Is the specific carbohydrate diet right for you

I was a sophomore in high school when I was diagnosed. Ulcerative Colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation in the inner most lining of the colon (large intestine). From the time I was 15 and forward, my autoimmune disease would dictate my life. Coming from a working class family, I didn’t have the luxury of seeking professional help from any field other than conventional medicine. However, that wasn’t the path I wanted to take for the rest of my life.
After months of the most sever flare-up my illness had handed me and not being able to hold on to any food—and subsequently, nutrition—I began realizing that what I fed my body played a huge role in getting me into remission. I started learning how my stress levels and my diet greatly affected my chronic disorder, and as I began to make lifestyle changes, I started to notice a difference in the health of my body. After a couple years of following a gluten free diet, I discovered the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) and began adopting these principles.

The SCD Diet Principles:

The main idea behind the SCD  is to consume only foods that are the easiest for the body to breakdown and absorb. This diet is proven to relieve the symptoms of many gastrointestinal issues and inflammatory bowel diseases, including Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s Disease, Diverticulitis, Celiac Disease, and chronic diarrhea.

A study done by Rush University, published in June 2014, explains that the specific carbohydrate diet increases intestinal microbe diversity in patients with IBD (1). Intestinal microbe diversity is important in regulating inflammation and inhibiting the growth of disease-causing bacteria (2). We understand that carbohydrates have the most influence over intestinal microbes. Elaine Gottschall B.A, M.Sc. is a biochemist who specialized in the effects of food on the human body and who spent years investigating the changes that occur in the bowel wall in IBD at the University of Western Ontario. She explains this and the science behind the Specific Carbohydrate Diet in her book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle.

  • Carbohydrates are chains of sugar molecules, some of which the body simply cannot break down. This causes them to ferment in the gut, establishing an overgrowth of microbes.
  • These microbes release toxic byproducts that damage the walls of the intestines. Damage means inflammation, which means increased mucus production, and lack of absorption and digestion, contributing to the “vicious cycle.”
  • By removing the carbohydrates composed of long chains of sugar (starch), you eliminate bacterial overgrowth and reduce or eliminate gastrointestinal symptoms. Starchy foods include any and all grains, e.g. cereals, rice, breads, etc. There are also starchy vegetables that are NOT allowed on SCD, such as potatoes, corn, and parsnips. See link below for full list of SCD legal and illegal foods.

A typical food day for me looks like this:

Two egg scramble with a handful of baby spinach, cheddar cheese, salt, pepper and garlic

Can of Wild Planet sardines and salad – romaine, walnuts, red onion, cucumber, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic

When I do snack it’s usually a ripe banana and sunflower seed butter.
Note: According to SCD, seed butter is only appropriate if completely symptom free.

Pan fried chicken or ground beef burger with sautéed greens and usually another vegetable side like broccoli or green beans

Piece of fruit with coconut cream

Final Thoughts on SCD:

In conclusion, I would occasionally spend days hunched over with stomach pain before starting this diet. My medication and gluten free diet helped to remedy the acute ulcerations and bleeding. However, my bowl movements were in no way back to normal. After only a few days of being on the SCD my stomach pain stopped and the amount and urgency of the daily bowel movements I was having decreased significantly. Finally, after over a year of just “dealing” with my symptoms, I felt like a normal person. What we put in our bodies is one of the few things we have control over in this life. Let’s take the power back!

Guest post contributed by: Brittany Anewalt, Nutrition student at Bastyr University

More Resources:

-For a more in depth look at the specific carbohydrate diet, I encourage you to read Elaine Gottschall’s book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle.

-You can find the full list of SCD legal and illegal foods here:

-If you are interested in starting this diet, especially if you are currently experiencing symptoms of whatever gastro intestinal disorder you are struggling with, check out the SCD lifestyle website. The link provided will direct you to a page that asks for your name and email. By providing this information you will receive a FREE quick start guide to the diet via email. It is an AMAZING resource.

-Daniel Walker’s blog, Against All Grain, provides amazing SCD safe recipes to help get you started and maintain this lifestyle.

-Think you can’t eat out on SCD? This article provides five of our nation’s most allergy-friendly restaurants.



  1. Walters S, Quiros A, Rolston M, Grishina I, et al. Analysis of Gut Microbiome and Diet Modification in Patients with Crohn’s Disease. SOJ Microbiology & Infectious Disease. June 2014. Accessed July 13, 2015.
  2.  Guinane C, Cotter P. Role of Gut Microbiota in Health and Chronic Gastrointestinal Disease: Understanding a Hidden Metabolic Organ. Therap Adv Gastroenterol. 2013 Jul; 6(4): 295–308. doi: 10.1177/1756283X13482996.