After working with hundreds of people with neurological and psychiatric conditions, she developed the GAPS term. She’s used GAPS to help hundreds of adults and children with autistm, ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, depression, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, and  obsessive – compulsive disorder.

All diseases begin in the gut – Hippocrates

According to Dr. Campbell-McBride, a wide variety of health problems can be traced to an imbalance of gut microbes. She cites that 90% of all cells and all genetic material in the human body belongs to the gut flora. She says the modern world poses many dangers for the gut flora, and once it is damaged, the health of the whole body enters a downward slide towards disease. She suggests that autism and ADD, OCD, schizophrenia, epilepsy, depression, and numerous other ailments are all digestive disorders.

The Components of GAPS Nutrition

  1. Diet
  2. Supplementation
  3. Detoxification
  4. Lifestyle Changes

Limitations in research

Like the majority of diets, the GAPS diet has not yet received much scientific scrutiny or rigorous evaluation. This makes it difficult to analyze any evidence in its effectiveness and claims.

Many individuals using this diet are outspoken proponents in favor of its efficacy in helping them with ailments listed. While testimonials aren’t the same as peer-reviewed research, testimonials do deserve credit as case-studies. As it frequently happens with nutrition therapy, the diet therapy usually precedes any rigorous research. It may take many years before research is conducted on the GAPS diet specifically, if research ever takes place at all.

I know Nurse Practitioners, Naturopaths and Registered Dietitian Nutritionists who follow this diet personally, and teach it totheir clients. My goal here is to share with you the story behind GAPS by speaking with a Certified GAPS Practitioner.

What we discuss in this short interview on the GAPS diet:

  • What is the GAPS diet?
  • Who would benefit from GAPS? (Hint: it may help those with Ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s,  Depression, excema, autism, ADD, ADHD, diabetes, schizophrenia, digestive issues)
  • How does GAPS work?
  • How is GAPS different from other plans? (ie, FODMAPs, specific carbohydrate diet, Paleo)

Recommended GAPS Resources from my library:

Penelope GAPS Diet practitionerThe expert talking with us today is Penelope Ferguson, a RDN and a certified GAPS practitioner.

Penelope Ferguson is a Registered Dietitian with over thirty years, focusing on integrated nutrition and lifestyle needs.  Penelope is a Certified GAPS™ Practitioner (Gut And Psychology Syndrome), working with groups and individuals to re-establish their gut microbiome, helping both the gut, autoimmune disorders and brain function, through the use of traditional foods.

Penelope is a native of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and utilizes her knowledge of local foods, recipes and traditions.  She loves to cook and believes in featuring local foods and returning to simple cooking techniques.  Her approach with food-based support is simple: for individuals and families to get back into the kitchen to basic real food that is local which has been prepared and served with respect for Nature and with love for those that are eating it.

Find Penelope at

Twitter: @PenelopeRD


  • GAPS is new to me. I’m a celiac so am very careful about what I eat or use on my body but the idea of detox is intriguing. Off to learn more.

  • I’m with Louise – I’ve never heard of GAPS. Fortunately, I have no health issues, however I am growing more and more interested in how food can best fuel my body and how I can maximize my health for as long as possible. (I want to live to be 100+ AND be healthy!) Thanks for introducing me to this new information, Frances!

  • Frances, thanks for sharing this important info. Autism is a condition dear to my heart, and I hope that more and more awareness of the link between diet and autism will occur!

  • Thank you so much Frances for this fascinating post! I believe food is medicine and bringing more mindfulness to what we eat and how we support our bodies is critical for all of us particularly if you have neurological challenges. I work with many people and families impacted by epilepsy and I will share this information and podcast with them. Thank you so much!

  • Kelly, I agree! Since you work with families who have such challenges, your insights into this could really help them. Thanks for sharing!

  • Like the rest of the posters, I’d never heard of GAPS before….then again, there are so many things I am ignorant of. But it seems plausible to me. The human is a system. And, the system is affected by the external influences playing upon its internal weak points, isn’t it?

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