Diets that Heal: What are SCD and GAPS?

You may have heard of the many children and adults with autism and related conditions who have made dramatic improvements with the SCD and GAPS diets, and you may be wondering how SCD and GAPS are similar and different.  In this post, I will outline how the two diets are similar.  In my next post, I will outline how they differ.

Both of these diets are remarkable in that they have helped children and adults:

  • Resolve digestive problems
  • Improve absorption leading to healthy weight gain (or loss) and in children, growth
  • Reduce/eliminate behavior, learning and mood-related conditions

In a broad sense, SCD and GAPS are the same.  The SCD diet was developed in 1951 by Drs. Sidney and Merrill Haas.   For many years, SCD was considered by many to be the most effective treatment for digestive disorders such as IBD, Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, Diverticulitis and Celiac.  However, with the discovery that gluten is a major contributor to these conditions and the myth that medications can “bring these diseases into remission,” SCD was almost completely eliminated from the medical texts.

SCD — The Specific Carbohydrate Diet

In 1958, Elaine Gottshall was able to heal her daughter’s “incurable” ulcerative colitis with SCD.  As she started seeing this amazing, effective diet being completely forgotten by the medical system, she became determined to keep SCD alive and wrote the book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle, which has become the official guide to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.

GAPS — Gut and Psychology Syndrome

In the 1990s, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride discovered the power of SCD in healing autism after using it to recover her son and other children in her practice.  Dr. Campbell-McBride developed a healing protocol built around SCD.  She called her protocol, GAPS, the Gut and Psychology Syndrome, because she learned that SCD and the protocol she built around it not only improves autism, it also improves psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, bi-polar, and even schizophrenia.

How SCD and GAPS are the Same

SCD/GAPS allow all healthy forms of protein and fat as well as “specific” carbohydrates.  They eliminate sweet and starchy carbohydrates because those carbohydrates feed pathogenic bacteria in the digestive tract that cause digestive, mood, and behavior problems.  The allowed food lists for these two diets are virtually identical.

Both diets allow certain dairy such as butter, cheese and fully fermented yogurt.  However, most children with autism start with a dairy-free version of the diet because of the high incidence of casein sensitivity in autism and other neurological conditions.  Casein is a protein found in all types of dairy from cows, goats and other mammals.

In addition, both diets have an optional “introductory diet.” SCD and GAPS’s introductory diets start with a small number of easy to digest foods and then add in a new food every 2 to 4 days.  This strategy of slowly introducing new foods is called an elimination diet, and it allows you to watch carefully to determine which foods are currently tolerated.  It will allow you to uncover sensitivities to some foods without the cost of food allergy testing.

Some people choose to start with the introductory diet and gradually move to full-SCD/GAPS.  Others choose to start with full-SCD/GAPS and may go to the introductory diet at a later time.  There are many benefits to the introductory diet besides the ability to determine which foods are tolerated as mentioned above.  The introductory diets also help users to heal faster because the easy-to-digest foods give the digestive system a rest and more quickly kill pathogenic bacteria.

Taylor’s mom described her as “The World’s Pickiest Eater”. As pathogenic bacteria starved, she began to enjoy a variety of healthy foods.

I also find that picky eaters respond very well to the introductory diets because the pathogenic bacteria that are a significant contributor to picky eating are “starved” by the introductory diet.  I find that within a few weeks, picky eaters open up to a wider variety of foods and even begin to truly enjoy healthy foods.  In addition, parents find the structure of the introductory diet helps them overcome their own worries about finding foods for their picky eater because the choices are limited.

We started with the SCD introductory diet and worked our way to full-SCD.  A while later, I wanted to experiment with the healing protocol of GAPS so we went to the GAPS introductory diet and gut healing protocol.    In my next post, I will share my experience with SCD and GAPS and explain the differences in the two.

 

How I Know My Son will Recover from Autism — Fully

Yesterday, I saw a glimpse of FULL recovery!  As I write this blog, tears of joy are flowing!

A little background before I describe what happened:

Five and a half years ago my son, Eli, emerged from autism when we started the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD).  His life and our family’s life was transformed forever.  Within a year, I considered him “mostly recovered.”  At that time, I was certain he would reach “full recovery” soon.

 

It’s been 4 ½ years, and the “full recovery” I thought was just around the corner has not happened.  I have never lost faith.  However, I must admit that I have been weary of working so hard with only a few new improvements in recent years.  It’s like losing a lot of weight but struggling to lose that last 10 pounds.

Since we started the The Son-Rise Program® with Eli 15 months ago, we have started to see those “last 10 pounds” melt away slowly but surely.  But in the past few weeks things have moved more rapidly.  Yesterday blew my mind and brought tears of joy to my eyes.

Here’s What Happened

Yesterday, I had a meeting scheduled to meet with an NC senator with my friend, Laura, and her son, Colson.  Laura, Colson and I make frequent trips to the NC legislature.  Eli has never chosen to join us.  Though Eli loves Colson, an extremely accomplished neurotypical 14 year old, he never chooses to join us for meetings with lawmakers.  In fact, until recently, Eli has refused to do much outside of his comfort zone which consists of our house and our neighborhood.

Yesterday morning, I was giving him the scoop on my plans to be gone to the legislature for a couple of hours – not even dreaming he would ever consider coming.  Then, he asked if Colson was going to be there.  I said yes, then he asked, “If I come would you give me a square of chocolate?”  (It was unsweetened baking chocolate btw.)

I explained that I’d love for him to come, but Colson and his mom have an appointment afterward, so we won’t be able to hang out with them afterward AND he would have to dress up AND he would have to let me talk about his vaccine injury and his autism with the senator AND he would have to make eye contact and shake the senator’s hand.  Normally these terms would have shut him down completely.

Instead, he said he’d agree to my terms IF I would also take him out to lunch afterward at our favorite restaurant.  We had a deal! (He has only willingly eaten out at a restaurant a hand-full of times in the past year and a half.)

I was wondering if this is all too good to be true when he returned to the room in dressy clothes he usually refuses to wear.  OMG!  He was doing it!  He even let me help him comb his hair, and he washed the chocolate (he’d already started eating) off of his face.

It was really happening!

When we arrived at the legislature, I was still pinching myself.  The cavernous halls were extra full with the noise and commotion of a group of elementary school kids and a group of high schoolers.

When we met up with our friends to await our turn with the senator, Eli was relaxed and chatted freely with perfect eye contact.  Laura said that she’d never seen him use such eye contact – even in the comfort of our home.

Then the senator came to get us.  Eli was prepared for a hand shake which he let me coach him on before we left the house, but the senator gave the boys a fist bump instead.  Eli went with the flow and fist bumped him.

After the meeting, Eli shook the senator’s hand and we retreated to a conference table in the hall.   This picture of Eli (right) and Colson was taken right after the meeting with a not-very-friendly senator.  As you can see, Eli was relaxed and not stressed by the meeting or all of the commotion going on in the hall.

We headed over to our restaurant and had a wonderful, relaxed lunch.  Eli told me, “I could tell you were a little nervous in the meeting, but don’t worry.  I could tell only because I’m your son, and I know you well.  You did a great job.”  My heart swelled with pride – not because of the compliment itself, but because he freely gave me such heart-felt, encouraging feedback totally unprompted.

Just a few months ago, the simple act of eating out in a restaurant with me was considered great progress!  Yesterday was so much more than that!

When I got home and received this picture of the boys and saw just how relaxed Eli was in the picture, tears poured down my face.  I had spent the day with a high functioning, neurotypical child.  And to add icing to the cake, last night at bedtime, Eli said to me, “Mom, we had a great day today!”

I know there are still ups and downs on the road ahead, but now I know for a fact that he is capable of a completely neurotypical life.

Want to know more about what’s been helping us move from “mostly recovered” toward “fully recovered”? 

We have continued with the SCD diet for 5 ½ years.  We have allowed in unsweetened chocolate and stevia, but otherwise, Eli and I continue to eat only those SCD foods that make us feel good.  The diet is our cornerstone for every other intervention we use.

We started The Son-Rise Program® from the Autism Treatment Center of America in January of 2016 and brought a Son-Rise teacher, Susan Humphries, to our home for 2 days in November of 2016.  Son-Rise was helping, but having Susan spend 2 days really getting to know Eli and helping us set goals and develop strategies was a turning point for us.

We have 4 wonderful volunteers who I have trained in the Son-Rise method.  They spend cumulatively 16 hours a week playing with Eli using the Son-Rise method.  They go with Eli into his autistic world and with their love, enthusiasm and joy, show him how awesome life can be in the neurotypical world too.

I am forever grateful to Raun K. Kaufman, the original recovered Son-Rise child who is now a recovered adult, for encouraging me to give Son-Rise a try.   Son-Rise and SCD are two of the most effective interventions we’ve tried.

XOXO,

Beth

P.S. The Son-Rise Program® has a friend’s referral program, so if you call them to inquire, give them my name, and you’ll get $350 off of their program.