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The Specific Carbohydrate Diet

Plan's name: The Specific Carbohydrate Diet

Book(s): "Breaking the Vicious Cycle - Intestinal Health Through Diet" by Elaine Gottschall, B.A., M.Sc.. Kirkton Press, Canada, 5th edition 1997 (originally published as "Food and the Gut Reaction", in 1994)

Basic Philosophy: The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) is a strict grain-free, lactose-free, and sucrose-free dietary regimen intended for those suffering from Crohn's Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Celiac Disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The diet goes beyond the standard theory of gluten-intolerance being the sole culprit for pathology in the bowel.

Basically, simple carbohydrates that require no further breaking down in the digestive tract will be absorbed completely in the first segment of the small intestine. When there is incomplete breakdown of the complex carbohydrates, they arrive undigested in the later sections of the small intestine, and the colon. There, they feed the bacteria and yeast, and so the cycle begins. This can lead to more serious malabsorption of all nutrients due to injury to the intestinal surface. The Specific Carbohydrate diet most often corrects malabsorption allowing nutrients to enter the bloodstream and be made available to the cells of the body, thereby strengthening the immune system's ability to fight illness. Further debilitation is prevented, weight can normalize, and ultimately there is a return to health.

Malabsorption is the inability of the cells of the body to obtain nutrients from the foods eaten. As a result, the energy, vitamins and minerals are lost, and all parts of the body are deprived of the proper nourishment. As well as the wasting seen in children and adults, sometimes obesity can be a result of malabsorption - the calories are absorbed, and stored as body fat, but the vital nutrients are not. The cells of the body signal the brain that more nutrients are needed, thus the appetite is triggered to eat more food. Alas, though greater quantities of food are consumed, the body still is unable to absorb enough vital nourishment to ensure cellular health and integrity. The result : obesity caused by overeating, malnourishment of body cells caused by malabsorption, and poor intestinal health from the fermentation of unabsorbed carbohydrates. Another vicious cycle is established!

By the numbers: : N/A

Method: The only carbs allowed are the simple sugars - fructose, glucose and galactose. Disaccharide sugars, made up of two molecules are not allowed, because they do not break down easily. Sucrose, or table sugar is a disaccharide, so is lactose in milk.

As well, certain starch molecules, called amylose starch, are easily broken down and are completely digested. Amylose is found in most vegetables. Another type of starch, amylopectin, is found in grains. It is much more difficult to digest, and any food containing it is not allowed. 

The diet is kept natural and unrefined as much as possible, since sugars and starches are added to just about everything that has been processed.

All natural meats, fish, fowl, eggs, cheese, nuts, fats, butter and oils are allowed, and fish canned in water or oil. As well, home-made yogurt is encouraged for its benefit to bowel health. Non-starchy vegetables, and whole fruits (no juices). Honey may be used, if obesity is not a concern. Zero-carb sweeteners may be used, without filler (maltodextrin is made from corn or barley), or stevia.

Not allowed : grains, not even rice, sucrose sugar including molasses, liquid milk, some beans including soy, white potatoes, corn, margarine, malt, fructose crystals (made from corn) The lists here are incomplete. There are extensive lists of allowed and not-allowed foods in the book. The book includes recipes, as well as suitable infant foods and formulas.

Typical menu: 

  • Breakfast: baked apple, sweetened with honey if allowed, scrambled eggs, muffin made from almond flour, coffee (no cream)
  • Lunch: tuna salad w. home-made mayonnaise, dill pickle, radishes, chives on a bed of lettuce, pumpkin custard, beverage
  • Dinner: home-made spaghetti sauce w. mushrooms & meat, on a bed of steamed spaghetti squash, green salad w. oil & vinegar dressing, fresh fruit, tea

Unique Fatures: The diet is mostly geared to GAINING weight, not weight loss, since many victims of bowel disease are children and young adults who are suffering malabsorption and underweight. However, malabsorption can lead to obesity as well, so the simple carbs found in fruits, beans and some vegetables may need to be restricted. It is recommended that the SCD be followed very strictly for at least 6 months to a year, then slowly foods may be added back. 


Summarized by: Doreen

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