SCD - The Diet That's Simply Courageous!


An unsung hero, the SCD has been a champion to many sufferers of digestive disorders like Ulcerative Colitis, food allergies/sensitivities, IBS, and Celiac Disease.[1]  It is based on the understanding that the disorders are due to an imbalance of intestinal beneficial bacteria, and overgrowth of the "bad" bacteria.[1]

It resembles other digestive healing diets, but the differences go beyond the typical "grain avoidance" that are common to keto and paleo.  SCD allows legumes, nuts, and hard cheeses, in addition to it's mainstay of fruits, vegetables and meats.[1]

Foods To Include:

* fruits

* vegetables

* homemade fermented yogurt only (not store-bought)

*  beans (as tolerated)

*  nuts, nut flours, and nut butters

The main culprits "illegal" on the SCD diet are based basically on a polysaccharide avoidance.  Polysaccharides are multiple-chain sugars.  The body has to break food down into monosaccharides and so for those that have a hard time digesting food into smaller pieces can have an issue with polysaccharides.[2]  This diet avoids all polysaccharides that can increase digestive discomfort and feed the bad bacteria that is likely overgrown in the dysfunctional guts of their host (you). 

Polysaccharides that are avoided on the diet are [1]:

*  all grains

*  all refined sugars

*  starchy tubers like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams

*  canned and processed foods and canola oils are also avoided

Who Will Most Likely Benefit?
The diet can move people beyond the plateau that a gluten free diet can sometimes shelve them on, and reach beyond the benefits of a grain free diet.  By reducing inflammation by eliminating these illegal polysaccharides, this can be a good diet for digestive disorders of all kinds.

While more research is needed, Seattle Children's Hospital is one that has introduced SCD as a component to their pediatric IBD protocol after research conducted demonstrated an association with a decrease in active symptoms.[3]

Also an online survey of 417 participants using the SCD diet showed that in 6 to 12 months, 42% had achieved remission. [4]

Another pediatric study demonstrated that children who followed the diet with strict adherence all gained weight (a good thing in a disease where weight loss is common) and it was determined that control of the disease could be attained with the SCD diet. [5]

Who is this diet NOT meant for?
The diet relies on meat and while it can be customized, the risk of limiting too many categories of beneficial nutrients can be a challenge, so if there are cultural or religious considerations that include meat, one needs to really work with their nutritionist to make sure this diet is the right fit. 

Other than that there really aren't any risk groups because it is easily customizable to needs.  Ripe with the use of nuts, nut flours, and nut butters, even those with nut allergies can still benefit by custom fitting their plan, you'll just want to make sure to avoid those recipes.  Those with dairy restricitions are still encouraged to try and just subtract dairy products from their list. [2]

The Goods and Bads Don't End at the Bacteria:  Here are the pros and cons to Be Aware Of:
The benefits that are favored are the fact that the diet puts people back in control of how their body feels as symptoms can begin to alter within days, particularly if they are following an SCD plan that begins with a specialized intro diet. [2]

It's based on simple foods of simpler times.  

It allows the chance at recovery and reduction of inflammation

Challenges are that it is very non-conventional and includes nothing processed.  This can mean that it has historically been difficult finding foods when you're on the go and also means that a person on the SCD spends a good amount of time in preparation in the kitchen. 

If it sounds like a fit for you, there are things you can do to make it easier!

*  Find fun websites with great recipes like

*  Get excited about trying new things!  It's a great opportunity to see what you can do with a pantry full of the basics.

*  Cook once, eat multiply.  Double every meal you cook so you can freeze or refrigerate a portion for later.  Make things like SCD legal cookies, breads, and muffins in batches and pull one out of the freezer one at a time.

SCD is a wonderful dietary complement to your healing protocol and could be a good fit.  It certainly is worth checking into it.

Here are some Resources to get started:

"Breaking the Vicious Cycle" Elaine Gottschall

Good luck!

1  Ross, Kim. "SCD." Lecture, Masters in Clinical Nutrition, SCNM, Tempe, Arizona, 2021.

2  Gottschall, Elaine G. Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet. Kirkton, Ont. : Kirkton Press, 1994.

3  Obih C, Wahbeh G, Lee D, et al. Specific carbohydrate diet for pediatric inflammatory bowel disease in clinical practice within an academic IBD center. Nutrition. 2016;32(4):418-425. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2015.08.025

4  Suskind DL, Wahbeh G, Cohen SA, et al. Patients Perceive Clinical Benefit with the Specific Carbohydrate Diet for Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Dig Dis Sci. 2016;61(11):3255-3260. doi:10.1007/s10620-016-4307-y

5  Burgis JC, Nguyen K, Park KT, Cox K. Response to strict and liberalized specific carbohydrate diet in pediatric Crohn's disease. World J Gastroenterol. 2016;22(6):2111-2117. doi:10.3748/wjg.v22.i6.2111

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