Paleo, Primal, SCD, GAPS: Which Diet Is Best for Autoimmune Illness?

Don’t lie. When you first heard of the “caveman diet”, you scoffed didn’t you? Or perhaps you grunted a little. Sure sounded like another fad diet. I personally would’ve named it Encino Diet with Brendan Fraisier as posterboy to make it more competitive with Atkins, but hey caveman marketing is a bit primitive.

Fortunately for us, this doesn’t appear to be a scam. Many patients with autoimmune or autoimmune-like conditions seem to benefit by changing to a diet based on evolutionary principles. No doubt you’ve heard of some of the most popular ones: Paleo, Primal, Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), GAPS. There are a ton of resources out there on each diet, so I’ll focus on the main differences between these 4 most popular diets & delve into success metrics, where available, rather than the details of each diet.

Hey McFly I’m borrowing the DeLorean to take a closer look at these dietary blasts from the past:

1. Paleo Diet

By far the most popular one, led by Loren Cordain & Robb Wolf. The focus is on all-natural (i.e. grass fed) animal fats and natural fats (ghee, avocado etc), and low carbs (starchy root vegetables, white rice, and other starches without antinutrients.) The basic tenet is that we’re simply not evolved to optimize digestion and absorption of agricultural products.

Success: There are no controlled studies on this diet yet, but lots of >90% success rates reported by various doctors internationally. Dr. Jean Seignalet in France conducted a trial on autoimmune patients, with success being defined as 50% reduction in symptoms, and here are the results:

Rheumatoid arthritis: 200 (sample size), 80% (success rate)
Lupus: 13, 100%

Multiple Sclerosis: 33, 97%

Fibromyalgia: 41, 97%

IBS: 220, 98%

Crohns: 40, 100%

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: 11, 85%

2. Primal Diet

Mark Sisson is the main proponent. Basically the same as Paleo except it allows full-fat dairy. According to Mark’s pictures, shirts should also be avoided. Wouldn’t mind having that body though!

Chris Kresser is another big proponent of Paleo that has incorporated dairy such as grass-fed butter and kefir into his protocol with much success. He talks about not tolerating more than a teaspoon of kefir at first, but slowly building up to pints a day. I’ve heard similar stories from ME/CFS patients that benefit from fermented dairy. His theory is that taking probiotics via kefir actually changes your microbiota or gut flora to allow your gut to tolerate dairy.

Success: I couldn’t track down any statistics specific to the Primal Diet, but due to its similarity to Paleo I would imagine if you could tolerate dairy, the statistics for Paleo might be a good reference. 

3. Specific Carbohydrate (SCD) Diet

This was developed by Sydney Valentine Haas, MD. At first glance it sounds like a low-carb diet, but the basic tenet is actually that carbs feed overgrowth of yeast & bacteria in the gut, so limit both the amount & types of carbs to well-absorbed. The major difference from Paleo: properly-prepared legumes such as beans are allowed, and like Primal, dairy is allowed.

Success:

Autism Research Institute’s survey found that with 71% of parents noted improvement in their kids from SCD.

“Proponents of the diet claim there is an 80% recovery rate for Crohn’s disease and a 95% recovery rate for diverticulitis.” – http://altmedicine.about.com/od/popularhealthdiets/a/specific_carb.htm

And most impressive, results of a pilot study done on Irritable Bowel Syndrome:

“Notably, 9 out of 11 patients were able to be managed without anti-TNF therapy, and 100% of the patients had their symptoms reduced.” – http://escholarship.umassmed.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1025&context=cts_retreat

4. Gut And Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Diet

Based on the SCD diet, and developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. The main difference from the other diets is the focus on healing the gut, as opposed to just feeding it foods that are optimally digested & absorbed. Main difference from SCD: emphasis on bone broth and fermented foods, less beans, gradual implementation of dairy casein to tolerance starting from Ghee (which has virtually no lactose).

Success: Because this diet’s the newest of the list, statistics are lacking so far. In my personal opinion, based on what we know about leaky gut though, the use of bone broths to provide easily-absorbed nutrition and seal the gut en route to building tolerance of fermented products makes this diet especially appealing for severe LGS.

Final Thoughts: There is far more similarity within these diets than there is different. GAPS was mostly developed as an improvement to SCD, and Primal was mostly developed as an improvement to Paleo. In the end, many practitioners agree that ultimately an elimination diet where you eliminate a food for 30 days and then add one thing in at a time (and monitor how you feel) is the way to figure out which foods and amounts of those food your body reacts to.

The Wounded Artist

The only people I would care to be with now are artists and people who have suffered: those who know what beauty is, and those who know what sorrow is: nobody else interests me. – Oscar Wilde (De Profundis )

In the recent past I faced disillusionment as a playwright and creator of therapeutic theater. This experience has been instrumental in understanding the abuse artists are frequently subjected to, the traumatic wounds awakened, and the process of recovery. Essentially when the naivete and idealism of my artist collided with avarice and duplicity, I was challenged to grapple with and move through metabolic stress and bitter cynicism. This process catalyzed critical shifts creatively and emotionally, which consequently infiltrated the therapy sessions I facilitate with a multitude of diverse artists in NYC. Hence, my experience compels me to share about the painful hurdles the artist encounters, and the psychic toll and resultant wounds incurred. Likewise, I also want to identify ways to champion the artist, so that these struggles and wounds can ultimately morph into wisdom, power, and success.

Author of “The Artist’s Way” Julia Cameron, said to create is to surrender and align with a higher will. Cameron expounds that art is a mystical transaction, which unearths within the artist his purest essence. To risk bringing to life ideas of personal beauty and meaning and to bravely share one’s artistic work is to reveal vulnerable aspects of what humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow referred to as the real self.

Yet often we are stymied by our simultaneous quest to actualize ourselves, and the pull towards safety. Our formative experiences influence where we find ourselves on this spectrum of safety and actualization, as do myriad extraneous factors that can discourage the expression of innate creative gifts and obstruct artistic expression. We see this conflict personified in the archetypal reality of the wounded struggling artist.

In NYC artists are often lacking resources to create their work. The cost of real estate, labor and materials, make it exceedingly challenging for artists to thrive. Variable forms of treachery encountered in the dark underbelly of the art world injure the artist’s soul. The rigors of public humiliation, copyright infringement, transitory acclaim, theft of intellectual property, and corporate theft of one’s work where higher ups regularly usurp and take credit for the work of the peon artist are common occurrences. Hence, high-minded goals and creative ambitions are typically dwarfed by these difficult challenges. To survive, working artists may cobble together sundry art related jobs or take on a day job in a completely different sector. Balancing work with familial responsibilities may require relocating and/or giving up on artistic pursuits that require touring or long hours in a studio.

Artistic agency and idealism may need to be subordinated to accommodate those who finance artistic expression. This may take the form of private collectors, angel investors, producers, directors or corporate organizations. Endeavors to exercise entrepreneurial aims may reveal unethical narcissistic motives infiltrating these collaborations. Successfully navigating this complex social and political terrain requires savvy, healthy pride and formidable humility.

However, many artists are not equipped to withstand these challenges. A foundation of healthy narcissism is needed in order to develop the capacity for valuing one’s unique creative gifts and to withstand the onslaught of public scrutiny, duplicity and rejection. If throughout one’s life one is inadequately cared for, rejected and inconsistently supported, it is likely there are narcissistic wounds that hinder one from successfully navigating these difficulties and fully owning and manifesting aspirations. Under these conditions, the injuries incurred by showing or merchandising one’s art can catalyze creative stagnation, blocks, and traumatic enactments rooted in one’s history. Moreover, vulnerable to having revealed personal truths through one’s artistic work, the artist can be swept up by primal needs for admiration and approval. Deep-seated longings to be ‘special’, perhaps to compensate for and master unresolved betrayal and rejection, can set the artist up for a proverbial fall.

Artists who are victims of disordered parents may carry an insidious inescapable shame, which enforces the edict that one’s gifts are a threat, responsible for instigating feelings of resentment, inadequacy and envy. Envied and perceived as a threat the artistic child may be forbidden by the disordered parent to play music, draw, perform, or express his creative gifts in any capacity. Parental prohibitions and shaming of children sends an implicit message about actualizing potentials. Having learned that any indication of happiness, accomplishment or admiration results in contempt and myriad forms of emotional violence, these latent artists may hide in the shadows, having lost sight of their innate endowments or simply too fearful to expose those essential parts of themselves.

Alternatively, unable to tolerate human flaws and thus driven by perfection, the wounded artist may identify with the aggressor and perpetrate the cycle of abuse they endured by deriding and diminishing others. Like their parental abusers they may abide by self-defeating perfectionistic ideals as a defense against perceived inadequacy. While personality disordered parents are notorious for perpetrating continuous sabotage and deprecation, their egomaniacal fixation on status and personae may result in maligning the artistic child for his gifts while concomitantly vicariously exploiting him for narcissistic supply, so as to aggrandize the disordered parent’s stature and self-importance. Henceforth, when these artists have their creative work usurped, repackaged, and exploited with no recognition or accreditation memories of dehumanizing parental abuse are triggered. For the artist who acquires fame, being a narcissistic extension for industry moguls in the guise of caring and admiration and contending with the parasitical demands of a fan base, may replicate the trauma of being objectified and used by narcissistic parents.

Ultimately, in a subconscious effort to master psychological and emotional injuries traumatic patterns will be enacted with those who either embody the traits of one’s parental abusers and/or the scorned victimized child. To break free of these enactments the wounded artist will need to undertake an emotionally and psychologically taxing exploration of a painful history, so as to bring into consciousness destructive patterns and potent projections ignited by comparable dynamics encountered in the art industry. Only then can he mourn his losses and establish a grounded realistic commitment to his efforts to flourish creatively and financially as a professional artist.

Freud contended in his paper ‘On Narcissism’ that primary narcissism is an essential part in normal development and is critical to one’s survival. In order to engender healthy narcissism one needs to be fully seen and understood, be taken seriously, have feelings and needs respected. Self-promotion and actualizing ambitions and mature goals requires healthy narcissism. Likewise healthy narcissism forms a constant, realistic self-interest, principles, and an ability to form deep relationships. By healing core wounds and reclaiming a foundation of healthy narcissism, the artist equipped with a more formidable ego and perspective can more ably contend with the logistics of navigating the vicissitudes of the market and popular culture.

In order for ongoing life affirming choices and changes to prevail the wounded artist will need to modify logistical circumstances. Client centered psychologist Carl Rogers said we should create two conditions for people so that the creative process in therapy can unfold. Rogers conveyed that psychological safety and psychological freedom make room for acceptance, empathy and the room to think, feel and contribute fully. When one is free from judgment and criticism, the energy of inspiration and possibility becomes accessible. Ergo, by breaking free of toxic bonds and harmful collaborations that stifle creative energy the artist can empower himself and prioritize his wellbeing by rebuilding a network of trustworthy colleagues who inspire and encourage ingenuity and partnership so that healthy self esteem and self regard can ensue.

Dr. Robert Firestone wrote, “Personal power is based on strength, confidence, and competence that individuals gradually acquire in the course of their development. It is self-assertion and a natural, healthy striving for love, satisfaction and meaning in one’s interpersonal world.” The professional artist, aligned with his power and hence his birthright for love and fulfillment, will be prompted to protect his work and shield himself from unscrupulous dealings. He will recognize the need to acquire a basic understanding of legal rights and the necessity of procuring legal representation sensitive to the plights of artists when negotiating contracts and selling one’s work. He may come to realize that restoring one’s artistic integrity and authority may require taking legal action with those who exploit ideas and labor.

While protecting one’s work is an act of self-respect and a critical part of upholding one’s artistic integrity and aesthetic, it is also integral to strategic marketing. With renewed vigor the creatively driven energized artist will be galvanized to embrace visibility through sundry channels. Knowing who one is as an artist and how one’s artistic identity coincides with cultural and economic trends will influence the promotion of one’s art.

Branding and developing a viable customer base will require an on line presence through a personal website, social media, diverse online galleries and web publications. This will require crafting a meaningful artist’s statement so as to introduce one’s unique aesthetic and the inspiration and meaning supporting one’s work. Depending on the artist’s medium, garnering commissions, auditions, and assignments may involve artist representation such as agents, publicists, and curators. Additional outlets for merchandising one’s art may include online galleries and promotional sites for musicians and actors. To finance one’s art fiscal sponsorship can assist with fundraising capabilities and grant applications. Artist fellowships, residencies, advanced training/internships, and consistent networking with industry professionals, are also integral to achieving success.

To sum up, surviving the dark descent into historical betrayals, traumas and defeats and the parallel battlefield of promoting one’s art lends itself to cultivating a greater capacity for discernment and discrimination so as to create the space to boldly and fearlessly return to one’s artistic process, and wash away from the soul the dust of every day life (Picasso). A tenacious, dedicated and disciplined commitment to hard work and long hours is an indisputable reality for the artist, but for the artist who has plumbed the depths and sustains the necessary stamina and guts needed to create and promote his art, the rewards are substantial. The emboldened healed artist, able to face core injuries and attain a sensible and balanced outlook, can safely traverse a daunting art industry and fully engage with his gifts from that mystical place of surrender where his creative spirit resides.

The Big Misunderstanding – Trauma Versus Disappointment

The first secret to raising kids is knowing the huge distinction between trauma and disappointment. Yes, you’ll disappoint your sweetie when you stop letting him call the shots at bedtime – but no, he won’t be the least bit traumatized. In fact, he’ll take a giant step toward becoming a well-adjusted tiny individual.

So what’s the huge distinction between trauma and disappointment? Check out the following explanations:

1. A trauma is often a terrible event that shakes a child to the core, challenges his belief that the world can be a safe place, and causes long-term emotional distress – for instance, the death of an individual he loves or abandonment by the persons he trusts. Traumas occur when significant needs are denied, and they cause grave harm.

2. Disappointments, on the other hand, are tiny clouds that pass, causing no harm at all. They’re basically unanswered desires that occur when persons produce expectations that can’t be fulfilled – and they’re the stuff of daily life.

Fortunately, traumas happen far less frequently than disappointments. Of course, everybody wants to skate through life free of both traumas and disappointments – and caring parents certainly strive to keep both to a minimum. But it’s significant not to mistake minor disappointments for significant traumas because this mistake can hinder both you and your child. What’s additional, it’s a common trap for dad and mom.

Why is it so simple to make this mistake? To get an idea, picture an 8-month-old crying up a storm at 2 a.m. Due to the fact his mother and father weaned him from the nighttime bottle two months ago, they know he isn’t hungry. They’re also sure he isn’t sick, in pain, or basically stuck. In reality, he’s just trying to wake up Mommy and Daddy, get them out of bed, and enjoy a tiny snuggle.

But even after they make sure nothing’s actually wrong (see the yellow tear-out card at the front of this book), his father and mother believe they’re hearing the primal scream of a child terrified by the impending trauma of parental abandonment. It’s a classic case of mistaken identity – the disappointed infant masquerading as a broken-hearted child in a life crisis.