Monday, March 24, 2014

GAPS In Thinking - Irish Times Promoting Medically Negligent Pseudoscience

Some six days ago the Irish Times allowed themselves the spectacular abandonment of judgement required to print a fluff piece supporting Dr Natasha Campbell McBride's GAPS diet, a supposed cure for autism, ADHD/ADD, dyslexia, diabetes, dyspraxia, depression and schizophrenia. Twelve hundred words of grovelling propaganda did not allow a single note of criticism or a voice of medical reason - her bizarre claims given credence through an absence of balanced reporting, fact checking and critical thought.

McBride is indeed a medical doctor. To find details of this degree we must travel to 1984 USSR, fully five years before David Hasselhoff sang to the destruction of the Berlin wall. The Soviet Union's coffers drained into both an Afghanistan conflict and an unpluggable trade gap, the V.I. Lenin Nuclear Power Station in Chernobyl supplied 10% of the Ukraine's electricity needs and General Secretary Yuri Andropov battled endemic corruption throughout the union. Her certification comes from this time, from the Bashkir Medical University, in a country that no longer exists.

Does this necessarily make graduates bad doctors? Of course not. I merely voice caution that we cannot give such degrees automatic respect. I am not alone in this view. The qualification does not allow Campbell McBride to practice medicine in the UK or the United States, for example. It seems unwise to grant it more credence than Dr Nick Riviera's Hollywood Upstairs Medical degree.

What's The Harm?

The Financial Cost Of GAPS

I would even go further, depending on your commitment and certain circumstances, you have a good chance of bringing your child as close as possible to normality! -Dr Natasha McBride, heaping guilt on the parents of autistic children before passing them the check.

Like any good sales focused organisation, the GAPS company does not make it easy for prospective customers to gauge the full cost of its products and services. No price tags appear on You only get the bill at checkout.

For a rough estimate of cost I added one of every item they sell to a cart for a total cost of $3,404.89. (Where a product is available in multiple sizes, flavours or delivery mechanisms I added only one.) The obvious counter is that not everyone will require every product, but do bear in mind that many of these will be recurring costs, from specialised fluoride free toothpaste (a snip at $7.95), fermented vegetables (at $77 an expensive way of getting one's five a day), blended butter and cod liver oil tablets ($46.95, sounds delicious), powdered ox bile ($19.95, what kitchen would be without?), a 'biotic powder' ($63.95) and my personal favourite, an "anti-tumor, anti-parasitic, anti-viral and antiseptic" essential oil that can "destroy all tested bacteria and viruses, which simultaneously restoring balance to the body." (See fifth question on the manufacturer's site. They also claim it is "effective in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.". It is not.)

I am not sure how to categorise this home enema kit. It comes with a free half pound of coffee, but at $74.95 I presume this would not represent an economical method of getting one's evening brew.

But It's Medically Supervised

What sort of expertise can one expect when one places one's children under the care of a GAPS practitioner? How exacting is it to master this - let us indulge them - skillset? It seems little more is required than a two day training course with no mention of tests. Due to ill health (doubtless gut related) Campbell McBride does not deliver this training in person - rather it is done via video link. The cost is a mere $1,175 and includes two gut enhancing lunches. Those concerned at the prospect of spending the entire time on mastering matters of health will be relieved to hear that the course also includes a business starter module.

Can anyone apply for this exacting 18 hour course? Heavens no. One must be a 'practitioner' - a delightfully vague term that embraces homeopaths, chiropractors, nutritioniologists, naturopaths and 'other suitable GAPS related health care professionals'. The smart money will likely find favour with the idea of angel healers being welcome beneath the banner. (Edit: two of the Irish GAPS practitioners are angel healers. Read on.) They certainly support the quackery of iridology.

Blame Autism On The Mothers For Taking The Pill, Using Vaccines Or Not Breastfeeding

This interview with legendary quack Mercola gives a taste of her views on vaccination and the pill. A hint - she favours neither, and blames women who uses them for their childrens' autism.
"What I see in the families of autistic children is that 100 percent of moms of autistic children have abnormal gut flora and health problems related to that. But then I look at grandmothers on the mother's side, and I find that the grandmothers also have abnormal gut flora, but much milder."
"That usually happens in the second year of life in children who were breast fed because breastfeeding provides a protection against this abnormal gut flora. In children who were not breastfed, I see the symptoms of autism developing in the first year of life."  
"And then, at the age of 15, 16, these ladies were put on a contraceptive pill… [which] [I hear that, occasionally, women have some agency in their contraceptive choices - G] have a devastating effect on the gut flora. Nowadays ladies are taking it for quite a few years before they're ready to start their family." 
"...If the child has abnormal gut flora, we can assume that the child has a compromised immunity, and these children must not be vaccinated with the standard vaccination protocol because they simply get damaged by it. They should not be vaccinated."
"Our children are being used as a market for selling vaccines," Dr. Campbell says. "The children are vaccinated in our Western world, I'm afraid, not for the sake of saving the child but for the sake of making money [Do bear in mind how Campbell McBride earns her crust - G]… It's an extremely sad and worrying situation."
Is this linking of the digestive tract with autism original research? It seems she was inspired by known fraud Andrew Wakefield:
"In those cases where these children have been examined by gastroenterologists, inflammatory process in the gut was found along with faecal compaction and an over-spill syndrome. The most recent research was performed at the Royal Free Hospital in London by Dr. Andrew Wakefield and his team. They found an inflammatory condition in the bowel of autistic children, which they have named Autistic Enterocolitis."
Their shared opposition to vaccination is elaborated here, where she pretends it is beneficial to experience measles, mumps and rubella, conditions that can lead to blindness, deafness and death:
"Strictly speaking the only two vaccinations that can be considered important are tetanus and polio. Other vaccinations are not essential; in fact it is better to let your child go through those childhood infections. Just make sure that your child is well nourished and he or she will sail through those infections"

Dubious Medical Advice

"These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is opinion and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease."

The caveat above permeates Dr Campbell McBride's website, company site and PDFs, despite her claims to be able to diagnose, treat, cure, and prevent more diseases than one could reasonably expect to find in a small hospital. Surely a warning that should have been reproduced in the Irish Times piece? I've gone through a single document of hers and extracted but a sample of the buffoonery dressed up as medical advice. All answers below are by Campbell McBride. Needless to say, following any of this drivel will likely damage your health, dignity, incur the wrath of legal services and possibly have you added to some sort of government list.

Here we see a child with difficulty breathing. Rather than counsel urgent medical attention she suggests a trip to a homeopath to purchase magic water:
Q: My son has terrible dust mite allergy. He has been on GAPS for a couple of months now and has since developed swollen adenoids that interfere with his ability to breath. Is there anything I can do to help shrink the adenoids while we continue on GAPS? I am wondering if he is allergic to something he is now eating on the GAPS diet.
A: It is possible that your son’s immune system is re-structuring, so the adenoids got active.
Try to put some probiotic on his tongue between meals and at bedtime to populate his mouth, throat and back of his nose with beneficial flora. Rinsing his nose with a salty solution every night will also help. And speak to an experienced homeopath about this problem.
Here she recommends parents give their three year old autistic daughter an enema:
Q: What is your opinion on the use of glycerine suppositories for children? I know you recommend enemas, but so far this has been impossible to carry out on my 3-year-old.
The glycerine suppositories do work well as she has bowel movements usually about half an hour later. 
A: As an occasional remedy it is OK to use glycerine suppositories, as well as castor oil or magnesium oxide powder. But in the long run you need to work on healing the gut and removing constipation. 
An amusing picture of an enema machine from the 1800's
And now a further ugly smear of enema focused questions and answers. Note how she has folks performing enemas nightly for months. This is clearly medically unwise. See how she recommends boiling bones, adding sour cream and salt, and forcing the mixture into your child's rectum. Surely this is child abuse? Some answers omitted for both brevity and a distaste for gibberish. Feel free to seek them out in the original document if the urge takes you.
Q: If constipation persists for several months, does it mean you are doing something wrong? Is there anything you recommend in addition to enemas and juicing to help this?
Q: Since going on GAPS I have not had a bowel movement. When having enemas the water is expelled and then a bowel movement is stimulated, but it is not a formed stool - it is only mush or water mush. Is this to be expected or does it indicate something? 
Q: How do we best make the transition from enemas (used every night for months) to unassisted daily relief? 
Q: We’ve done two enemas with our child and neither has produced any enema water or stool, except for about a tablespoon of sludgy ‘mud’ stool. Is it dangerous for the probiotic enemas water to stay in my child’s body? Is his body absorbing the water (maybe he was dehydrated?). Is it okay to continue doing more enemas when the water from the last one hasn’t’ come out? 
Q: Are enemas made of bone broth also recommended together with probiotics? 
A: Meat stock and bone broth enemas have been historically used in malnourished people, who could not eat for whatever reason. It is very soothing and nourishing for the gut lining, and a fair amount of nourishment is absorbed into the bloodstream. [This is of course bollocks - G] If your bowel is sore and irritated, bone broth enema (particularly with some sour cream added) can be very soothing. Make sure to add good quality natural salt when cooking the broth. You can also add probiotics to this enema.
Q: Why do some GAPS patients experience tooth discoloration and hair loss?
Vomiting, hair loss and tooth discolouration seems as fine a time as any to recommend a trip to a real doctor, instead Campbell McBride offers some of her finest pseudoscience:
A: Tooth discoloration and hair loss are very rare in GAPS patients, and usually happen in very toxic people, particularly people with metal toxicity. Hair and teeth are those places where the body often stores toxins in. Many things happen in the body, as the GAPS program is initiated. We don't know what happens exactly, but it is possible that the hair, full of toxins, get dropped by the body to allow new "clean" hair to grow. With teeth: I have seen autistic children who had their permanent teeth growing with black spots imbedded in them. One particular boy displayed noticeable improvements in his autism in the weeks following the removal of the black spot by the dentist. It is possible that his body had stored mercury from vaccinations or some other toxins in the growing tooth. We don't know what happens exactly, but it is likely that the detoxification initiated by the GAPS Nutritional Protocol starts shifting the toxins around, which may be the cause of tooth discoloration in the initial stages. In the long run, however, your child is likely to grow beautiful whit teeth, as I have seen in so many GAPS children.
Q: Some families report vomiting ... Can you please address this issue and how families should proceed? 
A: Vomiting can be a sign of hypoglycaemia: as we cut out many carbohydrates in a person with an overgrowth of yeast, it is easy for the blood sugar to drop too low. In that case give your child some apple or orange juice and see if it helps. 
Those who have survived skin cancer will be delighted to see the following snippets:
"Sunbathing is essential for all of us, but for GAPS patients it is particularly important...
I do not recommend using any chemical sunscreens, as most of them are toxic."
This, sadly, seems the sort of 'medical' information the Irish Times is willing to uncritically promote. I trust this lapse in judgement will not be repeated.

Martha Brassil, Tralee, Co Kerry, Republic of Ireland. Tel 087 6485780 Aisling FitzGibbon, Tralee, Co. Kerry, Republic of Ireland. Tel 089 4036587.
A list of those who have
completed the gruelling 18 hour
GAPS course.
Addendum: You may wonder what form of moral abandonment would cause someone to use the hopes and fears of vulnerable parents to flog a bogus product. It may seem to you impossible that there are people willing to have autistic children subjected to unnecessary and amateurish nightly enemas for their own personal gain, or that damaging lies about vaccines are peddled as marketing tactic. What sort of person does this?

Predictably enough, The Girl Against Fluoride is a student of Campbell McBride. She and her campaign's creative manager (Martha Brassil) are also registered practitioners.


Arquinsiel said...

Ah here now Geoff, I had mumps when I was eleven and it was great fun! I'm 70% probably not sterile!

DeeB said...

Fair play for wading through the utter nonsense that is the Q&A advocating the GAPS diet (and supplements of course) in response to every question - at least all that I could bear to read. I gave up after miscarriage and disabilities in children was blamed on the pregnant woman's "toxins" passing through to them in the womb - saying that with no evidence at all to back up your claim is pure badness. I had a look online to check are there any dangers to non-medically administered enemas and had to move to Google scholar such was the level of woo rubbish on enemas to wade through on the standard google. Came across this though don't have time to check how authoritative it is - there are plenty of dangers in doing it including dehydration and depleted potassium. Nasty business.

Sharon McDaid said...

Thanks for writing this. It's unacceptable that these dangerous lies are given credence by inclusion in a mainstream newspaper. Autistic kids deserve better.

Alan said...

This was a very interesting article. A Foundation has been set up in the USA by a Biochemist mum who cured her daughter's Autism. Have a look -

Unknown said...

My god! Your ignorance is absolutely astounding! Your anger is completely misdirected! Maybe if mainstream doctors could actually help people and were willing to listen people would trust them more. But guess what? All they know is drugs and how to cut something out of someone if it's not working properly. "Medicine" originally taught in universities funded by pharmaceutical companies. Thesee "doctors" treat everything in the body as a separate entity, it's no wonder they can't help anyone while we get sicker. How many people die each year due to medical negligence and pure incompetence? Nearly 500,000 people. How many more do you think die from drug related deaths? Ever ask a doctor about nutrition? A lay person on the street knows more. How can you know how basic human bodily functions work withough understanding nutritonal biochemical connections? The answer is, you simple can't! And the reason I feel compelled to write my repose is because this doctor gave me a life I never had. ADHD and an autoimmune disease for 18 years that no mainstream doctor would ever find any correlation. Go through the health system with numerous physical and psychological issues and then come back and write how much woman like Dr. Natasha Campbell are nothing but greedy, deceiving quacks! Yeah how dare she write about promoting healing and health through nutritious foods. You on the other hand are a writer. You don't understand nutrition or medicine. You've probably never lived with a chronic illness and yet are so quick to denigrate this woman. Go do some real research on how the pharmaceutical companies are making their millions while chronic disease rises and the populations get sicker. Your article infuriates me because you are so wrong when there are plenty of evil people in this world to write about. Parents and those living with these chronic illnesses are desperate, lost lonely in their struggle for help and the answer to a better existence. Your pointing people in the completely wrong direction while slandering a woman that can help. You are the one that should be ashamed. Your an idiot spewing your mouth off at something you know nothing about.

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