As a society, we are starting to cycle back around to healing ourselves with food. Or better yet, nourishing our bodies, and allowing them to naturally heal or maintain a state of health.
With the internet, we are connected to thousands of others who are using diet to heal themselves. Some are outspoken and a tad judgmental- eager to paint a blanket statement that if just everyone followed this particular diet, everyone would be the picture of health.
Others are cautious, and a little bit commitment-phobic to any particular diet. They don’t want anyone to take anything to the extreme, and though they have seen healing by changing eating patterns, they realize that health is a moving target and different things work for different people at different times.
Still there are some that firmly have their heads stuck in the sand- diet does not impact health. As long as we are consuming fortified products and getting enough calories, everything else will work out. Any so-called healing is placebo effect. These people claim to believe in science, but in reality they are parroting exactly what big-business wants them to think. Consume junk food that is cheap to produce and high in profits. If you’re sick, it’s not the fault of the food.
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Looking for the overviews of the different dietary protocols? Click the links below to jump right to them. Have another one that I didn’t cover? Leave a comment and let me know!
As health problems are multiplying with each generation, the last category of people is starting to fall away.
Love, compassion, and a big dose of desperation can change our minds.
The mom who sinks into post partum depression after having a vibrant healthy pregnancy is motivated to look for any solution that will make her be the mother she wants to be.
The family who has two children with autism diagnoses, watched them go ‘lights out’ and sees their struggle to process stimuli and make sense of the world around them.
The teen who has struggled with skin issues including eczema her whole life, and wants to make a difference in the world but is distracted by the itching of eczema just enough that it’s hard for her to focus.
The dad with Celiac disease that is determined to get healthy enough to walk his daughter down the isle and take his son out hunting.
The mom who is addicted to sugar, unhealthily focused on food, and gaining unwanted weight every year.
Different solutions will be right for different people
Everyone has their own unique biology, mind, lifestyle, and limitations. Health symptoms, from a minor irritation to a life-restricting severe autoimmune disease can also determine what dietary plan will best support quality of life.
For this reason, we are going to look at different dietary protocols, and who they might work best for, what foods are allowed, and what the major goals of each diet are.
Choosing a plan that works best for your specific needs will help you to be more successful in making needed change.
Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet, Specific Carbohydrate Diet
Also known as:
GAPS or SCD
Founded by: The GAPS diet is based on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet which was founded by Sidney Haas, MD in the 1940s as treatment for digestive diseases (IBS, etc), and was later popularized by Elaine Gottschall in the 1980s to help her child with both digestive and neurological problems. In the 2000s Natasha Campbell-McBride, Neurosurgeon, further added healing foods to SCD, creating the GAPS diet protocol.
Popular books on this diet:
Foods that you are encouraged to consume: Meat, vegetables, limited fruits, healthy fats, meat stock, most legumes, herbs and spices, occasional nuts and honey.
Not allowed foods: Any carbohydrate more complex than a disaccharide (so no refined sugar, starch like potatoes or arrowroot powder, maple syrup), no food additives such as MSG, gums such as guar gum. All grains are excluded; corn, rice, quinoa, especially wheat. Dairy that is not cultured is not allowed, and even cultured dairy is eliminated for a time for most people.
The introduction phase of the GAPS diet is even more restrictive, restricting everything but boiled meat and vegetables, and then day-by-day increasing allowed foods until you have reached full GAPS.
The goal of this diet: The GAPS diet eliminates foods that are common allergens and cause inflammation, gives the digestive tract a break by only allowing foods that are easy to digest, provides very nutrient-dense foods to facilitate in tissue repair, especially of the gut, and eliminates food additives that increase the body’s toxic load.
Carbohydrates are limited to what is digested high in the digestive tract (which is why honey is allowed but maple syrup is not- maple syrup is slightly more difficult to break down). This starves out overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria that cause digestive and neurological trouble.
Probiotics through homemade fermented food and commercial probiotics are encouraged to re-balance the gut flora.
Temporary? Yes! But 4-6 weeks on the introduction diet and 2 years on the full diet is recommended.
Difficulty level: This protocol has little room for error, with any accidental ingestion of not-allowed food causing a flare of symptoms and re-growth of the pathogenic bacteria that you are trying to starve out. The introduction diet is associated with detox reactions, and for some people the adjustment to eating low carb is difficult.
Benefits of this dietary protocol over other dietary protocols: I have seen the most dramatic results in my family from this protocol. And for me, a short time of intense dietary effort was worth it to clear up chronic health problems.
Best for: Those with significant digestive or neurological troubles that are at the point in their health that they are ready to go on a strict eating plan without ‘cheating’.
Skip to a different protocol:
Also known as:
Popular books on this dietary method:
Included foods: Meats, vegetables, fruit, herbs, and sea salt for seasoning are allowed. Root vegetables such as sweet potato are allowed when tolerated. Eggs, nuts, and gluten-free grains are reintroduced in the reintroduction phase and allowed after if tolerated.
Not allowed foods: AIP temporarily eliminates nuts, seeds, eggs, nightshade vegetables (including spices like paprika), and legumes such as peanuts and beans. Both protocols limit starch, and eliminate grains. Both protocols eliminate dairy.
The goal of this diet: Including nutrient-dense foods to support the body’s natural ability to heal, while removing other foods (specifically grains, eggs, and nightshade vegetables) temporarily that specifically are known to cause problems in people with autoimmune disease.
Temporary? Wahl’s Protocol is a life-long dietary modification to help control a lifelong health issue (autoimmune disease). AIP, as described in The Paleo Approach is a temporary restriction with the goal being to go to a less strict diet (regular paleo) after specific food sensitivities are discovered, and autoimmune symptoms are healed.
Difficulty level: Both AIP and Wahl’s Protocol have different phases that are more or less strict, depending on an individual’s needs. Each phase lasts about 3 months, and is less restrictive than the GAPS intro stage is.
Common struggles for people on this dietary protocol: In Wahl’s protocol, the recommended 9 cups for veggies a day can be a struggle for some. The strict introduction phase makes this dietary protocol for those who are struggling with severe illness, and may be unnecessarily restrictive for those with more minor health conditions.
Benefits of this dietary protocol over other dietary protocols: You can use plantains, sweet potatoes, tapioca starch, and arrowroot flour in AIP. Both tapioca starch and arrowroot flours can make excellent baked goods and some people find the additional starch helpful to feel good.
Best for: Those struggling with autoimmune disease that did not see an elimination of symptoms by following a less-restrictive paleo or gluten free diet.
Founded by: Melissa Hartwig
Allowed foods: Delicious meats, vegetables, sweet potatoes, nuts, fruits, and seeds in their natural form.
Not allowed foods: Grains, dairy, alcohol, food additives, sweeteners like honey or maple syrup, or anything that resembles baked goods or ‘junk food’, blended smoothies.
The goal of this diet: To get people out of the habit of living on junk food, pastries, and to cut the sugar addition.
Temporary? Just 30 days.
Difficulties: This diet will be intense for the first 5-7 days for those addicted to carbs and sugar. After that first week, it should be smooth sailing as your gut flora has adjusted.
Common struggles for people on this dietary protocol: Any cheating is supposed to re-set your 30 days, so it may be difficult to eat out socially during this time.
Benefits of this dietary protocol over other dietary protocols: You can do this for 30 days! I think this is the most beneficial temporary diet that I’m covering here. You can see dramatic results in 30 days, and you break the habit of eating junk food- even healthy junk food. In paleo, GAPS, and other dietary protocols I’ve covered here, you can make ‘junk food’ concoctions out of dates, almond flour, honey, and more. Not on Whole30, and I think that is a plus.
Best for: New year’s resolutions, or anyone wanting to do a quick attitude adjustment around food.
Skip to a different protocol:
21-Day Sugar Detox
Background: Gone from ‘the candy girl’ to health and fitness guru, Diane Sanfilippo wants to help you break that sugar and carb addiction as well.
Popular Books for This Protocol:
21-Day Sugar Detox Allowed/Not Allowed Food List: There are 3 levels of strictness for the 21-Day Sugar Detox. You start on the level that is right for your lifestyle and current eating plans (more details are in the book and packages, this is a simplified list)
Level 3 (most strict)
- Meat, poultry, seafood in their natural state (not processed)
- Vegetables: No starchy vegetables (see No list) but most vegetables in their natural state are allowed.
- Coconut in all forms as long as it is unsweetened (look at the ingredients).
- Fruit: Only lemon and lime.
- Nuts and Seeds: All nuts and seeds (almonds, macadamias, chia, hemp, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds) other than cashews and peanuts.
- Fats and oils: Animal fats like tallow and lard, butter, avocado oil, coconut oil, flax oil, olive oil, sesame oil.
- Condiments: Homemade broth, yellow mustard, coconut aminos, vanilla extract, spices and herbs, vinegar, sea salt.
Limit: (One serving a day from each of the following is allowed)
- Carbohydrate-rich vegetables such as hard winter squash, beets, green peas.
- Green-tipped bananas, grapefruit, green apple.
- Coconut water (100% only- no additives), kombucha.
- Baked goods and refined carbs such as bread, cake, brownies, chips, cereal, crackers, pasta.
- Grains such as oats, orzo, rice, popcorn, corn, millet, quinoa.
- Fruit, fresh or dried (if this is too strict, move down a level)
- Beans or legumes including black beans, garbonzo beans, lentils
- Nuts: Cashews or peanuts.
- Dairy: No milk, cheese, yogurt, etc. Only butter or ghee are allowed on this stage.
- Sweeteners of any kind,(honey, sugar, maple syrup) real or synthetic (no ‘diet’ drinks or artificial sweeteners either, not even gum)
- Alcohol, sweetened coffee drinks, juice, soda, protein powders that have more than one ingredient.
- Canned or packaged broth, mayonnaise, salad dressings, soy sauce, or really any condiment that is not on the Yes list.
Everything is the same as in Level 3, but full-fat Dairy is also allowed.
- Milk (full fat)
- Half and half
- Heavy Cream
Level 1 allows everything from Level 2 and Level 3 with the addition of limited amount of grains and legumes.
Half cup serving of the following gluten-free whole grains are allowed (I believe this is total; you cannot have 1/2 cup of each):
- Beans: Black, garbanzo, navy, pinto
Goal of this diet: To kick the sugar and carb addiction in 3 weeks.
Struggles with this diet: It would be difficult to eat at other people’s houses or go out to eat. You will be spending quite a bit of time in the kitchen, if you’re not used to that it might become a shock (but that is true for most of these diets). The meal plan relies on eggs quite a bit, if you are egg-free it might be difficult to follow the meal plans suggested in the book.
Who would benefit most from this diet? Those who really want to kick the sugar and carb addiction and have 3 weeks without many social engagements that involve food or alcohol.
If you’re the type of person who wants to do a cleanse every January or twice a year, you might find the levels helpful- you can just ‘level up’ each time you do it without having to purchase another program or book.
Put this in action: Diane has Basic, Premium, and Plus packages to help you complete your 21-Day Sugar Detox that include helpful detox emails, audio help, quick-start guides, community support, the books shown above, and more.
Skip to a different protocol:
Also known as: The Caveman Diet, primal, stone-age diet, wild diet
History: Patterned after the hunter-gather lifestyle, with dietary focus on grassfed meats, seasonal vegetables and fruits, and occasional nuts, this diet has become more and more popular as health problems associated with the Western diet, particularly overconsumption of refined carbohydrates has come to light.
Some of the benefits from the paleo diet come from lowered calorie intake, and some from elimination of common allergens (dairy, gluten, corn, soy), and some from the increase in vegetables and other nutrient-dense foods.
Allowed foods: Meat (including fish and poultry), produce (fruits and vegetables), coconut products, nuts, sea salt, seasonings, honey, and maple syrup.
Not allowed foods: Grains including rice, wheat, quinoa, millet, and more are not allowed and neither is anything made from them (bread, pasta, etc). Dairy is not allowed on paleo, full fat dairy is allowed on the primal version of the diet. Legumes (peanuts, lentils, beans) are not allowed.
The goal of this diet: To return to our roots of healthy eating, lessening our dependance on carbohydrates for energy, to nourish our bodies with healthy nutrient-dense foods, and to eliminate common allergens.
Temporary? Depends on personal preference. Most people choose this as a lifestyle, going more or less strict as it works for them.
Difficulty level: Varies
The paleo diet can be as strict or not strict as you wish. Strict paleo, where you only consume grassfed (or better- wild harvested!) meats, in season produce, and minim nuts is unlikely to fit into most modern people’s lives.
The normal modern take on paleo can fit well into most people’s lifestyle, provided that they have access to medium-sized grocery stores and can afford higher-end restaurants when they eat out.
Common struggles for people on this dietary protocol: Cost is a common objection to eating paleo, and if you consume lots of meat it is costly. However, coconut oil is inexpensive and can up calories (add it to your veggies!) without breaking the bank.
Going too low-carb doesn’t fit well for everyone, so make sure you’re eating both enough calories, and enough carbohydrates, especially if you already are at a healthy weight.
Some people add in sweet potatoes, or white potatoes for another inexpensive source of carbohydrates.
Another struggle that some people have, is they use flours like arrowroot and tapioca and almond flour along with maple syrup, honey, and coconut cream to re-create the standard american diet of pastries, sweets, and breads. These should be a very small ‘treat’ part of the diet and including too many of these will not produce the results most people are looking for.
Benefits of this dietary protocol over other dietary protocols: The paleo lifestyle is more of a lifestyle and less of a strict protocol. The ’80/20′ rule can apply to this, allowing some grains or refined sugar when eating out, but still keeping most meals nutrient-dense and focused on produce and protein.
Best for: Those who want to kick the carb addiction but still allow for some ‘cheat’ meals. This is also a good diet for those coming off a more strict protocol like GAPS or AIP.
Also known as:
Keto, Low Carb, Atkins
History: The ketogenic diet has been used to treat seizure disorders since 500 BC (source). In the 1920s it returned to modern medicine again as a treatment for epilepsy. Up until the early 2000s it was primarily used only as treatment in children’s hospitals, putting epileptic children into ketosis for seizure control in a medically supervised setting. Dr Atkins brought the ketogenic diet mainstream with his 1972 book Dr Atkins Diet Revolution which promoted the ketogenic diet for weight loss and other conditions.
Popular books on this diet:
Allowed foods: More than allowed/not allowed foods, this diet focuses on keeping your body in ketosis by limiting the amount of carbohydrates consumed, and increasing the amount of fat. The body in ketosis runs on fat, not carbohydrates for energy. Recommended foods are non-starchy vegetables, meat, high-fat dairy,
Not allowed foods: Again, the focus is on fat to carbohydrate ratio, so carbohydrates such as bread, rice, sugar, and even fruit are consumed in very low quantities or not at all.
The goal of this diet: To have the body in a state of ketosis, producing ketones, and running on fat as fuel rather than carbohydrates.
Temporary? For weight loss, yes. For chronic conditions such as seizure disorders this is a lifestyle change. Though people who suffer from frequent severe seizures are often happy to trade bread for reduced or eliminated seizures.
Difficulty level: Simple, but difficult. Especially transitioning into ketosis can make people sick for the first few days/week.
Common struggles for people on this dietary protocol: Because there is the need to stay in ketosis, you can’t really ‘take a day off’ or even enjoy a piece of cake at a wedding without setting you back for a week or so, and having to adjust back to going into ketosis again.
Benefits of this dietary protocol over other dietary protocols: As long as you stay under a certain number of carbohydrates (the amount seems to vary per person, but I think 50 g is a common number) each day you are free free to eat what you want. You can also transition rather seamlessly to fasting if that’s something you wish to try, since your body is already burning fat it will run off your fat stores rather than make you hungry the first day of your fast.
Best for: Weight loss, or difficult to manage chronic health problems. We were stuck on low-carb (in ketosis) GAPS for a while when we were doing autism recovery.
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