The Specific Carbohydrate Diet
How to Follow the Diet
The critical first step in starting the diet is to read Elaine Gottschall’s book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle. The book includes step-by-step instructions on how to begin, as well as a detailed overview of the types of food allowed and not allowed on the diet. To maximize your chance for success, make sure to read the book in its entirety at least once prior to starting the diet. The SCD™ is progressive, and certain foods are gradually added to the program once symptoms such as diarrhea have subsided. Failure to follow the recommended process could result in a suboptimal result.
In general the diet encourages the consumption of fresh and frozen vegetables, unprocessed meat and fish, fruit, cheeses with low lactose content, homemade yogurt, eggs, nuts, nut flours, and several types of beans. This list is far from exhaustive, though, and one should consult the book or websites dedicated to the diet for additional guidance on specific foods or food additives.
Beginning the diet will be an adjustment at first. You will be paying more attention to food labels than you ever have before. And there will be a learning curve as you gain understanding of the rules of the diet.
You may be tempted to break the diet occasionally in the beginning, particularly if it requires you to give up some of your favorite foods. We urge you to be diligent and not deviate from the prescribed food groups. In those vital first few months, even a small amount of an illegal food can significantly impede your progress.
Remember, the diet is challenging, but it could be worth the effort. Watching your symptoms disappear will be its own reward. Be diligent and don’t compromise.
The following table provides a high level overview of the foods considered legal (allowed) and illegal (foods to avoid) on the diet. This table is found in Raman Prasad’s cookbook Recipes for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet™, an excellent resource for individuals following the SCD™.
Meat & Fish
Fresh or frozen; poultry. fish, beef, lamb and shellfish
Processed meats such as hot dogs, cold cuts and fast food. Most smoked meats and fish
- Processed meats and most smoked meats contain sugars and other additives.
- Some canned fish and cured meats may be safe if they contain no sugars, additives or preservatives.
Most fresh or frozen vegetables, including carrots, broccoli, onions, tomato, squashes and many others; Canned vegetables
Potatoes, yams and other starchy root vegetables; Packaged vegetables with additional sugars or preservatives
- Some dried or pickled vegetables may be safe if they contain no sugars, additives or preservatives
Fresh or frozen fruit with no added sugar, such as bananas (with ripe, speckled small brown spots), apples, pears and others; Dried fruit with no added sugars or other preservatives/additives
Canned fruit with added sugars or other additives; Dried fruit with added sugars or othe additives
- Fruit should not be tried while diarrhea is active
- When first adding fruit to the diet, peel and cook it
Grains are not included on the diet
Grains, including bread, rice, pasta, cereal and products with corn
- These grains contain carbohydrates that are not properly digested by an injured intestine. Undigested, they become the primary source of energy for harmful bacteria
Homemade yogurt; Natural cheeses where the whey is removed and the remaining lactose is “cured,” such as Cheddar, Colby, Havarti, Monterey, Jack, Parmesan, Swiss and others; Dry curd cottage cheese (also known as farmer’s cheese or hoop cheese); Butter
Milk; Processed cheese, such as American cheese; Fresh cheeses, such as mozzarella and ricotta; Cheese with additives or coloring; Milk products, such as ice cream; Margarine
- Homemade yogurt is fermented for a longer amount of time to reduce the lactose content
- Check the online resources on page 211 for other allowable cheeses
Cooking oils, including those made with grains, such as olive, vegetable, canola and sesame oil
Cooking oils with additives, such as cooking sprays
Nut flours, such as blanched almond flour and pecan flour; Nuts with no additives, such as almonds, Brazil nuts, raw cashews, hazelnuts, pecans and pine nuts; Nut butters with no additives, especially added sugar, such as cashew butter and peanut butter; Nut extracts with no additives
Nuts with added starches, such as those in nut mixes; Pre-chopped nuts with preservatives; Prechopped nuts with preservatives (e.g. the preservative BHT)
- Use nuts only in the form of nut flour until diarrhea has cleared up
- Be cautious of roasted nuts, especially cashews, which often have unlisted additives (see food labeling information o npages 20-21)
- Wait six months before trying peanuts
- Nut flours, such as almond flour, may be purchased in bulk (see teh resources section on page 211 for details).
- Almond flour and almond butter must be made from blanched almonds
Legumes / Beans
Dry white beans (also called navy or haricot), lentils, lima beans, split peas and yellow split peas
Soybeans, bean sprouts, black-eyed beans, fava beans, garbanzo beans and pinto beans; Canned beans; Bean flour (not soaked prior to grinding)
- Legumes and beans should not be tried until three months after diarrhea has subsideed
- Prepare beans and lentils by soaking overnight, 10 to 14 hours. Change the water halfway through the soaking process. Also, rinse the beans at the end of the soaking
- By soaking the beans, the starches begin to break down
- Check online resources (see page 211) for othe rallowable beans
Honey; Saccharin in small quantities
Starches, and added sugar, including corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, cane sugar and molasses; Maple syrup; Stevia; Chocolate, carob and cocoa
Spices of all kinds (with no added starch or anticaking agents)
Spice mixes (these usually have added ingredients)
- Buy individual spices, not mixtures
- Read the ingredients, because even major brands of salt have added sugar in the form of dextrose
Fruit juices with no added sugars; Very dry wine
Juices packed in boxes; Beer, sherry, cordials, liquers or brandy
When diarrhea is active, do not have orange juice in the morning. Be especially careful when purchasing fruit juices. If you don’t seem to tolerate a particular brand. Sugars may have been added that are not on the ingredients list
We are frequently asked how long one should expect to follow the diet before seeing results. Unfortunately, it is quite difficult to generalize, as the answer depends on a range of factors, including the type and severity of the disease. However, many patients report some improvement in as little as a few weeks, with significant improvements occurring in the first six months.
Things to Consider
Remember to be patient and strictly adhere to the diet for best results. Even an occasional deviation from the diet can impede progress and set you back on the road to healing.
Please consult with your doctor prior to beginning the SCD™, to make sure you are made aware of any special instructions he or she may have for you. In the event your condition improves while on the diet, your doctor may wish to gradually reduce your use of prescription medication. Make sure to follow your doctor‘s instructions for tapering off your medication, as an abrupt stoppage may have serious adverse consequences.
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