Posts Tagged Pseudoscience

 GUTS! Does the GAPS diet cure autism?

The clean eating world is obsessed with guts! Your guts, my guts, your child’s guts…..even your dog’s guts. The recurring theme in clean eating dietary advice and health claims is that an unhealthy gut = disease. If you ‘cleanse’ your gut, either through diet or a course of enemas you will prevent and, more importantly, cure disease. One example of this sort of advice, and the reason I became interested in this particular area of pseudoscience, is the GAPS diet.

I first became aware of the GAPS diet after reading a blog post by ‘The Angry Chef’, where he dismantled some of the nutri-nonsense claims made by Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley (Ayuverdic tongue scrapers, Biodynamic eggs etc. Let’s not even go there today) and mentioned the GAPS diet being behind a lot of their ‘bone broth’ recipes and food philosophy. It piqued my interest so I decided to google it, and to be honest I wish I hadn’t. I went further and further down the ‘gut flora’ rabbit hole and ended up in a pretty scary place full of baseless claims, pseudoscience, anti-vax and bad science.

Text reading "mind the gap" from a train station platform

The GAPS diet

The GAPS diet was invented by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride after her son was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3. She took matters into her own hands having decided that conventional treatments weren’t helping. GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome and follows the premise that a wide variety of health problems (particularly psychological and behavioural) are caused by an imbalance of gut microbes, or ‘gut flora’. Dr McBride claims that an imbalance in your gut will lead you towards disease, she claims that autism and ADD, OCD, schizophrenia, epilepsy, depression, and many other conditions are all digestive disorders, but offers a ‘cure’ in the form of her diet plan.

The diet plan is complicated and long, it is recommended to be followed for years, rather than your typical ‘fad’ diets which are often crash diets lasting days or weeks, but it isn’t any less restrictive. There are 8 steps to the diet, the first one being the most restrictive. Step one consists of room temperature water, probiotics and bone broth (which must be made from scratch, you can’t use any store bought stocks, they contain all those nasty toxins and stuff). A worrying line in the introduction to the diet refers to side effects when introducing new foods. It states that if you experience black, sticky diarrhoea, pain or any other digestive distress stop eating the new food, leave it a week and try again. It is important to note that black diarrhoea can be a sign of gastrointestinal bleeding and a possible medical emergency. It should never be ignored, or left for a week! The introduction to the diet also recommends a ‘sensitivity test’ for new foods. Here you place a small amount of the food onto a patch on your wrist and see if there is any reaction…..seems legit.

After the initial stage you can slowly start to introduce other foods, beginning in stage 2 with eggs, but, they must be raw and they must be organic (yummy salmonella), along with homemade yoghurts and fermented fish. I barely have time to make myself a bowl of cereal in the morning, let alone having constant homemade broth, yoghurts, soups and stews on the go all week! And so the stages go on until stage 7 when you’re on the most permissive GAPS diet where some, unrefined starches are allowed.

a cracked raw egg on a black surface with an egg beater in the background

The GAPS diet is based on that classic nutri-nonsense idea of ‘detoxification’ of the body. The idea that our lifestyles and the food we consume are clogging up our bodies and minds, making us sick and fogging up our thought processes. By ‘flushing us out’, these diets can help our body to heal.

It is widely known that the liver and kidneys already do the ‘detoxifying’ bit. It’s kind of their job, and McBride does acknowledge this, but she thinks we need to give our body a helping hand in the shape of a few gallons of meat water, or by starving ourselves, which she believes helps to redirect our bodies energy to fight off disease….

So that’s the GAPS diet in a nutshell……but not a nutshell…because you can’t eat nuts on GAPS……so, in an avocado skin?…….or a chunk of hollowed out cow’s femur? Anyway! There isn’t much scientific evidence of this kind of restrictive diet being able to cure disease, or complex psychological disorders. In fact, there isn’t any evidence. There are no published studies on the GAPS diet and Dr McBride hasn’t produced any research or published anything backing up her claims. It is a dangerous way to go, advising people who are sick to go on such a restrictive diet, but she does, and there’s more.

McBride also believes and claims the following:

  • Children with autism are born perfectly healthy. Abnormal gut flora develops due to diet, and microbes passed from the mother, and makes them ill.
  • Breastfeeding is essential. If you are physically unable to breast feed your child use donated breast milk or a wet nurse. Bottle fed babies are going to develop abnormal gut flora and develop problems.
  • The contraceptive pill has had a ‘devastating effect on gut flora’, she doesn’t explain why.
  • She recommends smearing live yoghurt around and inside your vagina during your third trimester when pregnant to help ‘prepare the birth canal’ with beneficial bacteria. She also recommends doing the same to the armpits and breasts.
  • Big Pharma!
  • You should avoid vaccinating your child until they are around 4-5 years old, and even then, only if the child has a healthy, balanced gut flora.
  • Black elderberry is one of the most powerful anti-viral remedies known to man.
  • Using volcanic rock dust in organic gardening improves nutrition, and if used on a global scale, it would enable the soil to absorb enough excess atmospheric carbon to stabilize global climate change.

The upper arm of a child with a pink t shirt sleeve and a hand holding a syringe to the arm.

As previously stated, there is no published scientific evidence that any of the claims made by Dr McBride are true. The science is shaky and inaccurate. All the ‘evidence’ I’ve seen of the diet working has been purely anecdotal, from people on various forums singing the diets praises and attributing it to their improved health or the health of their child. Which brings me onto my main issue with this, the issue that made me wish I hadn’t investigated all this in the first place. The diet is directed predominantly at children. Children with complex behavioural and psychological problems, the thought of subjecting a child to this incredibly restrictive diet is worrying to me. You are essentially starving your child (albeit for a short period during stage 1 of the diet plan). Even when you reach stage 7 of the diet plan the diet is still extremely restrictive. A healthy balanced diet needs a bit of everything in moderation. Starving the body of sugar for example (unrefined or otherwise) is not beneficial.

The GAPS diet is an extreme, damaging, and potentially dangerous response to a problem that there is no evidence even exists. As with all clean eating fad diets, it preys on peoples’ fears, and offers a solution that seems too good to be true. Unfortunately, it nearly always is.

 

Karin McClure

Karin has been actively involved in skepticism for 4 years and has been involved with the Merseyside Skeptics for 3 years. She has given talks on the pseudoscience around diets and health at QED
Skepti-camp, Ignite Liverpool and Merseyside Skeptics and has been interested in diet and health for 3 years. Karin is also an artist and has sold her work at events around the country and online, information can be found on her website lunalynes.wordpress.com where she also shares posts about her experiences with mental health, as well as art updates.

 

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The Boy Who Might Be Magnetic (Or, More Likely, Definitely Isn’t)

Reports in multiple sources at the moment, from the Guardian to CBS, have been telling the tale of a young boy in with what’s said to be an unusual talent.

Taking up the story from CBS:

“Six-year-old Ivan Stoiljkovic appears to be able to attract metal to his chest – including silverware, coins and even a frying pan.

His family says Ivan possesses extraordinary strength and even healing powers.”

“It started as a joke,” said his grandmother. “I said, let’s try this and things just stuck to him. The heavier things actually stuck more strongly to him.”

In total, his family says Ivan can carry up to 55 pounds of metal on his torso.

His upper body appears to be more magnetic and his family says his wounds heal very quickly and leave no scars.

Family members told Reuters that Ivan also has “healing hands” with which he alleviates his grandfather’s stomach pains and has soothed the pain of a neighbor who hurt his leg in a tractor accident.”

The story comes complete with a video of Ivan demonstrating his talents:

Avid magnetic-child-watchers may have heard this tale before, and indeed this isn’t the first time a child from Eastern Europe has been heralded as possessing extraordinary magnetic powers. In fact, just this February a seven year old Serbian boy called Bogdan was filmed demonstrating his own extraordinary skills. Read the rest of this entry »

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Scientologists* Are Criminals! (*I Mean The Ones Already In Prison, Obviously)

Scientologists are criminals.

Don’t worry, that’s not a wild assertion made to martyr myself as the next cause célèbre of the libel reform campaign (although that’s not a bad idea – I mean who’d heard of the Simon Singh fella before he pointed out the happily bogus claims of the BCA? That’s right: nobody. And now look at him – front page of the BBC, on every skeptical podcast going, and standingly-ovated every time he leaves the house. I think the only way, therefore, to get big in the world of skepticism is now libel martyrdom. Fuck it – Dereck Acorah eats babies and Rupert Murdoch is a first-class cunt).

Anyway, as I was saying, scientologists ARE criminals. Or, at least, some of them are – according to the cult themselves. In fact, more scientologists are criminals than we previously thought, if the cult is to be believed (which, of course, it probably isn’t – because lots of scientologists are criminals, as I say).

I’ll explain, or rather, I’ll let the Telegraph explain:

Scientology ‘has branch in every English prison’

Scientology has obtained a foothold in every prison in England and Wales, a spokesman for the religion claims, despite official figures which show only three prisoners acknowledge following the religion.

Essentially, the crazy cult (who were convicted of activities listed as ‘fraud in an organised gang’ in France last year) have been targeting prisoners across England and Wales, in an attempt to help them see the error of their ways, go straight, expunge their thetons, audit their woes and generally do all that fun scientological stuff that keeps Tom Cruise bouncing on couches and keeps the creepy, sinister smile on Tommy Davis’ face. You see, their organisation has an entire programme dedicated to the rehabilitation of lags (does anybody other than The Sun use the word lag? I don’t think I’ve ever seen it used. Other than, you know, jet lag – but I think that’s a different context. Is someone who gets jailed for hijacking planes is known as a jet lag? I’d like to think so). Read the rest of this entry »

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Dowsing For Danger: Is The ADE651 Still On The Market?

A little while ago, our good friend and past guest speaker Trystan Swale covered the ADE651 – the so-called bomb detector that didn’t, well, detect bombs. The story had been widely reported, with prominent skeptic Bruce Hood working with the BBC to expose the inefficacy of the devices, culminating in the arrest of ATSC CEO Jim McCormick. James Randi, of course, had long since identified the ADE651 as little more than a dowsing device, having slapped the $1million challenge on the table if McCormick were able to prove him wrong – an offer which was, unsurprisingly, refused.

All this is well-known, and can be found in greater detail elsewhere on the web, so I won’t bore you by re-hashing the details. However, there is something I can add to the story – we here at the MSS were recently contacted by a journalist wanting to know a little more about the device, specifically if it’s still on sale. Always happy to oblige, I got to doing a bit of digging, and having found – unsurprisingly – the ATSC’s website down ‘for repair’ (I can only assume it’s the company’s morals that are undergoing repair), I was kindly pointed in the direction of the online trade outlet ecplaza, and specifically the page for the ATSC ADE 651.

Well, what better way to find out if this disgraced and disproven device is still on sale, than to call up the manufacturers directly? Luckily enough, ecplaza lists the phone number for the sales department of WooBombDetectorsRUs as +44 207 681 2036… which is a number out of service. Presumably, the phone lines are also down for repair. Still, on the page there’s this lovely, shiny, inviting orange box titled ‘Inquire Now’… so I did. Presumably, I thought, if the website is down and the CEO under investigation for fraud, then the email enquiries would either bounce back an auto-reply saying ‘this device is no longer on sale’ (or word to that effect), or it would simply disappear into a black hole.

As it turns out, I was wrong Read the rest of this entry »

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Mature Couple Seek Strangers To ‘Wand’ (Timewasters Need Not Apply)

The Amega Wand - not a sex toy

The Amega Wand - not a sex toy

As we all know, there are few things more scientifically-robust than a good ‘It cured me!’ anecdote. They’re well known to be ineffable when it comes to such amazing healing modalities as homeopathy, chiropractic, reiki, transcendental meditation, ear candles, colonic irrigation and all that other good stuff. They’re like the gold standard, when it comes to woo. Which is why my eyes lit up when one of our Skeptics in the Pub attendees alerted me to this story in his local paper:

Great Sankey couple invite people to try wand in bid to cure aches and pains

Now, I know what you’re thinking, and no – they don’t mean THAT kind of wand. Get your mind out of the gutters, we have skepticism to do.

A FORMER snooker champion believes his rheumatism from years of bending down over tables has been cured after his son introduced him to a wand which has been growing in popularity across America.

Robert Quinn, originally of Stockton Heath but now retired and living in North Wales, suffered rheumatism pain for 30 years and shingles for three years but since using the Amega product says that he has not felt any sort of ache.

Robert, aged 77, said: “I will try anything so when my son said about giving it a go to see if it would help I thought ‘why not?’ “We had a successful snooker and billiards team but I’ve been in a lot of pain since then.

“My wife is much more sceptical than me but it cured the pain in her arm which has been troubling her for years.”

There we go – not one anecdote, but two. This wand must be super good. I for one always like to take at face value testimony of a 77 year old man who admits he’ll try anything. Wait, we might be heading back to THAT kind of wand again. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Healing Powers of Ringtones

Japan has a reputation for originating new and pointless technological novelties, and its latest youth fad doesn’t disappoint.

The youth of Japan are apparently currently obsessed with a new selection of ringtones created by a company called the Japan Ringing Tone Laboratory. This isn’t another ‘Crazy Frog’ though.  If it was, I would have shot myself rather than write this post. No, it’s something altogether more interesting, although just as moronic. These ringtones are “therapeutic ringtones”. Yes, forget acupuncture, hypnotherapy or the pleasures of a good sit down: simply play the ringtone on your phone and all your cares and health troubles will float away down the winding river of easy cures, along with your wallet and your self respect. Only in Japan. Well, for now. Read the rest of this entry »

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