Years ago I believed that people who touted what I’m about to tell you were just “fanatical health nuts” . . . and as they say, “And now I are one”. Well, I’ll never say never again . . . because we never really know what we’ll do until we’re in a situation.
Health researchers believe that faulty digestion and malabsorbtion of nutrients are the root of the majority of illnesses. Malabsorbtion of nutrients is a result of a digestive problem caused by a diet not genetically suited for humans and/or too many antibiotics, steroids, birth control pills, other medications, etc. Humans are much like automobiles: give us the right fuel and we hummm along, but give us inappropriate fuel and additives and we start to "knock and ping" and deteriorate, little by little.
It seems that many of us have a propensity for “gut” problems . . . and stress, diet and medications often have a dramatic adverse effect on us. Our immune systems have also been weakened from the preservatives, pesticides and chemicals we’re exposed to daily. Many of the foods we eat are being genetically manipulated in an effort to grow them quickly and cheaply in order to feed the world’s hungry. And, sadly, they are not genetically suitable for human digestive systems.
Once the digestive system is impaired, foods that do not digest easily and move quickly through the digestive tract, linger and feed and multiply the bad bacteria which cause inflammation and more damage to the intestines. Also, if foods move too fast, as with diarrhea, we cannot absorb the nutrients. A healthy digestive system should produce 2-3 formed stools per day. Less than that indicates food that is digesting too slowly and intestinal bacterial overgrowth. I’ve learned from my research that acid reflux, indigestion, sugar/carbohydrate cravings, failure to thrive, inability to loose weight, headaches, brain fog, poor memory, gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, eczema, dermatitis, itching, allergies, acne, depression, joint pain and swelling, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue and so many other autoimmune diseases from arthritis to cancer are often the result of digestive problems due to intestinal yeast/bacterial overgrowth and malabsorbtion of nutrients. When we stop that “vicious cycle” we can eliminate many health problems and diseases and live a happier, more productive life!
Here is the vicious cycle that most of us fall victim to
and must break to become healthier:
Overuse of antibiotics, steroids, birth control pills, and other various medications and foods not suited for the human digestive system (i.e., too many over-processed, refined foods and sugars) = overgrowth of intestinal bacteria = inflammation in the gut = damage to intestinal villi = destroyed digestive enzymes = inability to digest = malabsorbtion of nutrients = weakened immune system . . . . . . . . . and the vicious cycle begins again.
BREAKING THE VICIOUS CYCLE by Elaine Gottschall gives us The Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which will in most cases break that vicious cycle. Generally, the layperson must read it several times to really "get it", since this new way of eating is a new concept for the fast-paced eating-out generation of today. You will need the book to get the research behind the diet, the details of the diet, the lists of “allowed” and “not allowed” foods; and you’ll want to refer to it often. I call it my health "Bible" and have literally worn my copy out! As a bonus, you’ll get lots of wonderful recipes that are SCD “legal”. Most of us eat pretty simple foods (grilled, baked, broiled, or steamed) with an occasional “recipe” thrown in for variety.
It's important to know that much healing must usually take place before many can eat some of the SCD "allowed" foods. When you have bacterial overgrowth, the intestines/gut can become inflamed/irritated/sore . . . which is much like having ulcers in the mouth. When you have mouth ulcers, foods you eat NORMALLY without a problem will irritate the ulcers and keep them from healing. Likewise, when the gut is inflamed, foods that normally would not cause symptoms, likely will. Therefore, you'll want to start simply with a very basic diet of homemade chicken soup and other specific foods to detoxify your body. See the next page on this website "Beginning The SCD" and read pages 50-52 in BREAKING THE VICIOUS CYCLE.
You will want to move forward slowly into other foods as intestinal healing takes place. When you first add vegetables and fruits, make sure they are cooked soft to soften (not destroy) the fiber and make it more digestible. If you inch up too fast or have to take antibiotics or some other meds for any reason, you could have a flare-up of symptoms again, and need to go back to the basics of the diet to again starve out the bacteria in order to heal the intestines. Being patient and drinking 8 -10 glasses of water a day and getting extra rest will get you through the detox period easier and faster.
The foods on the SCD "not permitted" list are the foods that, because of their molecular structure have been proven to move slowly through the digestive tract, feeding and multiplying the unhealthy bacteria. If you know that some of the LEGAL foods give you digestive or allergic reactions, even though they may be on the "Permitted" list, you should also avoid them for a while until healing has taken place and symptoms have lessened. Then you can try them again, one at a time, and see if you can tolerate them. Remember:
“What the patient takes beyond his ability to digest does harm.”
The foods on the "Not Permitted" list should not be reintroduced again, however, or the explosion of overgrowth will likely occur again. In time, those on the SCD find that flares occur less and less and with less intensity. Most of the people I know and have worked with since 2000 who have had intestinal overgrowth in the past find that they must maintain this healthy diet indefinitely or the overgrowth and symptoms begin again.
I knew within 2-3 weeks that this would be the way I would eat the rest of my life because of the dramatic changes it had made in my body in such a short time. I believe a strong mindset to eat this way for life, cleaning out the cabinets and refrigerator to contain only “legal” foods, and sharing this information with others who are also ill have been the reasons for my family’s and my phenomenal success on the SCD.
When I began the SCD, there were many foods that I KNEW gave me "a little indigestion": onions, peppers, tomatoes, bananas, citrus, and greasy foods . . . the foods I loved most. That included Mexican food . . . and in Texas, not being able to eat Mexican food is a real tragedy! I tried to avoid them as often as possible . . . not really realizing that I had a serious digestive problem. When stress in my life caused my symptoms to intensify to the point that my lifestyle was affected, I pursued a diagnosis.
There were other foods that I thought were healthy and not causing me problems (potatoes, pasta, corn, rice, milk, breads, sugar), and that actually felt soothing to my stomach and intestines after immediate consumption. Unbeknownst to me, they were the real culprits and not "comfort" foods at all! Being slow to digest, they were feeding and multiplying the 'bugs' that were causing damage to the intestines and ultimately causing malabsorbtion of nutrients. When we give the 'bugs' what they want they quit 'bugging' us . . . temporarily, that is. Since these were foods I really loved . . . it at first seemed impossible to eliminate them. However, I found that when I broke the addiction to sugar and high carbohydrates, my cravings ceased, I had energy to spare, and I was able to normalize my weight without effort. Cheating just once on illegal sugar/carbohydrates, however, set me up again for digestive symptoms and cravings. I was also surprised to learn that carbohydrates are not REQUIRED to be healthy. And, by the way, I can eat onions, peppers, tomatoes, bananas, citrus, and greasy foods with success now, and I make a mean 'legal' Mexican dish with guacamole!
It’s really very confusing until you get on the SCD 100% (fanatically) to figure out which foods do what. You must rid your body completely of the troublemakers for a while, and you can try them again later in order to determine which foods are the true culprits. It's really not possible to ease into the diet and get results. There is a science involved and you can’t experience healing until the unfriendly bacteria are starved out and replaced with friendly bacteria. Cheating gives 'the little beasts' a banquet to once again multiply and sets one up for cravings, symptoms and failure.
Only a molecular scientist such as Elaine Gottschall, truly understands the effects of foods on intestinal bacteria. Our medical doctors are not molecular scientists and most have no clue how the two interact. Discussing the SCD with them is usually useless since they are inclined to follow the usual medical protocol of diagnosing, dispensing medications, and performing surgeries. Although we sometimes need medications, we should realize that they are merely band-aids on illnesses, masking the symptoms and causing side effects that often cause more damage to the intestines and immune system. Learning the do’s and don’ts of foods has led to health miracles for me (Celiac, GERD, Fibromyalgia, Depression, Asthma), my husband (Crohn’s), my mother (Diverticulitis, GERD, Hiatal Hernia, Bleeding Ulcer), my brothers (IBS & Celiac), a son (Celiac), many of my friends and acquaintances, and thousands of others around the world. I have been fortunate enough to eliminate 9 medications I was taking when I began the SCD and have lost over 50 pounds of unhealthy fat! I feel better than I’ve felt in my lifetime and want to “move” more. I also find that it takes less food to satisfy and sustain us when we eat whole, natural foods . . . and that helps to break the cycle of overeating.
SCDers do not recommend stopping medications “cold turkey”. Rather, we recommend taking the meds your doctor prescribes, getting on the SCD 100%, and when you are symptom free for a few months, with your doc looking over your shoulder, try weaning off the medications very slowly . . . if that is your choice. Occasionally we do find doctors who will assist in this after your symptoms are gone.