Before You Give Up On Your Diet

By NMajik at en.wikipedia (Own work (Original caption: “Source: Self”)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By NMajik at en.wikipedia (Own work (Original caption: “Source: Self”)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This is the last post in my little Specific Carbohydrate Diet series. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) is just a real food diet, with some added food tweaks that good observers throughout history have discovered reverse disease and promote healing. It is not the holy grail of diets, although for some patients, it is the cure they were looking for. (You may prefer the word “control” instead of the word “cure,” since these patients will probably never be able to go back to DiGiorno pizza.) I definitely suggest the SCD for Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis as a starting point diet because there is research behind it. (See here for a short summary of the evolution of the SCD diet with references.)

When I used a form of SCD for my gastrointestinal issues (not inflammatory bowel disease), I ran into a few issues and the diet stalled for me, even regressed. I don’t give up easily when I think there’s a way to accomplish something, and so I played around with the diet and I read what other people trying the diet were saying. I’ve compiled a little list of things to try if SCD is not working for you.

Remember, nothing here on my site is medical advice and should always be investigated and explored. Talk with your doctor and maybe get a referral to a dietitian for help. This is the internet. Believe nothing. Question everything.

Eliminate “pesky” foods that are allowed on the diet: nuts, peanut butter, eggs, dairy. Foods that we know cause life-threatening allergies can also cause other immune reactions in the body that aren’t nearly so serious. Even though they aren’t life threatening like true allergy, they still can cause bad, uncomfortable immune reactions, especially at the interface of the gut lining (but not limited to the gut lining).

Common food allergens like nuts, peanuts, dairy, and eggs are notorious for more than just anaphylaxis and hives! If you read research studies, you’ll see them coming up again and again for things like migraines, eosinophilic esophagitis, and eczema! I feel like medical doctors only communicate the life-threatening aspect of these foods (which is super important, of course), and ignore their involvement in so many other disease states. So people walk around treating their problems with creams, puffers, and pills, when they could be investigating their diet.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet allows eggs, almonds, nuts, peanut butter, homemade yogurt, cheeses and butter. All good foods! But also all known top allergens that can perpetuate illness in susceptible people.

(Coconut is not necessarily a top 8 common allergen, but I’ve read of many SCD’ers having trouble with it, particularly the flour. I’d add it to the “pesky” list.)

How do you know which “pesky” to take out? Well, you can start with the one you have a sneaky suspicion about. Or you can see if your doctor will order you an IgG blood panel (which has such variable results for people), although you need to know up front that many conventional medical doctors disapprove of them. Or you can eliminate them all, and slowly bring them back in one at a time.

Whatever you do, be smart and make sure you’re getting any nutritional deficits accounted for!

Cut down on baked goods. When people switch to the SCD, they often, understandably, try to recreate the diet they had been eating: muffins, breads, pancakes, and cookies. ALL of these things can be made on the SCD and are super tasty! However, the ingredients for them come from the “pesky” category (almond flour, eggs, butter, and so on), so they really shouldn’t be routine food fare. They also come with a big whop of sugar; yes, I know it’s honey, but fructose in excess has its own negative effects. Baked goods are great as a transition to ease families into eating more real, wholesome foods. If my kids hadn’t had a baked good, I would  have had some runaways.

In any area of the diet you may be lapsing and skimping in, get strict again. Get back to eating only the legal foods with “no exceptions.” It’s so easy to let products back into our kitchens. A little guar gum here. A little BHT there. Some maltodextrin there. Some modified food starch. And then you’ve walked down the slippery slope and fallen. Crash and burn for a few little ingredients that really weren’t even that important to you!

Studies indicate that emulsifiers may cause problems for inflammatory bowel disease, so if you’re struggling, get the “small stuff” back out!

Alternatively, perhaps the idea of “being strict” is sabotaging adhering to the diet well, and adding in a few select real, whole, foods, like rice and/or potato may be helpful in overall adherence to the diet.

Even though certain foods are not allowed on the diet, that doesn’t mean that a person’s body and disease will not tolerate them. Yes, it’s best to adhere to the diet as it is written, but it is VERY likely that adjustments will have to be made. Remember, the diet is not magic. It can’t prophesy exactly what your body will and will not tolerate. If adding in a food that may not be problematic anyhow is the price to pay for keeping on the diet instead of giving up completely, it’s worth a trial! Make sense? (But do talk with your healthcare provider who is overseeing your diet. They might have some other tips they’d like you to try first.)

Elaine Gottschall, the author of the diet, did not intend for The Specific Carbohydrate Diet to be a forever diet. She advocated moving off the diet once symptoms were well-controlled.

Read about FODMAP foods. Foods have natural sugars and molecules that we don’t absorb and that feed our gut bacteria. It’s actually a good thing. But sometimes, guts that are compromised need a break from these too, or else they’ll have painful bloating, gas, diarrhea, and/or constipation.  FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. FODMAP foods can cause pain outside of actual inflammatory disease and would be worth exploring. I have noticed that many people suggest cutting down on fruit if the SCD isn’t working well for you, and I can see where certain fruits will exacerbate a FODMAP condition. Here’s a good site with FODMAP information. Just click on the symbol, and it brings up a nice handout.

Take away the power struggle. When it comes to kids, they MUST understand the diet and their bodies. Kids usually make good decisions when they’re given good information and see the impact of certain foods on their bodies. Make it a point to understand the diet and read the book, then paraphrase it and explain it to your child. Kids need empowered, not controlled. Sometimes our fears lead to a strong need to control, but kids will buck this. Well, at least mine do!

The mind-body idea. We KNOW that there is a BIDIRECTIONAL process between the brain and the gut and conversely, the gut and the brain. It works from the bottom up. And the top down. If you’re ready to take it beyond diet and supplements, maybe it’s time to move inward. Google things like mindfulness and IBD. Or hypnotherapy and IBD. See what you think. This area has definitely piqued my interest. It takes me months and years to write, so you’ll definitely want to read in this area before I get any posts up on it!

Well, that’s it for today. I’m sure there are other tweaks. I think the best tweak is to know you’re going to be okay. Know that nothing can get you, because you’re bigger inside than anything you can comprehend. If you’re on the religious side, know that you’re a spiritual being forever with a human body but fleetingly.

Feel welcome to post any tweaks you’ve found beneficial.




8 thoughts on “Before You Give Up On Your Diet

  1. Lindsay

    The most important tweak for me was eliminating nightshades. I’m thinking I react to them almost as badly as gluten, and I was still miserable while eating tomato sauce and my homemade SCD ketchup. Can’t say I have everything figured out (as you well know), but at least SCD gave me a starting point to realize that maybe this food stuff makes a difference after all…

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Hi, Lindsay! Thanks for commenting! I appreciate it! Hate that nightshades had to go for you, but yep, sure is another common problematic one!! I think that’s why so many health professionals criticize these diets because some very, very healthy foods cause reactions. Ideally, the removal is only temporary until things calm down. Hang in there. It’ll come. I know it.

  2. MEH

    Been struggling to stay on this diet. Your blog was perfect timing! it often feels as though the only way to be successful is to stay at home ALL the time to prep and eat. Where I live, it is often not easy to purchase good, healthy food that is shelf stable.If is do find them, the price is too high. Because I have slipped down the slope, weight gain has occurred, not much, but not good. My blood work is improving, but I desire more success this year. I have begun to allow for a sweet potato now and then as well as venturing into some of the lesser allowable foods to see what happens, to see if it makes the journey easier. But there is that slope again! How do you get a variety of textures without grains? Thanks, Terri, for your encouragement.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      On staying home to eat versus eating out: I hear you. Eating out is a bear. It can be done but not really be in 100% conformance. If a person’s body accepts that, to me, it is worth it. But I know people who just simply can’t eat out. Period.

      Weight gain…but blood work improving: That’s great about the blood work! Something is right! Sure you’ve got weight gain, but you know what to do to get back on board. Play with it. Come back to the safe zone if it doesn’t work. Play with it in another area. That work? Cool–keep it going. Play in another area. Not working? Hey, you know your safe zone and you can get back to it. I make it a little game. I know where I want to be, and I slowly, as time passes, I feel closer and closer. Sometimes, in the moment, I feel mad and angry and lost. But after that passes, I look back and realize I’m in such a better place. I know that there are always new paths to follow if one slams shut in my face. Sorry if that was too much cheerleading. (Oops. Guilty as charged.)

      Variety of textures: One of my most favorite ways to keep my texture palate happy is to serve something creamy and mashed (whatever you can mash—sweet potato, squash, parsnips) next to something crunchy and salty. So like mashed parsnips with a side of salted, crunchy kale chips. And I love to have something crunchy and salty with/on my meal. So I may crumble crisp fried bacon or salted nuts on top of a salad to get that pop.

      Venturing into lesser allowables: Good luck! I always treat it like getting to know a person that other people had told me was a bad egg. I’m always wary of those people, but I always want to give them a chance. We may hit it off and benefit one another. But I always keep in mind they may back stab me. A potato and rice for me seem to be a go. Wheat (I know most alternative health people say no wheat, ever, but I’m more of a moderate and feel like it is person dependent—but has to be gone for time until symptoms are controlled) and chicken (which is even an allowed) seem to be no-go, back stabbers each time I try.

      Good luck. If you have any questions at any time, throw them out. On any post, even if it doesn’t seem to apply to the topic of the post. 🙂 My kids are cooking, I’d better go save my kitchen.

      1. MEH

        Wow! Thanks for the “shot in the arm”!! I really want this path of health to be my path from now on. You have really encouraged me. Hope the kitchen survived!

  3. Stacie

    Hello! I found your blog while looking for homeschooling information. I also enjoyed reading through some of your health articles as I have spent the past 6 years researching ways to improve my family’s health issues with food. I eventually reached a plateau and didn’t know what to do next until a friend introduced us to a Dr. Robert Morse and his detox program (he has lots and lots of videos on YouTube). We just started with the herbs and diet so I’m not sure how it’ll work but am very hopeful! I was curious to know if you have heard of him and his program? If so, what are your thoughts?

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Dear Stacie,

      Hello! I have not heard of Dr. Robert Morse. I wish I could tell you more. I did Google him briefly since you mentioned him but not enough to know how effective his work is. I wish you improved health past your plateau.

      Best wishes with all.



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