If you’re trying to heal your gut and your body naturally, then you know there’s a ton of different dietary theories out there. The information can be overwhelming and leave you feeling really confused. How do you know which diet to try, if it’s working, when to try something else, and how long to be on a strict diet? In this article, we discuss the SCD protocol and the best way to implement it.
If you’re trying to heal your gut and your body naturally, then you know there’s a ton of different dietary theories out there. The information can be overwhelming and leave you feeling really confused. How do you know which diet to try, if it’s working, when to try something else, and how long to be on a strict diet?
On Wednesday’s podcast we discussed a lot of these questions is Steven Wright from SCDLifestyle. We spoke specifically about SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) because that’s the protocol Steven used to heal his digestive problems, and it’s the protocol he’s used to help many of his clients.
The SCD protocol is one of the best gut-healing tools, and it can used to help numerous conditions since it focuses on healing the gut, which can contribute to healing other conditions in the body.
SCD was created back in the 1920s by Dr. Sidney Haas as he was trying to find a healing solution for kids with celiac disease. This protocol proved extremely beneficial in healing his patients. It was later revised and published in Elaine Gottschall’s book, Breaking the Viscious Cycle.
The general framework for SCD includes the following:
- Grain free
- Polysaccharide free (starch free)
- No added sugar
- No processed foods
- Only allowable carbohydrates are monosaccharides
- Does allow fermented dairy and certain legumes
There are also several phases of the diet, starting with the intro phase, which is mainly meat, cooked veggies, and broth.
For a full list of foods allowed on SCD, click here.
When implementing any type of healing diet, whether it’s SCD or something else, it’s easy to get obsessed with the rules and trying to follow the diet perfectly. This is when it can sometimes cause more harm than good, because trying to be “perfect” causes a lot of added stress, which contributes to hightened symptoms.
As Steven points out, there are many diet frameworks, but you must tailor it to work for you. It’s not about following the diet 100% perfectly. Instead, follow the framework and see how it’s working for you. If you decide to try a certain dietary framework for your gut and you don’t notice a measureable improvement within two weeks, then it’s a sign you need to change something and make some modifications. Sometimes, the modification may mean adding specific gut-healing supplements such as digestive enzymes or betaine HCL.
Just remember, it’s going to be a process of tweaking and re-evaluating. Don’t beat yourself up over being perfect with your diet. Don’t let it increase your stress. Instead, try to have fun with it and experiment.
Another recommendation Steven mentions is to slowly come off SCD once your gut is healed. It’s not intended to be used long-term. There are a lot of healthy foods that are not approved on SCD, and once you’ve healed your body, you may be able to tolerate these foods. Gradually add in new foods to find your customized protocol.
SCD vs. Low-FODMAP
The gut-healing diet that seems to get all the hype lately is the low-FODMAP diet. You may be wondering about similarities and differences between SCD and low-FODMAP.
There are many similarities between the two protocols, but the big difference is seen in the types of carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, and sugars) allowed on the plans. Additionally, low-FODMAP is not grain-free; it’s gluten-free. It also allows seeds in small amounts. SCD doesn’t have a restriction for certain nuts like almonds, but the quantity is limited on low-FODMAP.
It’s difficult to say if one is better than the other. It will vary by the individual and the individual’s symptoms. Sometimes combining SCD with low-FODMAP for a brief period of time is the most helpful.
As with SCD, we don’t recommend being on a strict low-FODMAP diet long-term. High-FODMAP foods are extremely beneficial to your gut flora, and as you heal your gut, you’ll likely be able to tolerate more of these foods.
Steven’s best suggestions for symptom management include:
- Start with SCD intro diet (meat, fat, broth).
- Then introduce vegetables and fruit and remove any fruits/veggies that don’t work for you.
- Start off restrictive and slowly add in foods.
The goal is to find the broadest diet that works for you. You may find you do great with some high-FODMAP foods but not others.
Be aware of high-stress moments when your symptoms are hightened. Know which foods are your safe foods, and focus on those during times of high stress. Then when your stressful period dies down, start adding in other foods. You may find that under normal circumstances, you can enjoy coffee, asparagus, kale, and other foods. But during times of high stress, these foods may trigger symptoms. Recognize this, and remove those foods temporarily. Eat your safe foods until the period of high stress is over.
Tips and Tricks for SCD
- Cooked meats, fruits, and vegetables
- Avoid nuts, eggs, dairy, legumes initially
- Avoid high sugar—only moderate fruit intake
- Supplement with betaine HCL and digestive enzymes
- Soups—may tolerate meat broth better than bone broth initially
How to Establish Balance
Be in touch with your body and self-aware of how you’re feeling physically and emotionally. However, don’t become super obsessed with your health issues and your diet. Allow yourself to relax around progress and your health. The progress from being very sick to super healthy is not a linear process. There will be ups and downs. Pushing harder is usually not the best move. Take breaks and relax. If what you’re doing health-wise doesn’t seem to be working, then take a break. If trying to get healthy is making you unhealthy, then take a break and relax.
What do you think? I would like to hear your thoughts or experience with this.
Dr. Ruscio is your leading functional and integrative doctor specializing in gut related disorders such as SIBO, leaky gut, Celiac, IBS and in thyroid disorders such as hypothyroid and hyperthyroid. For more information on how to become a patient, please contact our office. Serving the San Francisco bay area and distance patients via phone and Skype.