Summary: The Specific Carbohydrate Diet is an increasingly popular dietary intervention for IBD patients that involves limiting dietary carbohydrate to monosaccharides, or simple sugars. In practical terms, this involves eliminating all sources of starch, as well as sugar (sucrose) and lactose. It has anecdotally been extremely helpful for a variety of digestive issues, and some published clinical research is beginning to accumulate suggesting benefit for IBD patients, although the best-designed trial thus far does not demonstrate any benefit over a “Mediterranean” diet. Further, the scientific theory underlying the SCD principles does not stand up to our current understanding of the role of intestinal bacteria in IBD, and more importantly, does not support the “fanatical adherence” called for. Ultimately, the diet has helped a great number of IBD sufferers and may be right for some people, but there are likely other dietary and lifestyle approaches that could deliver similar or greater benefit with less restrictiveness and easier-to-follow guidelines.
This article is part of the IBD Index. Last updated on March 14, 2022.
This article aims to give a high-level overview of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, as well as practical guidance. For a deep (deep, deep) dive into the science, check out The Science Behind the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD): Brilliant or Bunk?.
Ah, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. I’ll save my experience with it for another time and keep this page as objective as possible, but as a disclaimer: this is the diet I stuck to religiously for the vast majority of the ~3 years between being diagnosed with UC in 2008 and having my colon removed in 2011. (So at the very least, I’m writing from a place of experience!)
From the looks of it, the diet has only grown in popularity since that time. Even giant online health websites like WebMD, VeryWellFit, and Healthline are chiming in about it. (You don’t need to go read those pages. Just keep reading this one; it’s better.)
This post will give you an overview of the SCD, where it came from, the rationale behind it, pros/cons, and things to watch out for. I also link some relevant resources, and at the bottom of the post (as usual) you’ll find a literature review of sorts. An annotated bibliography, if you will.[Read more…] about The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) for IBD: Everything You Need to Know