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  • Carol Frilegh
    Carol Frilegh

    The Specific Carbohydrate Diet is an Excellent Gluten-Free Diet Option

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 12/20/2007 - The Specific Carbohydrate Diet is an excellent option in dietary intervention for celiac disease and was originally developed for that purpose over fifty years ago by Dr. Sydney Valentine Haas. Dr. Haas treated over 600 cases of celiac disease with his Specific Carbohydrate Diet, maintaining his patients on it for at lease twelve months, and found that the prognosis of celiac disease was excellent. "There is complete recovery with no relapses, no deaths, no crisis, no pulmonary involvement and no stunting of growth."

    Specific Carbohydrate Diet - A Dietary Intervention for Celiac Disease and Autism

    A fifty-year-old diet used by adults to combat Celiac Disease and other digestive and bowel problems is also having a remarkable effect on autistic children.

    The Specific Carbohydrate Diet restricts but does not eliminate or limit carbohydrate intake. It is neither a low carbohydrate diet nor low calorie diet. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet developed from the research and practice of celiac management by a pioneer in the field, Dr. Sydney Valentine Haas and his son, Dr. Merrill B. Haas. Haas discovered that feeding monosaccharides and restricting polysaccahrides is effective in manipulating the food supply of types of bacteria that damage the intestinal lining, flatten microvilli and interfere with nutrient absorption.

    The late Elaine Gottschall, pursued her study of the effect of food on the functioning of the digestive tract and its effects on behavior for nearly four decades. Gottschall had visited Dr. Haas as a last resort before agreeing to radical surgery for her five year old daughter. The child was cured on Specific Carbohydrate Diet and went on to resume a normal life and diet. Gottschall, sought additional answers and pursued the brain-gut connection after the death of the senior doctor Haas until her own demise at age eighty-four. The diet has enjoyed great success among adults who follow it to heal Celiac Disease, Crohn's Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and Irritable Bowel Disease. Celiac disease is considered incurable, but this diet can be a very effective treatment for it, especially when it is started very early for children. Recent research shows that more than 50% of children with autism have GI symptoms, food allergies, and mal-digestion or malabsorption issues. The history, an overview of celiac disease and the diet protocols are among topics that appear in in Gottschall's book, "Breaking the Vicious Cycle."

    The Specific Carbohydrate Diet excludes a category of carbohydrates not easily digested. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet is about the type of carbohydrates that will heal and not hurt. It is not about the quantity of carbohydrates and should not be confused with "low carb diets" or even the Paleo or "Caveman" diets to which it is sometimes compared. Elaine Gottschall was emphatic in stressing that the Specific Carbohydrate Diet is a balanced and wholesome diet.

    Thinking of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet as a low carb diet is one of the most common mistakes made by those who are not sufficiently informed. Eliminating
    carbohydrates can lead to a condition called "ketosis," which is why it is essential to include adequate carbohydrates in the daily menu. Carbohydrates contribute energy, essential nutrients, and fiber. People who have validated concerns about yeast may moderate the use of fruit and honey until things improve but should not have to eliminate them.

    Rest assured! You may include plenty of carbohydrates on Specific Carbohydrate Diet. Former choices of starchy foods like rice and potato are replaced with filling items like squash, bananas, peas, apples (and applesauce), avocados, almond flour muffins and others. These are carbohydrates that are easier to digest and more nutritious. Their nutrients are absorbed directly into the bloodstream without taxing a compromised digestive system.

    That is why the word "Specific" was chosen to name Specific Carbohydrate Diet.

    There is a strong brain-gut connection and it appears decreasing bacterial overgrowth is restoring cognitive abilities in many of the children following the special version for Autism, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperacticity Disorder.

    The autistic community of parents and doctors have favored popular dietary approaches like the gluten-free casein-free diet until recently, but in light of anectdotal reports of 75% success using the Specific Carbohydrate Diet as a dietary intervention, more physicians are recommending it. Parents and teachers of autistic children report changes in attitude, increases in skills and responsiveness, in some cases after only a few weeks on the diet. Although long term properly controlled studies have not been conducted, these numerous first hand reports attest to the potential this diet holds for the autism community, in addition to celiacs which have been helped by it for decades. The diet is more restrictive in some ways than the gluten-free casein-free diet, as most foods must be homemade, but the diet is varied, balanced, nutritional and the food every appetizing.

    Gluten sensitivity and intolerance to salicylates are symptoms of a damaged digestive system which is overrun with intestinal pathogens. When the health of the gut is restored, these symptoms disappear. It is better to cure the underlying cause than to just try to treat the symptoms. Because Specific Carbohydrate Diet reaches to the root cause of these problems by restoring the health of the digestive system, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet is being viewed as the optimal choice for celiacs and children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

    As one mother has said, "When you see them emerge, the true child, with a loving personality, like an iridescent butterfly breaking out of its cocoon, well, that's why we all persevere."

    For more information about this diet please visit:
    http://breakingtheviciouscycle.info/
    and
    http://www.pecanbread.com

    Editor's Note: Celiac.com supports the idea that the Specific Carbohydrate Diet is gluten-free and can be very helpful for many people, depending on their situation. We disagree, however, with the assertion that Elaine Gottschall makes in her book Breaking the Vicious Cycle that people with celiac disease can be cured by the Specific Carbohydrate Diet after being on it for a certain time period.


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    This is a good diet. I recommended this to my mother who was hospitalized with c.dificul due to taking a certain antibiotic. This diet has restored her health and helped rid her of the bad bacterial overgrowth. I myself do better when on this way of eating, because even gluten free grains have that gut bloating starch. By the way, if you wait for them to do a clinical trial on something as simple as a diet, you might be waiting forever. Now if it was a "drug" owned by a big pharmaceutical company, then maybe.

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    I am happy to find this excellent article about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet on Celiac.com. I had been gluten free for 14 years and over time could digest fewer and fewer healthful foods. One by one I dropped things like broccoli, bananas, cheese, meats, all fruits until I was eating only rice, a few vegetables, fish and eggs. I never could digest gluten free baked goods very well or anything with corn.

    I'm so happy to have found the SCDiet because within a few weeks, all those foods became possible for me to eat again without any stomach or gut issues at all. I feel so good, I think I'll just stay on this diet for life.

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    I was diagnosed with coeliac disease when I was 13 years old, after no symptoms other than being underweight and having really bad acne. I stuck to a strict gluten-free diet for 4 years, but at the age of 16 I began to develop nausea. By the end of the year, I was so sick I could barely get out of bed. I had dizziness, headaches, extreme, constant nausea and was always tired. I couldn't go to school and there was a good chance I would have to be kept down and repeat grade eleven because I couldn't keep up. I had been to every doctor and specialist and no one knew what was wrong. I had also come down with glandular fever, and was feeling miserable. My mum discovered the Specific Carbohydrate diet, and after being on it for only one week I was feeling better. The glandular fever disappeared very quickly and as the days went on, I went back to school, got a job and even started going to the gym. I felt better than ever and every symptom vanished! I stayed on the diet for one year and it was the only reason I managed to graduate high school with all my friends. I have been back on a relatively normal, (but still gluten-free) diet for the past 6 months and I'm feeling well. I would strongly encourage anyone to give this a go!

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    I was diagnosed with celiac disease four years ago and went on a strict gluten-free diet. For the first six months the only grain I ate was rice. I felt as if someone had given me my life back! Then I discovered a gluten-free bakery and began eating other gluten-free products. I began to feel ill again and just recently have had terrible fatigue, headaches and intestinal symptoms to the point where I cannot go out. I had not connected this to diet and my gastroenterologist said that I must be eating gluten! I did some research about celiacs who are not completely healed on a gluten-free diet and saw a homeopath/naturopath who tested me and told me that the other grains that I was eating were preventing my gut from healing. This led me to the SCD, which I have begun. I am not better yet, but the bloating is gone, the diarrhea has stopped and I am hopeful after reading all these comments. It is, however, very daunting and frightening to me to have to try and eat this way.

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    Guest Julia Brettschneider

    Posted

    I was diagnosed with celiac disease four years ago and went on a strict gluten-free diet. For the first six months the only grain I ate was rice. I felt as if someone had given me my life back! Then I discovered a gluten-free bakery and began eating other gluten-free products. I began to feel ill again and just recently have had terrible fatigue, headaches and intestinal symptoms to the point where I cannot go out. I had not connected this to diet and my gastroenterologist said that I must be eating gluten! I did some research about celiacs who are not completely healed on a gluten-free diet and saw a homeopath/naturopath who tested me and told me that the other grains that I was eating were preventing my gut from healing. This led me to the SCD, which I have begun. I am not better yet, but the bloating is gone, the diarrhea has stopped and I am hopeful after reading all these comments. It is, however, very daunting and frightening to me to have to try and eat this way.

    It would be wonderful if you could give me an update.

     

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    Well, I just started the SCD praying it gives me some relief. I am 50 years old and I started having problems with gluten over 3 years ago. When I initially went gluten-free, I was better within a few months, however, a year later my symptoms returned with a vengeance. I could not understand, as I had been super cautious not to consume any gluten. I have been suffering for almost 2 years now with severe intestinal issues, fatigue, and depression. I still push myself to exercise, but it's sure a struggle without much energy. After reading all the information and comments about the SCD diet, I feel hope for the first time in quite a while.

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    I have recently been diagnosed (5 months ago) with celiac and was still having symptoms of glutening despite cooking 100% at home with non-processed foods. After trying this diet I immediately started to feel better (within a week).

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    Guest Christine Heiner

    Posted

    As author I am responding to the editor's note by noting that I commented in the article,' Celiac is very difficult to cure in adults but can be effective when started very early for children. In my own case it is apparent that celiac is an auto immune reaction best controlled by avoidance of trigger food like wheat and other grains. I acknowledge that after eight years on SCD I am NOT cured but very well managed and controlled.

    ***********************************************************************

    Comment by Scott Adams (Celiac.com Editor):

    We edited that line in the article because, again, celiac disease is considered by doctors and researchers to be incurable, and only treatable via a gluten-free diet. There has never been a scientific study published that the SCD diet can cure celiac disease, or any other disease, but we do believe that it can aid in the treatment of many diseases, including celiac disease.

    Can't help but think that when the SCD diet is started early in children, and they appear cured, that maybe what has happened is that they have gone into that "honeymoon" period that many children go through, when celiac seems to disappear...which is why they used to think it was only a childhood disease. The symptoms may disappear, but the damage is still going on.

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  • About Me

    I am 79 an undiagnosed Celiac, since March 2000. I had chronic sinus infections and fluctuating weight, lost 86 pounds, got pneumonia, and needed antibiotic and Prednisone. I also got MCS and Latex Allergy. Unable to eat without pain, I started The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). Things began to improve at once. I am not cured but SCD has been effective in managing the Celiac and helped improve my damaged immune system. It is a bit stricter than the gluten-free casein-free diet.

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