In part 1 of this series we explored how carbohydrates affect those with digestive diseases. In part 2 we talked about celiac disease and why going gluten-free isn’t enough. Part 3 covered how undigested carbs might lead to brain damage and worsen autism.
Now we’ll get into the actual Specific Carbohydrate Diet as described in the book Breaking The Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall. Please understand that this is a summary. There is much more information in THE BOOK. I recommend picking it up.
Chapter 9: Introducing the Diet
Right off the bat Elaine makes sure the reader understands that saying you are going to avoid the damaging carbohydrates and actually avoiding them are two completely different things.
It’s difficult to avoid carbohydrates because 1) they’re so addicting and 2) they are sneaked into so much of our food supply unsuspectingly.
If you suffer from a chronic digestive issue, you need to strictly follow the diet without deviation. Buying foods that have one ingredient (aka real foods) is crucial because a lot of times ingredients can fall under different names on labels and you simply don’t know what the processors are putting in their foods.
If you have diarrhea, all raw fruits, raw vegetables and honey should be discontinued until your diarrhea is under control because they tend to be laxative. They’re good to be eaten once diarrhea is under control.
When first reintroducing fruits, they should be ripe, peeled and cooked.
If you can handle bananas, small amounts of mashed, fully ripe bananas can be a good fruit to start out with because when the fruit is ripened a lot of the starches are converted into easily absorbable monosaccharides.
In the book it says that a special fermented yogurt and dry curd cheeses can be part of the diet, but in my opinion I don’t think that we should be eating and dairy at all. It’s one of, if not the most allergenic foods, so I think it’s smart to avoid it. The only exceptions may be raw goat’s kefir or colostrum because they seem to have healing effects with many people.
BTVC says that “when brisk diarrhea is no longer present, egg may be added to the diet. When bowel movements are formed and occur no more than two or three times daily, cooked vegetables can be added to the diet cautiously, one at a time, with a sufficient period between each new introduction to determine its effect.” (63)
Canned and jarred fruits and vegetables aren’t permitted. And potatoes and yams should completely be avoided. “Any cereal grain is absolutely and strictly forbidden, including corn, oats, rice, wheat, rye, barley, millet buckwheat, or triticale in any form, whether as bread, cake, toast, zweiback, crackers, cookies, cereals, flour, or pasta (spaghetti, macaroni, or pizza).” It is really important that you follow these rules if you are going on this diet. Having even a little bit of gluten or dairy an set you far back. Cereal grain carbohydrates and dairy have complex sugars which require functioning intestinal villi and proper enzymes in order to be broken down. When they aren’t broken down, bacteria ferment these undigested sugars and contribute to dysbiosis and imbalances in the intestine. For those with serious digestive diseases like Celiac, Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis (what I have), this diet needs to be followed “with fanatical adherence” to be successful. Don’t set yourself back by eating grains, corn or potatoes.
Usually peeled and cooked carrots, string beans, squash and tomatoes are well tolerated.
It’s important to keep everything balanced. We don’t want to just consume loads of meat or a ton of muffins, but to rather have balanced diet.
Always talk to your physician before making and dietary or lifestyle changes.
When it comes to supplements, the author of BTVC believes that the Specific Carbohydrate Diet provides sufficient nutrients and that vitamin supplementation might be necessary only for a short period of time to help aid recovery. It’s important to know that everyone has different needs when it comes to supplementation. Diet is the foundation in the healing process. It is incredibly important to give the diet at least 30 days and see how it works for you. If after 30 days you don’t see any improvement, SCD might not work for you and another approach is probably necessary.
There are some basic guidelines for supplements below.
Be very careful about what supplements you take because a lot of manufacturer’s add fillers and binders that contain sugar, starch and yeast.
Vitamin D and vitamin A are advised to be taken. Fermented cod liver oil is a great choice.
Getting B12 levels checked is advised to see if you have adequate amounts since b12 is a common deficiency in people with gut problems. BTVC says to get them checked and to get injections from a physician if they’re low. Getting checked for mineral deficiencies is also recommended.
A B-vitamin complex should also be a consideration, with special emphasis for women with intestinal disorders who are on the pill.
At least 100 mg Vitamin C is recommended. It’s important to make sure they don’t add in any sugar or starch and to be aware that high doses of vitamin C can induce diarrhea.
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet
“Allowable proteins (meat, fish, dairy products, etc.)
- All fresh or frozen beef, lamb, pork, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, natural cheeses, homemade yogurt made according to the recipe in the book, dry curd cottage cheese and canned fish in water or oil.
- My note: I would stay away from all dairy even though it’s permitted here because it’s so allergenic. I would make sure my animal products are of the highest quality (grass fed, wild, pasture raised). I would get an IgG test and an MRT test to check to make sure I’m not sensitive to any specific foods. I would modify the diet to my specific biochemistry (something that wasn’t available when the book came out). This can drastically speed up the recovery time.
- Processed meats such as hotdogs, bologna, turkey loaf, spiced ham, breaded fish, canned fish with sauces, canned meats, processed cheeses, and smoked meats.
- My note: These things are garbage “food-like substances” anyway and should be avoided by everyone, not just those with digestive disorders.
- Fresh or frozen (with no added sugar or starch).
- French artichoke (not Jerusalem), asparagus, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, carrots, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, kale, lettuce of all kinds, mushrooms, onions, parsley, peas, peppers (green, yellow, red), pumpkin, spinach, squash (summer and winter), string beans, tomatoes, watercress.
- When diarrhea becomes not active you can try including raw vegetables.
- Do not use vegetables in the cabbage family until diarrhea has substantially subsided.
- After 3 months you can try adding in dried lentils, dried lima beans, dried white (navy) beans, and split peas as long as they are soaked for a minimum of 10 hours with the water being thrown away.
- Turnips can be added in after considerable improvement.
- All grains including wheat, rye, barley, corn, oats, rice, buckwheat, millet, triticale, bulgur, spelt, quinoa, couscous, amaranth and any other grain or seed-like pseudo-grain.
- Potatoes (white or sweet), yams, parsnips, okra, chick peas, bean sprouts, soybeans, mung beans, fava beans, and garbanzo beans.
- Any flours made with any grains or pseudo-grains, including amaranth flour, quinoa flour, chestnut flour or any newly introduced grain substitutes such as cottonseed.
- Wheat germ
- Seaweeds (because of their carrageenan content)
- Fresh, raw or cooked, frozen (with no added sugars), and dried. Fruits packed in jars that state “packed in own juice” or “packed in water;” none canned in any other kind of juice.
- Apples, avocados, apricots, banana (ripe with black spots beginning to appear on the skin). berries of all kinds, cherries, fresh coconut or unsweetened shredded coconut, dates (only loose California dates are permitted; dates which stick together in a mass have had sugar or syrup added and are not permitted), grapefruit, grapes, Kiwi fruit, kumquats, lemons, limes, mangoes, melons, nectarines, oranges, papayas, peaches, pears, pineapple, prunes, raisins, rhubarb, and tangerines.
- Honey is also allowed.
- Some people are allergic to sulfites and should avoid dried fruit to which these have been added. IF there is no sensitivity to sulfites, this type of dried fruit may be used occasionally.
- My note: Because of the sugar spikes that happen with dried fruit, I think that they should be avoided for the most part, especially in the beginning. Also, the IgG and MRT tests will help you determine which fruits are suitable for your body.
- Purchased with or without shells.
- Almonds, pecans, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, boiled chestnuts, peanut butter without any additives.
- Roasted peanuts in the shell can be tried cautiously after being on the diet for about 6 months when diarrhea is gone.
- Avoid shelled peanuts as most have added starch.
- Nuts sold in salted mixtures are not permissible since most have been roasted with a starch coating.
- Only introduce nuts after diarrhea has cleared up.
- Nuts should only be eaten as a snack and always be chewed very well.
- My notes: Getting IgG, IgE and MRT food sensitivity tests will tell you how you react to nuts (along with other foods).
- Walnuts are the healthiest nuts in my opinion due to their omega 3 to omega 6 ratio. They have also been shown to increase circulation in the body.
- Peanuts are not nuts, but rather legumes. They are also one of the top allergenic foods and contain aflatoxin molds. I avoid peanuts and peanut butters and stick to raw almonds and raw almond butters. Almond butters are more expensive and they are worth the price if you really like it and can tolerate them. I use THRIVE MARKET to get my almond butter (along with other foods) at discounted prices.
- Tomato juice from canned tomatoes is permissible, but tomato paste and V-8 are not. Use canned tomatoes and the juice for cooking instead of canned tomato paste, canned tomato sauce, or canned tomato puree. Avoid tomato juice mixtures or cocktails. You can puree whole canned tomatoes yourself as a tomato juice substitute.
- Orange or grapefruit juice, freshly squeezed. Avoid orange juice in the morning if diarrhea is active.
- Bottled grape juice, white or dark, after checking with the manufacturer that it doesn’t contain added sugar or cornstarch. Avoid frozen grape juice because it usually has added sugar.
- Pineapple juice without added cornstarch or sugar or additives.
- Apple cider from without added sweeteners. Some companies that produce apple juice are adding sugars and not listing it on the label, so unless you can get a reputable brand, avoid apple juice.
- My note: Fruit juices have been said to be damaging to the liver because of their high sugar content and lack of fiber which naturally comes with fruits. I do not recommend fruit juices. They raise triglycerides. Stick with water.
- Weak teas.
- Weak coffee, perked or dripped, without milk or cream.
- Some herbs can be laxative. Restrict the use of herb teas to peppermint and spearmint.
- Milkshakes made with homemade yogurt, fruits, sweetened to taste with honey.
- Fluid milk of any kind.
- Dried milk solids.
- Commercially prepared acidophilus milk which contains unfermented milk along with the acidophilus bacteria. There is still lactose in this.
- Commercial buttermilk, commercial sour cream, or commercial yogurt.
- Soy milk.
- Instant tea or coffee.
- Coffee substitutes; most have added malt which is not permitted.
- My notes: Conventional dairy (just like conventional meat) is damaging to the body along to the earth and should never be consumed.
- With honey, nuts, and some dried fruits, delicious cakes, cookies, muffins and candies can be made.
- My notes: Desert is desert. Sugar is sugar. Don’t overdo it with the honey or the dried fruits. These sweet things still affect your blood sugar balance which is an integral part of your health and wellbeing. I remember when I went raw vegan I would make desserts from organic dates, nuts, avocados and cacao powder in my Vitamix blender. Having these deserts did not help heal my body. Try going without any extra sugar, even if it does come from a “healthy” dessert.
- Olive oil is great.
- You can make a homemade mayo from the recipes section in the book.
- Unflavored gelatin is to be used for gelatin-type desserts.
- Mustard is permissible as long as it doesn’t have added sugars.
- Ketchup is almost 40% sugar and is not permissible.
- Dill pickles and olives are OK as long as they don’t have added sugars.
- Vinegar is permitted (cider, white, or wine). Some gourmet vinegars have added sugar and should not be used.
- If cultured butter is available, that is permissible according to BTVC. I still would avoid it though because it is a dairy product that is high fat and those with digestive problems have a compromised ability to digest fat. Goat kefir and colostrum seem to be beneficial as long as they come from organic and are made from raw milk.
- Spices of all kinds may be used, but watch out for non-organic spices because they may have additives which might contain gluten or MSG which causes damage to the gut. Garlic and onion powders may have a starch base so avoid them and use fresh garlic and onions instead.
- Coconut and almond milk can be tried after 3 months if they’re homemade. If eating baked goods with almonds, consumption of almond milk should not exceed 8 ounces daily.
- Do not use cornstarch, arrowroot starch, tapioca starch, sago starch, or other starches of any kind.
- Do not use chocolate or carob.
- So not use bouillon cubes or instant soup bases.
- DO NOT USE PRODUCTS WITH REFINED SUGAR.
- Do not use agar-agar or carrageenan.
- Do not use pectin in making jellies or jams.
- No molasses, corn syrup or maple syrup.
- Do not use flours made from beans or lentils since the beans and lentils were probably not soaked prior to grinding and in the dried form, they have too high a concentration of starch. Soaked and cooked navy beans may be drained and pureed and used in some of the cake recipes as an “extender” in order to cut back on the quantity of nut flour required.
- Do not use seeds of any kind (flax, chia, hemp, sesame, sunflower, etc.) until three months after the last symptom has disappeared and then try them cautiously.
- So not use baking powder. Use baking soda where specified.
- Do not eat Ricotta or Mozzarella cheeses and avoid the brown, caramelized cheese called Gjetost.
- Many medications have added carbohydrates in the form of sucrose, lactose and starch. Some of these medications mat be obtained without these sugars by asking your pharmacist. If the medication is only available with these added carbohydrates, use the medication when essential.
- Do not use fructose or glucose syrup nor powdered or granulated fructose, glucose or dextrose. If you want to sweeten something, you can use honey.
- Do not use any product that contains FOD (fructooligosaccharides). This form of starch (inulin) may feed harmful bacteria as well as “friendly” bacteria and will defeat the benefits of the diet. Some probiotics use inulin as a source of prebiotics. Don’t use these.
- Avoid beer
- Very dry wine is permissible.
- Occasionally gin, rye, scotch, bourbon, vodka, etc. No sherry, cordials, liqueurs, or brandy.
- Club soda is permissible as a mixture because it has no added sugar.
- My notes: I’m quite surprised that any alcohol is allowed here. Alcohol is damaging to the body and if someone is trying to heal their body then they really shouldn’t drink.
There you have it.
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet in a nutshell.
If you suffer from any form of digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, Celiac disease or any other digestive condition, using this as a basis to go off of is a great step in the right direction.
For some serious work and to take your healing to the ultimate level, I recommend getting the Solving Leaky Gut course.
As I was writing this I was implementing what I was learning into my life and began avoiding all grains, corn, potatoes and rice. I’ve already seen an improvement.
In the next series of articles I’m going to go over what it’s like going through the Solving Leaky Gut program.
To keep up with updates and see a first hand view of me “solving leaky gut” sign up below.