History Part 6 – The Specific Carbohydrate Diet – A New Way of Looking At Food

I know what you’re thinking when you hear about a named “diet.” It’s probably some weight loss fad or medical gimmick. I had read about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD for short) many years ago and dismissed it for several reasons: 1) it’s HARD to stick with it – many people who try it drop out because of the difficulties in food preparation; 2) it’s recommended for celiac disease, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, and severe inflammatory bowel diseases, which I thankfully don’t have.

Well, after almost four years of rice and apples, to which I was developing allergies, I needed a serious and radical change to my diet. My previous doctor always complained that I wasn’t getting enough protein and that there is no such thing as a healthy vegetarian.

In retrospect, I don’t know why I gravitated toward the SCD given other similar choices like anti-inflammatory paleo, GAPS, FODMAP, etc. Perhaps the appeal of a very, very strict and highly controlled diet that was laid out in phases of gradual food introduction was what sold me. Regardless, I decided, in May 2016, to give it a go.

Yes, the SCD is hard to follow. There are many helpful websites concerning the SCD, some of which are listed on my “links” page if you want to learn more. The most basic tenet is to eliminate all carbohydrates that are not simple mono-saccharides. The allowable foods are basically meats, fats, fermented milk products, certain vegetables and some fruits and nuts. Absolutely NO sugar or grain products of any kind are permitted. The first phase is mostly meat, pureed carrots and chicken soup. Think of it as rebooting your digestive system like when you first start an infant on solid food. What do you give them that they can easily digest? Pureed meats and veggies.

The SCD actually has a long history since it was first invented in the 1950s, but it is only recently gathering steam and has been researched and tested in clinical applications at major hospitals. Guess what, it works. At least, for Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, it is effective. Leaky gut is still barely beyond fringe science and treatment has not been well researched.

But, the SCD is not a diet you just jump into and eat whatever is on the safe food list, unless you really want to fail! It requires a careful phase-in. I started the early phase with the bases of chicken, pureed carrots and homemade chicken soup. They highly recommend bone broth as well, though I take a shortcut and simply use plain gelatin. I spend enough hours in the kitchen as it is. Making homemade bone broth would put me over the edge.

Also, in May 2016, I started seeing a couple of new doctors. I had had a recent annual physical with a new primary care doc. When I told her about my history of food allergies and digestive ills, she looked at me like I had three heads, said “that’s strange” and suggested I see a gastroenterologist. Duh, like I’d never done that!

OK, so I went off onto the internet to try and find a gastroenterologist with some understanding of food allergies. The last thing I needed was to go back to someone who just diagnosed gastritis or stomach virus. Fortunately, my search yielded a specialist who even took my insurance. His diagnosis – multiple food allergies from leaky gut. Well, he was moderately helpful and endorsed my use of the SCD to try and heal my guts. However, after about four visits, a few blood tests to rule out other problems, and five months of time, his advice basically trickled down to “you have to eventually figure out what foods you can eat and avoid anything that causes a flare up.” This is not vastly different from the advice of many years earlier of “if it makes you sick, don’t eat it.”

Ahhh, is there no cure for leaky gut but to avoid most of the world of food?!?!

Maybe… maybe not… Stay tuned for the next blog where I start working with a doctor who really wants to cure me.