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The GAPS Diet Claims You Can Eat Away Autism. But Can You Really?

With headlines like “Eat Away Autism,” heads are sure to turn and listen up. A diet called the Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet (GAPS) has made these tall claims that it can heal digestive disorders and consequential issues like autism, depression, and even ADHD. Is this even possible or is this pure quackery just to get desperate parents to buy books?

The creators of the GAPS diet, Sidney Haas, MD and Elaine Gottschall, MSc, would argue that the GAPS diet cured her son of autism. Again, huge claims about a diet. The diet is a derivative of what was called the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), which is broken into three main categories and intends to create healing for many ailments in the gut, which is claimed to lead to psychological healings, too.

The three main categories are diet, supplements, and detoxification.

The actual diet aspect of GAPS encourages fermented foods, natural fats, and fresh vegetables. Many of the most common foods include eggs, fresh meat, garlic, olive oil, nuts and seeds, fish, and shellfish. People on GAPS are told not to consume dairy.

The supplement aspect of GAPS recommends taking vitamin A, probiotics, omega-3s, digestive enzymes, along with many other minerals and vitamins.

And the final category, detoxification, is referred to as one of the most important as it’s believed to remove toxicity from the gut and allow for healing. Some of the suggested detox methods include juices, elderberry, making sure no chemicals, like cleaning products, are used in the house.

This is an abbreviated description of the GAPS diet. A thorough description can be read on their webpage However, this diet is supposed to work to heal and remedy serious medical and mental conditions. The GAPS site states that, “[Dr. Campbell-McBride] believes that the link between learning disabilities, the food and drink that we take, and the condition of our digestive system is absolute.”

The site is full of testimonials claiming victory from using the GAPS diet, but as of now there are no scientific studies which back up the effectiveness of GAPS as treatment for these various disorders.

Dr. David Gorski is a surgeon and a writer for Science Blogs. In an article about the GAPS diet and Dr. Campbell-McBride he referred to the people who have claimed that such diets have healed their children of autism. He said, “… autism is a disorder of developmental delay, not developmental stasis; autistic children can and do develop. In fact, a significant minority can even lose the diagnosis of autism or AST by age seven as they develop.”

Dr. Gorski continued by explaining why “treatments” for autism are not necessarily why a child improves.

“If an autistic child improved on a treatment, it would not be unreasonable to conclude that the treatment was beneficial. However, autism is extremely variable. Autistic children can develop, often in spurts punctuated by longer periods of apparent developmental stasis. If one of those spurts happens to occur after a new round of quackery, it’s very easy to conclude that the quackery was responsible.” Clearly he is not a supporter of the GAPS diet.

The doctor raises wonderful points, especially considering the GAPS diet has had no research to prove its efficacy. But is the concept of eating healthy to help alleviate symptoms, even mental symptoms, worthless? Brooke Randolph, our resident Licensed Mental Health Counselor, believes there is some legitimacy in this arena.

Randolph had no specific opinions regarding GAPS, yet stated, “I actually think the theory is sound though that if you avoid foods that irritate your system, even mental and emotional symptoms can decrease.”

Words like autism are scary. Parents of young children are being spooked by every new report that comes out; fearing the strange behavior of their child one day may mean they are dealing with a lifelong disorder the next. Parents just want to do right by their children and when diets like this surface, many are eager to get on board.

Here’s our take-away: There are testimonials, and in theory, the diet can’t hurt. Many have cited symptom improvement by altering their diet, as seen in the GFCF Diet. There’s good reason not to believe it to be a cure though, as there’s no science backing it. In the case of this specific diet, though, I’m rubbed wrong as the website continuously tell readers to “buy the book.” In the question section, you’re asked not to ask a question unless you had first purchased and read the book as most answers are in the book. The site is called a supplement to the book and not intended to give all the information. These elements left me with a bad taste in my mouth about an already controversial topic.

The best advice is, of course, to always consult your own physician first. They know you and your child’s health history and treatment course best and can ensure you get the best “medicine” for improvement.

Also Read:

One Mother’s Experience with the Casein Free Diet for Autism

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December 7th, 2012

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(Page 1 of 1, 7 total comments)


The GAPS diet it's the best diet that I could find. It has helped a lot of people, including my self and my son. Please do some more reserch before publishng your block. Dr McBride deserves a price for her work. I will be forever gratefull to her.

posted Jul 8th, 2015 5:04 pm


Sorry, you have mixed it all together.
Dr. Haas created the SCD diet, not Elaine Gottschall. She "only" devoted her life to helping people with inflammatory bowel diseases, really helping and curing. No, her son was not autistic. Do you know she had a son? So the Gaps diet did not cure her non existing son, maybe because in happened in the sixties, and the Gaps diet was created thirty years later, in the late nineties. Dr. Haas did cure Elaine's child - a daughter who had severe Colitis. And there was a cure of Autism - Dr. Natasha Campbell Mc-Bridew son was autistic. Yes, In the past.
Sorry, your article is so full of mistakes so I'm really asking you if you have some proof that there is no link between diet and Psycologial issues.
Do you think that all the testimonies and blogs are fake? Donwt you think that people should know about a diet that can bring some hope, some improvement to tjeir children.
Last question- If your child feels bad on some food, do you look for science before stopping feedig him that food? Will you let him die and wait for the right scientific proof to back the harm done to your child?

I don't think you know what you are talking about and I'm very sorry for the people that are taken aback from trying a diet for their lost. and suffering child.

posted Apr 28th, 2015 2:27 pm


As a mom with a kid who got an autism dx, I've learned one thing: autism is not just one thing. What I mean is that not everyone who has this diagnosis has the same underlying biological problem, and some of them probably don't even really have a "problem" per se, they are just different. The fact that individuals sharing the same diagnosis don't really all have the same biology is the reason why no one can figure out the cause. Thus, anyone talking about whether x or y causes autism -- whether they say it does or does not -- is already asking the wrong question. In my opinion.

posted Nov 28th, 2014 6:13 pm


Hi was just wondering how many people making comments about autism really know and really live with autism?
I have two sons with autism and I do work in this field.
It's so easy to pass these comments around, all it does it annoy parents like me. If a diet can HELP that's great just but don't create false hope like the work CURE

posted May 4th, 2013 2:12 pm


The SCD was actually created by Dr. Sidney V. Haas and popularized by biochemist and author Elaine Gottschall, not Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride.

posted Mar 3rd, 2013 8:16 pm


This is an interesting diet not because I believe it can cure autism but because diet CAN help improve many disorders.

Eating processed foods leads to addiction that acts on the brain in exactly the same way that cocaine or alcohol does.

Substance abuse researchers say that the brain adaptions that result from regularly eating so-called hyperpalatable foods – foods that layer salt, fat, and sweet flavors, proven to increase consumption – are likely to be more difficult to change than those from cocaine or alcohol because they involve many more neural pathways. Almost 90 percent of the dopamine receptors in the vental tegmental area (VTA) of the brain are activated in response to food cues.

I've just published a book, The Hunger Fix, that takes a holistic approach to repairing the damages of addiction. Eating neurotransmitter and hormone-amping foods, along with other natural dopamine spikers not only result in weight loss, but in lessening depression and increasing concentration, memory, reward and learning.

Given the new science of neurogastroenterology, there may be another link between food and cognitive and mood disorders. The science is clear but in its infancy.

posted Dec 8th, 2012 3:18 pm

Shelley Belcourt

We have had a 180 degree turnaround in my ASD and ADHD son eating GAPS. Moreover it has opened our eyes into what we were doing by eating foods that were not good for us. We are so entrenched in the modern day diet, that its hard to get out of without something like GAPS that truly turns around the way you look at food.

Autism is not a gene-problem - it can be helped. Removing toxins from the diet, and healing the gut can result in true healing.

Some physicians won't acknowledge the power of nutrition in healing - if that's your situation, don't take it at face value. There is no pharmaceutical cure for autism.

All the best
Shelley Belcourt

posted Dec 8th, 2012 6:13 am


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