A daughter’s story… How one mother who wouldn’t give up healed her child with SCD and went on to help countless others through her scientific research

Sometimes a true story is more riveting than fiction. The story of how SCD (and GAPS which is built upon SCD) came to be one of today’s most effective interventions for bowel and neurological issues is one of those amazing stories of science, compassion and perseverance.

Dr. Sidney Valentine Haas developed SCD in 1920.  He and his son wrote the book about SCD and used it in their practice.  In 1959, Dr. Haas was 94 and still practicing medicine.  His highly successful diet, SCD, would have been forgotten when he and his son died if it wasn’t for a patient’s mother who kept his remarkably effective diet alive.

His patient’s name was Judy Gottschall.  Up until she was seen by Dr. Hass at age 9, Judy had what she calls psychotic night terrors and ulcerative colitis with chronic, bloody diarrhea.  She had been to countless doctors, and her parents had tried every diet and every medication they could find.  Nothing helped.  Judy was dying.

Judy responded quickly to SCD.  Her night terrors were gone within weeks and her bowel issues started improving quickly.

10 year old Judy 1 year after starting SCD

Her parents couldn’t believe that such a simple diet could save their daughter’s life. Why hadn’t they learned of it before?

Judy’s mother, Elaine Gottschall, wanted to understand how SCD worked.  She completed degrees in biochemistry so she could look at the science of how SCD works, and she wrote the book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle, which has become the definitive source for SCD and kept the work of the Drs. Haas alive.

Elaine’s book has been continuously in print since 1994 and has helped countless people with a variety of health issues.

For the rest of her life, Elaine studied the science of SCD and tirelessly promoted it. Over time, the news of the effectiveness of SCD with autism reached Elaine, and she spent her final years researching SCD for autism and actively supported parents in the autism community.  Elaine died in 2005, but many of the people she has helped keep her legacy alive, and Breaking the Vicious Cycle continues to be published.

Elaine Gottschall is my hero.  If it weren’t for her, my son and countless other people would not have the quality of life that SCD allows.

Check out the 15 minute interview I had with Elaine’s daughter, Judy Gottschall Herod above.  Judy tells her story of recovery and her mother’s real-life story of science and heroism.

Judy Gottschall Herod, now 65 has lived a happy, healthy life thanks to her mom’s persistence in finding a resolution to her health and neurological challenges.

Judy Gottschall Herod, now 65 has lived a happy, healthy life thanks to her mom’s persistence in finding a resolution to her health and neurological challenges.

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.


Convenience Foods for Autism Diets

On September 10, 2016, we celebrated our 5 year anniversary of being on SCD!  The quality of my son’s life and the rest of the family’s life has transformed because of SCD.

Today, I’m preparing to send Eli camping with his Y-Guides troup.  I remember 4 years ago when I sent him on his first camping trip.  It was a lot of work to get his foods ready.  We were still eating everything homemade, and it was worth it.

Now, here we are 5 years later, and thanks to years of healing and new foods on the market, there are so many SCD “junk” foods I can send on his trip that he will love.  Other kids will love them too.

Packing foods this year was a breeze!  All of these foods are GFCF, SCD, and GAPS friendly (except for the cheese crisps — we added cheese recently with the help of our NAET practitioner.)

Except for the plain nuts, these foods are all special treats in our house because they are high in carbs, so Eli is totally pumped about having so many treats for his trip.  I’m happy that packing foods for camp has become so much easier over time.

I hope seeing how easy SCD, GAPS and GFCF can be will encourage you to persevere on your journey!


P.S.  A quick disclaimer. the pecans are roasted in soybean oil and the broccoli bites are made with rice bran oil.  I make an exception with these kinds of oil when eating out because they are fats, and fats don’t have the carbohydrates that are dis-allowed on SCD/GAPS.

Autism One — Bringing the Pieces Together

Beth Secosky is so excited to be speaking at the Autism One conference later this month in Chicago.  She’ll be giving away helpful tools for getting started on SCD or GAPS to every person who attends her session.

AutismOne is the world’s largest and most comprehensive annual autism conference and will be held May 25 through 29th in Chicago. The focus of AutismOne is to provide information to preserve and restore health and function to children and families, especially those affected by autism.  Teri Arranga, AutismOne’s executive director, said:  “This is an excellent opportunity for parents to choose from among renowned speakers including many medical doctors and credentialed researchers, in order to increase their knowledge toward helping their family.  The onsite networking and positive energy are empowering and energizing.”

In Chicago, Beth will talk about diets that heal and how to choose and start one that is right for your child.  Following is an overview of her presentation which will be held on Saturday, May 28th at 3:00 pm.  Hope you can come!

Diets that Heal: The Most Effective Intervention You Aren’t Using and How to Get Started  

Success Tools for Getting Started on SCD and GAPS Diets

Diet is one of the most important tools you have to heal the body, but with so many diets how do you choose the right one? Many top practitioners recommend the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) or GAPS diets. Dr. Sidney Baker has said, “SCD is the best treatment that I have found so far for many children on the Autism Spectrum.”

How do you get started on one of these healing diets? In this interactive session, health coach, Beth Secosky, will give you tools and insights to get you started on the diets to improve your child’s health and quality of life – and your family’s too!

This session is all about helping make it easy for you to take action. Learn about:

* The difference between the SCD and GAPS diets

* How to choose the diet best for your child’s healing and health goals

* Overview of the “introductory” stages of diets, including detailed foods lists by stage

* Quick start tools for success including grocery shopping lists, essential kitchen supplies, and more

* Delicious, child-friendly recipes for the introductory stage of the diets (SDC and GAPS)

Health coach, Beth Secosky, will give you the tools to take action so you can more quickly improve your child’s quality of life – and your family’s too!

The 3 Best Autism-Friendly Treats You Can Give Your Child on Halloween

​Is your child on a special autism diet, e.g. GF/CF, SCD, GAPS, Paleo?  If so, you’re probably starting to think about what kind of treats you’ll have for Halloween.  Perhaps, you’re also concerned that the season of candy might bring on a regression.  I will share some of the lessons I’ve learned from Halloween and some specific treats you might want to consider to prevent a gluten/sugar-induced setback.

Several years ago my friend, Laura, and her family who were already on SCD  (the Specific Carbohydrate Diet) went trick-or-treating with us.   At the time we were in denial about our 4 year-old being on the autism spectrum, and we had no idea that the “crazy” diet that our friends were on could transform our son’s quality of life and the rest of the family’s too.

I knew our friends were off of sugar, but I assumed that they would make an exception for their 6 year-old neuro-typical son on Halloween.  (Imagine having the moxie to put your family on an uber-healthy diet like SCD when there is no autism, no Crohn’s, and no other serious health issues.  I am blessed to have had them as role models.  But, I digress from my Halloween tale.)

The kids had a blast trick-or-treating.  Then, we came back to the house, and they dumped their stash on the floor.  What came next blew my mind.  Our friend’s son took 1 piece of candy and packed up the rest and gave it to his dad!  They explained that their son was getting a new toy when they got home.

I couldn’t believe it!

  • How could they deprive their son of his childhood right to gorge himself with candy?  (OK, I knew candy isn’t healthy, but I thought an occasional gorge was no problem.)
  • How could they put their son in a situation where other children are experiencing such joy that he couldn’t partake in?
  • How did they get him to be content with 1 piece of candy as he sat in front of a huge stash?

Fast forward almost 2 years to September.  My son’s behavior has become so severe (including 3-hour violent tantrums) that we can no longer deny his autism.  That September, we adopted SCD, the same diet my friends were on.

By the time Halloween came around 2 months later, my son had dropped 22 ATEC points and the violent tantrums were gone.  My daughter’s severe anxiety was completely gone.  Our quality of life was immeasurably better.  All of a sudden, I totally understood Laura’s approach to Halloween.

My son felt so much better, and the entire family was so much happier that I was not willing to give my kids even 1 bite of sugar.  I wouldn’t risk our newfound happiness just so my kids could have a “party in their mouth” and “fit in” with the other kids.  It simply wasn’t worth it.

So, I had to get the kids on board.  It wasn’t as hard as I expected because I had already taught them about the impact of sweet and starchy foods on our gut flora.  I had also made sure that they were clear that the disappearance of my son’s severe stomach aches and my daughter’s anxiety were directly related to our new way of eating.  They understood that sweet and starchy foods feed the bad bacteria and make them feel bad.

Their knowledge helped, but they were still kids.  They wanted to have what everyone else was having.  I had to sweeten the deal without using sweets!  So, I took a play from my friend Laura’s playbook and let them pick out a really exciting toy.  The deal had 3 parts.  First, I found some recipes for SCD-legal candy.  Second, I let them each pick out a really exciting toy. Third, they would give their candy to daddy so he could put it out in the break room at work.

On Halloween, I held my breath.  Was the plan going to work?

The kids snacked on their SCD legal treats while trick-or-treating.  Check.  Then came the moment of truth.  Would they turn over their stash for their new toy? … YES!  They did it.  They were so excited about the new toy that sat waiting for them when they returned, they ran to their toy and left the candy behind.

I share this story with you to encourage you that you can prevent gluten/sugar-induced regressions by staying true to whatever autism diet you are using – even during Halloween and other holidays.  And, in fact, you can turn Halloween and other sugar-filled holidays into a time for learning profound life lessons.

How to turn Halloween into a teachable moment AND Specific sugar-free treats to offer

Whatever dietary restrictions you stick to this Halloween, you are also teaching your children 3 profound lessons (treats) that will last them a lifetime:

  • The knowledge of true nutrition that will keep them healthier and happier for the rest of their life
  • The idea that they can set and achieve audacious goals (In this case recovery from autism and anxiety) but it will take sacrifices
  • The confidence that they can do what’s best for them even when everyone else is making different choices

I didn’t see the brilliant lessons my friend Laura was teaching her son.  Your neighbors, friends, and family may not “get” what a brilliant thing you are doing either.  That’s ok.  What’s important is that you “get” it.  You see that the profound lifelong lessons of Halloween are true wisdom that we autism parents have the privilege to pass on to our children.  Without autism, most of us wouldn’t know what we know and be able to pass this wisdom on to our children and ultimately future generations.

OK – Enough of the mushy stuff.  I promised you I would share the 3 best treats for Halloween this year.  Here’s what I recommend:

  • #1:  A toy in lieu of candy.

  • #2:  Fruit bars or fruit candy made without sugar

  • #3:  Honey-sweetened candy that is in compliance with your child’s diet.
    • Honey Delights — Pure Honey Candy  (The lemon is yummy!)
    • http://www.wellbees.com/pure-honey-candy-3806.html

I would never wish that autism had impacted my son and our family.  However, the lessons we are learning and the fortitude and strength we are building are truly a blessing.  May your family receive the same blessings.

How I Lost 40 Pounds Without Trying

Three years ago, I lost 40 pounds.  Weight loss wasn’t even my goal!   I had changed the foods I ate because my son had many chronic health and behavioral issues, and I was sick too.  I had read that a special medical diet could help us.  I had no idea that our family’s new way of eating would allow me to lose 40 pounds effortlessly without going hungry.  Not only did I lose weight, my son’s health improved dramatically, and mine did too.

Curious about my unexpected success, I researched and found the work of Gary Taubes, science journalist.  His books, Good Calories/Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat are the culmination of his 10 years of research about the ever-increasing weight problems in America.  I teach Gary Taubes’ message to weight-loss clients, and with support from coaching they also lose weight with relative ease.

Common Theory of Weight Gain

Taubes points out that the predominant theory of weight gain in America today is “calories in must not exceed calories out.”  According to this theory, Americans are overweight because we eat too many calories, especially calories from fat, and we don’t exercise enough.

 “Calories In/Calories Out” Doesn’t Help People Lose Weight

My experience, the experience of my clients, and scholarly articles confirm Taubes’ finding that calories in/calories out is unsustainable at best.  He describes another theory of weight loss that I explain later in the article.  But, first, let’s look at some of the evidence that calories in/calories out isn’t really as logical as we’ve come to believe.

My Personal Experience: I had tried balancing my calories and avoiding fat ever since I packed on some pounds when I turned 30.  When we started the medical diet and my weight started falling off, I wasn’t thinking about cutting or counting calories.  As for exercise, I was suffering with severe fatigue, so the last thing I was thinking about was exercise, yet I was dropping pounds every week.

Can We Really “Balance Calories”?  Many people find that they put on an extra 10 pounds every decade.  Researchers have asked the question, “According to the calories in/calories out theory, how many additional calories per day does a person need to consume to gain 10 pounds in a decade?”  Any idea how many calories it takes according to the calories in/calories out theory?  Are you prepared for the answer?  It’s 21 calories a day!  Yes, this theory says that if you eat only 21 extra calories per day, you will gain 10 pounds in ten years.

That’s pretty depressing.  This theory is telling me that I have to regulate my food intake vs. exercise by 21 calories a day.  One or two bites of lean chicken breast has 21 calories.  I don’t think it is feasible for anyone to regulate their intake to this level.

Of course there are all kinds of helpful apps available to help us count calories, but why should we have to?  Most people in most societies since the beginning of time have maintained a healthy weight without ever counting a calorie – or even knowing what a calorie is.  Their level of activity varied greatly too.

Exercise – Great for Your Heart, But Does It Help Your Waistline?

Taubes makes the observation that many, many of us are exercising more than our parents did yet we are still overweight.  When I was a child, the vast majority of my mom’s friends maintained a healthy weight.  I never heard of any of them jogging or going to the gym.  Most of them had housekeepers too, so being a housewife was not necessarily a vigorous job.

On the other hand, many of the moms I know today exercise vigorously and religiously yet many of them still carry the extra weight they’ve been told exercise will take off.  If calorie counting and exercise help us lose weight, then why was weight maintenance easier for my mom’s generation even though they paid little, if any, attention to calories and got less “cardio” exercise than many moms today?

Another example is animals in nature.  Whether sedentary or active, animals maintain a constant weight without regard to calories.

Even the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine made this point in their 2007 Physical Activity Guidelines.  I put the last sentence in bold to highlight the point:

“It is reasonable to assume that persons with relatively high daily energy expenditures would be less likely to gain weight over time, compared to people with lower energy expenditures.  So far data to support this hypothesis are not particularly compelling.

Exercise is incredibly important for our health It will make you feel better, and it might even help you firm up and drop a pant size.  However, there is little evidence that it will help you lose weight.  Every weight loss client I’ve worked with did so successfully without having to increase their current level of exercise.

The Secret to Weight Loss

OK, so now you’re wondering, “If excess calories don’t cause weight gain, what does?”  The answer to your question is …  insulin.  Yes, it’s the hormone, insulin.  You may be thinking that your insulin levels are healthy, so it can’t be insulin.  It’s not necessarily the insulin levels you see on blood tests.  Fat accumulates whenever insulin is triggered.

So what triggers insulin?  The foods that trigger insulin are sweet and starchy carbohydrates such as candies, cookies, bread, pasta and potatoes.  Milk, especially skim milk, also causes insulin to rise.  The good news is that sweet and starchy foods are not as nutrient dense as non-starchy foods and they also cause inflammation.  Thus, reducing or eliminating sweets and starches will not only help you lose weight, it will reduce or eliminate many health conditions because most health problems (including psychological conditions) are associated with inflammation.

The women in my mom’s generation knew this secret.  Whenever one of them wanted to drop a few pounds, they simply cut back on what they called bread – bread meaning bread, sweets, pasta, potatoes and other starchy foods.

Another piece of good news:  Don’t worry about fat.  Yes, you heard me right!  My clients and I have lost weight while enjoying an abundance of healthy fats!    I will follow up with an article about the health benefits of fat.  In the meantime, check out the video below and the recent cover article on Time Magazine, Eat Butter: Scientists Labeled Fat the Enemy.  Why They Were Wrong.

So slather your non-starchy vegetables with butter or cook them with lard and enjoy a nice, juicy piece of your favorite meat. Eat these foods until you are fully satisfied, and you will see the pounds melt away before your eyes and health issues will improve too.

One caveat, keep fruit and nuts to a minimum until you reach your weight goals.  Make the rest of the suggestions here a new lifestyle for the long term and you will easily maintain a healthy weight and good health.

I realize that these recommendations, while simple, are not necessarily easy.  Yes, I lost weight effortlessly in the sense that I did not count calories, go hungry, or feel deprived.  And still, changing my family’s diet was hard work.  This is where a coach can be a great resource to help you adapt to change, plan new menus, battle cravings for sweet and starchy foods, and provide support and accountability when you need it.

Achieving your weight loss goals and the health benefits that follow will improve the quality of your life in countless ways.  Follow the advice here, and losing weight will be infinitely easier and more sustainable.

Here’s to You!


PS  A new study that supports the ideas presented in this article was released while I was writing it.  The study was financed by the NIH and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.  Check out this article about the study in The New York Times which is listed below.

Video:  New Science Destroys the Saturated Fat Myth



Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes

Good Calories Bad Calories by Gary Taubes

The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz.


Time Magazine — Eat Butter: Scientists Labeled Fat the Enemy.  Why They Were Wrong.

New York Times — A Call for a Low-Carb Diet that Embraces Fat

Great Health Documentary & A New Health Food Restaurant in Raleigh

While eating breakfast at Whole Foods yesterday morning, I sat across from a guy who seemed to know everyone who walked by.  Everyone asked him about “Friday morning.”  Curious, I asked him, “What’s happening on Friday?”  It turns out, his name is Matt Whitley, and he and a friend are opening a new juice bar and health food restaurant, happy+hale, on the plaza at the end of Fayetteville Street.  There will be a grand opening early Friday morning at happy+hale that sounds like it’s going to be a blast!

Starting at 6:30 am they’re offering a Sunrise Yoga class.  Then at 7:15 am the party begins.  They’ll have a DJ and dance party, free massage therapy, samples of their fresh pressed juice, smoothies, kombucha, and more.  Plus, there will be an opportunity to meet one of the hyper-local farmers who will be supplying food to the restaurant.

I had a great conversation with Matt, and he is a true believer in the healing power of food.  In our conversation, he turned me on to a new documentary that is out, FED UP.  Here is the trailer:  http://fedupmovie.com/#/page/home.  It’s still in the theater.

I watched the trailer, and I’m thrilled to see some of the most effective health proponents out there are featured — Dr. Mark Hyman, Gary Taubes, and Dr. Robert Lustig to name a few.  Here is a description from the FED UP website:

“Everything we’ve been told about food and exercise for the past 30 years is dead wrong. FED UP is the film the food industry doesn’t want you to see. From Katie Couric, Laurie David (Oscar winning producer of AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH) and director Stephanie Soechtig, FED UP will change the way you eat forever. The film opens in theaters across the country on May 9th.”

Before I started on my journey to health, I believed that my discipline and my genes were the cause of my weight and health challenges.  However, I learned that it’s specific foods that cause health/weight problems.  I realized that I was a victim of misinformation and not a gluton or a sloth.  This documentary clearly points out that the media has pushed the message on us,  “It’s your fault you’re fat.”   In fact, it is inaccurate advice that is causing our health problems.  This documentary sets the record straight.

FED UP has the information you need from well-respected experts that will allow you to protect your and your family’s health.  Watch it with the people you love.  It will arm you and your loved ones with the knowledge you need to maintain or transform your health.

I hope to see those of you who live in Raleigh at the happy+hale grand opening on Friday morning!

Let me know your thoughts about FED UP when you watch it.