Mind the GAPS - GAPS diet review
How much of the GAPS ideology makes sense? Mind the GAPS in Natasha Campbell-McBride's knowledge.
More about the GAPS diet scam
A "miracle diet" is being aggressively promoted by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, who's making a lot of money by promising an easy cure for a myriad of still-incurable health problems. The Campbell-McBride marketing machine owns seven companies, milking every last cent out of this fraudulent dietary cult. Details are in my article The GAPS Scam.
GAPS diet review
Campbell-McBride claims that a large number of illnesses (including and especially mental illness/syndromes) are caused by auto-immune issues that start in the gut and are caused by an inappropriate diet and can be successfully treated by her low-carb GAPS diet. To sell her diet plans, supplements and books, she uses thoroughly debunked theories from the beginning of the previous century, when medical knowledge was virtually non-existent. She exudes an aire of erudism, pretending to know cause and cure for just about any disease for which a cause or cure has not yet been found. She has never published any evidence for her claims, but rides on the bandwagon of "detoxification", "parasites" and the unsubstantiated idea that "nearly all illness is autoimmune and starts in the gut".
I read the entire 168-page document available on their site and debunk 63 of the claims found in it below. Alberto Brandolini has said: "The amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it" and we agree:
Claim 1: The GAPS diet can modify gene expression in the body and thus cure illnesses with a genetic cause, such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.
False. Science has only found very mild effects in rats, when put on special diets. Scientists certainly never cured genetic defects in rats, let alone in people. Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is caused by mutations that cause defects in neuronal proteins. Nerve signals are conducted by an axon with a myelin sheath wrapped around it. Most mutations in CMT affect the myelin sheath, but some affect the axon. The most common cause of CMT (70-80% of the cases) is the duplication of a large region on the short arm of chromosome 17 that includes the gene PMP22. Epigenetics is about turning certain hidden, correct genes on or off based on environmental factors. It's not about repairing bad genes. Giving people with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease false hope is unethical.
Claim 2: The mitochondria can be damaged by electromagnetic radiation.
False. We did a comprehensive search in the medical literature and we found no evidence to support this claim. On the contrary, we found only an article suggesting that electromagnetic pulses could reduce free radical formation in the mitochondria, which the article states would be beneficial to health.
Claim 3: Coffee enemas are highly recommended, even for people sensitive to caffeine.
False. There have been several deaths from cofee enemas due to electrolyte imbalance. Coffee enemas are based on the flawed assumption of self-introxication or Gerson's ideas from the 1920's. Coffee enemas have no proven benefits but are unsafe due to the many potentially severe side effects such as (from Wikipedia) infections, sepsis (including campylobacter sepsis), severe electrolyte imbalance, colitis, polymicrobial enteric septicemia, proctocolitis, salmonella, brain abscess, and heart failure. If the coffee is inserted too quickly or is too hot, it could cause internal burning or rectal perforation. Long term use of coffee enemas can lead to malabsorption of fat, fat-soluble vitamins and calcium.
Claim 4: Autoimmunity is born in the gut.
False. Studies on the causes of autoimmune problems have been ongoing for decades and many researchers found all kinds of clues - none of them anything to do with the gut or the diet. Wikipedia mentions many studies and many factors such as smoking, genetics and infections. Diet and the gut never were observed to be related to autoimmunity.
Claim 5: The brain can be be poisoned by toxicity from the gut such that sensory processing is impaired.
False. As we demonstrated in our article The GAPS Scam, toxin molecules are too large to be able to pass the blood-brain barrier. This claim is an attempt to persuade people with neurological symptoms to pay money for GAPS paraphernalia.
Claim 6: Schizophrenia is caused by an inappropriate diet and can be cured by the GAPS diet, which should be enforced on the patient. When the patient feels better, the Schizophrenia medication should be phased out. The reason why Schizophrenia develops at a younger age nowadays is not improved diagnosis leading to earlier detection, but youngsters leaving the parental house earlier, and not getting the wholesome food their parents serve them.
False. The cause of Schizophrenia is unknown but the suspected causes are genetic factors or even brain infections. There never has been found any connection between diet and Schizophrenia.
Claim 7: Esophagopharyngeal Reflux (EPR) is caused by a stomach/esophagus infection.
False. Scientists say that EPR appears to be caused by a disorder of volume clearance and esophageal dysmotility, not acid and peptic injury. The stomach acid normally prevents bacterial infection of the stomach lining. If an infection manages to take hold due to Hypochlorhydria, the result is a stomach ulcer, which is a potentially lethal infection. As the article mentions, Peptic ulcers are not associated with EPR.
Claim 8: Bio-resonance is not quackery but it is a genuine form of "vibrational medicine".
False. There are zero studies that show the slightest efficacy of "bioresonance". By the laws of nature, it can not work. The concept was made up by a Scientologist (not a MD) to sell devices. It is classified as pseudoscience (quackery).
Claim 9: Gout is caused by activity of pathogenic microbes in the gut (a stomach infection).
False. The causes of Gout are known and none of them have anything to do with pathogenic gut bacteria. From Wikipedia: High levels of uric acid in the blood (hyperuricemia) is the underlying cause of gout. This can occur for a number of reasons, including diet, genetic predisposition, or underexcretion of urate. Renal underexcretion of uric acid is the primary cause of hyperuricemia in about 90% of cases. Dietary causes account for about 12% of gout and include a strong association with the consumption of alcohol, fructose-sweetened drinks, meat, and seafood. The occurrence of gout is partly genetic, contributing to about 60% of variability in uric acid level.
Claim 10: Misophonia is caused by bad diet and is cured by the GAPS diet.
False. There is no research that ever found a relationship between Misophonia and diet. It is highly unlikely that neurological syndromes are caused by food intake, since food molecules are too large to pass the blood-brain barrier.
Claim 11: Diarrhea is a natural cleansing reaction to expel toxins such as lead.
False. Nearly all diarrhea is caused by either infection, inflammation, malabsorption or irritation by the food. So it is not a "beneficial reaction" by the body - it is a potentially dangerous symptom of something wrong. "Toxins" are not in the list of possible causes. "Cleansing" is therefore a misleading term.
Claim 12: The natural role of microbes is to clean out chemicals.
False. The gut bacteria and us live in symbiosis and that is because gut bacteria protect us from fungal organisms and pathogenic bacteria (and they synthesize certain beneficial compounds), not because they "clean out chemicals" - our liver and kidneys do that.
Claim 13: It is possible that the pH in your body is too acidic.
False. The "pH of the body" myth has been debunked to death already in numerous pieces and even YouTube videos by doctors - I've written a piece on it as well: http://owndoc.com/diet/ph-balance-of-the-body-alkaline-acid-food-combining-fact-or-fiction/
Claim 14: All migraines are caused by bowel toxins.
False. Migraines are believed to be due to a mixture of environmental and genetic factors. About two-thirds of cases run in families. Changing hormone levels may also play a role, as migraines affect slightly more boys than girls before puberty, but about two to three times more women than men. If bowel toxins would be the cause, there wouldn't be so much more women suffering from Migraine than men. Migraine is widely assumed to be a gender-biased hereditary neurovascular disorder.
Claim 15: Tonsillitis is caused by bacteria that feed on processed carbohydrates.
False. The majority of Tonsillitis is caused by viruses. Viruses can not live on carbohydrates but need living cells to reproduce them.
Claim 16: Neurological and other physical damage caused by Foetal Alcohol Syndrome can be reversed by the GAPS diet.
False. It is physically impossible for structural brain damage or permanent facial disfigurement to be significantly improved by diet.
Claim 17: Hiatus hernia is caused by a bacterial infection of the stomach.
False. A Hiatus hernia or Hiatal hernia is the protrusion (or herniation) of the upper part of the stomach into the thorax through a tear or weakness in the diaphragm. Hiatal hernia can have many causes, but a bacterial gut infection is not one of them. Some of the causes are heavy lifting or bending over, frequent or hard coughing, hard sneezing, pregnancy and delivery, violent vomiting, straining with constipation or obesity.
Claim 18: Mucous membranes can "expel toxins" and bacteria "feed on toxins".
False. Mucous membranes have several functions in the body, such as trapping infectious agents. Expelling toxins is not a function of mucous membranes. Bacteria feed on all kinds of substances but toxins are not something bacteria can utilize for their nutritional needs.
Claim 19: Toxins are excreted by the saliva.
False. Saliva has several functions but toxin excretion is not a documented function of saliva.
Claim 20: Nail biting is generally caused by a nutritional deficiency.
False. Nail biting is an impulse control disorder and is in the obsessive-compulsive spectrum. I pick/bite my nails regardless of whatever diet I'm on. When I stop doingthat, I have to scratch my skin. There is a nervous tension that could be related to my Aspergers, but it certainly is magical thinking to assume nail biting is due to a lack in nutrients. There is not the slightest evidence to substantiate that claim. Other nail biters say that the nail itself somehow irritates them and they would like their nails "gone".
Claim 21: The GAPS diet activates the "detoxification system", which can remove Mercury out of amalgams.
False. This flies in the face of everything we know about the applicable science. It's a wild claim without any substantiation, evidence or logic behind it.
Claim 22: Dilated Cardiomyopathy is caused by auto-immunity, which is always caused in the gut, and the GAPS diet can cure and prevent this condition.
False. Infection and alcohol abuse are the main causes of this condition.
Claim 23: Candida is a cleaner and detoxifier, and as long as you have toxins in your body, the Candida will remain to help cleanse you.
False. Candida is an opportunistic organism, a parasite without any use for the body. It is one of the most dangerous infections known to man with a lethal intravenous dose of just 1000 cells. Candida feeds on living human cells and is the main organism responsible for the decay of corpses.
Claim 24: One should give enemas to very young children, including babies. It is important to start as young as possible, so that the child considers it "normal" because a young child still has no concept of what is acceptable and what is not. Many years of frequent enemas are recommended for a variety of reasons.
False. Enemas are completely superfluous, likely generally harmful and carry serious risk. I argue that enemas administered to a child are a form of rape. The fact that the child willingly participated at the time of the offense and that there allegedly is no sexual intent is no excuse. "Grooming" children to consider this procedure normal is immoral.
Claim 25: High blood cholesterol is very good news and very healthy. It means the body is healing itself.
False. Some people's cholesterol levels rise to very dangerous levels on a high-fat diet. This may be genetic. Total blood cholesterol levels above 5.5 mmol/L are an indication of a greatly increased risk of developing coronary heart disease. Levels above 6.5 mmol/L are considered to indicate extremely high risk.
Claim 26: When your doctor says you should avoid protein in the diet due to a mutation on the CBSC699T gene, it's better to ignore him and go on the GAPS diet anyway because the genes will be fixed by the GAPS diet due to "epigenetics".
False, as already explained in this article. Epigenetics can not repair gene defects.
Claim 27: Glucose is poison but honey is OK, even though it's one third glucose. Honey contains trace minerals and that makes it healthy.
False. Honey is almost all sugar and contains no fiber. Fiber slows down of rate of carbohydrate absorption from the small intestine, delaying the after-meal flow of glucose into the blood. Without fiber, this glucose is absorbed rapidly. A surge of glucose into the bloodstream at such a rapid rate leads to an insulin spike. The more insulin spikes a person experiences, the greater the chance of developing type 2 diabetes.
Claim 28: Oil pulling is a very effective detoxifying procedure.
False. There is not the slighest evidence that topically applied oil can remove "toxins", neither is there evidence for those "toxins" themselves. It's quackery.
Claim 29: Antibiotics not only damage the gut flora but have a direct damaging effect on the immune system.
The second claim is false. There exist many different classes of antibiotics and the great majority of them have no documented detrimental effect on the functioning of the immune system.
Claim 30: A woman's body uses pregnancy as an opportunity to eliminate her toxins by "dumping" them into the fetus so that her toxins can be "expelled" with the child.
False. In fact there is a toxin filter between the mother's bloodstream and that of the fetus. It's called the placenta. Nature has made it thus impossible for most toxins to enter the fetus' bloodstream. This is called the blood barrier. Even for those toxic molecules that can pass the placental blood barrier can not be "dumped" into the fetus. There exists no mechanism to carry them from the mother to the fetus and somehow keep them there. Campbell-McBride came up with this hilarious reverse-"logic":
"How would you explain the case of my fraternal twin boys born to the same mother at the same time; they should have inherited the same gut flora. One has no learning problems and no impaired motor skills while the other has learning problems, hyperactivity and poor motor skills."
Claim 31: When autism gets worse on the GAPS diet, it's caused by yeast dieoff.
False. Autism is a neurological thing and yeast dieoff toxins can not pass the blood-brain barrier because their molecular size is > 500 Daltons.
Claim 32: P.O.T.S. (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) is caused by toxins produced by a gut infection.
False. As we proved in our article The GAPS Scam, bacterial toxins' molecules are too large to be able to pass the blood-brain barrier so they can not enter the Autonoumous Nervous System.
Claim 33: The basis for addictive behaviour is blood sugar abnormalities.
False. A lot is known on the feedback mechanisms of addictive behavior. The only addiction blood sugar levels has influence on is carbohydrate addiction. Other addiction has nothing whatsoever to do with blood sugar levels and it is disingenuous to suggest that the GAPS diet will greatly help to batttle addiction. Addiction stems from physical (neurophysiological) and psychological dependence, as well as compulsion and habituation.
Claim 34: The GAPS diet can cure Vitiligo in many cases.
False. Remember - the burden of proof is on the one making the claim. Where is the photographic evidence?
Claim 35: The body "employs" yeast as a sponge to absorb heavy metals and other toxins, so these poisons do less damage. That is why yeast overgrowth always comes with toxicity.
False. Debunked in my article on Candida and heavy metals.
Claim 36: The Great Smokies Lab and the Great Plains Laboratory are not scammers - their tests are actually useful.
False. These companies are scammers. They work in concert with alternative practitioners. The "labs" supply the quacks with the "tests". Both make money. These "labs" are on the quackwatch blacklist: http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/Tests/nonstandard.html
Claim 37: Teeth grinding or bruxism is caused by toxins produced in the gut.
False. There are dozens of suspected causes for Bruxism and gut toxins is not in this long list, neither is it a logical or likely cause.
Claim 38: GAPS will cure bed-wetting, as it eliminates toxins and bedwetting is caused by "toxins in the urine".
False and false. The funny thing is that these claims always contain the clause: "In the long term". Of course, bedwetting eventually subsides by itself.
Claim 39: The ratio of meat to vegetables one should eat depends on the weather.
False. This is some kind of superstition, not science.
Claim 40: Some types of berries should be eaten from the bush to the mouth.
Bad idea. There can be parasites on berries, transmitted through the urine of foxes and birds that can cause worms in the heart and brain. These parasitic diseases can be deadly. Much better to wash berries first. Not even washing eliminates all risk.
Claim 41: The GAPS diet permanently cures Celiac disease (gluten intolerance).
False. In my article "Bread, our daily poison" I explain how gluten intolerance is due to a secondary immune response. Gluten are toxic for all people and there is no way a person can be made "immune" to a poison by any kind of diet.
Claim 42: Pressure cooking is not recommended because it destroys food to some degree. Slow cooking on low heat is better.
False. In fact, scientific experiments show that pressure cooking preserves vitamin C more so than ordinary boiling, frying or steaming. The reason is that vit. C is less destroyed by heat as it is by food enzymes. This destruction occurs at around 30 to 40 degree Celcius. The longer the food remains at that temperature, the more vit. C is destroyed. So the advice is completely wrong.
Claim 43: Milk is blood serum. It is the woman's blood with the red blood cells removed.
Ridiculous nonsense. Milk contains dozens of nutrients not found in blood, and blood contains many components not found in milk. There is litte similarity between these two fluids.
Claim 44: Animals have "very efficient detoxification mechanisms" in their bodies. So you can safely eat their meat, regardless of the fact they come from bioindustry. But humans are not animals so we need the GAPS diet to detoxify.
Nonsense. Humans are animals. As the most evolved omnivores, we also have the most effective detoxification systems. Chocolate can kill a dog, for example.
Claim 45: Campbell-McBride's "Bio-Kult" yogurt brand kills viruses, harmful bacteria and fungi in the gut. The killing is so substantial that a "die-off" reaction is produced due to to "toxins" the "dying bacteria, viruses and fungi" produce.
Nonsense. Probiotic supplements have a near-negligible effect on the gut. The effects are not even measurable by science, unless there was a severe probiotic imbalance due to a long course with broad-spectrum antibiotics. Imbalances in gut flora can not be ameliorated by introducing probiotics. Instead, the diet should be changed to make the environment more hospitable to probiotic bacteria. Dieoff (Jarish-Herxheimer) reactions occur only when severe infections with a certain class of bacteria (spirochetes) are treated with antibiotics.
Claim 46: Conventional dentists are not trained in safe removal of amalgam fillings.
False. Dentists are very well equipped nowadays to safely remove amalgam fillings. Extreme care is taken that the patient can not swallow the debris and suction is provided to remove Mercury vapor.
Claim 47: Metals in the mouth create electric currents and different fillings acquire a positive or a negative charge. These electric charges need to be measured and fillings need to be removed in a certain order.
Nonsense. This is quackery, used by some dentists to attract gullible patients, and used by some companies to sell expensive rubbish to gullible dentists. Nothing in metallurgy or electrical theory points to Mercury somehow being able to "leech out" during extraction when some magical "potential" between molars is not taken into account. Again, the burden of proof lies with the person making the claim. One crazy person can make more claims in an hour than anyone can debunk in a lifetime.
Claim 48: A sauna removes toxins though sweat.
False. Sweating has only one biological purpose: cooling the body. The "detoxing" in a sauna is a persistent myth. In fact, excessive sweating can impair the body's real detoxification system, such as the kidneys. The entire "detox" field is fraudulent. And saunas do absolutely nothing to "detox".
Claim 49: Research shows that EMF (electromagnetic fields) are damaging to humans, animals and microbes.
Generally untrue. It would be nice if Campbell-McBride could quote some of that research because it doesn't exist. The only such research that exists is that small and rather insignificant changes have been observed, and only under high field strengths and even that research is controversial. If EMF was really that harmful, we'd be dropping like flies because they are everywhere in great abundance nowadays. Every workplace has them, every house has them. And yet the average life expectancy continues to rise. Sure, mobile phones can occasionally cause brain tumors when used frequently, held against an ear. And living underneath a high power line may be unhealthy. But apart from these extreme fields (millions of times higher than encountered normally) that's about it. The EMF's encountered in daily life are so weak as to be insignificant.
Claim 50: Coffee enemas are a good treatment for Cancer.
False. The claims have been found to be of no merit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Gerson
Claim 51: It is the pathogens in the gut (usually fungi) that convert food into gas.
False. Only 1/1000th of the gut flora at most are fungi. The gas produced in the gut is produced by bacterial fermentation, not fungal activity.
Claim 52: Homeopathy isn't quackery - it is real medicine and it works very well.
Nonsense. Countless studies have been done to try to prove that Homeopathy works. No effect has ever been found.
Claim 53: Aspirin is very safe and should be given to children with cough, flu cold or fever.
Wrong. Aspirin is not harmless at all, and the above conditions need no treatment at all. In the US, In America drug labelling advises all young people under 20 to avoid Aspirin because of the risk of Reye's Syndrome, a potentially fatal side effect of Aspirin. Quite a few young people have died of this.
Claim 54: Garlic extract, olive leaf extract, oregano oil and grapefruit seed extract are recommended against parasites.
False. Essential oils damage the gut lining and if you want to attain a concentration sufficient to kill the parasites, you will kill yourself with it first. The truth is that none of these extracts can be used internally. They always cause more or less damage when they are used internally but they never kill any parasites. It's just not possible to reach a sufficiently high concentration without burning holes in the esophagus and gut first.
Claim 55: Peptic ulcers caused by H. pylori should not be treated with antibiotics - only use the GAPS diet for at least 18 months.
Wrong. Peptic ulcers carry very significant mortality and the longer you let the bacterial infection progress, the harder it will be to survive this ultimately lethal infection.
Claim 56: Non-organic fruit and vegetables in the supermarkets are devoid of nutrition.
False. Annals Of Internal Medicine investigated this claim and discovered that supermarket veggies are just as nutritious as organic veggies. Sure, some soils have become depleted but unless you grow your own food, it's highly likely that organic vegetables are just as nutritious as supermarket-bought.
Claim 57: Natural unprocessed salt is better for the kidneys than processed salt.
False. If anything, unprocessed salt is worse because it contains unspecified contaminants. There is no magical difference between the two. NaCl = NaCl. Unprocessed salt is just as bad for you (if it's bad at all) as processed salt. The only benefit unprocessed salt has is that it has trace elements such as Iodine.
Claim 58: Lyme disease is a fashion diagnosis. When you test positive for Lyme, do not use antibiotics but use our Bio-Kult and the GAPS diet to restore the immune system. Do not put much credence in doctors and scientists. If you test positive for the Borrelia parasite [sic], do not eradicate it. Nearly everybody has it - it's normal. Borrelia, like most bacteria, is not our enemy, it is our friend. We should learn to live with it in harmony.
Outrageous. It't like saying Neurosyphilis (a similar infection) should not be treated. This person can't possibly be a medical doctor. She must have purchased her degree in Bashkortostan. It is impossible for a medical doctor to endorse Homeopathy and advise against treating a brain infection with antibiotics.
Claim 59: Aquiring Toxoplasmosis from your pet cats is of no concern as long as the cat is on a good diet.
Insanity. Up to a third of the world's population has gotten this infection, usually from cats. Toxoplasmosis seriously affects the brain.
Claim 60: Hydrogen peroxide helps to kill bad gut flora.
Nonsense. H2O2 is extremely reactive and will immediately give off its atomic Oxygen to the first tissue it gets into contact with - damaging it. None of it will reach the gut.
Claim 61: Applied Kinesiology is not quackery but real science.
False. All studies on Kinesiology concluded that it does not work. It's pseudoscience. I wrote an article about "Muscle Testing".
Claim 62: Hemorrhoids are caused by toxins in the liver.
No they are not. Risk factors for Hemorrhoids: Constipation, diarrhea, lack of exercise, low-fiber diets, obesity, prolonged sitting.
Claim 63: Dioxins are not particularly toxic. They are not more toxic than hundreds of other chemicals in our environment.
False. Dioxins are the most toxic chemicals known to science. Infinitesimally small amounts can lead to cancer.
GAPS-cultists retaliate with libel campaign against OwnDoc / Sarah Vaughter / Vaughter Wellness
The GAPS-cultists started their own libel campaign in an attempt to shut down my company: Convicted child abuser Robert Lyle Kindelan started an entire WordPress blog where he alleges that I "sue people for 100,000 dollars", "refuse refunds", "sell stuff that doesn't work", "threatens people" etc. He told me he would, unless I would pull my articles on the GAPS diet, not rest until my company was destroyed. We have this threat in our customer support system, which logs IP addresses.