The Specific Carbohydrate Diet: Positives and Negatives

June 3, 2009

Hi Galina,
I have been suffering from UC for two years. I am currently on Mesasal pills and I have just started on SCD by Elaine Gottschall. Have you heard of it? Please let me know when Colitis Healing Manual is out. Thank you.

Hello Igor!

Thanks for writing. The Mesasal / Mesalamine medication you are taking now is used to treat mild-to-moderate ulcerative colitis. You are doing the right thing for your gut by trying the Specific Carbohydrate Diet from Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet by Elaine Gottschall.

I have used SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) in the past. I know the “Breaking the Vicious Cycle” book by heart. Gottschall’s book offers valuable insight on different types of carbohydrates and how they affect our digestion. I have seen numerous testimonials from colitis and Crohn’s disease patients saying that the SCD helped relieve the symptoms of their illness and even cured them completely.

As a former ulcerative colitis patient I followed the Specific Carbohydrate Diet for six months. However, SCD did nothing to heal my colitis. After years of trial-and-error with different diets, foods and remedies, I finally understood why the Specific Carbohydrate Diet failed me.  Colon inflammation can be caused by any of the following: viral, parasitic, bacterial infection, food sensitivity/allergy, etc.  Unfortunately, SCD does not address all of these issues.

If your disease is the result of a parasitic infection, SCD cannot treat it.
My colitis was a result of an anaerobic parasitic infection (entamoeba histolytica, to be specific). Parasitic infection symptoms are similar to Colitis/Chron’s disease (bloody diarrhea, weight loss, abdominal pain, fever).

Parasitic/bacterial infection must be treated first with antibiotics, then any possible food sensitivities must be eliminated. If your disease (IBS, Colitis, Chron’s) is the result of a parasitic infection, SCD is useless.

SCD does not address all issues associated with gut disbalance.
The next step is to address possible candida/yeast infection, leaky gut syndrome and dysbiosis.  Then dietary measures have to be adjusted on case by case basis.

Positive aspects of The Specific Carbohydrate Diet

  • Gluten-free.
  • High in protein and fiber.

Negative aspects of The Specific Carbohydrate Diet

  • Not suitable for someone with heart disease because it is high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Harmful for people with small intestine bacteria overgrowth, like in IBS and yeast/candida problems (too much honey, cheese and fruit juice).
  • Allows the consumption of diet soft drinks sweetened with saccharin, a known carcinogenic substance that can trigger abdominal pain and diarrhea.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet can be a great starting point for IBD/IBS patients, but for diet to be effective, it must address yeast/candida and intestinal bacteria overgrowth issues (which are very common in ulcerative colitis). To promote total colon healing takes more than just a diet. You need to add certain modalities such as acupuncture, hydrotherapy, nutraceuticals, etc.

That is why I am writing a Colitis Healing Manual – I will definitely let you know when it comes out.


9 Responses

  1. Hi,

    My husband has Crohn’s and we are currently beginning the SCD. How do you know if your disease is the result of a parasitic infection? Are there tests that can be run?

    Thanks so much!

    Tara 🙂

  2. Hello Tara!
    You are asking a great question on how to identify a connection between Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative colitis and parasitic infection.
    As a result of parasitic infection people can suffer from diarrhea, blood in the stool, bloating, cramps, itchy anus, joint pain and chronic fatigue.
    A stool analysis is used to detect the presence of intestinal parasites and their eggs (called the stool for O & P – ova and parasites). Recent studies indicate that over 50% Americans have at least one type of parasite. Most doctors are not aware of the connection between digestive distress and parasitic infection. It took me 2 years, one hospitalization and 12 visits to 3 different gastroenterologists before I was diagnosed with Entamoeba histolytica infection. Your doctor should test your husband for parasites at least twice using purged stool analysis or I can help your husband to do the parasitology test.
    Regards! Galina

  3. Well, I have an IBD (diagnosed by biopsy during colonoscopy), and I have been cured by the SCD diet. Yes, CURED. I’m not afraid to say it. Elaine says in her book: if the diet doesn’t result in improvements in the first month, then it won’t work for you ( you have other issues); if you see improvements in that first month, then it WILL work for you. I am so grateful for this diet (and Elaine and Dr. Haas). NO cheating at all- and it works! I suffered for 10 years- serious meds and very bad health. Now, everything is different. NO MEDS at all. NO SYMPTOMS at all. NORMAL, HEALTHY! Go figure! Life is amazing.

  4. Hi Susan!
    My congratulations with your success in healing IBD with SCD diet only. Obviously, you belong to a lucky group of people that can be healed using SCD diet. However, many of my patients and myself included could not be healed by SCD diet alone. Your comment prompted me to repeat again that I am writing my Colitis Healing Manual for those who cannot and will never be healed with this diet alone.
    As I have been saying all along: colitis has many faces and many causes. And for some of us not only diet has to be changed but also other causes of colitis must be addressed such as bacterial, viral, yeast and parasitic infections as well as leaky gut syndrome, food allergies and dysbiosis. Once again, I am happy for your long standing remission.

  5. I’ve had diagnosed UC for 3 years. Drugs don’t work!(i.e Mesalamine) and tried the SCD for 3 months! just lost waste! and no results.
    I agree that it seems that UC is the end result of a variety of causes! The problem is to find that cause!
    I’ve had tests for celiac in first colonoscopy that was negative!
    I’ve been diagnosed as lactose intolerant. I stopped milk products no good!
    I’ve tried juicing, no good!
    I’ve gone on a meat free diet, no good!
    I’ve tried probiotics, no good!although I have yet to try VSL#3
    I’ve gone to a naturopta, but he had no experience with UC. and I promptly left!
    My UC. is not really too debilitating. However, I just want normal bowel function!

  6. Hello S. E:
    Many of my patients are a lot like you. They have been searching for UC cure and tried different things to get UC relief and establish “normal bowel function”.
    Although, current studies promote heavily VSL#3 for UC patients, I would advise you against trying VSL#3 because it contains maltose and cornstarch, which patients with active UC have problem digesting triggering bloating, gas and more diarrhea.
    On the other hand, below you can see an excerpt form A PATIENT PROGRESS REPORT from one of my patients who has been on my program for just 7 days.

    I feel really good. No blood, no mucus, no diarrhea.
    My energy is good. My mood is good.
    I have stuck to phase 1 the whole time.
    Should I move on to phase 2?
    Thanks for checking in on me.
    Happy new year!

    But I guess one never knows unless he/she tries. Whatever your decision is, just remember one thing: your UC is curable and do not wait until it will become debilitating.
    Best of Health,

  7. SCD doesn’t allow diet soft drinks. I never found that anywhere in the book or the websites.

  8. Hi Jackie,
    Please check page 57 of SCD book:” Breaking the vicious Cycle”. Here is the exact quote from this book:” Diet soft drinks sweetened with saccharih need not to be limited to only one a week: 2-3 would be permissable”. And I consider that as one of the negatives of The Specific Carbohydrate Diet.

  9. Problem is soft drinks, even if they use saccarin as a sweetner, have all types of other illegal things in them.

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