Written by: Kelley Herring, Healing Gourmet
Do you ever experience bloating, acid reflux, cramping, indigestion or other digestive distress?
If so, you’re not alone.
In fact, it is estimated that up to 70 million Americans suffer from some form of digestive issues – ranging from chronic constipation to serious and even life-threatening conditions, such as Crohn’s disease.
And while digestive issues can stem from a wide variety of causes, there’s one factor quite often overlooked: Carbohydrates.
The Link Between Specific Carbohydrates & Digestive Issues
Carbohydrates come in several forms – monosaccharides, disaccharides and polysaccharides. Of these three types, the monosaccharides (“mono” – meaning one) are the only type of carbohydrate that doesn’t require an extra step during digestion to fully break down. On the other hand, polysaccharides and disaccharides have additional chemical bonds, which make these forms of carbohydrates more complex – and therefore more difficult to fully digest, especially for some people.
Unfortunately, this partial digestion of carbohydrates can lead to many uncomfortable and even dangerous results – beginning with an overgrowth of bacteria and yeast in the gut.
Although bacteria and yeast are a natural and important part of our individual microbiomes, problems can arise when the delicate balance of microorganisms that live inside you is disturbed. As harmful bacteria and yeast (like Candida) begin to proliferate unchecked, toxins are released and the pH of the digestive tract changes.
This can lead to irritation and inflammation, damaging the cells in the gastrointestinal tract. In addition to chronic discomfort, the end result can be a variety of issues, including leaky gut, food allergies and even autoimmune disease.
And this vicious cycle will continue as long as the offensive carbohydrates – poly- and disaccharides – are being consumed.
Breaking the Cycle: The First Step Towards Better Digestive Health
Eliminating those specific carbohydrates can help to break the cycle of inflammation and cellular damage, allowing the microbiome to regain a healthy balance and the gut to heal.
Not surprisingly, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) is very close to the diet enjoyed by our ancestors. Like the Paleo diet, it is grain-free and unprocessed. It encourages regular consumption of bone broth, healthy fats like tallow and lard, and a wide variety of grass-fed meats and wild fish.
But SCD also eliminates starches and sugars that can be problematic – including many foods like sweet potatoes, parsnips, sunflower seeds, chocolate, jicama, okra, maple syrup, kohlrabi, plantains and many others that are often considered “approved” foods for those following a “Paleo Diet.”
If you’ve been following an ancestral diet – and yet you still experience digestive problems – the Specific Carbohydrate Diet may be just the tweak you need to achieve complete digestive wellness and relief from uncomfortable symptoms.
How to Start the Specific Carbohydrate Diet
Interested in trying SCD? Start with Dr. Elaine Gottschall’s groundbreaking work – Breaking the Vicious Cycle; Intestinal Health through Diet. In her book, you’ll learn about the foods to avoid as well as those to include.
You’ll also learn what to include on the “intro diet” – a jumpstart plan that is comprised of foods that are very easy to digest. This provides your body with deep nutrition while giving the gastrointestinal tract a chance to heal. After this first phase, more complex foods are reintroduced, as you discover how well your body tolerates them.
Because every individual is unique, SCD can be tailored to your personal intolerances and ability to digest certain foods to create a plan that is right for you.
Have you tried the Specific Carbohydrate Diet? If so, what was your experience?
Read more articles by Kelley Herring here.
Kelley Herring is author of more than a dozen books on nutrition and natural healing. She is also the co-founder of Wellness Bakeries, which has just released their newest product – Better Bread – a 100% Paleo bread mix you can whip up in 5 minutes flat.
1. Elaine Gottschall. Breaking the Vicious Cycle; Intestinal Health through Diet. August 1994
2. American College of Gastroenterology 2013 Annual Scientific Meeting. Rush University Medical Center, SCD Study