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.


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.” –

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.” –

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 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.

The Childless Scarlet – Healing From Family Violence and Legal Domestic Abuse

Some wounds are so severe that words cannot capture their complete pain. Being pushed out of one’s children’s lives or the lives of your grandchildren is one of these.

When this is yours, the depths of it take your breath away. I hear women tell me the cries that come out of them over their initial coming to know this pain sound primitive…like a wailing animal.

How well I know as I lived that blow nearly a decade ago. And it changed me, as I believe it does to all who walk this path. The question one faces along the way is-How do I go on?

This article can only be written from the place of extending a hand to those in the nightmare, not from the nightmare itself. If you know this wound, if you’re walking this path, trust you can get to the other end of it whole.

Here are some things to do and thoughts to embrace to weather the unbearable.

1) Know that it’s not about you. Now I do realize when you’re in that place of feeling the blow, these words sound trite-especially in light of the fact that the world is supporting it being about you. But, the fact is that it is all about those insisting it be the way it is…and no one else.

2) What you do in and from this place of pain redefines you and your life direction, so make it good. Make it useful. Make it something you will enjoy and you’ll be proud of now and later.

3) Realize that you are not the only one impacted by the primal injury. The children on the other end of this separation from you will have their work cut out for them. And when you reunite with them, should that happen, you will need to pick up from where you are, not where you left off. So again, make it good.

If you are a parent or grandparent denied access to your own flesh and blood, be good to yourself as you heal from the unthinkable. As you are to yourself, so will you be to others. And as you are to others, so will they be unto you.