Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)

Original Image by Didriks via Flickr
Original Image by Didriks via Flickr

 By: Nikki Nies

It’s interesting how much one’s friends influence you.  I applaud my one friend, she has dealt with Celiac disease quite gracefully.  She seems to have adapted well over time, however, after learning in addition to having celiac disease, she has developed hiatal hernia and mild gastritis she is currently following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.  When she mentioned this diet, I had never heard of it. I thought I was up to date on diets, but it was news to me.

She tried explaining an overview of the diet, but it was too much information for me to grasp at the time.  I’m surprised I haven’t been exposed to this diet as I’m currently taking medical nutrition therapy and I just had an exam on bowel disease.  Have no fear, if you hadn’t heard of this diet as well, I’m going to provide the ins and outs of it for you.

Created by Elaine Gottschall, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) has effectively helped many with Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, chronic diarrhea, cystic fibrosis and as a treatment for autism.   It is warned that one’s color of stool may change as a die off of bacterial overgrowth.

The basic premise:

“no food should be ingested that contains carbohydrates other than those found in fruits, honey, properly prepared yogurt and those vegetables and nuts listed”

The diet is dependent on fermented yogurt and/or acidophilus supplements to produce healthy intestinal flora.  It is hoped with “good” healthy intestinal flora the bad will be weeded out.

Allowed Should be Avoided Limited Amounts
Monosaccharides—fruits, honey, vegetables and fermented yogurt Starches—potatoes, yams and sweet potatoes Legumes after 3 months of diet **
Almond Flour Disaccharides and polysacharides*
Eggs Corn Syrup
Poultry—chicken, beef, bacon, lamb, turkey Refined and processed sugars—agave syrup, artificial sweeteners
Spices—non Processed meats—sausage, lunch meat, hot dogs, bratwurst, ham
Fish including shellfish All grains—wheat, barley, corn, rye, oats, rice, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, triticale, bulgur, spelt
Unprocessed meats Canned vegetables
Nuts—almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, chestnuts, All milk and lactose containing cheese
Weak tea or coffee Bread
Dry wine–gin, rye, scotch, bourbon, vodka Pasta
Canola oil
No curry, onion or garlic powder
Sweet wine, brandy, sherry, flavored liqueurs
Instant coffee

*lactose, sucrose, maltose and isolmaltose

**i.e. dried beans, lentils and split peas

This list may seem daunting, but it provides one a complete list of what one can eat.  Yes, one might have to become more creative when cooking, but cooking is an art in itself.

So, why are the recommended carbohydrates selected?  It is because the recommended carbohydrates have limited digestive processes, since they do not contain complicated structures and are well absorbed  into the body’s system. Dissacharides and polysaccharides must be broken  down to monosaccharides before they can be absorbed.

Since many ingredients can be listed with multiple name, an avid nutrition label reader can be tripped up with ingredients.  To eliminate any doubt of what’s consumed, it is highly recommended to ONLY eat what is listed in Chapter 9 of the book and/or as Legal on the Legal/Illegal List.

I have not bought the book yet, however, I have read as much as I can online about this diet.  It has been seen that strict following of this diet has positive effects, bringing one’s intestinal flora back in balance, healing one’s digestive tract and restoring proper absorption.

One critic, Dr. Arthur Heller, a gastroenterologist points out that fruits are high in fructose, which is allowed in the diet.  It has been seen that consumption of fructose can cause cramps and diarrhea, symptoms that are originally hoped to be avoided.  Many might not be familiar with this diet and more research will definitely be required to produce a definitive stance on this diet.

In addition to adhering to a comprehensive diet, it is highly recommended to not only list one’s daily food patterns, but symptoms of that day.  It will be very easy to track when adverse effects began and for one to see a correlation between food and certain reactions.

The official website for the diet strongly urges one to book their book “Breaking the Viscous Cycle”, which can be purchased on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and/or Lucys Kitchen Soup online with additional information.

Source: http://www.ccfa.org/resources/specific-carbohydrate-diet.html



  1. How can this diet be alright for people with celiac disease who need to be on a 100% gluten-free diet? The only gluten-containing food listed on this avoid list is bread, but gluten is in so many more breads, grains, and other foods. This diet also restricts foods that do not be avoided by people with celiac disease. Considering all the foods that contain gluten, why limit more foods? It is medically incorrect to state that the SCD is for people with this condition. Also, the diet was not created by Gottschall. Her daughter was treated by Dr. Haas, a renown pediatrician who wrote the diet (prior to the knowledge that gluten is the offending food substance), that she then modified. He created it for children dying of celiac disease, and her daughter with ulcerative colitis was treated by Dr. Haas. My research into the medical literature unearthed what might be the real treatment for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. It is a fecal transplant, a procedure that is currently used to treat Clostridium difficile. Dr. TJ Borody reversed 6 cases of very difficult to treat ulcerative colitis with fecal transplants (see abstract below). That was TEN years ago. I recently heard of a yet unpublished Crohn’s disease case reversed using a fecal transplant. The same may be true for irritable bowel syndrome. I’m a nutrition researcher, but my research led me straight to the bacteria in the intestines. If H. pylori can cause ulcers in the stomach, why can’t other bacteria cause ulcers further down the intestinal tract? It’s the bacteria and the focus on anything else will continue to contribute to people suffering unnecessarily.

    J Clin Gastroenterol. 2003 Jul;37(1):42-7.
    Treatment of ulcerative colitis using fecal bacteriotherapy.
    Borody TJ, Warren EF, Leis S, Surace R, Ashman O.

    Centre for Digestive Diseases, 144 Great North Rd, Five Dock NSW 2046, Australia. tborody@zip.com.au
    BACKGROUND:Although the etiology of idiopathic ulcerative colitis (UC) remains poorly understood, the intestinal flora is suspected to play an important role. Specific, consistent abnormalities in flora composition peculiar to UC have not yet been described, however Clostridium difficile colitis has been cured by the infusion of human fecal flora into the colon. This approach may also be applicable to the treatment of UC on the basis of restoration of flora imbalances.
    GOAL: To observe the clinical, colonoscopic and histologic effects of human probiotic infusions (HPI) in 6 selected patients with UC.
    CASE REPORTS: Six patients (3 men and 3 women aged 25-53 years) with UC for less than 5 years were treated with HPI. All patients had suffered severe, recurrent symptoms and UC had been confirmed on colonoscopy and histology. Fecal flora donors were healthy adults who were extensively screened for parasites and bacterial pathogens. Patients were prepared with antibiotics and oral polyethylene glycol lavage. Fecal suspensions were administered as retention enemas within 10 minutes of preparation and the process repeated daily for 5 days. By 1 week post-HPI some symptoms of UC had improved. Complete reversal of symptoms was achieved in all patients by 4 months post-HPI, by which time all other UC medications had been ceased. At 1 to 13 years post-HPI and without any UC medication, there was no clinical, colonoscopic, or histologic evidence of UC in any patient.
    CONCLUSIONS: Colonic infusion of donor human intestinal flora can reverse UC in selected patients. These anecdotal results support the concept of abnormal bowel flora or even a specific, albeit unidentified, bacterial pathogen causing UC.


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