What is SCD?

SCD is the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. This is a nutritionally balanced diet focused on removing grains, most dairy products and sugars.

The diet was created specifically to help people address certain medical conditions. It has since become an important part of nutritional therapy. 

At its core the diet recognises that certain types of carbohydrate need minimal digestive processes. This is because they are readily absorbed and will not cause any microbial overgrowth in the intestine. Generally the simpler the structure of the carbohydrate, the more easily the body digests and absorbs it. But not everyone can fully digest all types of carbohydrates. And complex carbohydrates are especially difficult. 

When we have undigested carbohydrates in our gut, we over-feed bad bacteria and yeast in our intestinal tract. This triggers a nasty cycle of excess toxins, acids, and gasses in our guts, causing irritation and potentially inflammatory bowel disease.

So having been originally developed as a dietary intervention to counter Celiac Disease, the SCD has also been effective in healing Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). The diet is mainly used for treating Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, diverticulitis, cystic fibrosis and chronic diarrhoea. Also some specialists use it for treating SIBO.

At IBS Clinics we operate a phased programme for the SCD. The introductory phase features easy to digest, natural foods. This allows for tailoring of the diet to each patient’s individual conditions. With a phased approach we effectively lower the bar on commitment, with the result that our SCD success rates are consistently high.
Let's discuss whether this diet could be helpful for you.

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How does the SCD work?

The SCD can be a short-term diet where people use it for a few weeks or months at most. But SIBO patients and people suffering from IBD will conform with the SCD for much longer periods.

A key objective is the removal of specific carbohydrates (polysaccharides, some oligosaccharides, disaccharides and polyols).  These complex carbohydrates can be poorly absorbed and then ferment in the colon. This produces acid and inflammatory by-products. As this worsens diarrhoea and bacterial overgrowth result.

The diet uses a  “legal/illegal” list of foods and demands very strict adherence to the regimen. Partly for that reason a phased approach is recommended, starting with an introduction diet and then expanding the diet from there. 

By giving your gut a break from complex carbohydrates, gut flora begin to stabilise and the body begins to heal. It’s not an instant fix. But with time and application, not only is it effective , it’s also 100% natural.

The SCD has been adapted by professionals over the years. More modifications are made based upon how different people respond to different food types. 

Food Type Legal (allowed) foods Illegal (not allowed foods)
FRUIT All fresh, unprocessed fruit (ideally organic) Canned or dried fruit processed with additional sugar and additives.
VEGETABLES The vast majority of non-starchy, unprocessed vegetables, including mushrooms. (Ideally organic) Starchy vegetables, including white potatoes, sweet potatoes, and parsnips, Any vegetable processed with additional sugar and additives. No canned or processed tomatoes or tomato products.
MEAT Fresh or frozen beef, lamb, pork, goat, venison, wild game, rabbit, veal, liver, kidney, oxtail, or tongue All processed meats and meat products, such as cold cuts, hot dogs, bacon, sausages, dried beef, smoked meats, and Spam.
POULTRY All fresh or frozen chicken, turkey, quail, duck, and goose (Ideally organic) All processed and breaded products, such as chicken nuggets and canned products. Any poultry processed with additional sugar and additives
FISH AND SHELLFISH All fresh and frozen fish and shellfish, as long as it is unprocessed and unbreaded, also without additives. Canned tuna packed in water or in its own juices is legal. Any seafood processed with additional sugar and additives, including solutions.
EGGS All types of eggs are allowed, preferably organic and free-range
DAIRY Plant-based milks, such as almond and coconut. Hard cheeses aged over 90 days (e.g. cheddar, etc.). Dry curd cottage cheese Homemade yogurt only made from cow and goat milks, coconut milk, and nut milks Milk from animals is not allowed. No margarine. No milk- and cream-based products No soft cheeses, including ricotta, goat cheese, feta, cream cheese, mozzarella, and all other soft cheeses other than dry curd cottage cheese No commercial yogurts.
GRAINS, BREADS, CEREALS No grains of any kind, such as wheat, rice, corn, quinoa, millet, amaranth, buckwheat, amaranth, teff, barley, spelt, rye, and oats. No baked goods, and many vegetarian meat substitutes
SEEDS Generally allowed Flax, chia, and hemp seeds are not allowed
NUTS All nuts, including almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, peanuts, Coconuts and coconut milk are allowed. All-natural nut butters may be better tolerated during initial stages. None with a coating or that has illegal ingredients used in the roasting process
BEANS AND LEGUMES Only dried navy beans, lima beans, black beans, cranberry beans, green (string) beans, lentils, split peas, and regular peas No garbanzo or pinto beans. No canned beans of any kind.
HERBS AND SPICES All individual herbs and spices are legal. No spice mixtures
CONDIMENTS, DRESSINGS, AND VINEGARS Homemade condiments and dressings Most vinegars except balsamic vinegar No commercial condiments or dressings. No balsamic vinegar.
SWEETENERS Honey None except honey
FATS AND OILS Coconut oil, sunflower oil, olive oil, and all nut oils. All seed oils (sesame, peanut, canola, flaxseed, corn and grapeseed) No vegan butter products, or soyabean oil.
FERMENTED FOODS Sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, and other fermented foods are allowed as long as they are made without added sugar No use commercial products with additives, preservatives, sugar, and other SCD-illegal foods.
BEVERAGES Freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices are allowed. Sparkling water allowed. Most teas and coffee are allowed. Wine and whiskey are legal, while brandy and sherry are not. See the Breaking the Cycle website’s Legal/Illegal List for more details on individual alcoholic beverages. No fruit or vegetable juice made from concentrate or with additives. No soda of any kind.

Can you commit to an SCD?

As you can see from this legal/illegal list of foods, many food types are illegal. That said the SCD broadly corresponds with healthy eating. But for the SCD to be effective it requires commitment. Nutrition professionals like IBS Clinics have developed more comprehensive strategies to help you implement the SCD. But it takes real commitment from you if the specific carbohydrate diet is what you want to take on.

With nutritional deficiencies in people with IBD, particular attention is needed to nutritionally balanced, accessible meals. 

At IBS Clinics we operate a phased programme for the SCD. The introductory phase features easy to digest, natural foods. Once this starts the healing process the diet can gradually take more complex food. This allows for tailoring of the diet to each patient’s individual conditions.

With a phased approach we effectively lower the bar on commitment, with the result that our SCD success rates  are consistently high. 

Call us to discuss whether this diet could be helpful for you. Or If you would like to review other nutritionally beneficial diets go here.