What is the SCD Diet and Who is it For?

March 30, 2017

In the past decade, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) received a lot of buzz, and for a good reason. Structured around unprocessed grain-, sugar, and starch-free staples, SCD promotes the use of all-natural foods that contain minimal carbohydrate quantities. As it’s centered on easily digestible nutrients, SCD goes easy on the gastrointestinal tract and is often recommended to people who suffer from GI disorders and certain autoimmune diseases such as celiac. According to some nutrition experts, SCD resembles the carte du jour our ancestors used to follow and it can boost digestive and overall health and detoxify the body. Still, is such a highly restrictive eating regime truly all that healthy, what dietary ingredients are compatible with it, and should you wholeheartedly embrace it if you suffer from chronic digestive hitches?


Far from a Fad Diet

Though it’s only in the past decade that SCD received wider publicity, its principles were laid down back in the 1950s by Dr. Sidney Valentine Haas, a U.S. pediatrician whose research helped devise a dietary system for combating celiac disease. One of his patients was Elaine Gottschall’s five-year-old daughter who was diagnosed with progressed ulcerative colitis. After switching to Dr. Haas’ nutritional program, the girl achieved lasting remission. Her grandmother was so impressed by the results that she spent most of her life thereon examining the link between gut health and diet. The gist of Mrs. Gottschall’s research saw the light of day in the book Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health through Diet.


The Skinny on SCD

SCD rests on the premise that not all people’s GI tract is capable of breaking down complex carbs and man-made staples such as sugar. According to SCD Lifestyle nutrition experts, the diet doesn’t rule out all carbohydrates as bad for the digestive system. It allows monosaccharide carbohydrates which are easy for the GI tract to break down, but does away with disaccharides and polysaccharides as these require additional digestive processes to be converted into readily expendable energy and can cause yeast and bacterial development and toxic and acid buildup in the intestinal tract. By eliminating the foods gut bacteria and yeast feast on, SCD can alleviate inflammation, heal digestive problems, and prompt the GI tract to begin to restore gut flora on its own. Furthermore, this diet makes you feel full of energy, as well as balances out your bowel movement. It’s easy to say that this is a healthy way to get rid of all the toxins and do some other very positive things for your body along the way.


SCD Menu in Situ

Due to absence of foods centered on complex sugars, SCD is extremely restrictive, and its menu can be daunting for an average American. Some of the main food groups the 21st century diet is centered on (such as simple sugars, starches, and dairy) are missing from SCD carte du jour, but this doesn’t make the nutritional system any less tasty or wholesome. Here’s a brief list of the foods compatible with the SCD eating system.


  • Most vegetables, except canned and starchy ones (i.e. potatoes, arrowroot, seaweed-based products, parsnips, tapioca starch, yam, agar, and carrageenan);
  • Legumes, except chickpeas, bean sprouts, soybeans, and beans (mung, fava, garbanzo, etc.);
  • Unprocessed meats, fish, poultry, and eggs;
  • Natural cheeses, except ricotta, mozzarella, cottage and cream cheese, feta, gjetost, primost, neufchatel, and processed cheese spreads;
  • SCD yoghurt, butter, ghee, and dry curd cottage cheese;
  • Additive- and sugar-free fresh, dried, or frozen fruit and juices;
  • Shelled peanuts, nuts, and natural peanut butter;
  • Mild tea and coffee, mineral water, club soda, dry wine, rye, scotch, bourbon, vodka, and gin;
  • Mustard, vinegar, unflavored gelatin;
  • Saccharin and honey;
  • Oils like olive, coconut, soybean, and corn oil;
  • Non-mixed spices free of anti-caking agents.


The list of dietary ingredients that have no place in SCD includes processed foods, grains, and a majority of dairy products. Here are some of the biggest foodie no-nos for SCD fans.


  • Sugars, i.e. lactose, fructose, sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, isomaltose, molasses, maltose, fructooligosaccharides, and processed sugars;
  • Grains (corn, wheat and wheat germ, barley, rice, oats, rye, soy, spelt, buckwheat, and amaranth) and grain-based products;
  • Milk and its derivatives such as ice cream, whey powder, heavy cream, commercial yogurt, buttermilk, sour cream, and Kraft and other mainstream shredded cheeses;
  • Processed and canned meats;
  • Commercial mayonnaise, ketchup, and margarine, as well as baking powder, balsamic vinegar, and canola oil;
  • Instant coffee, commercial juices, soda pop, sweet wines, flavored liqueurs, brandy, and sherry;
  • Candies, chocolate, and carob.


For people struggling with celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, food allergies, and GI tract sensitivities, the shift to SCD diet can help minimize or completely eliminate symptoms of the condition. Still, before you embrace SCD, it would be a good idea to consult your doctor and see if the nutritional system would be viable in the long run based on your overall medical shape and nutritional needs. Ready to press the SCD switch? Bon appétit!


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