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!
- I entered this post in Slightly Indulgent Tuesday: Get the Gluten Out! 3/30/10