Specific Carbohydrate Diet for Pediatric Crohn's

B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

Over the years there has been a lot of discussion about certain diets and how they help or hinder healing in Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).  Recently more attention has been drawn to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet after a study showed that children with Crohn's Disease (CD) showed improvements on the diet.

What is the Specific Carbohydrate Diet?

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet was developed by biochemist Elaine Gottschall, MSc and detailed in her book: Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet.  The theory is that when you remove carbohydrates that are difficult to digest and that inhibit good bacteria you allow the gut to heal.

What can you eat on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet?

Vegetables (fresh or frozen)
Legumes (must be soaked first)
Unprocessed meats, poultry, fish and eggs
Natural cheeses that have been fermented longest
Homemade yogurt fermented 24 hours
Most all natural fruits and juices
Nuts, natural nut butters
Olive, coconut, soybean, and corn oils
Tea and coffee made weakly
Mustard and vinegar

What foods must you avoid on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet?

Sugars
All canned vegetables
All grains
Some legumes
Starchy vegetables
Canned or processed meats
Dairy
Canola oil
Commercial condiments
Candy
Chocolate

For detailed information on what foods you can and can't eat on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet check out the Legal/Illegal List on the Breaking The Vicious Cycle site.

What does this mean for children with CD?

The study showed improvements in the mucosa of children with CD who followed the diet for 12 and 52 weeks.  Unfortunately, only nine children were able to complete this study.  That is in part due to the restrictive nature of this diet.  It is hard to draw any real conclusions from such a small study.

The restrictive nature of this diet could also lead to deficiencies in certain areas like B vitamins, iron, calcium and potassium.  This is especially worrisome in children who have such high rates of growth that nutritional deficiencies are even more likely.

If you want to try this diet it is best to do it under the supervision of a dietitian or physician to monitor nutritional status.

_Jennifer has a bachelor's degree in dietetics as well as graduate work in public health and nutrition.  She has worked with families dealing with digestive disease, asthma and food allergies for the past 12 years.  Jennifer also serves the Board of Directors for Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association (PAGER). _

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