The Specific Carbohydrate Diet and IBS. Will it Help?

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.

10 thoughts on “The Specific Carbohydrate Diet and IBS. Will it Help?”

  1. I started the SCD diet one week ago tomorrow, 12/28/12. I was faithful until Christmas day when I ate 15 pieces of chocolate candy and I’m paying for it now. The SCD diet helped me tremendously. I’d had diarrhea for over 6 wks. and the diet stopped that. Now, it’s back, due to my chocolate binge. So, it’s back to the diet and, hopefully, no more diarrhea. I also have been battling Candida for over 25 yrs., so this, combined with IBS, makes my diet pretty restrictive. I’ll stay on the SCD diet and then gradually add some grains back in to see what I’m really sensitive to, but I plan to stay, mainly on the SCD diet for the rest of my life – I’m 72 yrs. old. Better to be a little hungry than to have constant stomach pain, and diarrhea. By the way, I lost 5# in one week, not that I needed to. I have only good things to say about the SCD diet. PS

  2. Hi Patricia,

    Tnanks for your very interesting success story! Since writing this post, I have also learned that Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s GAPS diet – similar to the SCD diet – can be very helpful.

    As you noted, chocolate can be a real stimulant of diarrhea, unfortunately.

  3. Hi J,Stored trauma happens when you experience a situation your nervous system interprets as threatening to your survival and you are helpless to do anything about it. Instead of fight or flight, you go into a freeze. This undischarged trauma from a physical or emotional incident (car accident, relationship break-up, etc.) is stored by the brain. To “protect” you, the brain then generalizes the experience to anything remotely similar that you encounter. It then triggers the nervous system to react. A couple of these reactions are to either slow down or speed up the digestive system (constipation, diarrhea, bloating, etc.) The only solution that works, according to traumatologist Robert Scaer, MD, is to use a method that engages mind and body simultaneously. One of these is EFT Tapping. Kathy and I have created a whole audio program to take you through the tapping that can help to reduce symptoms. We also have an ebook with similar material. They can both be found on the Products page.If you would like to read more about the effects of trauma, there is information in our free report (see above on right side of page), or click on the Articles tab and read the article about trauma.Thanks for your questions.

  4. U are NOT right. Scd can cure ibs for Sure. 80% of ibs is All sibo! And sibo is overgrowth of bacteria. Scd bringsback the Balance of bacteria and flora. Ibs is pure unbalanced flora. Scd is the perfect diet To rebalance bacteria. It starves the bad bacteria and gives the good bacteria food. SO pls ignore the owner post

  5. ;)I have had IBS since I was 30 and now 89 and I have had two intestinal operations and was doing well till husband passed and had to do things I never did I know I have a lot of allergy or intolerance of certain food and grain is one but need some for constipation the allergy I itch so know when to stop but but I notice pain when I eat a bigger male. I have to eat 4 small ones I am told Peppermimt oil helps but will only start it with ok from Dr. As I am on Paxil and an ax and Gabapentin for Fibromygia but she said no bad side effect so try I for a month I did read about your scd diet How can I get it. Mrs leccese

  6. Hi Frances,The easiest way to learn about the SCD is to buy a copy of Elaine Gottschall’s book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle. It has recipes and all the information you need. I believe there is good free information on her website as well. If you google her name, or Specific Carbohydrate Diet, you will find it easily.

  7. I completely agree with k #745’s comment. IBS is an imbalance of intestinal bacteria and the SCD diet can greatly help if not heal IBS. The other error the writer of this post made is to say that IBS doesn’t involve damage to the intestinal lining. That would depend on why you have IBS. If the IBS check test shows that you have created antibodies to the bacteria from a previous food or water poisoning event, even if you don’t remember being very sick, then you do have a version of IBS that causes damage to the vincullen of your lining because your immune system is confused and aside from attacking the toxin the harmful bacteria left in your system it’s attacking the healthy tissue of your intestines. The SIBO also causes damage to the lining because the bacteria expel toxins. My 10 year old daughter is currently receiving treatment for SIBO and post infectious IBS and SCD is a life saver!

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