Our Low-Carb GAPS Experiment to
Cure Type-1 Diabetes

As explained in an earlier article, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride says that her GAPS nutritional protocol has cured her patients of type-1 diabetes. She does admit that all her patients were children. Hence, they did not have type-1 diabetes for too long. Most of them were probably still in the honeymoon stage.

Can the GAPS protocol cure adults who have had type-1 diabetes for decades? Dr. Campbell-McBride was asked that question at the Wise Traditions 2011 conference. Her response: “The longer the condition goes on, obviously, the more entrenched the problem becomes. I would still give it a shot.”

So my wife Nicole – a type-1 diabetic for 36 years – decided to “give it a shot.”

How We Got Started with the GAPS Protocol

Actually, a few months before we ever heard of Dr. Campbell-McBride we were already following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). Dr. Campbell-McBride’s Gut and Physiology (GAPS) protocol is based on the SCD. The GAPS Protocol is simply the SCD with an emphasis on specific healing foods. GAPS also includes detoxification treatments.

I had started following the SCD in January (2013) to deal with my own autoimmune condition – inflammatory bowel disease. Upon studying the biochemistry behind inflammatory bowel disease I saw the similarities it had with the destruction of the beta-cells in type-1 diabetes. As I was seeing life-changing results from SCD, Nicole decided to try it herself. Upon discovering the GAPS program, we “upgraded” from SCD to GAPS.

GAPS for Type-1 Diabetics

Of course, it was necessary to modify and adapt the GAPS diet for type-1 diabetes. While many people actually do follow a ketogenic or gluconeogenic version of GAPS, the program is not inherently low-carbohydrate. We ended up combining the dietary restrictions from Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution with the guidelines in Dr. Campbell-McBride’s Gut and Psychology Syndrome.

Dr. Bernstein’s program, for example, allows some bran and soy flour. the GAPS program does not. Vice versa, the GAPS program allows for carrots and squash, which are too high-carb for Bernstein’s program.

Nicole had to add further restrictions because she suffers from kidney failure. We also eliminated foods high in potassium and phosphorous. Most fish, nuts, seeds and avocados had to go.

The goal of Bernstein’s program is to normalize blood sugar. The goal of Dr. Campbell-McBride’s program is to cure diabetes (along with other health issues). The goal of the renal diet is to prevent the life-threatening side effects of kidney failure.

Why So Many Dietary Restrictions?

Here are the three main reasons for avoiding so many common foods:

1) Many of them are too high in carbohydrates. High-carb foods require Nicole to take large doses of insulin which lead to high and low blood sugars.

2) Starchy foods are not broken down in the gut properly. Dr. Campbell-McBride says this leads to abnormal gut flora (microbes), an impaired immune system and leaky gut.

3) Due to leaky gut many of the following foods make it into the bloodstream undigested where they  cause autoimmune reactions.

Foods We Eliminated

Here’s a quick summary of the foods being avoided.

  • Grains and grain products (e.g. pasta, bread, rice, millet, quinoa).
  • Fruit. Small amounts of avocado would be fine if Nicole didn’t suffer from kidney failure. Non-sweet fruits like cucumber, tomato and red peppers are allowed.
  • Legumes (e.g., beans, lentils, soy products, tofu, etc.).
  • High-carb vegetables (e.g. yams, potatoes, carrots, okra, beets).
  • Nuts and seed. (Small amounts would be fine if Nicole’s kidneys functioned properly.)
  • Sweeteners of all kinds. (Stevia might be fine, but Nicole can’t stand the taste of it.)
  • Milk. Fluid milk isn’t allowed on any of the three diets we combined.
  • Yogurt, kefir and cheese. These would be fine except that they are high in phosphorous and potassium which is dangerous to chronic kidney failure patients.
  • Any other GAPS “illegal foods.” Foods like cocoa, baker’s yeast and cream of tarter are not permitted on the GAPS diet. You can view a full list of “illegal” foods here.

Foods To Eat

The GAPS protocol includes three different diets. There is “Full GAPS” which includes fruit, nuts, seeds and honey. Then there is “Transitional GAPS” which starts introducing starchy vegetables and grains back into the diet. And then there’s “Introduction Diet” which is the most restricted. Nicole is following the “Introduction Diet” with the exclusion of high-carb vegetables like carrots, squash and beets.

Here’s what she’s experimenting with:

  • Cottage cheese (fermented for 24 hours) and homemade paneer. Cottage cheese and paneer have had the whey removed. Whey contains too much phosphorous and potassium for kidney failure patients.
  • Canned tuna. All fish would be fine, but because of the kidney failure diet, she needs to restrict herself to just canned tuna.
  • Sour cream. We make this ourselves with kefir starter. It’s important that its fermented for at least 24 hours to remove all the lactose sugar.
  • Ghee (clarified butter), coconut oil and olive oil. She can also have fat rendered from meat but we haven’t experimented with this yet.
  • Eggs. Sadly Nicole doesn’t like eggs much. She mainly eats them raw. If she does eat cooked eggs her choice is sunny side up with the runny yolks.
  • All meats. Nicole prefers roasted chicken above all else. She also eats some beef and turkey. We are looking for good sources of duck, goose and lamb.
  • Low-carb vegetables. Nicole focuses on zucchini, asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, celery and garlic. Bernstein’s program allows for one tablespoon of chopped onion per meal.
  • Herbs and spices. We tend to focus on black pepper, cumin, coriander, rosemary and oregano.
  • Homemade stock. I make this by simmering chicken and beef bones for 48 hours. Each chicken bone is individually broken to get at the marrow. In her book Gut and Psychology Syndrome, Dr. Campbell-McBride says: “Meat stock aids digestion and has been known for centuries as an healing folk remedy for the digestive tract… it is full of minerals, vitamins, amino-acids and various other nutrients in a very bio-available form.”

How to Cheat

If Nicole is going to “cheat” she usually does so by expanding the menu to allow some high-carb foods permitted on the GAPS diet. These foods shouldn’t (in theory) retard the healing process significantly. For example, she may occasionally have some blueberries, carrots or a baked good made with coconut flour. These are “GAPS legal” but a little too high carb for tight blood sugar management.

A 2-Year Experiment

Nicole, myself and our son began following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet in January of this year (2013). This slowly morphed into the Gut and Physiology Syndrome protocol a few months later. So we’ve been conducting this experiment for eight months now.

Nicole intends to continue the experiment for two years. At the two-year mark (Easter 2015) she’ll evaluate how much healing she has seen and decide whether to continue.

Our goal is to heal her not only of type-1 diabetes but also of the many complications she suffers. Her complications include kidney failure, neuropathy, gastroparesis, anemiahypothyroidism and tachycardia.

It’s a lofty goal. But why not aim high? If we are only able to reverse or dramatically reduce the complications that would make it worthwhile. If she can regenerate even 20% of her beta cells that would allow for much better blood sugar control.

I’ll be adding new articles to diabeticdharma.com with details about how our experiment is unfolding. You can subscribe to receive email notifications every time new content is added.

About the Author: John C. A. Manley researches and writes about alternative treatments for type-1 diabetes and its many complications. His wife, Nicole, of 15 years has had type-1 diabetes for four decades. Together they have lowered her HgbA1c below 5.5%, regained thyroid function, increased kidney function and reversed gastroparesis. Read more about their journey out of the T1D matrix or subscribe to their Diabetic Dharma blog..