Health

What Can You Eat on Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)? Pros & Cons


SCD includes easily processed carbohydrates and whole unprocessed foods.

The specific carbohydrate diet (SCD) is potentially useful in people with inflammatory bowel disease. SCD mainly focuses on the intake of simple carbohydrates and unprocessed foods.

Experts claim that SCD:

  • Favorably changes the gut microbiome
  • Reduces the inflammatory neuropeptide levels in the gut
  • Reduces the gut lining inflammation

SCD involves eating carbohydrates that are easy to digest and avoiding foods that have high fiber or protein content.

  • SCD reduces symptoms of intestinal distress such as cramps and bloating.
  • SCD mainly has monosaccharide carbohydrates that are made of a single molecule and do not require an enzyme to break down. They should be easily absorbed and digested.
  • Complex carbohydrates are restricted because they are harder to digest

What is the specific carbohydrate diet?

The specific carbohydrate diet (SCD) usually restricts certain carbs that can help people with gastrointestinal issues, such as:

SCD usually limits legumes, lactose, or sucrose because they are harder to digest than other carb types.

What are the side effects of undigested carbohydrates?

Pediatrician Sidney Valentine Haas, MD, and his research developed this SCD. They published the book Management of celiac disease in the year 1951. Undigested carbohydrates (especially complex carbs) can cause gas formation, bacterial overgrowth, and gases. 

Hass suggested that if you remove or restrict certain carbohydrates available to intestinal bacteria, there will be reduced opportunities for bacterial overgrowth and production of toxins. This will help reduce gastrointestinal issues.

What foods should you eat and avoid on the specific carbohydrate diet?

SCD includes easily processed carbohydrates and whole unprocessed foods.

Foods allowed

  • All fruits
    • Fresh or unsweetened dried fruits
  • Fresh and frozen nonstarchy vegetables
  • Dried beans
  • Nuts
    • Nut flours
    • Most nuts
    • Unsweetened nut butter
  • Most seeds
  • Proteins
    • Nonprocessed meat and fish
    • Fresh or frozen poultry without additives 
    • Eggs
  • Dairy
    • Dry curd cottage cheese
    • Natural cheese
    • Home-made plain yogurt
    • Sharp cheddar (not mild)
    • Swiss
    • Ricotta
    • Cream
    • Feta
    • Mozzarella
    • Cottage cheese
    • Gouda
  • Olive oil and coconut oil
  • Gelatine
  • Honey

Restricted foods

  • All grains
    • Corn 
    • Wheat germ
    • Oats
    • Rye
    • Rice
    • Spelt
    • Amaranth
    • Wheat flours and flours made from dried beans
    • Barley
    • Buckwheat
  • Fruits vegetables and legumes 
    • Canned fruits or vegetables
    • Potatoes and parsnips
    • Sweet potatoes and yams
    • Corn 
    • Beetroot
    • Cassava
    • Chickpeas
    • Bean sprouts
    • Soybeans
  • Meat poultry and fish
  • Dairy products
    • Milk 
    • Store-bought yogurt
    • Sour cream
    • Milk cheddar
  • Sugar and sweeteners
  • Chia seeds, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds
  • Preservatives




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SCD 7-day diet plan

The seven-day diet plan includes:

  • Day 1:
    • Unlimited fresh fruits with a cup of coffee 
    • Asparagus salad or lentil salad
  • Day 2:
    • Unlimited fresh fruits with a cup of coffee 
    • Homemade plain yogurt with berries and honey
    • Grilled eggplant with fresh fish
  • Day 3:
    • Unlimited fresh fruits with a cup of coffee 
    • Salad topped with nuts
    • Sharp cheddar cheese slices
    • Dairy-free tomato soup with no added sugar
  • Day 4:
    • Unlimited fresh fruits with a cup of coffee 
    • Salads with egg 
    • A handful of unsweetened dried fruits; dry curd
    • Unsweetened cottage cheese with grilled chicken
  • Day 5:
    • Unlimited fresh fruits with a cup of coffee 
    • Shrimp sauteed in oil and artichoke hearts
  • Day 6:
    • Unlimited fresh fruits with a cup of coffee 
    • Green bean salad topped with cheddar cheese
    • Two boiled eggs
    • Salmon filet cooked in olive oil
  • Day 7:
    • Unlimited fresh fruits with a cup of coffee 
    • Unsweetened juice with two boiled eggs
    • Slice of Swiss cheese
    • A hand full of raw cashews
    • Grilled fish of your choice
    • Mushrooms sauteed in oil

Tips to prepare for SCD include:

  • Restrict certain carbohydrates that are never fully digested.
  • Only eat foods that you can easily digest.
  • This is not a short-term diet for weight loss.
  • This diet helps treat gastrointestinal diseases.

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What are the pros of specific carbohydrate diet?

The efficacy of the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD) is quite limited. Studies suggest that restricting carbohydrates as a gastrointestinal treatment may help people with undiagnosed gastrointestinal distress and bloating.

Helps manage Crohn’s disease

In a study published in 2017 in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroentrology and Nutrition, researchers found that nutrient intake in people with pediatric inflammatory bowel diseases was adequate compared with that in a healthy population. Close monitoring with a multidisciplinary team for people using SCD as an alternative and adjunct therapy is recommended to ensure positive outcomes in the overall health of the people.

  • SCD is a complete diet with an appropriate intake of nutrients and micronutrients.
  • Vitamin D evaluation should be done on people with SCD.

Helps manage gastrointestinal symptoms

In a recent review article “Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease” in the International Journal of Clinical Practice, researchers have found that SCD helps in flare-ups of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

What are the cons of specific carbohydrate diet?

You should be aware of the disadvantages of the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD) and consult a registered healthcare professional and dietician before attempting it.

Restricts nutrients

SCD eliminates certain nutrient-dense foods that include grain-based flour, grains, bread, and starchy vegetables that provide valuable nutrition. This diet specifically reduces nutrients and minerals.

In a study published in 2017, researchers found that 100 percent of participants were below the level of recommended daily allowance for vitamin D; 75 percent of daily intake was less than what is recommended for calcium.

Requires work

SCD requires a multidisciplinary team approach and good patient compliance for best outcomes according to the North American Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition.

No specific support

The North American Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition and few scientific centers support this diet as therapy.

Does specific carbohydrate diet a healthy choice?

Talk to your registered healthcare professional and dietician before going for a specific carbohydrate diet (SCD). They might recommend modifications to get proper nutrients and minerals.

Low-FODMAP diet works best to treat gastrointestinal issues; this is not a weight loss diet. This diet is used for the treatment of proper digestive health. 

The United States Department of Agriculture suggests eating plenty of legumes, whole grains, and dairy products. SCD eliminates many of these foods. SCD does not meet the current recommendations set by nutrition experts.

Exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle factors play a major role in overall well-being. The best diet should be balanced and fits your lifestyle.





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Medically Reviewed on 8/24/2022

References

Image Source: iStock image

Braly K, Williamson N, Shaffer ML, et al. Nutritional adequacy of the specific carbohydrate diet in pediatric inflammatory bowel disease. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2017;65(5):533-538. doi:10.1097/MPG.0000000000001613

Obih C, Wahbeh G, Lee D, et al. Specific carbohydrate diet for pediatric inflammatory bowel disease in clinical practice within an academic IBD center. Nutrition. 2016;32(4):418-425. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2015.08.025

Burgis JC, Nguyen K, Park K, Cox K. Response to strict and liberalized specific carbohydrate diet in pediatric Crohn’s disease. World J Gastroenterol. 2016;22(6):2111-2117. doi:10.3748/wjg.v22.i6.2111

NASPGHAN Foundation National Office. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet.


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