SCD, GAPS, & Paleo - What Do These Mean?

Patient Expert

In the past year or so you might be hearing these acronyms - SCD, GAPS, Paleo, GF, & DF.

But what do they stand for and what do they mean to you?


Stands for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet which excludes from the diet all grains, oats, certain legumes, all gluten, soy, and mucilaginous foods to help allow the gut to heal and eliminate inflammation.

The diet is explained in very good detail in Elaine Gottschall's book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle - book and the website give a thorough list of foods that are allowed and not allowed.

It is a diet based on the original one developed by Dr. Sidney V. Haas from New York City. According to Gottschall's book's introduction, "Dr. Haas had developed his nutritional approach to intestinal healing over a long, illustrious career, and wrote a textbook, which could be found in nearly every medical library in the world. His colleagues, however - unschooled in nutrition and dismissive of its importance in maintaining health - had abandoned his work in pursuit of new versions of the same standard drugs and of increasingly complex surgical procedures.

Elaine took the study of his diet even further to help her young daughter who was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. The diet proved to help successfully treat Elain's daughter illness and over the years many other IBDers have found success in the diet as well.

I, myself, have been eating according to the SCD diet for more than a year now and am in the best health since my IBD diagnosis more than 14 years ago. That said, the diet takes time and effort to follow and you have to be dedicated to healing your body through the food that you make and eat.


Many parts of the SCD diet overlap the GAPS diet. That said, GAPS followers will tell you that while SCD is a diet GAPS is a lifestyle that includes 1. diet - which is almost identical to SCD; 2. detox; and, 3. supplementation -

Diet-wise, the main differences in GAPS vs. SCD are as follow:

  • GAPS strongly recommends daily ingestion of homemade broth and fermented foods.

  • GAPS strongly suggests removing dairy products from the diet for 1 month then slowly reintroducing them and eliminating them altogether if symptoms arise.

  • the types of legumes allowed on GAPS is more limited than those allowed on SCD.

  • Sea vegetables (i.e sea weed) and pure cocoa are allowed on GAPS whereas neither are allowed on SCD.

There are those who see SCD as more strict or, as some say, radical. While GAPS is described as a list of recommendations that should be tailored to each person's needs.


This diet is what I call a lifestyle choice. I'm sure there are plenty of people who will disagree with me on this and tell me that the diet has been shown to improve overall health and specific illnesses. I don't deny that this could be true.

On the Paleo diet website - - it is described as "the world's healthiest diet, based upon the fundamental concept that the optimal diet is the one to which we are genetically adapted. The therapeutic effect of the Paleo Diet is supported by both randomized controlled human trials and real-life success stories."

This diet is much more restricted than either SCD or GAPS. Paleo allows: grass-fed meat; fish and seafood; fresh fruit and vegetables; eggs; nuts; seeds; and certain oils such asolive, walnut, flaxseed, and coconut. What isn't allowed are legumes of any kind - remember, peanuts are a legume NOT a nut; cereal grains; dairy products - no, eggs are NOT dairy, so they are allowed; refined sugar; potatoes; processed or packaged foods; salt; or, refined vegetable oils.

As for the acronyms GF, it means gluten-free. And DF, means dairy-free. Remember, eggs are not a dairy product even though that's where you'll find them in a grocery store. Dairy products are made from milk - cow, sheep, goat.

Whether eating a specific diet is right for you only you and possibly your doctor can tell. I say possibly when it comes to doctors because many don't believe that diet has any positive or negative consequence for people living with IBD. As I've mentioned in other blogs, my dad who has IBD doesn't find food a factor in his symptoms but I do, very much so.

So, who's right? I personally think it is different for each person. Some IBDers also have food intolerances that can be causing symptoms. Some IBDers have no food issues. For those who do, whether they are willing to try and stick to one of these diets is up to them. They are a different and I think much healthier way of eating than the traditional SAD diet, but they do take some getting used to plus thinking ahead about what you're going to eat, and getting back into the kitchen to make your own food.

So, look at the information I've provided, do some more of your own research and see what seems right for you.