Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The IBS diets (2) The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)

Edit: be sure to read the other parts of the series, about the low FODMAPs diet, the low-carb diet, and the results of my low-carb diet!

Every one of us suffering from IBS knows this: We have so called "trigger foods", that makes us run to the bathroom within minutes. And of course, we have all banished these foods from our diet. But there is more to diet than just suppressing a few ingredients. In fact, some diets are known to give a tremendous relief to a lot of IBS sufferers.
On my last post, I presented the Fodmap diet for IBS. Here is the other renowned diet for IBS, the SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet).

Origin, theory behind the diet

The SCD was created by Doctor Sidney V. Haas in the 1920s.  Elaine Gottschall, in her book breaking the vicious cycle helped popularize it in the seventies. In the book, she stated that lots of bowel related diseases are actually caused by the presence of bad bacteria in the intestinal tract, and that by strictly following the SCD, it was possible to cure these syndromes.
The theory, or vicious cycle, is as follows:
  1. Our modern diet contains lots of complex sugars (also known as carbohydrates: (disaccharides and polysaccharides)
  2. These types of food are hard to digest, especially in certain situations, due to illness or stress, or food intolerances.
  3. When the carbohydrate is not correctly digested, it stays in the tract, becoming food for bad bacteria.
  4. Being well nourished, the bacteria flourish.
  5. Bacteria overgrowth follows.
  6. The presence of harmful bacteria causes injuries and mucus in the digestive tract. 
  7. The digestive tract being inured, it becomes less efficient, therefore carbohydrates become even more difficult to digest. Go back to 2.
To my knowledge, this theory was neither confirmed nor infirmed by scientific studies. It remains a theory.
By forbidding every type of food that nourishes the harmful bacteria, the SCD should allow the overgrowth to stop, thus breaking the vicious cycle.
I would also like to point out that, if this theory holds, l-glutamine also helps, by curing the digestive tract. 

Elaine Gottschall claims it is possible to get rid of irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and coeliac disease using the diet.

Description of the diet

 If you found the Fodmap diet hard to follow, wait until you see this one.
  • No grains, and that means no cereal, no rice, no corn, nothing wheat based
  • Nothing processed, everything must be natural and prepared
  • No starchy foods, and that includes potatoes
  • Nothing canned.
And I am just scratching the surface here. If you are interested in following the diet, I strongly advise you to read the book. You can also look for SCD recipes to get the general idea.

The author claims it is possible to get cured from IBS, or any other bowel illness, by very strictly following the diet for a whole year after the symptoms have totally vanished.

So, in the end, what can we think about such a diet? For me, the impossibility to stuff myself with rice or potatoes makes it almost impossible to follow. I would starve eating only vegetables with meat.
But to be fair, the diet still remains very popular 30 years after the publication of the book, and you can find a lot of SCD success stories on the internet. And this is one of the very few methods that claims to make IBS disappear.

During the last 30 years, science has made some progress, and came up with the low FODMAPs diet for IBS sufferers. A legitimate question is "which one should I choose?" In my last article of the diet series, I will compare both diets to help you make a decision.

5 commentaires:

Chuck said...


I'm following another completely different diet ( It's the complete opposite of this diet (which is wierd!): lots of starchy food, grain (not whole). It a high carb/low fat diet with a focus on soluble fiber. It works well (I used to have 3-4 crisis a week, now it's 1-2 every 3 week -> in combinaison with IBS audio program for stress and anxiety). I still have "urges", but it's way better than it was.


Guillaume said...

Hello Charles,

Yes. the SCD seems a bit out of date, and not necessarily the best choice for IBS sufferers.

Did you have a go at the low fodmap diet? It's working really well for me.

Chuck said...


Not right now. I'm continuing my current diet for about 2 or 3 more months to see if it provides a lasting “relief” from my symptoms. If not, I’ll give a go to the fodmap diet.

I find that for each thing I tried (except for prescribed drugs which where catastrophic, that’s why I’ve lost all hope in traditional medicine) it provide only a short time relief (up to 3 months for my first try with a hypnotherapist). My symptoms always reappear sometimes weaker, but tend to go back to the same at it was before.

For now I’m looking at completing the IBS audio program (I’m at the very start, 10 sessions done) and continuing my diet. Which is terribly hard to mix with a normal lifestyle without cheating a bit (or much more when I’m going out!). I’m hoping that will at least stabilize me more.

Marilyn said...

SCD works! And... it's not all that hard.I've traveled to Canada four times, to the UK and Ireland, had two hurricane evacuations (Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav) and still managed to stay 100% SCD. I maintain that there is no food which is so delicious that being sick all the time is worth it to have that food. Today's dinner: BBQ pork ribs and coleslaw. Tomorrow, shrimp, oyster and artichoke bisque. On Christmas Day, turkey, dressing, gravy, brie spinach, cranberry sauce, apple-cranberry-pecan compote, mock sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie with egg nog ice cream. On Monday, meat loaf and leftover coleslaw. On Tuesday, steaks, Caesar salad, and bread. On Wednesday, Mexican style burritoes with guacamole, sour cream, and other goodies. Limited? Not on your life!

Guillaume said...

Hello Marilyn, glad to know you found the diet that suits you. I'm actually more and more convinced that the SCD works, along with diets like the low-carb diet.

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...