I’ve found the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) and GAPS Diet to be the second most applied diet for autism (and other disorders) next to gluten-free casein-free (GFCF).

According to ARI (Autism Research Institute), 71% of parents say SCD was beneficial for their child.  SCD was originally created and used with inflammatory bowel conditions.  This diet has become popular because of it’s ability support and improve digestion and gut function.  SCD was brought to the autism community by Elaine Gottschall who used the diet to heal her daughter of ulcerative colitis after realizing the increased rate of gastrointestinal problems in autism.  I had the privilege to meet and speak with Elaine while she was alive – she was quite an amazing woman.  Her book is Breaking the Vicious Cycle.

The GAPS Diet was created by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, who has expanded upon the original principles of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet to create a diet and healing protocol to support people with a variety of digestive disorders and subsequent psychological issues.

These two diets involves the removal of all starches and complex sugars, and only allow monosaccaride carbohydrates found in honey and fruit sugar and non-starchy vegetables.  When putting this diet strategy into place, parents remove maple syrup, cane sugar, agave nectar, brown rice syrup and other sources of sugars from snacks and meals. SCD also removes all starches including all grains, corn, potatoes and sweet potatoes – so quinoa pasta, rice milk, and french fries are out.  Additional foods that are avoided that contain these ingredients include most baked goods, candy, jelly fruit snacks, granola bars, juices, fruit punch style drinks, ice cream, soda, chocolate milk, cereal and other pre-packaged and freezer foods that contain sugar in their ingredient list – unless made with compliant ingredients.

The goal of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet is to reduce gut inflammation and aid healing by “starving out” bad gut bugs and avoiding foods that require carbohydrate digesting enzymes. Studies show a subset of children with autism lack these enzymes and have digestive systems that are attacked by pathogenic organisms such as clostridia and yeast; they often need specific nutrition and diet support. By eliminating problematic foods, undigested food and inflammation in the gut decrease, and the yeast and bacteria (if present) are weakened. As these infections are eliminated from the body and intestinal enzyme function improves, children with autism and a variety of conditions experience healing. They feel better, sleep better, learn better, and autism symptoms are alleviated.

This diet is not a low carbohydrate diet but a specific carbohydrate diet that focuses on non-starchy vegetables, fruit, honey, and certain beans for carbohydrates and avoids other sugars and starches.

SCD Implementation

As parents implement the SCD, they cook meals for their children and family that are centered around meat, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, certain beans, all non-starchy vegetables, and fruit. They introduce honey and fruit sugar to their recipes and meal preparation. Many parents find it beneficial to start with the “intro diet,” PecanBread.com has a good one.

Dairy is allowed on SCD in certain forms that have the sugars fermented into monosaccharides like yogurt; however, since so many children with autism and ADHD have reactions to dairy it is often omitted entirely.

Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Diet

GAPS Diet includes the essentials of SCD, plus the addition of wonderful healing and nutritious principles such as fermented foods and homemade broths, as well as lifestyle and detoxification recommendations.

The GAPS diet recommends everyone begin the diet casein-free.  GAPS has it’s own introductory diet, different from SCD.

GAPS includes supplements such as cod liver oil and other essential fatty acids, potent probiotics (stronger than those allowed by SCD), digestive enzymes, vitamin and mineral supplements.  The GAPS diet places more emphasize on supplements; however, allows some supplement ingredients (starches and sugars) that are “illegal” on SCD.

Gut and Psychology Syndrome GAPS and SCD are both wonderful diets for many children with autism, ADHD and other childhood conditions, particularly when the gut and digestion are inflamed or weak.