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


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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:

Editor's Note: 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. welcomes your comments below (registration is NOT required). E-newsletter

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21 Responses:

Carol Frilegh
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said this on
20 Dec 2007 12:31:54 PM PST
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 ( 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.

Christine Heiner
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said this on
06 May 2017 7:29:11 PM PST
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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said this on
20 Dec 2007 2:09:39 PM PST
This diet changed my life. I used to manage celiac with only gluten-free restrictions, but after eating a plain baked potato one day I became terribly ill, then terribly confused because I KNEW I hadn't accidentally ingested gluten. One day a friend told me about the Specific Carb. Diet, I tried it, and I'm healthy again. Not cured, but I feel fantastic now.

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said this on
20 Dec 2007 4:42:22 PM PST
Excellent article

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said this on
21 Dec 2007 1:50:21 AM PST
Great article

Ginger Nash
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said this on
22 Dec 2007 9:45:48 AM PST
I don't feel Elaine indicated that genetic gluten problems are cured with Special Carbohydrate Diet but other types of stomach ills such as IBS, etc., can be if the diet is adhered to. I have genetic gluten sensitivities and after being gluten-free casein-free still had much pain however when I began following Special Carbohydrate Diet it had made a remarkable change in my stomach pains and other related issues.

I am very happy to see an article of this caliber being posted on

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said this on
23 Dec 2007 10:54:05 AM PST
This article is a great explanation of the specific carbohydrate diet. I do not have celiac disease, but I have an IgG reaction to gluten, so I have to limit the amount I consume, and I think the Special Carbohydrate Diet approach will be right for me.

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said this on
24 Dec 2007 9:25:14 AM PST
Our family has followed Special Carbohydrate Diet now for almost 2 yrs in support of our now 7 yr old son.
He was having major emotional out break several times a day for seemingly no reason. With srick SCD and controlling his exposure to certain chemicals, our family has gone from a stressed explosive environment to a most of the time peaceful one.

Thank you Carol for sharing with others and being such a support to those trying to help themselves and their children.

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said this on
26 Dec 2007 11:10:07 AM PST
After being diagnosed as 'most likely Celiac', I went gluten-free but continued to have debilitating pain after eating. I found a website describing the Specific Carbohydrate Diet on the internet. For me, progress was slower than for others but after 2 1/2 years on the diet, I am pain-free and healthier than I've ever been. Thanks to Carol for clarifying many misunderstandings of SCD!

Cameron Hayden
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said this on
10 Jan 2008 12:22:13 PM PST
I studied this diet. Everyone is different. Elaine's book does make a bold statement about the specific carbohydrate diet curing Celiac. I could never find any evidence, however, outside of the book that this was clinically tested. To my knowledge, it has not, and anecdotal evidence is mixed at best.

I do give credence to her diet as a treatment, which is to reactivate the brush border enzymes, kill yeast and restore the balance of bacteria in the intestinal tract. In my opinion, however, Gluten Intolerance and all related conditions involve the lack of gluten gliadin degrading enzymes, which causes yeast and bacterial growth, leaky gut, and immune reactions. No one yet knows how to turn these enzyme actions back on. The SCD diet seems to help by restoring other brush border enzymes. I think that the diet is a good one, but could be further enhanced by HCI supplements and the new generation gluten degrading enzymes which seem to survive stomach acid and degrade gluten in vitro.

Sandra Bowman
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said this on
11 Jan 2008 11:17:53 PM PST
Was considering buying the book on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet...probably will to see if it will help with what the plain gluten-free diet doesn't for me. Even gluten free grains cause problems sometimes for me. So figure it's worth a try at least.

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said this on
04 Dec 2008 10:24:07 AM PST
I am happy to see an article like this. My son is recovering from autism on this diet. When we began researching the gluten connection I discovered gluten and bakers yeast had been the cause of my own autoimmune health problems and the cause of chronic migraines for my mother. We both follow a gluten free diet and have had complete relief. Because my son is 100 percent on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, all the snacks in our home are Specific Carbohydrate Diet legal. I find I feel even better on Specific Carbohydrate Diet food than when consuming gluten free grains. Also, due to the bakers yeast allergy, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet baked goods are more suitable for me and taste better than the gluten-free yeast free products. I think every gluten free cookbook library may also want to include a Specific Carbohydrate Diet cookbook as well. Happy Snacking!

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said this on
05 Feb 2010 7:22:24 PM PST
This explains why gluten free grains still leave us with symptoms.

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said this on
19 Jul 2011 5:43:38 PM PST
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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said this on
04 Mar 2012 9:00:37 PM PST
I am happy to find this excellent article about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet on 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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said this on
10 Jun 2012 5:04:37 AM PST
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!

Barbara Phibbs
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said this on
28 Sep 2012 10:36:25 AM PST
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.

Julia Brettschneider
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said this on
09 Jan 2013 10:52:34 AM PST
It would be wonderful if you could give me an update.

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said this on
27 Feb 2013 1:26:01 PM PST
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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said this on
15 Jan 2014 12:38:27 PM PST
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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said this on
21 Jan 2015 9:26:21 AM PST
I had fun with this result. I found just what I was looking for. You have ended my four day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day!

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