March 26, 2014

CC BY by MikeBlogs
CC BY by MikeBlogs

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 http://www.shop.gapsdiet.com. 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. 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. 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. 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.

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.

Geoff Lillis
Geoff Lillis

About Geoff Lillis It is difficult to really know who Geoff is but we know he is from Dublin. Here is his Twitter description: “Not a jerk. I’m pro choice, pro marriage equality, pro reasoned argument. Mediocre blogger. Described by some as a friendly atheist.”

The full post (with more Q&A examples) was originally published on Geoff Shorts blog here

Opinions expressed by Autism Daily Newscast Contributors are their own.

If you have tried GAPS to aid with the symptoms of autism we would like to hear from you. Please comment below or email us at editor@autismdailynewscast.com.

About the author 

Contributor

  • It takes one to know one, whether it is autism or an equality-nerfer.
    Autism is NOT a disease. The REAL autistic people have minds of their own, and they do NOT want to be claimed to be “cured” of autism. A basic course on medicine and science will show you that autism is not a disease that is supposed to be “cured”. You need to be “cured” of your own pseudoscience-believing-arrogance.

  • My son was diagnosed with autism when he was about 2. I was involved in the attachment parenting community, which is a magnet for pseudoscientific woo, and had a lot of people recommend GAPS. So we did GAPS for almost a year. I don’t remember how, but something started pinging the warning center of my brain — these people going on about chemtrails, evil vaccinations, bragging about never seeing the doctor, raw milk, homeopathy, essential oils, energy healing were also enthusiastic about GAPS. I re-read my GAPS book and saw how it was not supported by independent research, and in fact the linchpin of her argument was based on fraudulent Wakefield studies. If she truly believed in her theory, she would submit it for scientific scrutiny in peer-reviewed journals rather than publish a book.

    My son was the same after GAPS as before. She recommends at least 2 years; we stopped around 1 when I realized it wasn’t doing anything but adding stress to our lives.

  • While GAPS may be a rip off, your piece is hardly smart, spouting the same lack of balance as Natasha’s.

    There are many people out there who have made their fortunes from parents who are desperate to help their children. Charity bosses, nutritional consultants, private ABA firms, vitamin and supplement companies to name a few. It is very true that parents who do not use due diligence when investigating their children’s autism and ways to help them, can be financially used and abused.

    This is not to say, however, that autism is devoid of “disease”. If you yourself had bothered to do your own research on the empirical findings pointing to the common medical problems experienced by people with autism, you would have discovered many commonalities pointing to immune and gut dysfunction. Take a cursory look at JAMA or even Pubmed.

    Throwing the baby out with the bathwater because it suits you, doesn’t wash (pardon pun)

    Maybe next time you write on this subject, you will avoid the knee jerk reaction. Such writing is not pleasant to read. Autism is inordinately complex, it is a whole body condition. Even the most neurodiverse loving “Autie” can’t deny this, many of whom do indeed admit they suffer from problems with allergies and gut problems and more.

    If you have something to say to Natasha Campbell McBride, I hope you had the temerity to contact her personally and tell her, rather than solely assassinating her here. Write to her and ask her how she justifies the exorbitant amount of money she charges. I for one, would like to see her answer. Anyone who thinks autism is just about making a quick profit need to be outed, and empirical evidence (which is plenty) needs to replace their bunkum.

    Please re-write this piece with more balance. Don’t try to put parents off from helping their children just because you think one or two people out there are wrong. That makes you wrong.

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