Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)


The Specific Carbohydrate Diet was introduced by Dr. Merrill Haas and made popular by Elaine Gottschall in Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet eliminates all disaccharides (two-sugar molecules) and polysaccharides (starches).  Only monosaccharides (glucose, fructose and galactose) such as fruits, honey, and most non-starchy vegetables are allowed. In a nutshell (so to speak), this means all sugars (except monosaccharides) and starches are out, including but not limited to table sugar, maple syrup, rice, pastas, breads, potatoes, certain beans, rice milk, and cornstarch. The diet uses the principle that some individuals cannot digest carbohydrates, most likely due to damage to the small intestine mucosa.  This maldigestion leads to malaborption of disaccharides, which cause bacteria and yeast overgrowth as they feed on the unabsorbed complex sugars.  These bacteria destroy enzymes further inhibiting carbohydrate metabolism and creating further damage to the small intestine villi and microvilli completing a “vicious cycle” that continues to deteriorate. Since monosaccharides are already single sugar molecules nothing needs to be broken down.  By absorbing immediately into the small intestine, these sugars can be eaten with no problem and appear to not feed the harmful microorganisms.  When to use this diet:  SCD was originally used for those with severe intestinal damage suffering from diseases like ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s, and celiac.  It can be very help for those with ASDs that involve chronic diarrhea.  While some practictioners use SCD for those with “simple” candida overgrowth; I prefer to use it for those with candida that have diarrhea and/or chronic inflammation.  For other cases of candida, I typically use other diets—as this diet can be difficult for some and I’m not completely convinced that the yeast is not fed by the monosaccharides.  For this diet to work, no infractions may occur so while you can add further restrictions to it (for example, eliminating dairy), you cannot add “illegal” foods to the diet. Pitfalls: As this diet does not use any starches, nut flours are highly relied on for making “crackers” and “breads.”  This makes it very difficult for those with nut allergies and intolerances or schools that have a no nut policy.  It can be done without nuts but the child needs to have a diverse enough diet to eat basically meat, vegetables, and fruit.  Too high protein is also a concern on this diet, as it can create high ammonia in the body.  If someone eats a lot of (SCD-compliant) beans, oxalates and lectins can be a problem for some. Clinical Experience:  Some children have a wonderful response to this diet.  A smaller percentage of my clients are on this diet compared to GFCF but for those that it works for, it works amazingly well.  Children often have diarrhea go away on this diet.   I’ve heard several stories from parents at conferences that for some children with chronic inflammation, who are on steroids, this diet has been literally a lifesaver.  In my practice, I find that this diet works wonders in a short period of time (couple days to a couple weeks), if it’s going to work. From Nourishing Hope

Julie Matthews is a Certified Nutrition Consultant who received her master’s degree in medical nutrition with distinction from Arizona State University. She is also a published nutrition researcher and has specialized in complex neurological conditions, particularly autism spectrum disorders and ADHD for over 20 years. Julie is the award winning author of Nourishing Hope for Autism, co-author of a study proving the efficacy of nutrition and dietary intervention for autism published in the peer-reviewed journal, Nutrients, and also the founder of BioIndividualNutrition.com. Download her free guide, 12 Nutrition Steps to Better Health, Learning, and Behavior.