frequently asked questions
Q: Where can I get more information about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet?
A: There are many resources to help you learn more about the SCD. The primary way, of course, is to read the book "Breaking the Vicious Cycle" by Elaine Gottschall. Also see the official SCD website, http://www.breakingtheviciouscycle.info which contains a lot of great information such as a legal/illegal list of foods, a list of SCD-friendly doctors, and a search function to find additional information on subjects about which you're interested in learning more.
Our website is loaded with everything we know about being on the Diet and living with it, day in and day out, so browse through every page! You'll be interested in the "Peek at Our Inbox" pages where I have answered people's questions on many topics of interest. We have also collected recipes and written articles that will provide you with lots of information on many topics in our magazines. In addition, I have provided links to several of my favorite SCD-related websites.
Q: Is it hard to do this diet?
A: The first few months of starting this diet is the hardest time, because you will need to change your thinking about the type of food you eat and preparation time, as well as stock up on items you will need to make and store the food. It is truly a life-changing event to start the SCD, both in the positive effects it has on your body AND in the lifestyle changes you need to make. Once you have devoted yourself for a few months to feeding yourself on 100% SCD foods, you will find that the diet becomes a lot easier and you will find new ways of making the diet less work. For example, I learned to make large quantities of foods that I enjoyed the most, and then froze them in a freezer we bought for stockpiling my foods. That meant next time I was hungry I could simply go to the freezer and choose a meal to defrost in the microwave.
Also, once I felt so much better, there wasn't much temptation to grab something that was illegal on the diet. Remembering the pain I'd be in if I ate the wrong thing gave me the energy I needed to whip something up in the kitchen instead.
Now, the diet is completely routine and normal to me. I have favorite easy meals and snacks in mind when I get hungry, and it's very simple to quickly make them. If I am low on energy for some reason, just cutting up some fruit and having a bowl of homemade yogurt and honey satisfies me easily. All of our magazines except for September/October has a "Five Nights, Five Dinners" section that includes a grocery list and will help you plan your meals. Our "Week of Meals" cookbook is filled with a week's menu with 24 great recipes, a shopping list and food prep tips. You'll find all our menu aids and ideas in one place on our Menus page.
Q: What items should I invest in when I first start the diet?
A: I would buy a Yogourmet Yogurt Maker right away so you can make the SCD version of yogurt, which is incubated at 110 degrees Fahrenheit for 24 hours. Follow the directions in the Yogourmet packaging, but let it sit for 24 hours instead of what they recommend. Use 1/2 cup Dannon All Natural of Fage Yogurt for the starter, or the Yogourmet yogurt starter packets also work but are more expensive. (You can see an example of legal Yogourmet yogurt starter below.) I actually now have two yogurt makers so I can make two half-gallons of yogurt at a time. I eat about a cup or more per day, which means I only have to make yogurt about twice a month.
Next I would buy some blanched almond flour to make the baked goods. Almonds are an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals, and are also a good source of fat for someone trying to gain weight. When I lived in California, I bought 25 lbs. at a time through a California grower online and stored it in gallon size zip top bags in the freezer, taking out a little at a time to use in recipes. (This was possible because we bought an extra freezer to store my food outside in the garage. You don't have to do this but it does make things cheaper to buy in bulk.) You can price sources online, and also check out our Amazon store or our Amazon picks below. www.freedavitamins.com makes an SCD multi-vitamin that Elaine Gottschall worked to specially produce through them for the specific needs of those on the diet. She recommended two of these tablets a day to help augment our health, and you'll find a link to buy these vitamins below. Other SCD vitamins they sell are: SCD B Complex, and SCD Calcium Complete. A food processor is also a great investment. A fun addition to my diet has been a countertop electric ice cream maker (such as the Cuisinart Frozen Yogurt / Ice Cream Maker) which quickly and easily makes delicious recipes such as Vanilla Ice Cream and Pumpkin Ice Cream.
Q: Is there a problem with the fact that the temperature fluctuates a bit during the 24 hour incubation period with the Yourgourmet Yogurt Maker ?
A: No, the yogurt is still perfectly legal and healthy. A note from the manufacturer gives further light on this situation:
" Important Notice to Users Following the
Specific Carbohydrate Diet"
"Please note the Yogourmet Multi yogurt maker has been designed to maintain an incubation temperature of 108-112 degrees F (42-44 C) in a room where the temperature is around 68-72 degrees F (20-22 C)."
"If the room temperature where the yogurt maker is used is higher than 72 degrees F (22 C), then the incubation temperature of the yogurt maker will also be higher in proportion."
"It is important especially in summer to use the yogurt maker in an air conditioned room, basement or a room which is not as warm as the kitchen in summer. If this is not possible, try to operate the yogurt maker without the outer lid. This could help lower the incubation temperature."
Q: Will I have to eat a lot of weird things on the diet?
A: I actually eat better-quality, more delicious food than most people do! There are many recipes that can be easily adapted to fit the diet, and my husband enjoys eating the same food I do (I usually add some bread, tortillas, rice or potatoes on the side for him but he's perfectly happy even if he doesn't get these extras with every meal.) I have made many recipes that my family tasted and said, "I don't feel a bit sorry for you!" Our magazines are loaded with recipes that everyone will love. The main food that is different is the baked goods made with nut flours. But did you know that gourmet chefs use nut flours to make pastries and sweets? While they are different than regular baked goods, they really do taste good and it's important to experiment with recipes so they taste the way you like them.
Q: How soon will I feel better?
A: The healing process is different for everyone. Some people feel better immediately, and some take several months to feel significantly better. The amount of time you have been suffering with the disease may have an impact on your healing time, since there may be more for your body to repair. For me, I was feeling a lot better within a couple of weeks. By my post-hospital six-week check-up I had gained 9 pounds and my color was back. I did have a flare-up after about three months of being on the diet, but I understand that is fairly common with SCDers. (They call it the "three month flare" and it may be due to die-off of bacteria in the gut.) It took a few days for the flare-up to be over, and from then on out I didn't have any flare-ups unless I accidentally ate something which wasn't allowed on the diet. Even then, my flare-ups lasted just a day or two; just enough time for the food to run through my system.
Q: What if my doctor isn't supportive of the diet?
A: It's important to be aware that the medical community is not generally going to stick their necks out to recommend this diet. Why? Because, as a diet, the SCD is only beginning to have the scientific studies to prove that it works. That's what doctors need, to protect them from negative feedback from other doctors and possible malpractice suits. Pharmaceutical companies on the other hand are able to fund these kinds of studies because they expect to make that money back on the medicines they sell. Since this diet helps you get OFF meds, no wonder the SCD hasn't gained more popularity in the medical community. (Things are changing, though, as you'll see on our Recent Research page!)
There are some doctors, however, who do encourage patients to give it a try. My doctor told me he had never heard of the SCD and he didn't think diet made any difference to intestinal diseases, but he said it probably wouldn't hurt to try it. That may be the most support you'll get from your doctor. But you shouldn't let that stop you from going onto the SCD!
I had to learn that although doctors are great at diagnosing illnesses, they don't always have every answer to our ailments. They can only recommend what has been scientifically proven, so we need to take the initiative to do our own research, and work hard to reclaim our health. The doctor is not suffering with our disease; we are. No one cares as much about our health as we do!
Something interesting to ponder is that we are ALL on a diet! No matter what we eat, we are choosing certain foods to put in our mouth. There is so much unhealthy eating going on in America because of fast-food restaurants, prepared food, etc., that the SCD is nutritionally leaps and bounds ahead of what a large percentage of people in the U.S. probably eat every day. So if your doctor is unsure if it's a "safe" diet, don't worry! It is an extremely safe, well-rounded, whole food diet packed with nutrients and fresh healthy food.
Note in December, 2012: In the last year we have heard of many people who were directed to the SCD by their doctor! This is a huge new development and very encouraging! It means that doctors are hearing about the diet and observing the improvement in their patients, and this is the best advertisement. Our goal is that the SCD would be offered as a standard mainstream treatment option for people with Irritable Bowel Diseases.
Note in February, 2017: Recent studies completed by doctors at Seattle Children's Hospital have proven that the SCD works. We believe this will be the beginning of widespread acceptance of the SCD by the medical community. Change is happening!
Q: What if my family isn't supportive of the diet?
A: I have to share the same advice as above - no one cares as much about your health as you do, and you must choose to take your health into your own hands. When they see how healthy you are after being on the diet for a while, I bet they'll start seeing the benefits of the SCD.
Showing your family members this website will help them understand the ideas behind the diet. It will help them see why the diet is giving you hope, and will provide them with recipes they can use when cooking for you. They will see that there is a large community of people who are following the SCD with wonderful results and it will give them hope too.
Q: How do I handle social situations? I don't like to have everyone looking at what I'm eating!
A: It is important to remember that you set the tone for how comfortable people will be around you when you are on the diet. If you are comfortable, happy, and confident they will sense that and will feel they can move the conversation on to other subjects. (Which is why you're on the diet, right? You don't want to have to think and talk about your health for the rest of your life!)
People are naturally interested in the diet, so when they notice you're eating something different you can give a short answer like "Oh, I'm just on a special diet for my health." That usually satisfies most people and they'll feel comfortable enough to leave it at that. If they are interested in the diet and what it's for, though, just cheerfully answer their questions in a succinct manner so the whole conversation doesn't get steered in your direction.
Occasionally, people will feel bad that they are eating something you can't eat. All you have to do is respond in a way that shows them you're perfectly happy eating the way you are because you're so healthy, and you actually don't mind avoiding certain foods. It's becoming so common to be on some kind of special diet nowadays that people may not even see it as something unique.
Try to remember that people may simply be curious and often your sharing about the SCD can lead to helping other people who are also suffering with a similar ailment. I've been amazed to find out how many people know someone else who has an IBD! Maybe your openness about the diet will be the help someone needs.
Q: Can I go out to eat in restaurants?
A: You must be very selective when going out to eat, but that doesn't mean you can't go at all! Whenever I try a new place, I look at the menu to find something like plain chicken or beef with some steamed vegetables and/or fruit on the side. This is usually pretty easy to find, and often times even if you don't see it on the menu, you can explain to the waiter that you are on a strict diet for your health so you want to find out if they can do a special order for you. Be prepared with food in a bag, pocket, or purse, however if they can't accommodate your order!
I always ask if they have plain meat, not taking any that has been pre-marinated. Also, I ask what it is cooked in and request for them to use only oil to cook it. For the steamed vegetables I ask for them to be cooked in only water, with nothing added. If you can get them to bring separate wrapped squares of real butter (not margarine!) you can add it to your hot veggies, and even to the top of the chicken or other meat. For the fruit, I ask for fresh fruit to ensure they don't use any from a can. Some restaurants I have researched and go to freely are:
A: For the most part, your friends will be pleasantly surprised with how delicious and normal your food is! The food you eat is actually very gourmet, and if you adapt recipes from magazines or use any of the great recipes in our magazines and booklets or on our recipe pages, it will be hard to tell the difference. Many people taste my food and say, "I don't feel sorry for you!" I eat better than most people do!
One thing I like to do is add bread, rice, potatoes or tortillas to the side of meals I make for family or friends. This ensures that they have the type of food they are used to, and then we can all easily sit down to the same meal without it being a big deal. Again, if you're comfortable with what you're eating, they will be too! They just want to make sure you're happy!
Q: I've heard that some people do the SCD in "stages" but I didn't read about that in "Breaking the Vicious Cycle." Are stages necessary?
A: Following stages has been necessary for some people, especially for autistic children on the diet. To learn about stages visit www.pecanbread.com. I personally got completely well and stayed well without following stages, as have many thousands of people who follow the diet as it is presented in the book. In a later version of "Breaking the Vicious Cycle," Elaine Gottschall mentions that it is not necessary to follow "stages" to get well.