One patient from my first week at clinic comes to mind. The patient had tried a variety of dietary approaches for persistent gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms without noticeable improvement. That’s until she was introduced to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD).
The thinking is grounded in the belief that removing certain carbohydrates starves the intestinal microbes responsible for many common digestive diseases. Eliminating certain environmental factors, say chemicals associated with highly processed foods, may also lower the likelihood of gastrointestinal issues.
While the understanding of the SCD remains murky, the patient delightfully reported significant improvements in bloating, gas and constipation while following the diet.
Our patient’s positive findings are consistent with a 2015 case series of 50 people with gastrointestinal issues, specifically inactive inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) who had been following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet for an average of three years (range 1 to 216 months). The majority of the participants ate the homemade SCD yogurt, half used a supplementary probiotic, and roughly 40% were not on medications for their IBD.
Participants reported feeling moderately better after an average of 29 days (range 1 to 180 days) on the diet and two thirds of them reported that their symptoms went away entirely after an average of 10 months (range: 1 to 60 months).
It is worthwhile to note that the SCD is a strict diet regimen that requires a good deal of meal preparation. In fact, almost half of the participants found the SCD difficult to follow.
Though there is some evidence that suggests the SCD can potentially be an effective and low-cost dietary strategy for managing GI symptoms and disease activity likely through its potential to modify the gut microbiome and eliminate bizarre food additives and highly processed foods, the verdict is still out.
Ultimately, this re-enforces the notion that a “proper diet” varies per individual. As such, it is always recommended to seek the help of a qualified nutritionist to assess and evaluate the appropriate diet for specific needs and symptoms.
"Ref: Kakodka S, Farooqui AJ, Mikolaitis SL et al. The specific carbohydrate diet for inflammatory bowel disease: a case series. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015;115(8):1226-1232."