I see many patients in my clinic who have tried the GAPS diet without knowing they have a histamine intolerance. They dedicate a lot of time and energy into following the meal plans correctly, making their own bone broths and fermented foods in the hope that they are going to heal their gut and feel much better. However, no matter how hard they try, they progressively feel worse and worse.
In this latest blog, I discuss why the GAPS diet is not ideal for some people.
What is the GAPS diet?
GAPS refers to ‘Gut and Psychology Syndrome’. It’s a specific type of eating plan designed for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, leaky gut syndrome, depression, anxiety, autism, ADHD and autoimmune disease.
The overall aim of this eating plan is to:
- Reduce inflammation in the gut
- Repair the gut wall (ie fix a leaky gut)
- Prevent toxins from entering the blood stream which can lead to autoimmune conditions (Hashimotos, Grave’s Disease, Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Rheumatoid arthritis)
- Balances the microbiome (gut bacteria)
Heath benefits of the GAPS diet
For many people, following the GAPS meal plan, will provide them with great health benefits including:
- Reduction in bloating
- Regulation of bowel function (ie fix constipation or diarrhoea)
- Reduction in allergies
- Reduction in food intolerances
- Improvement in mood (reduced anxiety and depression)
- Improved immune function
- Improved digestion and absorption of nutrients
- Improvement in energy
What foods are part of the GAPS diet?
The first part of the GAPS diet involves eliminating certain foods, and increasing the intake of specific foods designed to heal the gut.
Food to be avoided include:
- Processed foods
- All Grains
- Processed sugar
- Starchy carbs and potatoes
- Artificial chemicals and preservatives
- Conventional meat and dairy
These foods are considered to be inflammatory, they disrupt the normal balance of gut flora and cause a leaky gut. This can lead to autoimmune conditions, as well as depression and anxiety.
Foods to be included are:
- Bone broth
- Steamed (non-starchy) vegetables
- Organic wild meats
- Slow cooked meat dishes
- Fish (wild caught)
- Egg yolks
- Fruit and Avocados
- Healthy Fats: coconut oil, ghee and olive oil
- Sprouted nut butter
- Probiotic rich foods (fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, kimchi)
- Sea Salt
These foods are considered to be anti-inflammatory and contain specific nutrients that heal the gut wall and balance the gut flora.
BUT my symptoms are getting worse!!!!! WHY???
There are several foods on this list that are VERY high in histamines including bone broths, slow cooked meat dishes, prebiotic rich foods (fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, kimchi) and avocado. For some people histamines can be a huge problem.
If when eating these high histamine foods, you experience any of the following symptoms, then it is very likely you have a histamine intolerance:
- Headaches or migraines
- Itchy skin
- Hayfever, sinusitis
- A feeling of irritation in the body
- Heat palpitations, shortness of breath, tightness of chest
Why do I have problem with histamines?
There are several reasons people don’t tolerate histamines, including:
- Genetic – MTHFR, HNMT, ABP1/DAO, MAOB, HRHI, HRH4 gene mutations can all cause issues with histamine.
- Poor gut function – an unhealthy gut can also increase histamine in the body.
- Oestrogen – too much oestrogen or poor detoxification of oestrogen will increase histamine in the body.
- Taking antihistamines long term will cause a reduction in the DAO enzyme that breaks down histamine in the gut.
- Many foods increase histamine in the body including fermented foods (soy, miso kimchi, sauerkraut), aged cheeses, alcohol, yeast, shellfish, canned tuna, processed meats, chocolate and tomatoes.
The GAPS diet can be extremely healing for some people, however not everyone will be able to tolerate the high histamine foods that make up a significant part of this eating plan. If you have experienced issues with histamine foods, you may benefit from working with a naturopath or nutritionist to develop a specific meal plan that will heal your gut without causing adverse side effects.