I hadn’t planned on blogging about GAPS until I actually started the diet myself, but I was so stirred and encouraged by a recent article from Dr. Mercola that I feel compelled to begin sharing my thoughts on this subject which I feel so passionately about. If you’re not already familiar, Dr. Mercola is a world-renowned holistic physician who publishes an online health newsletter, and is highly respected and well-known throughout the natural health community. In the article, Dr. Mercola posted an interview with Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, neurosurgeon, nutritionist, and author of the revolutionary book detailing the link between digestive health and neurological, psychological, and other disorders, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, regarding how the specific diet which she has created and details in her book completely reversed her child’s autism. And believe me, her son’s GAPS success story, is one of many.
As a former ABA specialist, the subject of autism treatment is one which is close to my heart. I have worked among dozens, probably close to hundreds, of children and adolescents affected by ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders) and other Pervasive Developmental Disorders over the course of the last six years or so, in various positions I have held in the field of social work and behavioral therapy.
I stopped working with ASD children as a behavioral interventionist, because I no longer believe that’s the right answer to autism. At least, it should certainly not be the primary focus, in my opinion.
The Missing Piece
When I became aware of the healing that real food brings, I was immediately spurred to change my career path and work toward becoming a nutritional therapist. I wanted to master the ways in which I could actually treat autism, not autistic behaviors. It began to drive me absolutely crazy to see parents I worked with unknowingly poisoning their children with fake food, literally leaving their bodies starving for nutrition, and allowing their health to deteriorate from the inside.
All the energy I was devoting to help these families with children struggling with this disorder started to feel for naught — due to the restrictions of working for an agency, I wasn’t allowed to dispense any of the advice they really needed to hear. I could only show them, “here’s how we handle your child’s tantrum,” not “here’s how we can start actually decreasing these problems by healing what’s causing them.”
Managing the behavioral and functional symptoms of autism through techniques like ABA without recognizing or addressing the cause of the disorder, is like putting a band-aid on a gaping wound in need of stitches. Sure, it will help you manage, but it’s not fixing the problem. And the longer you wait to get those stitches, the worse off you’re gonna be.
This, to me, is very much in line with the way conventional medicine tends to simply throw out “a pill for every ill” rather than healing the source of the sickness. But the biggest problem facing the ASD community today is the lack of awareness that there is indeed a known source — autism is truly not the “mystery” that many would have you believe.
When I have learned from Dr. Campbell-McBride and others, is that despite what nearly every doctor or “expert” on the subject will tell you, autism is reversible. How?
It’s in your gut
Autism is a digestive disorder. The gut, or digestive system, in patients with autism, is damaged and not able to function properly to digest foods and absorb nutrients. Instead, the damaged gut allows toxins such as pathogenic bacteria to enter the bloodstream and harm the neurological functions of the body. This damage occurs as a result of having an imbalance of intestinal flora, or bacteria. Dr. Campbell-McBride explains (transcript quote taken from Dr. Mercola’s article):
“What happens in these children [is that] they do not develop normal gut flora from birth…” she says. “Gut flora is a hugely important part of our human physiology. Recently research in Scandinavia has demonstrated that 90 percent of all cells and all genetic material in a human body is our own gut flora. We are just a shell… a habitat for this mass of microbes inside us. We ignore them at our own peril.
…As a result, their digestive system—instead of being a source of nourishment for these children—becomes a major source of toxicity. These pathogenic microbes inside their digestive tract damage the integrity of the gut wall. So all sort of toxins and microbes flood into the bloodstream of the child, and get into the brain of the child. That usually happens in the second year of life in children who were breast fed because breastfeeding provides a protection against this abnormal gut flora. In children who were not breastfed, I see the symptoms of autism developing in the first year of life. So breastfeeding is crucial to protect these children.”
The toxicity that forms as a result of an unhealthy gut, clouds the brain’s sensory functions and ability to decipher and process sensory information during a very critical time in the child’s development. This leads to an inability to foster communication and other instinctive functional skills due to the the massive “clogging-up” of brain activity with an overload of toxins.
An unhealthy gut essentially leads to an unhealthy child who is not able to tolerate further toxic influx such as from vaccine damage or other environmental stress to the body’s systems.
These problems are only exacerbated by the typical American diet — processed foods, sugars, and grains feed pathogenic bacteria in the gut, only furthering its dominance and damage to the gut, while inhibiting healthy flora from thriving.
A puzzle solved
Healing with the GAPS protocol comes from three main sources:
- Diet: The GAPS diet starts your digestive system back at square one. It gives the patient only the easiest foods to digest so that the body can focus on healing the damage within the gut, rather than trying to process difficult-to-digest foods. Slowly, more and more foods are introduced, but only foods chosen to specifically nourish the healing process are allowed. Healthy fats, ferments, and very nutrient-dense foods are the cornerstones of the GAPS diet.
- Supplementation: The use of therapeutic-grade probiotics are essential in repopulating the gut with beneficial bacteria and restoring healthy intestinal flora. Vitamins A and D are also critical for the GAPS patient — these can be provided in a highly-absorbable form of cod liver oil. Sun exposure to trigger the body’s own production of vitamin D is also important.
- Detoxification: Natural and gentle detox methods such as epsom salt baths, and vegetable juicing can give a highly beneficial boost to the detoxifying effects of a healing diet such as GAPS. It’s crucial that the body rids itself of as many neurologically-damaging toxins as it can during this the healing process.
Dr. Natasha explains in the interview that the GAPS protocol needs to be implemented as soon as possible for maximum healing to take place. I now believe that behavioral therapies such as ABA can be a good tool to use while you work on healing the child through diet and nutrition, but first and foremost, children with ASD desperately need nutritional intervention, such as with GAPS, before all others.
The interview video below is absolutely packed with a wealth of information from Dr. Campbell-McBride about how she heals her patients who have autism, with GAPS. It’s fairly long, but I think you’ll find it as fascinating as I did if you hit play and keep an ear on it for the next hour or so.
As I mentioned earlier, I do plan on starting the GAPS diet myself — but I don’t have autism. GAPS can be used to heal a myriad of health conditions — but I think I’ll save getting into the details on that for another day. I’m really looking forward to the healing I know the GAPS diet will bring for me, and spreading the very important message that there is hope for everyone who suffers from health issues related to the gut.
Do you know a child with autism who could benefit from the GAPS nutritional protocol? I encourage you to share this information, and especially Dr. Mercola’s interview with Dr. Natasha, with any families you know who could benefit from it!