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The specific carbohydrate diet also called (SCD) is a restrictive grain-free diet plan that has been improving the quality of human life for many years. People suffering from inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, diverticulosis, irritable bowel syndrome, cystic fibrosis, and chronic diarrhea have seen positive changes in their condition while on the SCD diet plan. Some people also claim that SCD also helps with gastrointestinal problems in some children with autism. As the name itself suggests - specific carbohydrate diet, the diet permits only foods that are grain-free, sugar-free, starch-free, and unprocessed foods.

How does SCD diet works?

The theory behind SCD is that by eliminating complex carbohydrates and restricting certain types of sugar, harmful bacteria in the gut will no longer be fed. The SCD diet is a way of eliminating complex carbohydrates like lactose and sucrose, which cause gastro-intestinal problems in the digestive process.

The SCD diet claims to inhibit the growth of unhealthy bacteria and restore your digestive tract by eliminating the complex carbohydrate food sources that consist of two or more linked sugar molecules (polysaccharides and oligosaccharides). The SCD diet has also proven to be effective in treating autoimmune and other inflammatory diseases.

Foods to Avoid on the SCD Diet

You are encouraged to avoid any food that contains two or more chemically linked sugar molecules. In scientific terms, any food with oligosaccharides, disaccharides, or polysaccharides will appear on the list of restrictive foods. Here are some of them:

  • Sugars, including maple syrup, molasses, sucrose (table sugar), maltose, isomaltose, and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
  • All grains, including rice, corn, wheat, wheat germ, oats, barley, and grain-based products, including pasta, bread, and baked goods made with breakfast cereals and grain-based flour
  • Starchy tubers, such as sweet potatoes, potatoes, and turnips
  • Processed and canned meats including pepperoni, salami, lunch meats, chicken, and canned tuna
  • Dairy products that are rich in lactose, including milk, store-bought yogurt, mild cheddar cheese, sour cream, cream, and ice cream
  • Candy and chocolate
  • Soy and soy products

Allowed Foods

The SCD diet allows the following foods

  • Fresh meats without any additives, such as beef, pork, and goat
  • Poultry foods such as eggs, chicken, duck, turkey, quail, etc.
  • Fish and shellfish, including crab, lobster, shrimp, clams, tuna, salmon, scallops, cod, sardines, herring, etc.
  • Certain legumes, including peas, dried navy beans, split peas, lima beans, and all-natural peanut butter
  • Certain cheeses, including Colby, Cheddar, and Swiss
  • Homemade yogurt that is fermented for at least 24 hours
  • Fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits such as apples, berries, bananas, broccoli, mushrooms, spinach, peppers, etc.
  • Most nuts and nut flours, like chestnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, and pecans
  • Most cooking oils, including extra-virgin olive oil
  • Unsweetened coffee and tea
  • Honey as a natural sweetener

How to Follow the Diet?

The SCD diet is an elimination type of diet. The elimination generally consists of three phases – elimination, maintenance phase, followed by reintroduction phase.

During the elimination phase, the SCD-restricted foods are eliminated including grains, processed foods, and most dairy products, and only consume healthy and easily digestible foods.

The next phase is the maintenance phase, in this phase, the SCD allowed foods are consumed adhesively for a period of time (mostly 1 year after the symptoms have disappeared).

The final phase is the reintroduction phase. This phase involves the reintroduction of eliminated foods slowly over several weeks when you do not see any symptoms.

Benefits of Following SCD Diet

The SCD diet has been shown to relieve inflammation in the intestine and reduce or eliminate symptoms in both adults and children with IBD.

The common benefits of the SCD diet include

  • Improvement in the gut health
  • Changes in the gut microbiome
  • Total remission of symptoms
  • Possibility of discontinuing medications for ulcerative colitis

In a 2018 case study, it was reported that substantial changes in fecal microbiome happened in a person with ulcerative colitis two weeks after he had started the SCD diet. Some of the participants noticed changes as early as a week after starting the diet. However, the same result may not be applied to a large population.

Risks and Downsides

The primary risk with SCD is nutritional deficiencies. You eliminate certain foods and sometimes entire food groups and this may increase the risk of developing nutritional deficiencies. You may not get enough nutrients including calcium, vitamin B6, folate, thiamine, and vitamin D.

Due to the strict guidelines in the diet, people may find it challenging to follow it but, it takes time and a lot of patience to see the expected results. However, with long-term support from dieticians, and health care professionals a person can adapt and thrive to a new diet and way of life.

Remedies to Counteract Risks

The best way to prevent nutritional deficiencies that may happen due to the restrictive foods in SCD is to ensure food substitutes and consume vitamin supplements recommended by the healthcare professional. You can even on board to paleo autoimmune protocol diet if you are ulcerative colitis. As the AIP diet also eliminates inflammatory foods and encourages eating healthy and gut-healing foods that can be beneficial for the condition.

Use AIP Diet Supplements