GAPS Diet and Autism Spectrum Disorder – Nutrition Network Responds

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The Nutrition Network received a question regarding the treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) by improving the gut microbiome through the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAP) Diet and Microbiata Transfer Therapy (MTT) – Response by Tamzyn Murphy RD, MSc Physiol (Dist.)

Question

A close friend told me his child had been diagnosed with autism. Dr. Campbell-McBride wrote a book called the: Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, Dyspraxia, A.D.D., Dyslexia, A.D.H.D., Depression, Schizophrenia. It describes how she helped her son with a diet she developed called the GAPS diet.

I was just wondering if Prof. Noakes and Nutrition Network had any familiarity with this book or something similar to it. Also, there is a procedure called Mircobiata Transfer Therapy(MTT), essentially a fecal transplant, that has shown some promise: https://www.contemporarypediatrics.com/autism/how-fecal-transplants-could-help-asd . As of now, I think it is only approved for C. Diff., but I do believe there is a fair amount of testing being done with it. I was wondering if you might have an opinion on this?

Response

It does appear that gut microbiome plays a very big role in ASD and that improving it using Microbiota Transfer Therapy (MTT) or Fecal transplants may indeed improve gastrointestinal and Autism symptoms, as discussed in studies such as the one below:

Microbiota Transfer Therapy alters gut ecosystem and improves gastrointestinal and autism symptoms: an open-label study. Microbiome. Jan 2017. 5(10) 

Regarding the GAPS diet, there is less evidence for it’s effectiveness in ASD. Here (1) is a nice article summarising what it’s all about and what is known about it’s effectiveness. There aren’t peer-reviewed clinical studies showing that it is effective for improving ASD as Dr Campbell-McBride claims. There is one conference presentation here (2) indicating that it may be effective for improving gastrointestinal and ASD symptoms, but more evidence is needed. It may help, but if a parent or guardian wants to try their child on a GAPS diet it should be done under the guidance of a dietitian who can help them implement it while ensuring nutritional sufficiency.

Tamzyn Murphy, RD, MSc Physiol (Dist.)

Reference

  1. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/gaps-diet#section9
  2. http://dspace.lu.lv/dspace/bitstream/handle/7/49563/Low_Carbohydrate_Diet_SCD_GAPS_for_Children_with_Autistic_Spectrum_Disorder.pdf?sequence=2
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