There are a lot of popular diets trending for autism treatment. One of the most common is the gluten-free, casein- free. In fact, when my son was first diagnosed with autism we started him on the classic GFCF diet…very much to his detriment. I hadn’t yet heard of GAPS, but when I finally did I was sold. GAPS explained every reason why GFCF failed. We got started and never looked back.
Since then, I’ve found that vast majority of people I meet know what GFCF is and they make the mistake of thinking that GAPS is the same thing. GFCF and GAPS are not the same thing. I will even go so far as to say that one will help you and the other will hurt you. In this article, I aim to provide a side-by-side comparison of the two diets with the ultimate goal of encouraging you to keep your distance from the GFCF trend.
Here it is: Autism Diets – GFCF Compared to GAPS.
Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) vs Gluten-free, Casein-Free Diet (GFCF)
The GAPS diet clearly differs from GFCF in three ways:
- GAPS does not allow refined sugars or starchy foods like potatoes, rice, and corn, which are the foundation of the GFCF diet. The foundation of the GAPS diet is gelatin-rich bone broths and home-fermented probiotic foods.
- GFCF diet allows you to shop in the healthy living isle of the grocery store, consuming anything that states GFCF on the label. GAPS does not allow consumption of pre-made, store-bought food convenience foods. Everything must be made at home with organic, quality ingredients.
- GFCF never allows dairy products in the diet. Certain people on GAPS diet are not only permitted, but encouraged to eat dairy products that fit the GAPS food criteria.
GFCF diet barely scratches the surface of the areas that GAPS diet treats. In fact, the GFCF diet actually causes more harm in the long hall because it creates an environment where yeasts and fungi can and will overgrow. Also, this diet encourages parasite proliferation. Not good. So, here’s how it balances out.
Gluten: How do the GAPS and GFCF Diets Compare?
GAPS is totally gluten free. So is the GFCF diet. In fact, we have a rising demand for gluten free food options these days. As such, we have a huge market trend called “healthy living” whereby consumers can purchase just about any food they want made gluten free. You can buy gluten free breads, bagels, muffins and cookies. You can order gluten free sandwiches and pizzas at restaurants. You can load up on mashed potatoes and rice at every meal because they are, after all, gluten free. And the list of what you’re allowed to eat goes on and on.
To make gluten free processed foods taste acceptable they need to be made to resemble what consumers remember and love about their gluten containing counter-parts. Pizza needs to taste like pizza, cookies need to taste like cookies. Without the use of wheat, you cannot make these foods with the same texture, flavor, or physical resemblance that they would otherwise have. What to do?
Manufacturers use a very long list of ingredients which are derivatives of corn, rice, and potatoes in order to compensate for the lack of wheat. They also use huge amounts of sugar to add flavor and appeal. Because of this, we have some serious interrelated issues: GMOs and other additives, refined sugar, yeasts, fungi, and parasites, and malnutrition.
GMOs and Other Additives
Hopefully you’re aware that the Non-GMO Project produces a list of products at high risk for GMO contamination. On that list are the following ingredients: Alfalfa, Corn, Flax, Rice, Sugar Beets, Canola, Cotton, Papaya, Soy, Zucchini, Wheat.
Corn, flax, rice, sugar, and soy are major ingredients in gluten free foods and if grown in the US, they are likely genetically modified. Labeling laws do not require manufacturers to tell you if they are using GMOs in their food ingredients. So in effect, labels can be very deceiving.
For example, you could read a label and see the word ‘molasses’ and think you’re in the clear. But you are forgetting the fact that molasses is a byproduct of sugar, and sugar beets grown in the US are likely to be genetically modified. So without doing your homework and calling the company you will have no idea if these ingredients were made from GMO crops. Chances are the person you’re calling won’t know either. Your best bet is to beware when you see any of these ingredients on a label:
- Amino Acids
- Ascorbic Acid
- Sodium Ascorbate
- Vitamin C
- Citric Acid
- Sodium Citrate
- Flavorings (“natural” and “artificial”)
- High-Fructose Corn Syrup
- Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
- Lactic Acid, Maltodextrins
- Monosodium Glutamate
- Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)
- Xanthan Gum
- Yeast Products
Thus, majority of gluten free foods contain GMO ingredients and nobody realizes it when they buy them. They are paying more money, and simply trading one toxin for another in doing so.
Sugar, Starch, and Malnutrition
This is not about the fact that majority of sugar beets produced in the US are genetically modified. I feel like I already covered that. This is about what sugar does to your body when you eat it. To keep things simple I’ll break it down into two separate warnings.
Number One: Sugar (and starchy foods) feed yeast, fungi, and parasites. Autistic children almost always have textbook cases of gut dysbiosis. What do you think is going to happen to the child’s gut when you base allow their diet to be based on sugars and starch? That’s right. The sugar and starch create such a monster of yeast, fungi, and parasites that autism symptoms flair and become harder to manage and treat.
This is why so many children experience that same roller coaster ride as my son Aaron did. You make a switch to gluten free and see immediate progress, but the progress is short lived and a year later you find your child is worse off than before. Thus, so many people draw the conclusion that gluten free diets don’t work. And they’re right – partially.
Number Two: Sugar consumption causes malnutrition. Refined sugar literally steals precious vitamins, minerals, and enzymes from the body’s stores in order to digest it. Over a period of time, this wreaks havoc on the person’s immune system making them more susceptible to several types of sickness. Since the autistic child already has such a compromised GI track, they are having trouble extracting and absorbing nutrients from food in the first place. Adding sugar to their diet is a double whammy and needs to be eliminated completely during the recover process – if not forever.
Casein in GFCF vs GAPS
The GFCF diet assumes that all dairy is bad, and encourages supplementation with things like commercially produced soy, rice, or nut milks. Once again, the way these processed foods are made makes them a poor dietary choice for the autistic child. One glance at the ingredient labels on these dairy free products will reveal a host of toxins, GMO derivatives, and refined sugars.
So what about GAPS? In short, at the onset of the GAPS diet, all dairy is removed, so it is casein free. After a period of time (which I cannot get into explaining here) a person goes through a series of dairy sensitivity tests which determine if dairy will be helpful or harmful to the individual. If the person passes the dairy sensitivity tests, then GAPS allows homemade fermented dairy and encourages certain cheeses as part of the diet. Real raw milk from a clean, trusted farm is viewed as a digestive goal in GAPS.
So What is the Ultimate Autism Diet?
The ultimate autism diet is so simple, so fundamental, that its downright hard. As they say, the devil is in the details. Gut and Psychology Syndrome (otherwise known as GAPS) is the term coined by a genius Russian women, Dr. Natasha Cambpell McBride MD, MMedSci (neurology, MMedSci (Nutrition).
I discovered GAPS one year after my son Aaron was diagnosed with autism. After a failed and miserable year on the GFCF diet, GAPS set us on the road to recovery. My son’s gut healed with GAPS, and during the process, he healed, too. Now, there is a bit more a person needs to know about autism recovery, but where diet is concerned…GAPS is the Ultimate Autism Diet.