What is a GAPS Family?



The Gut Brain Connection and the GAPS Family

Our family is a GAPS family.

A GAPS family is defined by all the different ways poor gut health affects the physical and mental self.  The poor inner ecology is what was ‘passed along’ but the symptoms present as many different things, from allergies to eczema to autism.

Have you ever wondered why your family seems to have so many ‘issues’ while others sail through life eating worse food and having much less healthy habits than you? Did you have a nagging suspicion that your family’s ‘quirks’, though seemingly unrelated, could actually be related?

As we talked about in the Gut-Brain Connection post,  the inner ecology in our body has a LOT to do with conditions that you would not expect to be related to eachother or what is eaten, but they are.

Doctors are puzzled by this, and tend to just claim ‘genetics’ if they don’t understand something.  I’m sure some things are genetics, but I find it difficult to believe that the ‘autism’, ‘eczema’, ‘hyperactivity’, ‘allergy’, ‘food intolorence’, and ‘OCD’ genes would suddenly show up in this current generation after being missing from so many before.  A family full of these things is a ‘GAPS family’.

Nutrition Component

In addition to the inner ecology influencing brain function, generational nutrition does at well.

A GAPS family likely was very healthy 100 years ago, living on whole foods with minimal toxins and drug exposure.  Two or three generations ago they switched to eating more packaged foods and smoking cigarettes.

The next generation they may have quit smoking, but continued to eat even more food that came from factories, and started avoiding sun exposure (and with that avoiding fresh air) and fat.

Antibiotics, an amazing discovery that saves lives, unfortunately also are over prescribed without looking toward the long term consequences in the GI tract.

The following generation is where some big issues started popping up- Chronic fatigue, digestion problems, attention problems, autistic spectrum disorder, eczema, chronic unexplained pain, learning disabilities, depression, and possibly even obesity.

Our ‘progressiveness’ is hurting our families. Each generation has said, ‘Well, I was raised this way and I turned out fine… Grandma lived to be 80… It must be something else, my great grandparents not only ate like this, but they also smoked a pack a day!”

Over time, our bodies have become depleted.  Moving away from whole foods, reducing fat, and the stress of environmental toxins has left us depleted of nutrients.  When we get pregnant (if we are able), these deficiencies are passed on to our offspring, and the toxins may be partially passed on as well.

If a mother’s liver is overwhelmed with toxins, it may not adequately filter them out and away from her developing baby, and the baby is then born fighting an up hill battle.  A mother deficient in vitamin B12 passes that deficiency onto her baby, who then has trouble growing, developing, and learning (source) and detoxifying.  These aren’t the only problems- they are just what I could think of right now.

As we talked about in the gut-brain post, just intake of the correct nutrients isn’t enough.  We need to be taking in nutrients that our body can actually use (ie from whole foods) and our body has to be functioning well enough that it can digest and utilize the nutrients how it should.

GAPS Symptoms

  • Allergies
  • Eczema
  • ADD
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Compulsive behaviors such as overeating, obsessive dieting, and excessive hand washing
  • Chronic unexplained fatigue
  • Digestive issues
  • Chronic unexplained pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Sensory integration disorder

What Can We Do?

By taking the nutrition and toxin aspect of our family’s health seriously, I believe that we can change our family tree.  If you suspect your family is also a GAPS family, I would suggest starting by reading the Gut and Psychology Syndrome book, and then implementing the diet as described in the book.

“What if I don’t want it to go away?” Some people ask me that; their child has loveable quirks, and they don’t want to lose the intelligence, different way they view the world, or their personality. I don’t think modifying their diet really does get rid of that sort of thing. I’m a bit obsessive (see my baby research for a taste of that) and on GAPS I stop washing my hands 97 times a day and don’t have to re-check that the stove is off a dozen times before leaving the house, and I don’t repeatedly put my truck in first gear while waiting for the light to turn green, but continue being able to methodically evaluate things (such as supplements).  In my experience, I haven’t noticed ‘losing’ any of my quirky traits that I find helpful in life, I only lose the ones I’m happy to not have.

*Disclaimer: I’m just a mom trying to figure out what will help my family. I’m not a medical professional.  I’m not judging you, diagnosing you, or claiming to have all or any answers. I’m just sharing what I’ve learned lately, if you have any questions please see a qualified healthcare professional.

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  1. says

    I have had people tell me their children have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum but they believe it’s just that their child is quirky. The problem with quirkiness – it might be cute when one is a child, but the truth of the matter is one’s gut dysbiosis is going to continue to worsen. And this poor GAPS child is going to grow up and become an adult who will continue to struggle and have problems throughout life. I wrote a post a couple of days ago about my new project and how I can’t imagine ever doing something like this fifteen months ago (when I got on GAPS). Could it be that being a GAPS patient all my life has held me back from my full potential? I think it’s possible. I admire you for doing GAPS for your children. I mean really, who wants to be quirky? Who wants to grow up to be Felix Unger? :-) I think he was a GAPS patient. ;-)

  2. Leigh says

    Thank you for this – I’m going to share this with my husband… I’ve had a hard time trying to figure out how to explain all of this to him! You just did it for me!

  3. says

    Yes! I have often wondered why our family deals with GAPS issues while I look around and see families that eat terribly and seemingly have no issues. Reading about GAPS has opened my eyes so much to the cause behind the issues my family faces. I truly continue to be amazed every time I make a new “discovery” about GAPS conditions. It just makes everything make so much more sense! Thank you for this post!

  4. Laura K says

    I have a question – I have a son who has had eczema since he was about 1 years old (he is now 11). We had him tested for Gluten allergy and 94 foods allergies. Turns out he is allergic to Beef, Eggs (whites and yokes), Cows Milk, Wheat, Rye, Sesame, Spelt. Would the Gaps diet work for him? Since he can’t have eggs it makes it hard with some of the recipes. Would love any input you may have. Thanks for your wonderful blog. It has been a great help to me and my family as we are transitioning into healthier foods.

  5. Angel7 says

    I, too, am trying to implement more nutritional foods into mine and my family’s diet–I purchased the GAPS diet book, but have not received it yet.

    After our daughter had campylobacter and Ecoli in 11/09, she became a very finnicky eater, and I am not sure as to what to do to get her to eat. She will eat some stuff, but refuses vegetables no matter how I make them. She is now almost three years-old and although I give her a great multivitamin, I still worry about her overall health.

    Recently, the doctor tested her for celiac disease, and the results came back negative. However, I know that the blood tests do not always detect celiac disease until an individual has it really bad.

    Do you have any suggestions as to what I can do? If so, could you please let me know? I would greatly appreciate it!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


  6. Terri says

    I’m curious about GAPS and would like to know the best place to start…. probably buying the book would be the best way?!! My son has been on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet – SCD- for 10 months. He’s still not doing great. Recently we decided to cut out eggs and the yogurt because both of these seem to be a problem for him. I read somewhere that the GAPS diet cuts out casein in the intro. diet. If you could tell me the steps for doing the diet – if there is a good website or if you have a post explaining, I’m ready to switch over and see if the GAPS approach will work better for us. Thanks!

  7. Anna Tovar says


    My two year old son has very bad eczema, and after having him tested for allergies it turns out that he is allergic to a slew of things. In addition to a lot of environmental allergies, he is also allergic to eggs, nuts, dairy and soy. I’ve already cut all of those things out of his diet, but the environmental allergies leave him covered in rashes.

    I feel like the GAPS diet would be good for him, but 1) he’s two, and although he’t not a picky eater, I’m concerned about how much boiled meat and veggies I can actually get him to eat, and 2) a lot of recipes that i’ve found include eggs, dairy, and nuts, which he can’t have. I’m so overwhelmed by how few things he can actually eat, and am having a hard time figuring out how to come up with a diet for him that he will both enjoy and can be maintained long enough for him to reap the benefits.

    Any tips would be GREATLY appreciated!



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