Study to find out if GAPS diet can cure autism

The Atkins Diet, South Beach Diet and Weight Watchers all claim to help people fight the fat. But one mother said another unique diet cured her daughter from a disorder that hits one in 88 kids.

Kati Hornung is a great cook. She became one because her daughter Zizi was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Not wanting to give Zizi drugs, Katie turned to the Guts and Psychology Syndrome, or "GAPS" diet. The belief is toxins from bad bacteria in the gut, created by undigested foods, can severely affect brain function. And by healing the gut, you heal diseases.

"All of a sudden, our kid was talking in three and a half weeks," said Hornung.

"It's still new. People are still learning what it is," said Mary Lynn Lipscomb, a Certified GAPS Practitioner

Lipscomb said the secret to healing is adding homemade fermented foods like sauerkraut, yogurt and broths to your child's daily diet that contain probiotics, and removing foods difficult for the body, such as all sugars, all grains and all fibers.

"If you look at how traditional people ate, they ate this way," said Lipscomb

But does it really work?

"There needs to be scientific data that either confirms that claim or effuses them," said Austin M. Mulloy, PhD, Assistant Professor of Special Education and Disability Policy at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Dr. Mulloy is conducting a first of its kind study testing the GAPS diet as a treatment for kids with autism spectrum disorder. He will analyze behavior, such as language use, and measure any physiological changes in the body, like inflammation in the gut.

"One of the possible outcomes of this study is that we do produce some evidence that has the potential to change people's minds on the effect of diet on people's behavior," said Dr. Mulloy.

Whatever it shows, Kati believes the diet cured her daughter.

"Our specialist told us by 2nd grade, she will be undistinguishable from any other kid," said Hornung.

Unlike diets that help you lose weight, Lipscomb said butter and animal fat are important components of the GAPS diet because she says they promote healing.

The only processed foods allowed in the diet are sea salt, olive oil and coconut oil.

GAPS BACKGROUND: The Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet (GAPS) was created by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, who also founded The Cambridge Nutrition Clinic. Dr. Campbell-McBride believes nutrition plays a critical role in helping children and adults overcome their disabilities. GAPS is supposed to help heal digestive disorders and subsequent issues such as certain learning and behavioral disorders (i.e. autism, depression, ect.). The nutritional program for GAPS is made up of 3 basic parts:

1. Diet - The diet is largely based on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) with some differences, the main one being SCD permits lactose-free dairy products and the GAPS diet typically says not to consume any dairy products except milk fat.
2. Supplementation - GAPS patients need some essential supplements such as vitamin A, an effective therapeutic strength probiotic, essential fatty acids like omega-3s, digestive enzymes like stomach acid supplements, and vitamin and mineral supplements.
3. Detoxification and Lifestyle Changes - One of the most important aspects of the GAPS diet is to remove the main source of toxicity by cleaning and healing the gut. Suggestions for detoxification include lots of juices, Black Elderberry, and keeping the house chemical free. (Source:
DIET FOODS: In many ways the GAPS diet can be very restricting because GAPS patients should try to avoid processed foods, most dairy, processed sugars and grains. On the GAPS diet fermented foods, natural fats (especially animal fats on meat), and fresh vegetables and fruits make up the most important parts of the person's meals. Some of the best foods for GAPS patients include eggs, fresh meat, garlic, olive oil, nuts and seeds, fish and shellfish. It is also suggested that fresh fruit be eaten alone as a snack because it has a different digestion pattern and could make the work harder for the stomach. (Source:

GAPS DEBATE: While some parents claim the GAPS diet has helped heal their children of various ailments from autism to ADHD, others are still skeptical as to whether or not GAPS truly helps people overcome these disabilities. As of yet, there are no scientific studies which verify the effectiveness of the GAPS diet as a treatment for various disorders, and gastroenterologist Arthur D. Heller, M.D., says that excluding fuel sources such as grains and starch may cause colon cells to function less effectively. Until more verifiable information is available parents should continue to try different things and use what seems to work well for their children. (Source:

For More Information, Contact:

Mary Lynn Lipscomb,RN, AHN-C
Certified Holistic Nurse and GAPS Practitioner

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