For optimal digestive function the chain of events that digestion follows needs to be working in synergy to ensure issues with function don’t arise. When we match optimal function with the right nutrition for the individual good health will be supported.
The digestive system is a long hollow tube in which we metabolize, absorb and eliminate with the support of a number of accessory organs: liver, gall bladder and pancreas.
Important factors in optimal digestive function:
1. Salivary amylase secreted by the salivary glands to initiate carbohydrate digestion.
2. Good levels of Hydrochloric acid (HCL) in the stomach are needed to break down protein and for anti-microbial action. Also to ensure adequate bile release from the gall bladder
3. Bile release from the gall bladder is important for healthy fat metabolism and peristalsis
4. Healthy structure of the small intestine lining, villi and micro villi (see below) are important for carbohydrate metabolism, immune activation and absorption of nutrients.
5. Healthy gut bacteria is essential for healthy immune response, protection from free radicals and breakdown of nutrients.
6. A healthy bowel function includes a transit time of around 14 hours and at least 1 bowel motion per day that sinks, is medium brown in colour and is fully formed in one piece.
What can happen when function becomes impaired?
1. Reflux, heartburn, nausea, pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhoea.
2. Food intolerances and allergies.
3. Immune dysfunction.
4. Increased levels of inflammation and cholesterol.
7. Endocrine (hormonal) imbalance
Other diagnosable conditions: IBS, inflammatory bowel disease, crohn’s disease, Fibromyalgia, Chronic fatigue syndrome and many more.
The GAPS diet and your digestive health…
The term GAPS refers to Gut and Psychology/Physiology Syndrome. This was created by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride MD, MMedSci (Neurology), MMedSci (Human Nutrition) in 2004 after her experience working with hundreds of children and adults with neurological and psychiatric conditions, including autism spectrum disorders, ADD/ ADHD, schizophrenia, dyslexia, depression and other neurological problems. Further research indicated the effectiveness of the GAPS diet on other conditions related to inflammation and disordered immune function.
The GAPS protocol has been shown to be effective in the treatment of all digestive disorders including: IBS, inflammatory bowel disease and gastritis. Other conditions related to GAPS include: Fibromyalgia, allergies, eczema, migraines, autoimmune disease and arthritis.
GAPS offers an in depth understanding of how the gut and brain are linked and what can happen when this connection becomes disordered. GAPS can also provide an explanation as to how imbalanced gut bacteria and a “leaky gut”can have profound detrimental effects on our health.
The main contributing factors in the development of GAPS includes, abnormal gut flora, abnormal digestion resulting in nutritional deficiencies and a damaged gut lining. The ability of the body to detoxify is also implicated, as detoxification pathways become less effective more symptoms are added to the GAPS picture.
Is the GAPS diet for you?
You may benefit from the GAPS dietary approach if you suffer from any of the following health conditions:
• Mood alterations
• Memory and cognitive problems
• Anxiety and panic attacks
• Eating disorders
• Digestive issues
• Muscle aches and pains
• Skin issues
• Hormonal imbalance
• Frequent infections
How do we implement the GAPS diet?
A comprehensive dietary protocol was developed by Dr Natasha to help the gut lining to heal and for the balance to restore to the digestive system. This restoration of optimal digestive function can result in the drastic improvement to many of the conditions mentioned above.
The process starts with a full case history that is primarily focused on your health history and experiences but will also include exploring the health of your immediate family and genetic predisposition. Investigations into your current digestive function are crucial and important to link in other imbalances you may be experiencing.
This information will form the basis of your treatment plan and you’ll be provided with a step by step guide to support your healing journey. There may be some supportive supplements or herbal medicine recommended in the initial stages of the GAPS diet.
Consider these foods in your diet even if you’re not interested in GAPS!
• Bone broth
• Fermented and probiotic foods
• Foods containing protein
• Veggies with every meal
Consider reducing the following foods:
• Processed foods: including white, cereals and pasta
• Foods high in preservatives, flavours and colours. Read your labels carefully!
Emma Tippett, Naturopath, is a fully qualified GAPS practitioner who can guide and support you through the GAPS diet protocol and is committed to helping you achieve optimal health and wellness.