Note from Cara: This is a great post by Lauren of Empowered Sustenance describing the differences between SCD and GAPS. GAPS is based on SCD, so there are many similarities, but each diet is unique.
SCD and GAPS: Reversing Disease and Food Allergies through Diet
Heralded for curing incurable diseases, reversing food allergies, and correcting brain disorders, these grain-free diets use a similar premise to bring radical health changes. In a nutshell, these healing diets eliminate polysaccharides–complex carbohydrates found in grains, starchy veggies, lactose, and sugar. Only complex carbohydrates escape through a leaky gut and cause inflammation and disease. Usually after a period of a year or two, the leaky gut heals, proper gut flora is established, and both disease and food allergies are corrected.
These grain-free diets offer radical results, but rely on creative substitutions for grain-based foods–like my Butternut Squash Pizza Crust!
Dr. Elaine Gottschall popularized the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) in Breaking the Vicious Cycle (BTVC). This book focuses on the treatment of colitis, Chron’s disease, celiac disease, and diverticulitis. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride expanded on SCD in The Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS), which offers a solution for disorders like autism, A.D.D. and even schizophrenia.
So how are these healing diets similar, and how are they different? And which one is right for you?
Emphasis on Nourishing Foods
Perhaps most obvious difference between the two regimens is the GAPS focus on nutrient-dense food. GAPS implements healing foods like animal fats, homemade bone stocks and broths, naturally fermented foods, and vitamin-rich organ meats to correct malnutrition while healing leaky gut. Breaking the Vicious Cycle places more emphasis on what not to eat, however. In this sense, the SCD is less rigorous than GAPS.
Although both periods of intensive healing, the Intro Diet on SCD and GAPS have different goals. Dr. Elaine designed SCD intro diet to calm a colitis, Chron’s, or diverticulitis flare before full SCD. This Intro Diet can be used to stop cramping, bleeding, and diarrhea. So what is allowed on the SCD Intro Diet? Dr. Elaine suggests homemade chicken soup with homemade broth, meats, pureed carrots, juice, eggs, dry curd cottage cheese (which is lactose free), and gelatin. Once flare symptoms have subsided, cooked fruits and additional vegetables may be introduced, followed by the allowed legumes after about three months on the diet. The GAPS Intro Diet, admittedly more complex, concentrates on healing leaky gut so that foods may be added back into the diet without inflammation. It consists of 6 periods, and should be followed until the main digestive issues have disappeared.
Here is the basic outline of the GAPS Intro Diet: start with homemade soups, bone broths, soft tissues like marrow, and probiotic-rich sauerkraut juice. Next, add meats, raw egg yolks, ghee, and cooked vegetables. Gradually introduce fermented veggies, homemade yogurt, whey, and kefir. Finally, try fruit and grain-free baked goods.
Again, it is important to remember that BTVC predominantly outlines a solution to gut diseases like colitis and Chron’s and GAPS focuses on brain disorders. BTVC emphasizes eliminating pathogenic bacteria more than introducing bacteria. On SCD, probiotics come from homemade, 24 hour fermented yogurt. The yogurt starter should include lactic acid bacteria (L. bulgaricus or L. acidophilus) and not bifidus. Bifidus has a tendency to overgrow, especially when gut flora is imbalanced (source). On the other hand, Dr. Natasha suggests consuming a wide variety of probiotics including bifidus and beneficial yeasts in the form of kefir. She recommends consuming probiotic supplements in conjunction with the probiotic foods.
Why is kefir allowed on GAPS and not mentioned in BTVC? Dr. Elaine felt that the beneficial yeasts might cause a reaction in yeast-sensitive individuals (source). Further, she found that there is still 5% lactose after 24 hour fermentation (source). Kefir can–and should–be added to the diet after healing with SCD. Dr. Natasha writes that the beneficial yeasts play an important role in keeping pathogenic yeasts under controland includes it on GAPS.
An utterly significant topic, as we all know, and one that I am often asked about. Dr. Elaine prohibits any form of cocoa or cacao on SCD because of the carbohydrate structure. This is often the first treat people introduce after treatment with SCD, with no adverse reactions. Although listed on the “Foods to Avoid” list, Dr. Natasha explains that chocolate may often be incorporated into the Full GAPS Diet without issues.
Which one is right for me?
After thorough research, I’ve designed my own version of SCD and GAPS to cure my ulcerative colitis. I consume liberal amounts of traditional fats, liver, homemade broths, pastured egg yolks, and fermented veggies. For now, I am not consuming probiotic supplements and using only homemade yogurt and the fermented veggies to establish beneficial bacteria. I also avoid nuts due to sensitivities, and hence the nut-free status of Empowered Sustenance. Be sure to incorporate the nutrient-dense food from the GAPS diet and choose what probiotic route will fit your situation. I suggest going with Dr. Natasha’s suggestions for brain disorders and Dr. Elaine’s suggestions for colitis, Chron’s or diverticulitis.
Ever since my colitis diagnosis five years ago, I constantly learn how diet, emotions, and lifestyle fit together as the key to healing chronic disease. Last fall I started college, but my plans changed when I was unable to manage my disease with medication. At the end of the semester, I signed up for online college courses, headed back home, and threw myself wholeheartedly into treating my colitis with nutrition, holistic living, and mind-body medicine. Now, I use a combination of the SCD and GAPS Diet and a holistic lifestyle to cure my colitis. I started EmpoweredSustenance.com because I wanted to share recipes and support with others who may be experiencing similar health challenges. Eat well and heal!