Would I be dating myself if I said “Pritikin”? I’m sure everyone is familiar with Atkins. Then came the more reasonable Mediterranean. Paleo is a more recent trend. My pet peeve about the paleo diet is now people say “carbs” when they mean refined carbs like bread and pasta and donuts. “Carbs” also include very healthy foods like vegetables and fruits, and even whole grains.
But just as soon as most people know the ins and outs of the most recent health craze, more seem to pop up. Some with lots of good theory and even science behind them. Others…not so much. So what about FODMAPS and GAPS and SCD? Which foods contain salicylates and oxalates? I will attempt to bring some concise clarification of these myriad food plans.
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet
Developed Dr. Sidney Valentine Haas and expounded upon by cell biologist Elaine Gottschall after her daughter was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, culminating in a book in 1994 called Breaking the Vicious Cycle. The diet and it’s premise has more recently come into favor by patients and parents trying to treat various gastrointestinal diseases such as irritable bowel disease, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, and also autism and spectrum disorders.
The premise is that the diet, a very strict change in foods consumed, starves the anaerobic bacteria in the GI tract, restoring the beneficial bacterial balance and thus gut function, without drugs and surgery.
The details of the diet are quite complex, and if you decide to try it, there are many resources online. But the basics are to completely avoid grains, lactose, and sucrose. Some examples of foods (by no means complete!):
Legal: dry curd cottage cheese, homemade yogurt, eggs, homemade gelatin or unflavored gelatin, chicken soup, beef patty, fish, figs, filberts, cantaloupe, cheese (as long as it has had a bacterial culture in it’s creation, is not processed, and aged at least 30 days)
Illegal: wheat flour, amaranth flour, feta cheese, flour, cannellini beans, chewing gum, chevre, seed butters and seed flours, soy.
There are several phases to this diet, additional foods allowed during subsequent phases, as symptoms are resolving.
GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome.
The GAPS diet has its roots in the SCD diet, and was developed by Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD wrote the book Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural treatments for autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, depression, and schizophrenia. She makes the connection between the digestive system and the brain, based on her extensive training in both neurology and human nutrition. I appreciate that her focus is on whole foods, persisting that if people have processed and many canned foods, they are getting much less nutrition than they could if they ate the food in it’s most whole form. This means avoiding foods with barcodes or chemicals that you can’t pronounce or understand.
“The best foods are eggs (if tolerated), fresh meats (not preserved), fish, shellfish, fresh vegetables and fruit, nuts and seeds, garlic and olive oil. Apart from eating vegetables cooked, it is important to have some raw vegetables with meals, as they contain vital enzymes to assist digestion of the meats. Fruit should be eaten on their own, not with meals, as they have a very different digestion pattern and can make the work harder for the stomach. Fruit should be given as a snack between meals.”
She also recommends healthy fats such as ghee and olive oil, as well as fermented foods to restore gut probiotic balance.
There are lists of foods to have and avoid on the website, but it insists that to be truly successful you must buy the book (which I have not yet done, so can’t speak to it’s indispensability).
FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols
Developed at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia by Peter Gibson and Susan Shepherd to treat digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGID). The theory is that the FODMAPs culprits are carbohydrates and related alcohols that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine. These are very common in the western diet. When one consumes a FODMAP that is not absorbed in the small intestine, it moves to the large intestine where it is fermented by bacteria, producing excessive gas and bloating, and IBS in some patients. Fructose malabsorption and lactose intolerance may cause the same symptoms, and are easily tested for via a hydrogen and methane breath tests.
What are FODMAPs in the diet (foods to avoid)?
- Fructose (fruits, honey, high fructose corn syrup) High FODMAPs fruits are apples, apricots, blackberries, cherries, mango, grapefruit
- Lactose (dairy) Especially buttermilk, ice cream, cream, yogurt and milk
- Fructans (wheat, garlic, onion, inulin)
- Galactans (legumes such as beans, lentils, soybeans)
- Polyols (sweeteners containing isomalt, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, stone fruits such as avocado, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, plums)
- Vegetables: bamboo shoots, pepper, lettuce, leafy greens potatoes, squash, celery, corn, cucumbers
- Fruits: bananas, berries, cantaloupe, orange, passion fruit, pineapple, rhubarb, tangerine, grapes, grapefruit, honeydew, kiwi
- Protein: beef, chicken, canned tuna, fish, eggs, lamb, nuts, nut butters, seeds
- Dairy (and diary alternatives): small amounts of cream and cream cheese, hard cheese (cheddar, Colby, parmesan, swiss), mozzarella, sherbet, almond milk, rice milk
- Grains: Wheat/gluten-free grains and flours, GF bagels, hot/cold cereals (corn flakes, cream of rice, grits, oats)
- Beverages: water, coffee, tea (some people do better if caffeine is limited), and low FODMAP fruit/vegetable juices (only ½ cup/serving)
As with the SCD diet, there are massive resources and food lists online if you want to try it out. Although there is less information about different phases or time frame expected to see results. Most websites list artificial sweeteners as legal to have on this diet, which I would disagree with, if not for the benefit of improved gut health, certainly for general health and optimal weight.
Oxalates are found in many foods and are always in our bodies. Our cells frequently convert substances into oxalates. There is some controversy in the healthcare industry about whether or not limiting dietary oxalates can decrease calcium oxalate kidney stones (about 80% of all kidney stones are made of calcium oxalates). There are three very rare health conditions that require strict adherence to a low-oxalate diet, such as absorptive hypercalciuria type II, enteric hyperoxaluria, and primary hyperoxaluria.
Foods high in oxalates:
- Fruits: blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, currants, kiwifruit, concord (purple) grapes, figs, tangerines, and plums
- Vegetables: spinach, Swiss chard, beets (root part), beet greens (leaf part), collards, okra, parsley, leeks and quinoa are among the most oxalate-dense vegetables (celery, green beans, rutabagas, and summer squash would be considered moderately dense in oxalates)
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, cashews, and peanuts
- Legumes: soybeans, tofu and other soy products
- Grains: wheat bran, wheat germ, quinoa (a vegetable often used like a grain)
- Other: cocoa, chocolate, and black tea
This information is from one of my all-time favorite websites for excellent nutrition information – World’s Healthiest Foods (whfoods.com) http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=48
Salicylates, or commonly salicylic acid, are found naturally in many plants, protecting the plant from disease and fungal infection. There are natural and synthetic salicylates added to foods, medicines and fragrances as a preservative. People with a salicylate sensitivity or intolerance will have myriad reactions from ingesting even a small amount of food with salicylic acid. There is no laboratory test for salicylate sensitivity, so it is recommended to an elimination diet and then food introduction. Common symptoms of salicylate sensitivity are:
- Stomach pain/gastrointestinal issues
- Itchy skin, hives or rashes
- Swelling of hands, feet, eyelids, lips
- Bed wetting or urgency to pass water
- Persistent cough
- Changes in skin/discoloration
- Sore, itchy, puffy, burning eyes
- Sinusitis/nasal polyps
- Memory loss and poor concentration
Since salicylic acid occurs natural in foods, there are massive lists to review to see what is highest. I will include here just a few examples and a good link for your review.
- Fruits – high: all dried fruits, avocado, apricots
- Fruits – low: banana, pear (ripe and peeled)
- Vegetables – high: canned green olives, peppers, tomato, radish
- Vegetables – low: bamboo shoots, cabbage, celery, iceberg lettuce
- Nuts and seeds – high: almond, peanuts, water chestnut
- Nuts and seeds – low: poppy seed, cashes, sunflower seeds
- Sweets – high: chewing gum, fruit flavors, jam, mint flavored sweets
- Sweets – low: carob, cocoa, maple syrup, white sugar
- Grains – high: cornmeal, polenta, maize
- Grains – low: barley/buckwheat, millet, oats, rice, rye, wheat
- Meat – high: processed lunch meats, seasoned meats (salami, sausage)
- Meat – low: beef, chicken eggs, fish, lamb, organ meats, scallops
It can be quite overwhelming and confusing to sort everything out and figure out what is causing one’s symptoms, and what is most likely to help them recover optimal health. When looking at these food lists, even some very healthy foods can be causing some serious health issues. If you feel daunted and unsure of what would be best for you, I recommend finding a licensed naturopathic doctor or nutritionist in your area to help you figure out which diet is best for you.