Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) was developed in the 1920s to treat Celiac disease. It has since been used to successfully treat other bowel diseases as well such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, and diverticulitis. The SCD diet only allows easily digested forms of carbohydrates (monosaccharides) that readily pass through the intestinal wall without having to be broken down by brush border enzymes first. Complex carbohydrates consisting of disaccharides and polysaccharides are not allowed on this diet. In individuals with gut damage due to disease, production of disaccharidase enzymes along the intestinal brush border is often very impaired. When complex carbohydrates are consumed, they cannot easily be broken down in the small intestines. This allows for too much bacterial fermentation in an area of the gut where large numbers of organisms don't normally exist. 

What is the Specific Carbohydrate Diet?

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) is a very healthy and balanced diet consisting of specific forms of carbohydrates (monosaccharidesglucose, fructose, or galactose) that can easily be absorbed in the gut without needing to be enzymatically broken down first. Complex carbohydrates such as polysaccharides (starches) and disaccharides (lactose, sucrose, maltose and isomaltose) are excluded from this diet. By eliminating certain forms of carbohydrates, the vicious cycle of gut damage is halted and the body has time to heal itself. Consuming complex carbohydrates that cannot be broken down due to gut damage or disease (IBD) creates an environment where organisms can overgrow and produce waste products that can further damage the gut lining and impair nutrient absorption. In individuals with normal gut function, and a healthy gut lining, complex carbohydrates are broken down by enzymes and absorbed. Some parts of these complex carbohydrates become food for bacteria that exist in the colon. These beneficial organisms then produce byproducts such as short chain fatty acids that nourish the gut lining. Complex carbohydrates are very nourishing in individuals with a healthy gut! However, in individuals with gut damage, too many complex carbohydrates can overwhelm the system, creating a vicious cycle feeding non-beneficial bacteria and further damaging the gut lining and ability to break down complex carbohydrates. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet is a well-researched diet that allows time for the body to heal itself. For more detailed information, please refer to the book: Breaking the Vicious Cycle

Foods Excluded on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet:

  • All grains and grain flours
  • Corn
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Turnips
  • Arrowroot powder
  • Tapioca flour
  • Plantains
  • Soy products
  • Most legumes (except for small amounts of lentils and lima beans)
  • Chia seeds
  • Lactose (milk, cream, cream cheese, kefir, lightly fermented dairy)
  • All sugars and sweeteners (except for small amounts of raw honey and stevia)
  • All forms of chocolate

Foods Included on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet:

  • Vegetables (except those listed above)
  • All fruits (except plantains)
  • All meats and seafood (except bacon made with sugar and processed deli meats)
  • Eggs
  • All fats (except soybean oil)
  • Fermented dairy (hard cheeses, 24-hour yogurt or sour cream)
  • Coconut products (canned milk w/o thickeners)
  • Nuts and seeds (macadamia nuts, walnuts, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, peanut butter, pecans, small amounts of almonds)
  • Nut flours and nut butters
  • Small amounts of lentils and lima beans (soaked for 12 hours first)
  • Small amounts of raw honey and stevia

What are the Benefits of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet?

When implemented correctly, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet is a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory way of eating that can allow time for the gut to heal by halting the intake of complex carbohydrates (food for organisms that may be overgrowing and out of balance). Phytochemicals in plant foods can feed beneficial organisms in the gut during this healing process to help restore balance and harmony within the gut microenvironment. As the intestines begin to heal and non-beneficial bacteria die off, absorption of fats, fat soluble nutrients, as well as iron and B-12 increases. Intestinal permeability decreases as gut inflammation decreases and non-beneficial bacteria die off. This often leads to an increase in energy, a decrease or elimination of brain fog and pain throughout the body, and less immune reactivity to foods.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet begins with an Intro Diet for 5 days. During this time only a small number of easily digested foods are included. Bacterial die off symptoms are common during this time so be sure to include things like activated charcoal to help sweep out toxic bacterial die-off products. Be sure to follow the guidelines in the book: Breaking the Vicious Cycle

How do I Start the Specific Carbohydrate Diet?

  1. If you are not yet a Nourishing Meals® member, you can join now.
  2. Begin by stocking your kitchen with fresh fruits and vegetables. Stock up on pastured meats, frozen wild seafood, blanched almond flour, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats and oils.
  3. Add some of our sample Specific Carbohydrate Diet meal plans to your user profile or create your own!
  4. Schedule your meal plans onto your meal plan calendar and create shopping lists.
  5. Get inspired with new SCD recipes added to this site weekly! Join our Nourishing Meals Community Facebook Group to get notified with new recipes and more! Everyone is welcome. 
Plan Length Actions

Nutrient-Dense SCD Lunches

4 days

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Egg-Free SCD Breakfasts

3 days

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Easy SCD Breakfasts

7 days

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SCD Family Dinners

9 days

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