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Dietary strategies for IBD: Specific Carbohydrate Diet

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Quality Rating

Criteria for starring system: 

  • Incorporates appropriate microbiome strategies
  • Incorporates appropriate gut healing strategies 
  • Inflammation reduction is a priority
  • Long-term symptom reduction
  • Easily implemented
  • Reduces disordered eating patterns

Caveat for starring system: This system is our opinion based on the available research at this time. We reserve the right to modify our recommendations as new literature is published and we learn more about the complexities of IBD. Review our recommendations with an appropriate amount of discretion and understand that oftentimes there is not a one size fits all approach for every situation.

SCD: Specific Carbohydrate Diet

Overview: SCD eliminates carbohydrates requiring digestion in the small intestine. The theory behind SCD is that certain carbohydrates are not fully digested and must be broken down by bacterial fermentation in the lower gut. This might cause an overgrowth of harmful bacteria and set off a cycle of irritation in the intestines. The idea is that by eliminating complex carbohydrates, there will be no undigested carbohydrates left to cause an overgrowth of bacteria to set off an undesirable chain of gut irritation.  

  • Background: SCD was created in the 1920’s by pediatrician Sydney Haas to treat celiac disease. A mother of one of Haas’ patients and a biochemist, Elaine Gottschall, made the diet popular in 1987 after researching and writing a book entitled Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health through Diet. 
  • Small studies show that SCD can induce symptom remission (not necessarily inflammation reduction) and mucosal healing in children. Large, well-controlled studies are lacking however, with little evidence in adults. 
  • Likely, orthorexia nervosa, weight loss, and nutrient deficiencies will arise

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC4021001/ 

Meets criteria for: 

  • Symptom reduction in the short-term

Does not meet criteria for: 

  • Incorporates appropriate microbiome strategies
  • Inflammation reduction is a priority
  • Long-term symptom reduction
  • Easily implemented
  • Reduces disordered eating patterns