SCD stands for Specific Carbohydrate Diet. It was developed by Elaine Gottschall to ease the symptoms of her daughter’s ulcerative colitis over fifty years ago. She went on to write a widely-recognized book called Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet that has helped many individuals with everything from digestive diseases to autism.
My naturopath introduced me to SCD when my SIBO results came back positive. I had already been following a dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, fruit-free, low FODMAP diet when she made the recommendation. The change I realized I was going to have to make: no more daily mid-afternoon treats at Petunia’s Pies & Pastries, no more corn tortillas on my weekly taco Fridays with my dad, and no more of dad’s homemade popcorn.
It was not until I began this diet that I realized what a carbohydrate addict I was. My withdrawal symptoms made me feel awful: mood swings, irritability, instiable hunger, etc. (thanks family for putting up with me during those first awful few weeks!) I always knew I was a “sugar” addict (I even bought a book in high school called “Lick the Sugar Habit”). I had tried to eliminate sugar from my diet several times before and failed each time. This time, I had to eliminate all of my carbohydrate indulgences.
Unfortunately, I did not take the right approach when I began SCD. I started replacing my afternoon Petunia’s sweets fix with banana, honey, almond milk, peanut butter, ice smoothies. My body couldn’t handle the increased exposure to nuts and fructose, causing me to fail to realize the benefits of SCD that I needed to cure my SIBO.
Find a list of SCD legal & illegal foods here. Basically, it is grain-free, low in carbohydrates, and free of starchy vegetables, lactose, and sweeteners other than honey.
Why SCD wasn’t enough for me:
- It allows honey and fruit. According to Dr. Allison Siebecker, about one-third of individuals with SIBO also experience fructose malabsorption. For me, fructose is highly problematic. Surprisingly, I can actually tolerate cane sugar much better than honey because it has a better balance of glucose and fructose. (When a friend first told me he was allergic to fruit, I protested: “how could that be?” “fruit is healthy!” To that friend- I am sorry for doubting you! To those of you who think unlimited amounts of fruit are healthy- please be careful!)
- It allows homemade fermented dairy products. Similarly to the problem I discussed on the page about FODMAPs, there are two potentially problematic components to dairy for people with SIBO: lactose and casein. SCD only eliminates the lactose.
- It does not take into consideration FODMAPs. Foods such as avocados, apples, and broccoli are permitted on SCD, but I knew these foods caused me discomfort. Combining the SCD & FODMAP approaches was more appropriate for managing my symptoms and beginning on the path to healing my gut.