GAPS – Gut and Psychology Syndrome 


Many people have asked me to write and article on GAPS – as they sometimes look at me in disbelief when I explain the condition, pioneered by Dr. Samantha Campbell-McBride. 

Gut and Psychology Syndrome – believed by many medical professionals to be responsible for autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD/ADD, bi-polarity and other neural and personality disorders, are taking the medical community by storm – at least in developed nations where thinking out of the box and engaging brain is encouraged. 

Developed by Dr McBride, after extensive research in order to heal her own autistic child, and attaining a M.Sc in nutrition in the process, the GAPS concept has given parents with autistic children new hope with a treatment protocol (mainly diet) that has healed many and improved their quality of life. 

As care givers – health practitioners should take note, the protocol is 90% effective – although not all can be helped, depending on the age of the patient, and the severity of the patient’s condition. It is difficult in our society to think that these disorders can be treated by nutrition alone – for that is the focus of the protocol, disregarding bio-medical intervention to ease symptoms or control behavior – especially with allopathics. Yet – as Dr. McBride explains – it is the gut/brain interaction and poisons released by foodstuffs that eventually breach the blood/brain barrier – causing these conditions. 

But how about the physiology – what are the mechanisms? I quote Dr. McBride: 

“ It all starts in the gut. What happens in these children [is that] they do not develop normal gut flora from birth…” she says. “Gut flora is a hugely important part of our human physiology. Recent research in Scandinavia has demonstrated that 90 percent of all cells and all genetic material in a human body is our own gut flora. We are just a shell… a habitat for this mass of microbes inside us. We ignore them at our own peril. 

…As a result, the digestive system — instead of being a source of nourishment for these children — becomes a major source of toxicity. These pathogenic microbes inside their digestive tract damage the integrity of the gut wall. So all sort of toxins and microbes flood into the bloodstream of the child, and get into the brain of the child. That usually happens in the second year of life in children who were not breast fed because breastfeeding provides a protection against this abnormal gut flora. In children who were not breastfed, I see the symptoms of autism developing in the first year of life. So breastfeeding is crucial to protect these children.” 

Your gut is actually outside of your body – not inside. It protects you from invaders and other microbes that have the potential for causing disease and illness. Your gut is the frontline of your immune system, home to countless bacteria, both good and bad. These bacteria outnumber the cells in your body by at least 10 to one, and maintaining the ideal balance of good and bad bacteria forms the foundation for good health; physical, mental and emotional. Nearly every disease originates in your digestive system. This includes both physical and mental disease. Once you heal and seal your gut lining, and make your digestive system work properly again, disease symptoms will typically resolve. 


The prevalence of autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, bi-polarity etc. are becoming epidemic – as Dr. McBride explains: 


"By the time I graduated from medical school I had never seen an autistic individual. To be honest, the first autistic child that I encountered was my own… Five years ago we were diagnosing one child in 150, which is almost a 40-fold increase in incidence. Now in Britain and some countries, we are diagnosing one child in 66." 


When we look at the statistics – even in South Africa, the prognosis for the condition to proliferate is not good. Ask any elementary school teacher about unruly children in his or her class – and prepare for a barrage of comments regarding at least 3 children per class that has either hyperactivity or behaviour problems. If we consider that a typical class has 36 students – that suggests that statistics are wrong and that the disorder is now reaching a 10:1 ratio. That is frightening – and GAPS therefore needs to get serious attention. 


What happens to these children are the following - they do not develop normal gut flora from birth. 

As a result, the digestive system, instead of being a source of nourishment for these children, becomes a major source of toxicity. These pathogenic microbes inside our digestive tract damage the integrity of the gut wall. So all sort of toxins and microbes flood into the bloodstream of the child and even adults (Metabolic Syndrome), and get into the brain of the child. That usually happens in the second year of life in children who were breast fed because breastfeeding provides a protection against this abnormal gut flora. In children who were not breastfed, we see the symptoms of autism developing in the first year of life. So breastfeeding is crucial to protect these children. 

However – Dr. McBride continues to explain: 

“Ever since antibiotics were prescribed, particularly from the 50s and 60s, they were prescribed for every cough and sneeze. They really over-prescribed antibiotics. And with every course of antibiotics, the abnormalities in the gut flora would get deeper and deeper in these children.” 


And then, at the age of 15, 16, the girls were put on a contraceptive pill… [Which] have a devastating effect on the gut flora. Nowadays ladies are taking it for quite a few years before they are ready to start their family.” 


So, to recap, bottle-feeding along with over-use of antibiotics and use of the contraceptive pill set the stage for increasingly abnormal gut flora with each passing generation. Then, add to that a diet of processed junk food and excessive consumption of high fructose corn syrup and you have a prescription for disaster in terms of intestinal health. It is important to realize that processed foods and sugar almost exclusively feed pathogens in your digestive system, allowing them to proliferate. 


She continues: 


“Many of these modern factors created a whole plethora of young ladies in our modern world who have quite deeply abnormal gut flora by the time they are ready to have their first child. This is the abnormal gut flora that they are passing through their children,” she explains. 


“So these babies acquire abnormal gut flora from the start, but while the baby is breastfed the baby is receiving protection because whatever is in the mother's blood will be in her milk. Women who have abnormal gut flora would have immune factors in their blood, which they have developed against their own gut flora to protect them. These immune factors will be in their milk, and thus protect their babies. 


While the baby is breastfed, despite the fact that the baby has acquired abnormal gut flora from the mom, there will be some protection. But as soon as the breastfeeding stops, protection stops as well. It is not uncommon to find many pathogens in the breast tissue that may be considered dangerous. When breast feeding stops, the time arrives when the abnormalities in the gut flora really flourish and the child starts sliding down into autism, ADHD or ADD or any other learning disability or physical problems such as diabetes type 1 for example, and celiac disease or other autoimmune conditions, or… asthma, eczema and other physical problems. That is where this epidemic comes from.” 


I am going to try and explain the physiology behind these statements. There is evidence suggesting that gluten sensitivity may be at the root of many neurological and psychiatric problems, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and bi-polar disorder. 


So, let us try and make sense of this. 


What is gluten? It is a protein found in wheat grain and part of proline and glutamine rich proteins known as prolamines. Prolamines are found in all cereal grains, even rice, corn and oats, but only wheat, and to a lesser extent rye, are associated with the serious neurological and autoimmune reactions often linked to autism spectrum disorder. 

Gluten is only found in wheat species. Other cereal grasses have what are known as prolamines (proline-glutamine rich proteins) with rye containing secalin, barley containing horedin, etc, but they have very little cross-reactivity with antigens associated with wheat intolerance. It has long been known that people with celiac disease are also more likely to suffer from ADHD, another condition that is heavily influenced by dietary habits.

 This is caused by leaky gut syndrome – in which the gut lining deteriorates, develop little pinprick holes and larger protein particles like gluteomorphins and casomorphins then escapes into the bloodstream. This elicits an inflammatory response by the immune system – commonly an allergic reaction, which then manifests as various forms of physical symptoms. The poisons released are acetaldehydes and opioids.

 Our digestive system is lined by very specialized cells, which are called enterocytes. These little cells only live for a few days, they die, get shed off, and get replaced by new, healthy enterocytes. The cell regeneration process in your gut lining is a very active process. If the bad gut flora infests our gut – the enterocytes cannot function and this leads to malnutrition and finally dysbiosis. 


We have a real chance to heal and seal our damaged gut lining thanks to the wonderful process of cell regeneration. But here is the catch: in order for your body to give birth to healthy functioning baby enterocytes, it needs two factors. It needs building blocks for them, because they are made out of certain nutrients (proteins, certain fats, vitamins, enzymes, and other active molecules). Second, it needs the whole process to be orchestrated by the beneficial microbes in your digestive system, your beneficial healthy gut flora. 

People with GAPS have neither of those factors. They run out of building blocks due to improper nutrition, which prevents the proliferation of new, healthy enterocytes, and their gut lining is overpopulated with pathogenic bacteria, virus, fungi, worms, protozoa, and other pathogenic microbes. As a result, the beneficial microbes are virtually nonexistent, and the balance of good and bad bacteria is dramatically altered. 


The trouble is that in our modern society, we live in a world where a growing proportion of the population has damaged gut flora, because they have been exposed to repeated courses of antibiotics; women are taking contraceptive pills, which damage the gut flora quite profoundly, or any other prescriptive long-term medication. People are taking in toxic substances through their food and drink, and other environmental influences damage the composition of their gut flora. 

As a result, when they are exposed to mercury, lead, other toxic metals, or other toxic substances in the environment, their gut flora is unable to chelate it, and cannot remove it. It floods into their bloodstream, and settles in the body. 

Toxic metals have a particular affinity for fatty tissues in the body (cholesterol), so they get stored in the brain, spine, and in the rest of the nervous system. They also target your bone marrow and the rest of the high fat organs in the body. Potentially, when they are stored in these areas, they would cause leukaemia, lymphoma, immune abnormalities, and other problems. As these metallic toxins bind to cholesterol, they may cause the myethin sheaths around brain neurons to turn into plaque and disrupt normal brain function, causing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and dementia. 


A variety of behavioural problems are linked to problems in your gut, not only from gluten, WGA and other components of grains but also due to the gut-brain connection. The gut-brain connection is well recognized as a basic tenet of physiology and medicine, so this is not all that surprising, even though it is often overlooked. There is also a wealth of evidence showing gastrointestinal involvement in a variety of neurological diseases. 


With this in mind, it should also be quite clear that nourishing your gut flora is extremely important at all life stages because in a very real sense you have two brains, one inside your skull and one in your gut, and each needs its own vital nourishment. Think for a moment, your brain is separated from the body (blood brain barrier) and your gut as well (the gut lining.)

Your gut and your brain are actually created out of the same type of tissue. During foetal development, one part turns into your central nervous system while the other develops into your enteric nervous system. These two systems are connected via the vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve that runs from your brain stem down to your abdomen. This is what connects your two brains together, and explains such phenomena as getting butterflies in your stomach when you are nervous, for example. 


As explained by Dr. McBride, “toxicity in your gut can flow throughout your body and into your brain, where it can cause symptoms of autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, depression, schizophrenia and other mental disorders”.


This is not all – adult GAPS is also on the rise, and research now suggests that Metabolic Syndrome, or Syndrome X, is a good adult companion for GAPS. We all know the new psychological kid on the block is bi-polarity – it is more often than not misdiagnosed or confused with other mental disorders, and the cause may simply be dietary intolerances. 


At the Nu-Life practice, our adult scans indicate that 70% of all clients tested, suffer to some degree from adult GAPS or Metabolic Syndrome. The results show a pattern of degeneration of cellular health, mal-absorption and mental incapacity. 


This usually manifests in severe calcium, selenium, copper and B vitamin deficiency – all necessary for good mental and physical health, as well as a healthy immune system. The general manifestation in health decline is circulation (vascular), intestinal ailments, mal-absorption, acidosis, onset of diabetes type 2 and bone mineral densities. The only cure to our knowledge is – diet and supplementation to restore pH balance and nutrient absorption 


In children it manifests as autism spectrum disorder, ADD/ADHD, oppositional defiance disorder, bi-polarity and mild schizophrenia. 


If you have any symptoms or ailment that does not respond to treatment, it would be wise to cut the following out of your diet: 


Milk (non-unpastuerized)

Sugar and all sweeteners

Wheat products of any kind

Starches (rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes)

Convenience foods

All commercial oils derived from agricultural produce except coconut and olive

All soy products. 


Finally – we all need to take responsibility for our health. The solution is simple, but requires effort in that it demands life-style changes. It is sad to see that the orthodox medical environment mainly treats the most prolific of modern diseases without regard for the cause. They mainly control symptoms, often with no improvement in the condition of patients, and severe side effects. 


The causes are there for all to see (if you feel the urge to explore) – and literally thousands of studies offer support to what we have written about here. The results speak for themselves. 


The sadness sometimes engulfs me when I look at the total disregard for personal health and prudent dietary and lifestyle choices in our central South African region. It is a tragedy, brought on by sociological and habitual patterns, which in itself may eventually cause genetic inheritance. 


Are epigenetics really so flawed that they continue to influence the public health to decline in general, or is it manipulated in order to influence our understanding of nutrition, health and holism? I think (speaking for myself only) that our understanding of disease and health is more complicated. Indeed – it seems controlled. 


Time has come to use our resources and determine our own health priorities. And that would also count to be prudent in order to survive in this dense, medicated world, which is controlled by unscrupulous money mongers. 


That said, make no mistake – if I encounter a case where my client needs allopathic intervention – I refer on, as my scope of practice may not be able to offer them expert help. To that extent, at Nu-life, we have a battery of doctors and specialists ready to assist if called into action. Allopathics and orthodox medicine has an even bigger role to play in our society than natural medicine specialists – they save lives when faced with problems deep in the physiological organism. Yet – they are merely Darwinian mechanics that fix problems resulting from metabolic deficiencies. 


In that vein I would really like orthodox and traditional to forge hands and develop a system that may counter the prevalence of mental and physical disease that is engulfing our society. It is of paramount importance.



In good health