Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet introduced by Dr. Merrill Haas and made popular by Elaine Gottschall in “Breaking the Vicious Cycle” is a diet commonly used for those with chronic inflammatory bowel conditions.  It is often autistic spectrum disorders especially those with significant digestive disorders.

SCD 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 most carbohydrates (most likely due to damage to the small intestine mucosa).  This maldigestion leads to malaborption of disaccharides, which causes 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.  Monosaccharides are the exception - 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 without adding to the inflammation and appear to not feed the harmful microorganisms.

When to use this diet:  SCD was originally used for those with severe intestinal damage from diseases like ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s, and celiac.  It can be very help for those with ASDs that involve chronic diarrhea.  While some practitioners use SCD for those with “simple” candida overgrowth; I prefer to use it for those with candida and chronic diarrhea and 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 (i.e. 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.  It can be done without nuts but the child needs to have a diverse enough diet to eat basically: meat, vegetables, and fruit.

However, I have heard of many dire cases that this diet has miraculously improved when nothing else would. 

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