Is There Any ‘REAL SCIENCE’ Behind The GAPS Diet ?

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A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents…but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it  – Max Planck (1949), German physicist, Nobel Prize Winner

To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing – Aristotle

It is surely harmful to souls to make it a here-say to believe what is proved – Galileo Galilei

Embarking on the GAPS protocol requires a divergence from modern Western culture’s collectively agreed upon ways of eating, living, and approaching common diseases and disorders. “Is the GAPS diet backed by any REAL SCIENCE ?” is a question we will explore by taking a deeper look at who is asking, why and what they mean when they are asking, and how to protect your heart, resolve, and your momentum, when providing empirical research to these purported ‘science seekers’ may never be  enough.

My GAPS children each recieved 30-40 hours of in home applied behavioral analysis ( ABA therapy) every week for over 8 years, and in retrospect, I notice that this immersive experience has influenced the way that I approach language and by extension, ideas.  ABA therapy is a data driven science, which requires specific, and concrete definitions called ‘operational definitions’ to be agreed upon to ensure there is no ambiguity or inaccuracy surrounding whatever is being tracked and measured. Let’s start by creating our own operational definition of what real science is for the purpose of this post.

Real science is born of  ethical research that has been performed and analyzed by honest scientists which are not paid, pressured or politically beholden to find a particular predetermined outcome or to protect preconceived ideas or constructs. It is not influenced or bullied by agendas, and it is not conscious of reputation or liability or covering for it’s previous mistakes. It is further validated and vindicated by real clinical reports and outcomes – put another way – when the science is transposed  to practical clinical applications ( a doctor recommending and overseeing a treatment such as a dietary change based on the scientific research and it’s implications ) doctors and care providers across practices, backgrounds and disciplines can agree that patients are becoming measurably well.

The GAPS diet is unequivocally rooted in and supported by real science. The founder of the diet Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride is a classically trained medical doctor who holds degrees in both neurology and in nutrition. She is passionate about honest research, and has based the GAPS protocol on the synthesizing of almost 800 legitimate clinical research reports, all referenced or cited in her books. In addition to the GAPS protocol being rooted in clinical research and being peer  reviewed by  doctors and scholars trained to interpret research, GAPS practitioners ( MD’s additionally trained and certified in the GAPS protocol) all over the world are providing clinical reports and evidence of their patients recovering on the protocol!

Lets step back and look at who is asking – immediate family, extended family, teachers, therapists, neighbors and friends, GP doctors and persons who want to know! Changing our habits affects those around us, it disrupts the status quo, and most people in our lives who care about us are curios and motivated to understand the changes in our diet and lifestyle habits, because they want to be reassured of our ( or our children’s) safety, and because they want to support us!

Unfortunately, not all people in our lives will be supportive of the changes in our diets and habits upon being educated about the protocol and provided with supporting clinical research and evidence of it’s safety and efficacy. I have had people I’d hoped would support me reject and shame my GAPS lifestyle for almost ludicrously inexplicable reasons, reasons which certainly didn’t have anything to do with the real science they claimed such fidelity to. These reasons have ranged from their personal GP ( who had been out of school over two decades and wasn’t interested in nutritional research ) had never heard of it, to their health coach ( who had never read the GAPS book and certainly held no degree in research analysis) said it’s pseudo science, or even because their own (highly scientific) google searches had led them to other conflicting information, which supported their own opinions and lifestyles, caused less cognitive dissonance, and didn’t require reading any dry research journals.  Lets be clear – the operational definition of real science according to these persons is : that which I or people I know and trust have heard of and collectively accepted, that which does not challenge my or my doctor’s ideas or lifestyles, and that which is established as real not by the quantity and quality of research supporting it, but rather by public and popular opinion.

Why are they asking? But why would solid science in the form of hundreds of clinical research reports, which are cumulated by a medical doctor, and peer reviewed by scholars, still not be enough to satisfy them? Why would our own personal anecdotes of improvement and hope, still not break through, or make them pleased to support us on our quest to be more well ?! It is not because almost 800 scientific research reports aren’t adequate to substantiate a change of opinion. Friedrich Nietzsche said “Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.” If you have made effort to educate friends, family or professionals and found yourself belittled – I understand. To be intellectually shamed is painful, to be shamed in the name of science when you value science so sincerely is demoralizing –  a place that feels like what Brene Brown PhD refers to as ‘high lonesome’, but you. Are not. Alone. And this lack of acceptance, approval or validation really isn’t about you or the GAPS diet’s relationship to real science. It’s about human ego, supplanting a growth mindset.

Psychologist Dr. Nicole Lapera PhD defines ego programming as:

  • Our Values, Beliefs, Opinions : These create our ‘world view’ or the human experience based on internalized beliefs.
  • The Concept of Self : The ‘false self’ that was created as a means of protection based on the preferences of parent figures, community and culture.
  • The Script: The running narrative of our life experience that is constantly expressing itself through the steady stream of thoughts in our mind.
  • The Score Card : The endless comparison, need for control and domination the ego takes part in due to deep fear of unworthiness and abandonment.

No one, including family, professionals and doctors, are immune from their ego programming being triggered. The GAPS diet and protocol might challenge long held values such as ‘balance in all things’, or challenge beliefs a doctor holds such as ‘diet doesn’t impact health as much as genetics’ or challenge opinions such as ‘a little sugar can’t hurt’ or ‘functional medicine is less  effective than allopathic/mainstream medicine.’ The GAPS diet and protocol might wound a fragile concept of self – the skeptic might identify as being an expert or having all the answers, and feel embarrassed or defensive to not have heard of, or be fluent in the treatment you’re pursuing in their field. The GAPS diet and protocol might outline different facts than what a doctor or professional learned in school from a respected professor, or it might trigger comparison between how they raised their children, how they live their lives ,or what they recommend- which may be more based upon what everyone else is doing than on science. Ego triggering causes defensiveness, and  defensiveness makes us ‘armor up’. This can manifest as needing to diminish the GAPS diet’s scientific legitimacy, or as being dismissive of it. When the people in our lives are presented with information and they respond with ego, it’s a sign that they are not operating from the open- mindedness and curiosity so essential to the embracing of true science!

You have a right for you and your children to work with doctors who are open minded, and who are more committed to scientific research and the recovery of their patients than to dogma or their ego. There are many of them!!! Last year I had to have a difficult surgery, and am fortunate to be dear friends with a nurse who works with and connected me to one of the most skilled and sought after surgeons in the world , Bodhen Pomahac MD, who performs face transplants in Boston.  It was an honor to meet him and a relief to be treated by such a world renown expert, but what struck me most was the dignity with which I was treated – the humility, and the humanity. A globally respected, top most educated and skilled surgeon did not feel too important to patiently listen to me, to tear up when I cried, or to be open-minded ,respectful and extend openness when I brought him research I was reading and considering. The most elegant and effective doctors are not motivated by ego. They are not only highly trained and skilled in medicine, but have high degrees of open-mindedness, curiosity, and respect for their patients.

If you have decided to move forward with the GAPS protocol, I encourage you to find a GAPS practitioner ( MD additionally trained in GAPS) or a supportive doctor who has a high degree of open-mindedness – defined by Dr. Perra as:

  • Can hear new ideas, concepts or beliefs without mocking them or shutting down
  • Are able to ask questions rather than make assumptions based on their own perspective
  • Consume a wide variety of content, not just content that solidifies their world view
  • Allow themselves to evolve, expand and change their minds and allow others to do the same
  • Can engage beyond ego and it’s need to know everything or be ‘right’

And in regard to friends and family. You do not need to expend excessive, precious energy trying to convince them. The ones who love you and are only concerned about your welfare will be satisfied with the research you provide and with your own progress and hope. The people who’s egos are triggered by the new boundaries in your life will become apparent – be gentle and be strong. Soft heart. Strong back. We are headed towards healing, and we will walk with the ones that are going that way.

I hope this created a little clarity and solidarity if you’ve felt deflated or been treated as small for choosing a road less traveled – I’m proud of you. You have a good mind and you make good choices. There is good ground to be taken. And you are not alone.

Takeaways :

  • The GAPS diet was designed by a medical doctor and the protocol is based on over 800 research studies – it’s supported by real science. 
  • Friends, family and practitioners who are belittling of the GAPS diet and lifestyle are often functioning out of ego triggering rather than a fidelity to real science.
  • Don’t expend excessive energy trying to convince people who aren’t interested in research or your anecdotal reports of improvement, but rather direct your energy into finding a doctor and/or GAPS practitioner who respects you, respect research, and has a high degree of open-mindedness. Find a GAPS practitioner here.
  • Take comfort in knowing that people’s reactions to the new boundaries in your life are more about their relationship with themselves than about you. Set your gaze ahead on a vision of wellness. Strong back. Soft heart.  I’m proud of you.
  • Find a few real scientific research reports on the gut brain axis/connection  here, here, here, here, and here.
  • Find a few real scientific research reports on gastrointestinal conditions and their relationship to the gut biome here, here ,here, here, here,here.
  • Find a few real scientific research reports on autoimmunity and the gut biome here ,here,here, here, here here,  here here, and here.


Campbell McBride, N. Gut and Psychology Syndrome. Natural treatment for autism, dyspraxia, add, dyslexia, adhd, depression, schizophrenia. 2010. Medinform Publishing.

Campbell McBride, N. Gut and Physiology Syndrome. Natural treatment for allergies, autoimmune illness, arthritis, gut problems, fatigue, hormonal problems, neurological disease. 2020. Medinform Publishing.

Brown, Brene. Braving The Wilderness. The quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone. 2017. Random House LLC.

LaPera, Nicole. How To Do The Work. Recognize your patterns, heal from your past, and create yourself. 2021. Harper Collins Publishers.