The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) has helped thousands of people recover from digestive disorders. But will it cure your Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Cell science researcher, Elaine Gottschall MSc, popularized the SCD in her book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle. Gottschall learned about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet in a successful attempt to save her 8-year-old daughter from ulcerative colitis, and then did the science to figure out why it worked.
The SCD is a way of eating that is gluten-free, grain-free, sugar-free, and almost completely dairy-free—only lactose-free dairy products are allowed. It is designed to heal the bowel and prevent further damage.
Does this apply to you if you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Probably not. Lots of people with IBS don’t need to eat gluten-free and do well on a diet that includes white rice, oatmeal, and crackers and bread made from white flour. On the gluten-free, wheat-free Specific Carbohydrate Diet, these foods are big no-no’s.
Secondly, there’s no bowel damage in Irritable Bowel Syndrome. There is inflammation and damage in conditions like Celiac, Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis but not with IBS, so there’s no need to heal the bowel.
So, what’s the story? Why do some people with IBS thrive on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and not others?...
One answer comes from James Braly MD and Ron Hoggan MA, authors of Dangerous Grains. According to them, as many as one out of three people is grain-sensitive and will react to gluten, wheat and all grain products, even when they don’t show reactions on a conventional allergy test. Fortunately, that means the majority of us—two out of three—are okay with grains.
Among people with IBS, you could be in either group, the one-out-of-three or the two-out-of-three, which is why some IBS folks are fine with grains and flour products and some aren’t.
But how can you tell?
Braly and Hoggan recommend a blood test they describe in detail in their book, and believe this is more accurate than allergy scratch tests or challenge tests. There are also services in most cities that test for reactions to grains by computer or with applied kinesiology.
Probably the least expensive way to get a sense of whether or not you react to grains is to look at your blood relatives and their health patterns. Do your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, or siblings have Crohn’s, colitis, chronic diarrhea or constipation, food allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, migraines, autoimmune disease, osteoporosis, brain disorders, intestinal disease, chronic pain, digestive disorders, infertility & problematic pregnancies, diabetes mellitus, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, kidney disease, or lupus? According to Braly and Hoggan, when your family members have any or several of these conditions, they can be a sign of the inability to digest grains. (Many more diseases and chronic conditions are listed in their book which details over 100 health problems that are linked to grains.)
So will the Specific Carbohydrate Diet cure your IBS? It depends on what is stressing your digestion in the first place. If it’s largely a grain- or mould-related stress, then the SCD could be your best friend. But if your IBS is more typically caused by stored trauma and you have no markers of grain-sensitivity, then you need a targeted solution that goes beyond food.