The Specific Carbohydrate Diet

When I first discovered that I had Crohn’s Disease, a friend from church and a relative 1900 miles away suggested the SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet), almost simultaneously. My family and I stepped out in faith to try it out, believing that God was pointing me in that direction. I have not regretted our decision, though the struggle has been hard.

What is the Specific Carbohydrate Diet?

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet was designed to heal the afflicted intestines and control symptoms. The reasons why food is not digested properly are laid out in Elaine Gottschall’s book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle. It is necessary for any person suffering gastrointestinal disorders or maladies such as Autism to read this book thoroughly before embarking upon the diet. I didn’t, and I suffered the consequences later on.

To summarize briefly what the book details: Because many people with disorders like Crohn’s and Celiac Disease have lost the ability to digest disaccharides, a mucus layer develops in the intestine, blocking digestive enzymes from the disaccharides. There is an imbalance of bacteria in the intestines, which results in the malabsorption of nutrients.

Carbohydrates give energy to the intestinal microbes in a person’s system, continually feeding them so they grow. Thus, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet eliminates all the detrimental carbohydrates. These  include wheat (corn, as well), starches, and sugar.

So, what can you eat? Simple. Meat, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Bacon is an occasional treat, if fried crisply. Of course, you may be more sensitive to it than others. I can’t eat more than two slices once a week. Honey can be used in place of sugar. There are certain restrictions on fruits and vegetables as well (like potatoes), but it will be worth it cutting them out of your diet (see Breaking the Vicious Cycle for a list of “legal” and “illegal” foods). Some dairy is allowed; some cheeses and yogurt, if it is homemade, but NO milk. Instructions for homemade yogurt can also be found in Elaine Gottschall’s book. At some point, you will be able to introduce nut flours into your diet. The flour recommended is blanched almond flour (so far, we found that Lucy’s Kitchen Shop has the best deal), though I cannot handle that as well. I am on the verge of trying coconut flour, which is a little less expensive. When I’ve experimented with it, I will post my results.

This is a diet that must claim your careful attention and diligence. I realized after two years that I would never be able to completely go back to normal eating. My advice is that you don’t think ahead to the day where you can be “free” to eat whatever you please. Since you may not be able to do that, I wouldn’t get my hopes up. Pray for peace. The Lord has put you in this situation. He wants to see you grow through it.

And don’t think that this diet is a burden! Sure, it’s hard at first, but once you get used to cooking in this way and reading labels, it won’t be so bad. Nowadays, I forget that I’m even on this diet, and my friends are always surprised at the wide variety of food I can make.

The Beginner’s Diet

That’s what my mom and I call the first stage of the SCD. For the first five days, the diet is extremely strict, allowing only those foods which will be easy on the system. The point of the Beginner’s Diet is to give your intestines a break. It’s a rest period for things to settle down. When I first started, my insides were so inflamed I stayed on this diet for even longer than they told me to. It’ll be different for everyone.

For a list of the SCD stages, go here. My mom found this later on, after I’d been on the diet for several months. It would’ve helped me so much more to have this at the very beginning.

I also suggest that, at any stage of the diet, if you have a relapse, go back to this beginner’s diet for a few days. I personally go on all liquids for the first two days, then I implement one solid meal on the third day, two on the fourth, and then all three on the fifth.

Above all, don’t give up. It is likely that, even if you are pain/reaction-free for months, you could have a sudden relapse here and there. Don’t be discouraged. The future results will far outweigh any relapses in between.

If you decide to embark upon this journey, I pray for your continued success. God bless!

17 thoughts on “The Specific Carbohydrate Diet

  1. I have had great success with coconut flour. I don’t do well with too much almond flour, so the coconut flour is a great alternative. I love the taste and it takes very little per recipe, so it last a long time. I think in Elaine’s book, she says that it is harder to digest, but I have found it easier on me than almond flour. Look forward to hearing your results with it 🙂

    I am going back to grain free today! I would appreciate your prayers 😉

  2. These food intolerances can seem like a curse at first, but at the end of the day- we all look better, feel better… and what we thought was a bad thing has turned out to be a blessing in disguise! You look fantastic and eating the way your body needs to will keep you healthy and happy… hopefully without ever needing to take medicine? Going gluten-free was one of the best things that ever happened to me and I am sure that going on the SCDiet would be even better for all of us becaus eit means avoiding sugar(which is supposedly really good for your skin- you won’t get in any wrinkles!!!!). Anyway, good luck! I know you’ll do great!

    • Thanks!

      I do take medications right now… unfortunately, I was diagnosed in the hospital, after emergency exploratory surgery. We didn’t start the diet until a month later, and my case was so severe, we decided to do both medication and diet together. I have been praying that my doctor will be open to the idea of weaning off the medications soon…

  3. Pingback: Of Food and Travel « Free to Feast

  4. My youngest daughter is seven. I have been doing the GAP diet which is basically the Specific Carboyhydrate Diet. It has done wonders for her. We do not have a specific name for what she has. The doctors just kept saying she had allegeries. We stopped all doctors and tried to figure it out ourselves. When I read about our gut diseases, I knew what we were dealing with. Today, her belly is no longer bloated and she goes to the bathroom with no blood. She was finally able to learn her alaphet and now reads well. That is all in one year! Praise God! Thank you for sharing your story. It is good to have others to share the journey with.

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  6. My son has been on the scd diet for u.c. for the past 3 years and symptom free for 19mnths, a week ago he took a relapse even though he sticks to the diet 100%, we are so dissapointed and worried, what do we do? He is back on the intro diet but no better, bloody diarrhoea several times a day, the only option his G.I. gave was surgery as he was so allergic to all other meds, I dont want to go down that road again. We too believe God led us to this diet and know there must be a reason but it doesnt make it any easier, just looking for some advise, thank you.

    • Hi, Barbara!

      I am so sorry to hear that your son has relapsed. I certainly understand how that feels. Since I am by no means an expert, I am not sure what advice I can give, but if your son has been on the intro diet for a while now with no improvement and he can’t take preventative meds, I am not sure what other options there are. The longer he continues with symptoms, the worse the damage will be. I would caution you not to write off the doctors’ advice right off, because you definitely don’t want your son to get worse. Have you talked with your doctors about the medications recently? Maybe they can find one that he isn’t allergic to. If you push doctors a little bit, they will look for options 😉

      One thing I had to keep reminding myself over the years is that God is in control. We don’t know why things happen the way they do, and we certainly wouldn’t have planned our lives out the way He did. Yet, here we are.

      I will be praying for you and your son as you struggle with decisions. As you said, there is a reason for it all, and God will make it clear what you need to do, even if it’s hard.

      • Thank you so much for your quick reply, I have got him out of flare up before with the intro diet, so probably wait a few days and if no improvement I will make an appointment with the doctor and maybe try a course of steroids, thank you again, it helps to share. God Bless.

  7. Hi Denise, Well my son was started on prednisilone 30mg a week ago with no improvement, he is still on the intro diet and has lost a lot of weight which he cannot afford. We are still praying we will see an improvement soon. My question is, in your experience can he go straight from the intro diet to where we left or go through all the stages again.I am afraid to add anything else to his diet when he is still having bloody diarrhoea. We had been following tbe stages from scd lifestyle. I am reluctant to let him have drugs with so many terrible side effects.

    • Since he is still experiencing symptoms, I wouldn’t go back to where you left off just yet. I never did until I was symptom-free. But I am certainly not an expert. The best advice I can give at this point is to keep talking with your doctors and see what the options are. He may need some more serious treatment if he continues this way.

      I will certainly continue to pray for you guys! I know how hard these decisions can be. God bless!

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