Is SCD Key to Curing IBD?

Elizabeth Roberts Health Guide
  • Since mid-March I have been living 100 miles away from home and my husband. I am in Boulder, Colorado participating in a Natural Foods Chef school where I am learning to cook with seasonal, organic, local, and unrefined foods that are, for the most part allergen-free (gluten-free, dairy-free, etc.).


    I'll admit I was very hesitant to sign up for this course, even though cooking and cooking for health has been a passion of mine for more than 20+ years. But, if you live with IBD then you know how unpredictable it can be and how hard it can make keeping a schedule at times. Plus, stress never makes IBD better and even though the course is interesting and exciting and fun it is a lot of work, both in school and at home, and in my required internship, and just all the requirements can be stress-inducing in-and-of themselves.

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    Anyway, me having IBD came up in the first week somehow. And within another couple of weeks one of the teacher's mentioned that her husband has UC as well. In fact, it was so bad at one point his GI told him his only choice was to have his colon removed. If you aren't familiar with Boulder it is a city that fully embraces organic food, yoga, holistic medicine, no GMO foods, etc. Four years ago, this teacher and her husband were new to Boulder and through her work as a cooking instructor she was introduced to a doctor who treats many people with complicated illnesses. Long story short, her husband was put on the SCD diet and three years later he looks great. His colon is intact, he's eating healthy for you foods, and pretty much considers himself UC-free.


    I decided to see his doctor and did so for the first time about 3 weeks ago. He took an extensive health history dating back to when I was born; a full family history (in which I found out from my mom that not only does my dad have UC, which I knew, but his mother -my grandmother - did too, which I didn't know until now); and a current assesment of how I'm feeling now. As I put it to him, I'm surviving much better than in any of the past 12 years since my UC Dx. What I'd like is to thrive, too.


    He sent me away with orders to start the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) - which I had done for about 6 months when first Dx'd with IBD - the diet is detailed in the book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall but should be done under the care of a medical practitioner in case you experience problems as I did. He told me I would probably be on it for 2-3 years, as this is the length of time it can take for the colon to properly heal for most IBDers, in his experience. He is an M.D. and worked as a GI for years but didn't like the philosophy of just prescribing medication and leaving it at that. He found a mentor in another GI who had gone his own direction and after a few years my doctor went back and received another degree and a Naturopathic doctor. That is now what he practices.


    In addition to the SCD he also had me do a battery of tests - stool tests, urine tests, saliva tests, and blood tests (more blood was drawn from me in one day than ever before - yikes!). I meet with him this Thursday to get all the test results and see where we go from here.


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    But, about 10 days into following the SCD to the letter I was worse. I was losing weight, my stool was nearly diarrhea-like, and I had no energy. Not good when you're on a schedule and need to be able to go for a good 10-12 hours every day. When I called to talk to him about it he said that he had just received one test back which showed I am dairy-intolerant - not good since the SCD is high on yogurt and I'd been eating a lot of it. He told me to stop all dairy and to eat a diet low in fiber and high in meat protein and good carbs and fats - think eggs, bacon, avocado, soups, stews, applesauce, turkey jerky, etc.


    It's a week later and I've gained back some of the pounds I lost - I'm mostly just happy not to be losing anymore, and have most of my energy back. I'll be interested to see what the other tests show and to see if he thinks the SCD is what I should be doing for me and my UC.


    His experience over the years has been that many of his IBD patients who do the SCD for 2-3 years find their symptoms subside, they can get off their medications, and they can often add back in some of the foods that the SCD eliminates. In addition to my teacher's husband I have talked to a couple of other UCers who claim the SCD helped clear up their disease and that changing their diet is a small price to pay for having their life back.


    I'll keep you posted on my experience. And if anyone else has a story about an experience with the SCD and IBD please share it for the rest of us.


    Elizabeth Roberts is the author of Living with IBD & IBS, as well as

Published On: June 12, 2011