A Diet that Treats Eating Disorders: Bullshit or Cure?

The GAPS Diet is a strict dietary regimen that claims to be a cure-all for a plethora ailments including allergies, autoimmune conditions, malignancies, hepatitis, digestive conditions, and even serious burns.  But not only does this diet announce that it can cure the physical conditions I just listed, it also declares it can rescue people from the clutches of severe, life-altering psychiatric illnesses. One of these illnesses the GAPS Diet says it can adequately treat is eating disorders – a family of deadly diseases that end the lives of 20% of its victims.

Now when I saw this claim written on Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride’s website (the doctor who invented the GAPS Diet), I immediately decided that it was necessary for me to put this unorthodox nutritional protocol under the microscope.  I made it my duty to decide whether or not the GAPS Diet was a viable option for individuals suffering from eating disorders and other serious psychiatric conditions.


So What’s the GAPS Diet Anyway?

GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome.  This condition (which has absolutely no scientific basis) is the brain-child of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride who conjured up the term in order to describe the unique connection between the digestive tract and the brain.   According to her, a whole range of even the most complex psychiatric illnesses are the result of an abnormal microbial ecosystem in the gut.  This abnormal gut flora results in an inability to properly digest foods. The foods that are left undigested apparently turn toxic and reek havoc  in the brain, thus causing a wide variety of psychiatric conditions.  The idea behind the GAPS Diet is to rebuild the gut flora which allegedly will free the body and brain from toxins.  Once the individual is detoxified, they will be “cured” from whatever ails them

This book is by Dr. Campbell-McBride and it discusses how the GAPS Diet can "cure" just about anything . . .
This book is by Dr. Campbell-McBride and it discusses how the GAPS Diet can “cure” just about anything . . .


What Does the GAPS Diet Entail? 

The GAPS Diet is honestly one of the most restrictive diets I have ever read about.   The diet begins with the GAPS Introduction Diet and then continues in seven different stages. In the first stage, the patient is only able to consume homemade meat or fish stocks, homemade soup containing only specific ingredients, and small amount of probiotic foods.  Once you graduate to the second stage of the diet, the patient may eat organic egg yolks in their homemade soup, ghee, and high-fat stews and casseroles (which MUST be homemade and prepared with only certain ingredients).  By the third stage, the patient is permitted to consume mashed avocado in their soup as well as special pancakes containing only organic nut butter, squash, and eggs.  The stages continue like this, adding just a few foods at a time. Once the patient reaches stage 7, they get to eat the Full GAPS Diet. In this part of the diet (which must be strictly followed for at least a few years), the patient cannot eat any grains or starches, soy, processed foods, sugars (unless in comes from fruits), refined sugar, certain dairy products, beans, soft drinks, alcohol, and coffee.


Is There Any Publications Supporting the GAPS Diet?

Nope. THERE ARE ABSOLUTELY NO PUBLICATIONS! Dr. Campbell-McBride has even failed to produce a simple case study of  a patient who went on GAPS and was miraculously cured.  Dr. Andrew Weil, a physician who is known for encouraging the use of  alternative medicine, doesn’t even support the diet and says so on his website (check out the link by clicking here).


What I Think About GAPS and Eating Disorders

I am completely appalled that Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride posted on her website that her diet could aid in eating disorder recovery. There is absolutely no scientific proof that this diet does anything to even help reduce the symptoms of psychiatric illnesses, let a lone save someone from the grips of a severe eating disorders! In my opinion, I think that if a person went on this diet in order to say adios to their ED, their ED would get much worse. This diet is extremely restrictive and encourages an unhealthy relationship with food by labeling foods as “good” or “bad”.   In eating disorder recovery, a patient should be exposed to all foods and taught that every food under the sun can be a part of a nutritious diet.

Please completely stay away from this diet.  It has no science backing it up and shouldn’t even be allowed to post that it cures any illness, especially eating disorders.



3 thoughts on “A Diet that Treats Eating Disorders: Bullshit or Cure?

  1. As soon as I read the words ‘strict diet regimen’ I raced to through your post to see if you had been swayed. No amount of gut flora is going to address the psychological basis for an eating disorder. Scary stuff indeed!

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