Specific Carbohydrate Diet
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) is a nutritional regimen, created by Dr. Sidney V. Haas and popularized by biochemist and author Elaine Gottschall, which restricts the use of complex carbohydrates (disaccharides and polysaccharides) and eliminates refined sugar, all grains and starch from the diet. It is promoted as a way of reducing the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, coeliac disease and autism. Gottschall believed that, due to damage to the microvili in the body, these microvili lack the ability to break down specific types of carbohydrates (i.e., disaccharides and polysaccharides), resulting in dysbiosis, the overgrowth of harmful bacterial flora. In a 1924 study, Haas reported, "In cases which the diet can be controlled for a sufficient long time, recovery ensues in every instance and without nutritional relapse."
In 1922, Kleinschmidt wrote a scientific paper about the efficacy of Dr Haas's diet, stating, "The prognosis in celiac disease has undergone a complete change during the last few years. The discouraging results of the previous methods of treatment have entirely disappeared since we have followed the diet of the American, Haas." In 1928, Von den Steinen reported on a study which validated the efficacy of Dr Haas' diet and verified its results. Haas also wrote a 1955 case report on 191 patients treated with the diet.
In 2011, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center published the results of a pilot study which investigated the use of an SCD-like diet in treating IBD. 100% of patients treated with the new diet showed significant improvement in their symptoms. Additionally, the majority of subjects were able to reduce their reliance on medications to treat their IBD.
The rationale of the diet, as described in Gottschall's Breaking the Vicious Cycle, is as follows:
- When the body receives complex carbohydrates (disaccharides or polysaccharides), these substances must be broken down before they can be absorbed.
- In the body of a person who is not able to break these substances down efficiently, an influx of undigested material causes harmful bacteria to flourish.
- Bacterial overgrowth is accordingly followed by a significant increase in the waste and other irritants they produce.
- Irritation in the lining of the digestive tract results in the overproduction of mucus and injury to the digestive tract, which in turn causes malabsorption and makes it even more difficult to maintain proper digestion.
The purpose of the diet is to break the ongoing cycle caused by an overpopulation of harmful bacteria in the gut. When the body is able to absorb the proper nutrients from simple sugars and other carbohydrates that are easy to digest, the inflammation and other complications caused by many autoimmune diseases can be lessened. The goal is to rid the body of complex saccharides so the gut will be able to heal itself and enable further healing to occur.
The method of the diet is to keep the bacterial flora well balanced and to allow the gut to digest all of the food it is given, thereby starving out the harmful bacteria.
Certain foods, such as commercial syrups and sugars, starchy vegetables, and dairy products are not allowed while on the diet. Other foods, such as fruits, greens, animal protein, and nuts, are allowed.
The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America published "The Specific Carbohydrate Diet: Does It Work?", in which several doctors say that there have been no clinical trials to prove or disprove efficacy, so no conclusions can yet be drawn about the diet. Edward V. Loftus, Jr., M.D., Associate Professor of Medicine and member of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, said, "We're not ruling out the possibility that it works, but you need more than a few successes to establish proof. In the absence of that, it's hard to recommend this or any diet." He also said, "In my experience, for every patient I see who tried the diet and it worked, there are three to four others who tried it and it didn't work." Dr. Athos Bousvaros, Associate Director of the IBD Center at Children's Hospital in Boston, thinks the diet, while difficult to follow, is probably safe, and recommends that "if you do decide to put your child on the diet, do it under the guidance of an experienced nutritionist."
See also 
- GAPS Diet, a modern derivative of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.
- Gottschall, E (1994). Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet (Revised edition ed.). Kirkton Press. ISBN 0-9692768-1-8.
- Haas, S. V.: Value of banana in treatment of celiac disease, Am. J. Dis. Child. 28:421, 1924.
- Kleinschmidt, H.: Chronic Diarrhea in children, Jahresk. f. Arztl. Fortbild. 13:16, 1922.
- Treatment of Heubner-Herter's disease with bananas, sour milk and junket, Arch. f. Kinderh. 84:144, 1928.
- Haas, Sidney (1955). "The treatment of celiac disease with the specific carbohydrate diet; report on 191 additional cases.". Am J Gastroenterol 23 (4): 344–60. PMID 14361377.
- Nieves, R; Jackson, RT (2004). "Specific carbohydrate diet in treatment of inflammatory bowel disease.". Journal of the Tennessee Medical Association 97 (9): 407. PMID 15497569.
- http://www.umassmed.edu/Content.aspx?id=138546&linkidentifier=id&itemid=138546 You need to click on the abstract to view the results.
- Hoffman, Ronald L. (1997). Intelligent Medicine: A Guide to Optimizing Health and Preventing Illness for the Baby-Boomer Generation. Fireside. p. 194. ISBN 0-684-81082-4.
- Lipman, Frank (2004). Total Renewal. Tarcher. p. 98. ISBN 1-58542-384-X.
- Ditchek, Stuart H. (2009). Healthy Child, Whole Child: Integrating the Best of Conventional and Alternative Medicine to Keep Your Kids Healthy. Harper Paperbacks. p. 310. ISBN 0-06-168598-4.
- Dean, Carolyn (2001). Dr. Carolyn Dean's Natural Prescriptions for Common Ailments. McGraw-Hill; 2 edition. p. 53. ISBN 0-658-01216-9.
- The Specific Carbohydrate Diet: Does It Work
- "Breaking the Vicious Cycle", Elaine Gottschall's informational website on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet
Media Articles 
- BoingBoing article by Seth Roberts, "Grandmother Knows Best About Crohn's Disease"
- Eating Is Believing, Wall Street Journal article by Francesco Fiondella, November 11, 2002