Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)

If bacterial overgrowth is found in the small intestine, or other dietary measures have proved only partially effective, then we often suggest either the SCD or the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet. These diets restrict the amount of fermentable carbohydrate available to bacteria in the gut and, over time, promote the population of beneficial flora

Both diets have been widely critically acclaimed and provide relief to IBS, SIBO and Inflammatory Bowel Disease sufferers. The diet starves out bacterial overgrowth, reducing the production of toxins, restoring the balance of gut flora, thereby helping to reduce inflammation. At IBS Clinics we are fully conversant with these diets and can provide clear advice, recipes, meal suggestions and inspiration to ensure you can stick to your diet comfortably.

What is the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)?

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) restricts the types of carbohydrates eaten and is strictly

  • Grain-free

  • Lactose-free

  • Sucrose-free

The SCD only includes carbohydrates

  • Requiring minimal digestive processes

  • That are well absorbed by the body

  • Do not require bacterial assistance for their metabolism

Which carbohydrates can I eat on the SCD?

Carbohydates are sugars and starches and are categorised according to their molecular structure.
Monosaccharides such as glucose, fructose, and galactose are single sugars and as such require no splitting by digestive enzymes allowing them to be readily absorbed by the body. These are found in honey, fruits, some vegetables and homemade fermented yogurt (must be fermented for over 24hours). These are permitted in the SCD Diet.

Other more complex carbohydrates classed as disaccharides (lactose, sucrose, maltose etc) or polysaccharides (most starches) should be avoided as these are not easily digested and feed harmful bacteria and yeasts in the gut and are, therefore, NOT permitted.

The basic principles of the SCD diet

There is a first, dairy-free stage to this diet – even those which are lactose-free as many people react to the casein (protein) component of milk as well as to the lactose.

The diet allows plenty of coconut butter, coconut water, and coconut milk as well as – after the initial phase – butter and ghee. (Ghee is lactose and casein-free and contains vitamin A, so is useful to include).Often people on the SCD diet lose weight initially, but there is no reason to do so long term as the diet includes many calorific and protein/nutrient dense foods. Because the SCD approach includes a lot of protein rich foods, it is important to balance it with plenty of vegetables.

Where people have the extreme diarrhoea and inflammation typical of Inflammatory Bowel Disease sufferers, an initial chicken broth stage is recommended so as to achieve a quick reduction of symptoms.

If your symptoms are less acute, at IBS Clinics we are likely to recommend that you simply follow the general SCD principles.

Why use the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)?

Certain health conditions such as Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) and inflammatory Bowel diseases such as Ulcerative Colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease appear to be caused or exacerbated by the overgrowth of bacteria. In SIBO this happens in the upper gut or small intestine and with UC and Crohn’s throughout the lower gut, too.

Although the gut is designed to host bacteria throughout its entire length it has specific mechanisms in place to ensure that the majority of the bacterial concentration is maintained in the large intestine or colon. When bacterial populations overgrow they can cause immense irritation and inflammation in the gut. As they feed on carbohydrates, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet reduces the food available to them and this reduces the population.

IBS Clinics and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet

We use the SCD extensively at IBS clinics. It can, initially, feel very difficult to sustain, and careful planning is needed to plan and prepare foods ahead of time. While eating SCD in sandwich bars can be a challenge, restaurant meals are quite easy once you know what to ask and what to order.

The guidance and support we offer at IBS Clinics really help clients thrive on this diet.

To find out more and learn how we can help you, please contact us