Over the last month or so as the adults in the family went grain-free to combat some symptoms of Crohn’s Disease (Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD) in my husband, I’ve mentioned in passing a couple gut-healing diets. Although we didn’t actually go on any of them officially, I gleaned information from each to try to make our grain-free, dairy-free diet as effective as possible for my husband’s gut (which is all healed up, thanks be to God. We’re introducing sprouted grains this week, and the first gluten-containing grains still aren’t hurting him). Many have asked for more information: What is included in the diets? What is excluded? What are their purposes? Today I’ll give you a basic overview of each and highlight their similarities and differences.
The three diets I’m attempting to summarize for you are:
- Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)
- Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet (GAPS)
- The Maker’s Diet (I mainly used the actual book)
The links go to a basic source of information for each diet.
All three of these diets are actually quite similar in many ways. In fact, one reader emailed to say that “Jordan Rubin got well following [the SCD] diet and got counseling from [Elaine Gottschall]. Then he went on to develop his own version.” That may or may not be true, and I don’t really care one way or the other. I’m not here to pit people against each other or cause problems. (Well, maybe sometimes.) I just want to get a bigger perspective and help share a synopsis of these often mentioned diets.
I may, and probably will, make many mistakes – please, if you know that I have, help correct me. I’m really just learning about all this myself and haven’t tried any of them officially, just my own amalgamation of what I’ve been reading.
The great part about there being many different gut-healing diets is that there’s not one perfect prescription for everyone. I guarantee there are people out there who have tried one, found it didn’t work, and had laudable success with the next. Some cannot handle the extreme low carbs in the GAPS diet and feel fatigued to the extreme, even if it begins to help their digestion. Many people have contacted me with surprise that my husband is doing well on raw vegetables, when for so many with Crohn’s, raw veggies are their trigger foods for a flare-up.
|SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet)||GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome)||Maker’s Diet|
|A diet intended mainly for specific digestive ailments such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, diverticulitis, cystic fibrosis and chronic diarrhea. However it is a very healthy, balanced and safe diet that has health benefits for everyone. Developed by Elaine Gottschall.||Has its foundation in the SCD diet, but evolved it further for healing digestive disorders and subsequent issues, particularly learning disorders. The main difference pertains to dairy products. Developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride.||Also developed via the SCD diet, but based on biblical foods and practices and supported by science. Designed to improve nearly any health issue. Developed by Jordan Rubin.|
|“The foods that are allowed are based on the chemical structure of these foods. The allowed carbohydrates are monosaccharides and have a single molecule structure that allow them to be easily absorbed by the intestine wall. Complex carbohydrates which are disaccharides (double molecules) and polysaccharides (chain molecules) are not allowed. Complex carbohydrates that are not easily digested feed harmful bacteria in our intestines causing them to overgrow producing by products and inflaming the intestine wall. The diet works by starving out these bacteria and restoring the balance of bacteria in our gut.The allowed foods are mainly those that early man ate before agriculture began. The diet we evolved to eat over millions of years was predominantly one of meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, nuts, low-sugar fruits.”||Same as SCD but “GAPS children and adults should not consume dairy products until their digestive system is well enough to handle them. The diet’s only exception to this is milk fat (ghee or clarified butter) because it contains virtually no milk proteins or lactose and is generally well tolerated.”The essential supplements for GAPS patients:A. An effective therapeutic strength probiotic|
B. Essential Fatty Acids
C. Vitamin A
D. Digestive enzymesBegins with a detox.Most restrictive of the three, in my opinion.
|Similar to SCD but also excluding Biblical unclean meats and seafood. A more time-oriented structure for introducing new foods and a heavier focus on traditional foods like kefir, raw cheeses, etc.Includes recommended food-based supplements, especially a probiotic. Like GAPS, enzymes are important, but much more raw foods allowed and encouraged than GAPS.|
|Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet||GAPS: Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment For Dyspraxia, Autism, ADD, Dyslexia, ADHD, Depression, Schizophrenia||The Maker’s Diet|
|Length of time|
|Indefinite (?)||Typically at least 2 years||40 days, then as a lifestyle|
|Introduction diet, used for about 5 days if diarrhea evident, 1-2 days if not. Allows:|
Dry curd cottage cheese, 24 hour homemade yogurt, Eggs (boiled, poached, or scrambled), Pressed apple cider or grape juice mixed 1/2 and 1/2 with water, Homemade made with juice, unflavored gelatin, and sweetener (honey or saccharine), homemade chicken soup with only carrots and chicken, broiled beef or fish,“When diarrhea and cramping subside, cooked fruit, very ripe banana (must have brown spots), and additional cooked vegetables may be tried. If they seem to cause additional gas or diarrhea when they are added to the diet, delay their use until later.”See below for the regular diet.
|Introduction diet: Stage one: allows bone broth with well cooked vegetables, meat, and probiotic food at every meal & ginger tea between meals. Avoid pretty much everything else. Note: Here’s an ebook to help with 30 days on the GAPS intro diet!||3 phases of 2 weeks each; phase 3 then continues as a regular healthy diet.|
|Stage two: add raw organic egg yolks, meat and veg casseroles with no spices, & increase probiotic food and ghee Stage three: add grain-free or Paleo pancakes, scrambled eggs|
Stage four: add roasted meat, olive oil, fresh juice& bread baked w/nut flour
|Phase One: avoids Biblically “unclean” meat and seafood, no dairy other than goat’s milk yogurt and cheese, starchy vegetables, all legumes except for lentils, many nuts and seeds except for sunflower and almonds, all fruits except berries, grapefruit, limes and lemons; all alcohol and chlorinated water; all sweetener except 1 Tbs raw honey per day.|
|Stage five: add cooked apple puree, some raw vegs, fruit juicesStage six: add raw fruits, raw honey, grain-free approved baked goods w/only dried fruit as sweetener|
Finally the full GAPS Diet (see below). One moves through the phases when digestion is normal based on stool.
|Phase Two: get to add cow’s milk kefir, raw cheese, cottage and ricotta cheese, plain yogurt, plain sour cream, raw goat’s milk; sweet potatoes and corn; white, black, kidney and navy beans; more raw nuts (soaked is best);a dozen new fruits (still no bananas or dried fruit); raw veg juice and coconut water; stevia.|
|Phase Three: get to add lots of legumes and nut, nut butters, bananas and dried fruits, sprouted and sourdough breads and small quantities of all other whole grains (soaked is best), maple syrup. (see below)|
|What is emphasized?|
|Zero carbs other than a few approved kinds in fruits, raw honey, and 24-hour yogurt. Many foods are delayed if gut is not properly healed first.||Tons of bone broth, small amount (then increasing) of a probiotic food (yogurt, lacto-fermented vegetables or juice) at every meal.||Foods as they are found in nature, unprocessed foods, probiotics and omega 3s, traditionally prepared grains (soaked or sourdough)|
|What is not Allowed (EXCLUDED) in the Regular Diet (after introductory phases)?|
|Type of Food||SCD||GAPS||Maker’s Diet|
|Fats||Margarine||Margarine and fake fats, cooking oils; ghee must be homemade||Lard, shortening, margarine, soy, safflower, sunflower, cottonseed, canola, corn oils|
|Dairy||All milk products other than homemade yogurt fermented 24 hours, any cheese without at least a 30 day aging period||All milk (goat’s and cow’s), canned coconut milk (can make own) mozz cheese, cream cheese, goat’s cheese, feta, cottage and ricotta, whey, commercial ice cream and yogurt (must make own) [introduces dairy products slower than SCD]||Processed cheese, pasteurized, commercial dairy products, alternative milks (soy, almond, rice)|
|Grains||All grains of any kind including corn||All grains of any kind||White rice, cereal, unsprouted or sourdough bread, etc.|
|Legumes||Must be properly soaked; some not allowed (butter beans, cannelini, black eyed, garbanzo, pinto), all soy, even soy sauce||Some allowed; many not||None banned|
|Meats||Canned or processed meats (ham cured w/only salt okay)||Ham; any smoked, preserved or processed meat; canned fish||Any pork product, emu, ostrich, soy meat substitute; non-scaly fish and all shellfish|
|Vegetables||Canned and starchy, including canned pumpkin and tomatoes, white and sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips||Canned veggies, parsnips, white and sweet potato, seaweed||All allowed|
|Fruits||Canned, although in own juices okay; plaintains||Canned||Canned fruits in syrup|
|Nuts||No roasted nuts||Roasted and salted nuts||Honey-roasted or roasted in oil|
|Sweetener||Everything but raw honey (even stevia, Splenda, maple syrup)||Everything but raw honey||Sugar, heated honey, corn syrup, sorbitol and xylitol, all artificial sweeteners|
|Other||Processed foods, especially with MSG or starchy (sugar) additives, pectin, protein powder||Cocoa powder (allowed after intro diet), chocolate, baking powder, baking soda (at some levels), arrowroot and corn starch, strong coffee||Protein powder|
|Instituted the 24-hour yogurt.||Food not recommended before 10 a.m.; often also used to heal psychological issues such as ADHD, schizophrenia, depression, and more.||Includes exercise, clenzology (method to keep infectious germs out of body), prayer, and essential oils.|
But What’s the Primal/Paleo Diet?
Since all these diets have a period without grains, they remind many of the primal/paleo lifestyle, which also eschews grains and starchy foods. You can learn the basics of the primal lifestyle at this introductory guest post from Primal Toad: What is the Primal Lifestyle?
Ever Heard of BRAT?
If you’re a mom, you know what I’m talking about. Common wisdom (and doctors) say that when someone has diarrhea, they should eat bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast (BRAT). The grains, I believe, should be white. This is supposed to to firm up your BMs. One really interesting thing about the GAPS and SCD diets is that they say that if you have diarrhea of any kind, you can use the first stage diet to heal yourself right up. Am I just delusional, or is BRAT just about the opposite of GAPS?
From our own experience, when an anti-diarrheal prescription didn’t work, cutting grains made a difference almost immediately. Here’s a post I wrote about the real food version of “BRAT”.
I saw a new Allergen-Free Nourishing Foods Menu Planner promoted over at Naturally Knocked Up last week and thought it was worth sharing. The author makes comprehensive dairy-free, wheat-free, and soy-free planners, as well as all three together. For someone just starting on a restrictive diet, whether for reason of allergies or digestive ailments, it would be awfully helpful to have someone walk you through the week’s meals! I’ve also mentioned before, but it’s worth saying again, that an menu planning tool like Plan to Eat would be helpful as you navigate the waters of a new diet.
Since I’ve never actually followed any of these diets, this summary is from the outside and is probably more rudimentary than someone could share if they were more familiar with the intimate workings of the day-to-day diet. Kat Garson (@scdkat on Twitter) was kind enough to email me this summary, which I found quite helpful:
“SCD intro is quite simple, which some people prefer over the GAPS intro just to get into the diet. Lots of chicken soup, homemade 24 hour yogurt, boiled meats and veggies (stews and soups are great), flavored gelatin,pate, cooked applesauce, and bananas. Supplements and detox methods are not super important for SCD, but can be included. A basic probiotic (with only Lactobacillus, not Bifido) can be used, and epsom salt baths are great for die off symptoms. After doing a couple days of basic intro, the plan is to start adding foods in one at a time each 3-4 days, checking for any reactions. Any food that gives a reaction is left out until much later when you can try it again.
GAPS intro is much more structured and includes a lot of fermented vegetables, juiced vegetables, fish oils, special probiotic, and being dairy-free for a while. Coming from more of a SAD [Standard American Diet] diet, I would have found this incredibly hard, but most people who come from a NT/WAPF [Nourishing Traditions and Weston A. Price Foundation] background seem to do just fine with it. The probiotic used is more powerful and that can be good or bad depending on your reaction. The fish oil, cod liver oil and nut/seed oil used are probably very helpful for inflammation. The focus GAPS protocol places on detoxing in general (body products, organic foods, juicing) is good too.
Either one is great to start with, or you can even pick the main points from each and form your own intro schedule. Some find the intense probiotic/fermented foods of GAPS to be too much, too soon. Others find the large amount of dairy on SCD intro to be too much, too soon. It might just take some playing around with! Also note that even though everyone online and on blogs seems to promote eating lots of nut baked goods, they really can be rough on the system. I recommend keeping nuts to a minimum for the first 6 months, unless constipation is a problem.”
If you’ve made it this far, pat yourself on the back. Then go make a delicious bowl of broth and overcooked veggies and be thankful that you probably will never need to eat that soup three times a day for a few weeks.
Cara of Health Home Happiness has an amazing GAPS Starter Package that will get you started on the lifestyle with meal plans, freezer cooking and an amazing eBook all about getting started. I can’t send a chef to you, but this comes pretty close!
I interviewed Dave Wetzel of Green Pasture (the fermented CLO place) yesterday, and I can’t wait to do a little research to flesh out the post and share it with you!
You may also be interested in the Test Your Grains Challenge, which you can still embark on: