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I’m On the GAPS Diet to Treat Crohn’s-Ulcerative Colitis and IT’S WORKING

I’m the one! YES

I have been on GAPS for 11+ months to treat Crohn’s/UC and it has completely healed me and given me my life back! It’s a phenomenal diet. Reid will be interviewing me for his documentary soon and I will be talking about the GAPS diet.

Here’s the short version: I am a 31 year old female who was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in May of 2004 at the age of 25. The first couple of years weren’t too bad. I had two serious flares, one of which landed me in the hospital for a week. But in October of 2006 the Crohn’s flew out of control and I spent the last 4 years in agony and near death on several occasions. I had another doctor who said she thought I had UC not Crohn’s, but the diagnoses matter little to me as they are one and of the same in my opinion. I generally say I have Crohn’s.

From 2006-2009 I had numerous hospitalizations and emergency visits due to the Crohn’s, and I failed every medication and treatment available to me including: asacol, prednisone, budesinide, flagyll, 6MP, Remicade, and TPN therapy (tube feeding). My doctor told me there was nothing left that she could do for me besides surgery. It was shortly after this that I was led to a doctor in San Francisco, Dr. Cowan, who was the first one to tell my why I had Crohn’s disease, how it got that way, and what I needed to do to reverse it. He prescribed the GAPS diet.

It took me a couple of months to research and learn the diet as I knew NO ONE on the planet (besides people online) who had even heard of it. On February 15th, 2010 I began the GAPS diet and over the next few months all of my symptoms subsided. By September of 2010 I felt like a new person. I’m now able to be back to work part time and pursue interests that would have been an impossibility a year ago.

So the diet IS indeed based on the SCD but here is where it differs: it is more of a PROTOCOL than strictly a diet. It incorporates detoxing, and has a big emphasis on eating foods that HEAL the body rather than just avoiding the foods that irritate it. Forgive me if I’m misunderstanding SCD as I’m not 100% familiar with it, but it is my understanding that it eliminates the foods that cause problems (complex carbs). GAPS is the same but where I believe it goes further is in the introduction of probiotic and fermented foods such as homemade sauerkraut and homemade milk kefir. It also emphasizes healing bone broths, juicing, detox baths, and other key foods that work to HEAL the body and restore the gut flora. I’ve noticed that many people who are on SCD do great on the diet as long as they stay on the diet. But when they venture out and go back to eating more regularly, they become symptomatic. The goal of GAPS is to actually heal the gut so the body is able to handle complex carbs (in moderation of course, as we eat way too many in western culture anyway!) They say that after your last symptom disappears, to be on the diet a year beyond that and that it should be a good indicator of healing. Of course, if one was to go back to eating a SAD diet or one full of complex carbs, I’m sure the healing would unravel, but the idea is to be able to back to a regular, nourishing, traditional diet.

I haven’t cheated since starting GAPS so I’ve not tested the waters when it comes to eating illegals but when I hit one year in February I plan on treating myself to an illegal meal of pizza so I can let you know how it goes! I will stay on GAPS at least another year from February but eventually I would like to eat a little more normally, but still a nourishing traditions type of diet.

As far as not being able to find any info about GAPS and UC or Crohn’s people, trust me when I say there are MANY who have been healed on this diet with our ailments and more. The book is a bit misleading as it focuses on Autism and ADD since this is what Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride (the founder of GAPS) healed her son of. But the diet is DEFINITELY right for people like us and more:

If I were you, I would highly recommend reading “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” book as it offers such a fascinating explanation of what GAPS is and how it works. There is a new 2010 edition of the book but I believe it is on backorder until the end of January. You can get it on Amazon or the GAPS website. Once I read this book, the lightbulb went on and everything made sense.

Bottom line: GAPS is pretty much SCD with some variation, but ADDS more into the diet to promote better overall healing. It takes SCD a step further in my opinion which makes all the difference, I think. Please let me know if you have more questions as I’m happy to share my experience. Hope that helps.

Health & Healing,

Tara :o)


27 thoughts on “I’m On the GAPS Diet to Treat Crohn’s-Ulcerative Colitis and IT’S WORKING”

  1. Thanks Tara! Appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts. Only one slight, minor, tinsy winsy correction, SCD does recommend yogurt for probiotics, but you are right it focuses more on the elimination of offending foods while GAPS sounds like it more healing protocols, meaning as you said, it takes things a step further.

  2. That’s great you got see Dr. Cowan and found the GAPS diet! I’m so glad it’s helped you. I started on SCD and later incorporated more GAPS and Weston Price style diet.

    I do like that GAPS emphasizes detoxing and some supplements. But, I also like how simplistic SCD is to start. Depending on the person’s situation I sometimes refer them to SCD, sometimes to GAPS.

    The thing to remember about SCD is that Elaine Gottschall put a lot of emphasis on broth, gelatin, liver and yogurt to heal the gut lining and restore bacteria. I think a lot of people forget that. They eliminate all the ‘illegal’ foods and start eating all the baked good they see recipes for online. The main goal of SCD is to start out with foods that heal the gut (intro diet) and then move to more variety and incorporate baked goods.

    I heard that Natasha Campbell-McBride will be coming out with another book “Gut and Physiology Syndrome” where she will address digestive diseases more prominently. I’m not sure the protocol will be that different but it would be great to have one book geared for the brain and one for the gut.

    So glad to hear your story! I hope you continue to do well on it.

  3. Thanks Tara! I was brought here from a tweet from SCDkat! I’ve been on the SCDiet for a long time it seems. Diagnosed with UC in 2002, took meds for a few years and figured out I’m never going to cure myself if I don’t change my life style…I mean who really wants to take meds for the rest of your life and just hide the real problem. Don’t get me wrong, meds are important and helpful, but I didn’t want to do it ANYMORE!

    SCD was hard at first, but it’s opened my eyes to so many things. I’m thankful I took the plunge, and almost don’t miss the “normal” food anymore.

    I’ll have to try this out, I’m ready for the next step!


  4. Tara,
    AWESOMENESS, thanks so much for sharing your story, you are a true inspiration to all of us here who are dealing with UC/Crohn’s IBD whatever you want to call it!

    Thanks for taking the time to share a treatment that is working for you, now time to do some more reading on it!

  5. Thanks for all of the comments, guys! Happy to know that my story resonates with you.

    @ Reid- Hey, buddy! SCD Yogurt- YES, I didn’t mean to imply that SCD was without probiotic foods. I’m aware of the yogurt which I understand is very helpful to SCDers. Sorry if it came out misleading. What I meant to emphasize was that on GAPS there are MANY probiotic foods that are pushed in large quantities as tolerated. And while homemade yogurt AND homemade kefir are encouraged on GAPS I feel it is important to note that yogurt contains only a handful of beneficial bacteria while homemade kefir can contain up to 20-40 beneficial strains of bacteria and yeast depending on its composition. I credit the kefir as being responsible for a large portion of my healing thus far.

    @ Kat- Hi, Kat! Great to hear from you as I’ve been a subscriber to your blog for some time and enjoy reading it. I can see your point about referring people to SCD because of its easier implementation to start. GAPS can be very daunting- especially at the beginning. One may do better to start on SCD then transition to GAPS when they are ready for more. I agree with you that many people on these lifestyle diets easily forget the staples of healing foods. On GAPS too, I’ve noticed that those who see weaker results are often the ones who are letting those important staples slide and eating many baked goods to satisfy that craving for “normal” food. I think it’s important to encourage that patients do their best to embrace this NEW way of eating and not just try to make constant substitutes for SAD-type foods. I do enjoy baked goods and “candy” treats to satisfy those little cravings but in great moderation and not on a daily basis. You can’t eat a meal of almond flour muffins for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and expect to heal! Continued healing to you, Kat. It’s exciting for me to read that you’ve started incorporating some GAPS stuff and how it’s working for you. We all have so much to learn from each other.

    @ Nikki- Hi, there! Yes- meds are AWFUL! I agree, they are sometimes necessary in life-threatening situations and before I understood what was going on in my body and the real problem, they kept me alive on a few occasions. Although ALL of the medications failed to produce remission in my body, at times they were necessary evil as I searched for the truth. I’m happy to report that I weaned off my last medication in early November (6MP) and my healing from GAPS never skipped a beat! I am better than ever finally off all the meds and FREE! Congratulations to you for “taking the plunge” and taking charge of your situation. It’s not an easy thing to do. I would encourage you to look into GAPS if you say you are ready for the next step. It’s really not much different- just ADDING things in mostly. Should be an easy transition and I’ve heard of many SCDers who are trying some of the protocols that work for them. Happy healing!

    @ Adam- It was my pleasure. Thank you so much for the opportunity and for providing a place for people in our situation to have a voice!

  6. Hi Tara, great post-omg, I had practically the same experience as you with Crohn’s…. but I ended up having surgery But, the good news is that I began to build my health back in a similar way and didn’t know about your diet, but I did the SCD for a few months and felt SO much better and then modified things my own way, with the help of Dr. Black my naturopath, and it sounds like the GAPS stuff that I incorporated. I am so excited to hear about this and will check out the website right now! Thanks for sharing.

    One thing, also, about yogurt–I use this powder called Ultra Flora and it is a probiotic. I swear by this and take a quarter teaspoon every night mixed with 2 heaping tablespoons of ground Flax seed. I never made my own yogurt, but I have heard about things like Kumbucha, but I tried it and didn’t like the taste at all! So, I add the probiotic powder (have to keep it refrigerated; and the ground Flax seed needs to be kept FROZEN) nightly to my diet. But I will check out the book and the website…

    Hey Reid! How’s the movie going? Lots of good contacts come out of this amazing website–wish Adam had it going in 2006 when I was so sick and lonely; but, hey, it is up now! Tara, I added a link to my book, which is slowly and steadily getting out there and it is helping people, which is so gratifying to me! Just thinking back, it was Elaine’s story and book that inspired me, along with the excellent “Eating Right for a Bad Gut” by Scala. Good luck, Tara, and congratulations!

  7. @ Dede- I’m happy to hear that after your surgery you were able to find the SCD and build your health! The main reason the surgeries fail is that people continue to eat and live the way they did before and nothing ever gets HEALED. But if you are doing the SCD then you are taking care of the root problem so YAY FOR YOU!!! Also, I too take a powder probiotic called GUTPro. I’ve been taking various probiotics for years now but they only helped a little when I was still eating complex carbs and didn’t know better. Now they can do their job properly! Thanks for commenting. Hooray for healing!

  8. Hi Tara! What a fantastic testimonial for GAPS! I started on GAPS to help my husband heal from his ulcerative colitis but unfortunately he has not really taken the diet seriously. He did learn that he cannot tolerate dairy and that has helped. I wish he would give GAPS a chance. I have had great success with GAPS, I no longer feel depressed, have anxiety attacks, my feet and back stopped hurting, absolutely no PMS or cramping, I’ve lost weight that I desperately needed to lose (I’m 5’4″ and was over 240#). I’m so glad GAPS has helped you and love that you have shared your story with us here.

    1. Hi, Starlene! I’m the same Tara that has commented on your blog from time to time. So happy to see a comment from you and happy that you are still going strong! Good for you! Too bad about your husband. One thing I’ve leaned is that you can’t force a person to change but maybe one day he will want it bad enough. Keep up the great work!

  9. Hi Tara,

    A friend sent me your post and I am so grateful to have read it. Very encouraging since I am starting on GAPS very soon. Can I ask if your protocol had anything in addition to GAPS? Thanks!!!

  10. Gina- I’m so happy to be an encouragement. I had my reservations too, but GAPS is an EXCELLENT healing diet. The only thing that I did in addition to GAPS (and this was prior to it), was take large doses of Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). I take 7,000IU’s a day and it was responsible for finally stopping the rectal bleeding that was so serious. It also helped the diarrhea some. Other than that, I just followed the GAPS protocol. Lots of homemade chicken stock, veggies, and fermented foods! All the best to you- it’s a journey but it’s worth it!

  11. Hi Tara – totally inspiring!! I am doing intro now for proctitis and candida. How long did u do intro and did you have any candida issues to contend with? I need to find a doc to work with on this, I am in MA if you have any ideas!! I will post my story *when* I get better!!!

  12. Hi, Jen. Sorry it took me a few days to get back to you. I did a prolonged intro because I was so sick to start. I think I was on intro for a couple of months until I got to full GAPS but that is not necessarily the norm. Many people can get through intro in just a few weeks or less. I chose to go slower because I wanted a very thorough healing. I also eliminated dairy for the first 6 weeks. I’m sure I had some candida issues but they were not blatantly apparent or the focus of my healing. My doctor, Dr. Cowan, takes patients via phone from all over the country. It might be worth looking into- he is extremely knowledgeable about all of this.
    He is probably the leading doctor for GAPS in the U.S. and I would highly recommend him. I hope that helps. All the best, and I hope to hear of your progress on the diet!

  13. Hi Tara,
    Thank you for sharing your story! My 1 year old daughter, Ayla, has Crohn’s and has been hospitalized a ton. We’re having a really rough go trying to get her feeling better. Interesting that you see Dr. Cowan. I just made an appointment with him and have been planning to implement the GAPS intro diet. My concern is making sure that she meets all her nutritional requirements, which can be tricky considering she’s still an infant. Hopefully Dr. Cowan can help me with this but do you have ANY idea where else I can get help with this?

  14. Hi All,

    Just wanted to add my own story, which is very similar to Tara’s experience. I was diagnosed with Chron’s, given lots of drugs, some worked but had such terrible side effects I knew I wanted to find a different way. It was hard at first because mainstream doctors were dismissive of diet as a means of controlling symptoms so at each turn I had to kind of go it alone. It did work, and it was dramatic. I went from some of the worst pain of my life (only controllable with vicodin) to pain-free, mostly symptom-free. The challenge for me is adhering to the diet longterm. AS I feel better, I am tempted to cheat. I did this past spring and paid the price about a month ago, but a quick dose of full-scale GAPs and I am back on track.

    All I can say to those who are doubting this approach is give it a good chance. By good, I mean adhere to it strictly for a while. The one thing I will say is that I cannot tolerate dairy and eggs – both allowed on GAPs – so also listen to your body. GAPS has a protocol for testing for food intolerances, but I think if things are not working, eliminate dairy first, including the yogurt and try again. The broths, the probiotic vegies, etc. have been enough to heal me – along with powerful antibiotics, ground flax seed, and a few other supplements and vitamins.

  15. Hi Tara, thanks for sharing your story! I am considering trying this diet and wanted to see how you are doing at this point. Were you able to get back to a more normal diet? Thanks!

  16. Hello!
    I started milk kefir and drinking smoothies a couple weeks ago and within 2-3 days I was symptom free and I was so excited! (I have proctitis). However, About a week later (one day after starting GAPS, I started bleeding again. I have been on Intro GAPS stage one for four days now with minor rectal bleeding (it’s always minor for me anyway) but I’m bummed that the bleeding returned. Just wondering if this is something that is normal during healing or a sign that this diet is not working.
    Thank you and I really hope to hear from you!


  17. Hi, Keri. Glad to hear that the milk kefir and smoothies resolved your symptoms! And yes, it is a bummer that the bleeding returned after starting GAPS. For me, I also had some relief from bleeding prior to GAPS – mostly due to the addition of Vitamin D3. About a week into GAPS I had all of my symptoms return with a vengeance, including the rectal bleeding. I was so upset and thought that the diet wasn’t working or making me worse. But since I had no other options I just kept on it and within 2-3 weeks my symptoms resolved and evened out. Often, your body will start to dump toxins on GAPS and you will go through a sort of detox process called “die-off” that can temporarily resurrect symptoms. While I can’t say for sure if this is what is happening for you, this was certainly the case with me. Go slow, take one day at a time and listen to your body. Wishing you all the best on your healing journey! It sounds like you are making some good progress despite the setback.

    1. Hi Tara,
      I appreciate your response!! That gives me hope and the last two days I have no bleeding – just a little diarrhea- so I am keeping my fingers crossed!! I am so inspired by your story and I really think your are amazing!! I don’t have much support from anyone who is familiar with the diet so I am relying solely on the book. In fact, I am so afraid to eat that this is my eighth day in a row with consuming nothing else than meat stock, kefir, and a few teaspoons of sauerkraut juice!!! So, again, it means soooo much to me to hear from you and to give me some encouragement!! ❤️

      1. Keri, hooray for no bleeding the last two days! That’s great news. Stage one of GAPS includes boiled meats and vegetables so you should definitely be including those as tolerated. Otherwise, it’s not enough calories with just the meat stock, kefir and kraut juice. Also, if you are flying solo on the diet, I might suggest finding a GAPS Facebook group (there should be many) to help guide you on your journey. Over a decade ago when I was learning GAPS, I learned everything from people in an online Yahoo forum. It’s totally doable. Keep up the great work!

  18. Thank you again for the encouragement! Honestly, I physically feel great and have more energy than ever. But I can’t seem to kick this bleeding. It’s minor bleeding but it’s still so discouraging! Like I said, you have given me hope since you had it too and it took a few weeks as you said for your symptoms to even out. I will check out some groups for support and I hope my symptoms will even out like yours did. Thanks again for responding to me!! :)

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