October 17, 2016 MariaCantillonMurphy 32Comment

I am certain that this diet works. Actually I find it hard to see how it wouldn’t work because it’s essentially a way of re-programming the body to heal itself. Oh and of course then there is the science behind the diet. This wasn’t dreamed up by someone who thought it might work, it was developed by a doctor, Dr. Sidney Haas and then popularised by a biochemist, Elaine Gottschall who used the diet to treat her daughter’s Ulcerative Colitis. If you want to read more about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) you can click here. All of that said, my firm belief at this stage is that diet alone is not enough and that regular excercise and finding a way to manage stress also play an important role in healing from inflammatory bowel disease. There is no cure for inflammatory bowel disease but I firmly believe that the SCD can greatly reduce symptoms and for some lucky ones: make them disappear altogether. Below is a list of the common pitfalls of SCD which have made so many believe that it doesn’t work, inspired by my own mistakes and struggles. Hopefully you will have a smoother journey than I did!


Just because something is legal doesn’t mean you can tolerate it

Peanut Butter

One of the first bread recipes I tried when I began the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) was a nut butter loaf. I used peanut butter as I assumed like a lot of people that peanuts were nuts. I couldn’t understand why I felt really, really unwell the next few days until I read a little about peanuts. It turns out they are legumes, not nuts and are considered an advanced food for SCD-ers. To be precise they are to be tried cautiously after six months on the diet. In fact, PecanBread a great online SCD resource say that “peanut butter seems to be one of the major failure reasons for failure with SCD”.

Broccoli, Cauliflower, Fennel, Celery

All of the above vegetables are SCD-legal and packed full of nutrients but are also very fibrous and difficult to digest, especially if they are not cooked well. When I started SCD first, I really thought that if anything was on the legal list I could eat it in abundance. I learned the hard way-after a flare which I attributed to eating some broccoli which hadn’t been well cooked-that many foods have to be slowly transitioned into the diet.


Lactose-free dairy is allowed on SCD but it doesn’t agree with everybody. I have always been able to tolerate good quality butter and cheese but it took some time before I could eat SCD 24 hour yoghurt. Even though these dairy products are allowed on the diet, I try not to overdo them as I know I may not feel great if I do.


Take your time with new foods but not too long!

The first time I started the diet, I began eating raw foods way too quickly. The second time around, I took a more balanced approach, staying off nuts and dairy for at least a month and introducing raw and fibrous foods very slowly. It’s important to say though that a variety of foods is needed to maintain a healthy gut. I’ve heard about people saying they are doing great on SCD and all they eat is carrots and butternut squash. It’s important that you introduce new foods and as many of them as you can, when your body is ready.


Natural sugar is still sugar

Fruit is really good for you and an important source of daily nutrients but it is also high in fructose. Natural sugar, although a million times better than eating refined sugar, is still sugar that should be eaten in moderation. I know myself that I don’t feel great when I eat a lot of dates or oranges in one day. My system just can’t handle that.


Don’t try to replace all of your carbs

SCD is not intended to be a nut diet and it’s not ideal for you to try to replace all of your carbs with nut products. For example if you start the diet thinking, I’ll just have nut bread in the morning, nut crackers for my snack and a pizza with a nut base for dinner, you will unlikely see any progress. The focus when you are on SCD should be to eat more vegetables, eggs, fish, meat, fruit and other whole foods. In other words, to eat more foods that are naturally gluten and grain free. SCD is a whole new way of eating and shouldn’t be adapted to our old eating habits. You’ll learn quickly that you can snack on vegetables when you’re hungry e.g. beetroot crisps, butternut squash fries, grilled asparagus and many more.  When I embraced this new way of eating, I know my health really began to improve.


Don’t go nuts on nuts!

I remember my first time tasting almond flour blueberry muffins. I thought they were so amazing and tasty and then I thought “this is fine, I’ll just live on them so”. The snacks and desserts that can be made with nut flour and naturally sweetened are as good if not better than regular treats. The first time you make a batch of almond flour cookies, it can be so difficult not to eat the whole lot in one sitting. Believe me, I’ve been there. I had just given up all the foods I loved and knew, then found something which tasted amazing and gorged myself on that. Many of my bad days early on were ones where I had over-indulged on nut products.


Corn is not a vegetable

Am I the only person who didn’t know this? I blame advertisers for promoting sweetcorn as one of our five a day! Corn is actually a useless grain and 100% illegal on SCD.


We all make mistakes starting out. Beginning and sticking to the SCD is not easy but so worth it. I remember being totally overwhelmed when I began as I used to dwell on all the foods I couldn’t eat. Now, my diet is more varied than ever before and I have tried more new foods in the past year than in the previous 20! Eating whole foods is far from boring or bland. I have never before been so inspired by food and so driven to constantly create new recipes. If I had to give any advice for success on SCD I would say what someone said to me when I started: balance is key, eat everything in moderation. The reason I feel better than ever before is down to following this. I am conscious that if I have a fruit smoothie in the morning, I won’t eat much more fruit. If I have almond flour cookies as a snack, I won’t have many more nut products that day. If I overdid the cheese in my lunchtime salad, then I’ll go easy on the dairy for the rest of the day. Maybe the only food group that this doesn’t apply to is vegetables: the more the better, and the more variety the better too!

I hope this helps you in some way as I had many struggles when I started the diet first. Now it has become such a part of me that I couldn’t imagine eating any other way. Not only am I healthier, but my whole family is and long may it continue! If you have any comments or want to share your story, please get in touch. I’d love to hear from you!




32 thoughts on “Common pitfalls of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)

  1. Hi Maria,

    I am loving your blog! I am just starting the SCD and am trying to get as much information as possible before I start, and as you said the beginning is a bit daunting with so much info to take in but your posts have really helped to make the whole process a lot clearer so thank you! I am just wondering what you did for the intro diet? I am looking at the introduction to scd chapter in Elaine’s book and it seems like we cannot eat a lot for the first week or so. Just wondering did you follow this strictly or is there any other foods we can eat during this time?

  2. Hi Kate!

    Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you like the blog. I started it for exactly this reason because starting SCD can seem so daunting. Trust me, it does get easier. The intro diet is difficult I won’t lie but it is important to do it. I only managed to do it for two days and then I began introducing a few other foods as I thought I was going to fall down! For the intro diet days you definitely should make the grape gelatin (I have the recipe under “snacks”). I ate a lot of grape gelatin in between meals. Regarding the other meals remember that although you need to stick to the intro diet, Elaine said you can eat as much of the foods as you want. So for example if you can tolerate eggs well then you can have three eggs for breakfast. For lunch you can have three beef burgers (with nothing but beef and salt) if you are hungry. I didn’t make the cheesecake for the intro diet but I did have steamed carrots instead. You can only do your best. It’s important to have enough calories to survive the day too. That’s why the intro diet can’t be followed indefinitely.

    Best of luck with it whenever you start it and please feel free to contact me any time if you need support or have any questions. Happy healing 🙂

  3. Just started the diet this week. I am two days in and I already feel amazing. I’ll be bookmarking your blog and likely maintaining my own as I’m a recipe nut.

    I have a diagnosis of mild ulcerative colitis limited to the rectum and the meds have only gotten me so far. I’ve done a ton of research and purchased the scd book as well as a pH diet book. I am active and exercise 4x a week, so I fully expect to have a six pack after being on this diet – hopefully successfully – for a few months .

    Thanks for this post.

    1. Hi Jennifer.

      Glad you found this post useful. You sound Really positive which is great so I’m sure you’ll be very successful. Sticking to the diet can be hard at times particularly in a restaurant where you don’t have options but you get really used to it. I can honestly say that I rarely crave chocolate or sweets. Well done for staying active. I just recently starting running 5Ks and I feel so much better. Best of luck with everything and you know where I am if you have any questions.


  4. I have SIBO and I am wanting to start either the Fast Tract Diet or SCD. The Fast Tract has specific points and serving sizes to follow. I cannot find the serving size or daily legal amount for any food on the SCD “legal” list. Is there any rules page that I can find or should I just go with the Fast Tract? Like in SCD, if pineapple say is “legal”, in my mind I could eat pineapple until my hearts desired!!! I’m confused, I need rules!! Thanks

    1. Hi Marie. So sorry, only saw your message just now. Unfortunately there are no specific amounts to follow for SCD as everyone is so individual. The best thing to do is introduce new and foods slowly and in small amounts to see if they are tolerated. It always amazes me to meet others doing SCD with different intolerances. I recently met someone who couldn’t eat ripe bananas and they are my ultimate safe food! I hope you’re successful with the diet!

  5. Enjoyed your blog. I have been dealing with Crohnes all my life and eating mostly organic and as healthy as possible.
    About 3yrs ago gave up all wheat/gluten products, soy, and dairy. Cannot do any dairy at all, but goat milk and goat gouda cheese seems to be ok.
    My friends kid me all the time saying heres an apple….its gluten free!!! Eat out rarely and cook 3meals a,day. The diet wouldnt be So difficult, but I just have to have my dark chocolate!!! Also don’t know what I’ll add if no sweet potatoes. I’m only 100# and can’t afford to loose any more weight. I need to gain weight.
    Any suggestions on that?
    Tks again for your blog!!

    1. Boo! I just wanted to tell you that our stories are so similar, I had to reach out to you. I too had cut out all those things, and giving up chocolate and sweet potatoes just seemed like too much to ask! But I’ve been on the diet two weeks, and let me tell you, it is so worth giving up a couple more things. Recovery is a long road, but I can’t believe how much better I’m feeling in just two weeks after feeling so bad for YEARS. I’d literally been living in the bathroom for four months before starting SCD. Try it!! You won’t regret it!

  6. Hi,
    really great blog found it at just the right time. I’ve been on the scd since 1st October 2017 trying to improve things following a 2014 coeliac disease diagnosis. Been getting knowhere on gluten free diet. SCD Really has made a difference but I’ve fallen for the peanut pitfall and nuts recently and felt awful. Need to get back on track and felt this blog was very helpful.

    Kind Regards ,


    1. Hi Jon,

      So glad you are finding the blog helpful. SCD is tough and can be lonely which is why I started this blog in the first place. Sometimes it can feel like you’re taking one step forward, ten steps back but in time you’ll get the hang of it. Moderation is everything is key for me!

      let me know if I can help in any way!

  7. You mention “lucky ones” in regards to having success. Have you found that some people with the garden variety UC may not have success? So far from my reading it looks like the great majority who follow to a T do very well. Would love to know any percentages if that is known. My son started on it a week ago. Thx

    1. Hi Michael,

      Sorry I don’t know any success percentages but the majority of people I have spoken too in the SCD community have found it extremely helpful. Success means something different for everyone. Some people are able to come off meds fully – for others it may mean still taking meds but a greater quality of life.

      Best of luck to your son!

  8. Hi Maria , I went to the SCD diet via naturopath and started deducting food which caused me a great deal of diarrhea for three months and then finely a naturalpath 1.5 year later with SIBO . I picked up the Elaines book before I saw the naturlpath . I had already dropped 10 to 12 lbs . After the Elaine diet another 10. Lbs . Although there are recommended foods I cannot have such beans , broccoli, cauliflower , apples all of which cause me gas and pain , and most dairy with exception of lactose free yogurt I make myself in the Insta Pot ,I have stayed to the diet . But I lost a ton of wieght ! And I did eat meat eggs and Avos ,-and bacon… on weekends, but still it came off. I hate being underweight . Looks awful !You just cannot cut suddenly four food types from diet and keep your weight. I did feel better going on the diet . Do you have any suggestions . Thanks Maria

  9. Let me clear my statement at top : getting on the SCD diet helped me , after I started it , not that it made me worse , but I have lost to much wieght I have modified it along with my naturalpath meds in order to put back slowly wieght on . My Bowels have never been the same since attack two years ago .

    1. Hi Valene. I’m delighted that the diet improved your bowel at least. In my case, I did lose some weight at the beginning but after a few months it evened out. I was really focused on not losing weight as my doctor only agreed to let me do the diet as long as my weight didn’t drop. I snack constantly. I never leave the house without prepared snacks: ripe bananas, olives, Parma Ham, almond butter, cookies etc. In between meals too I am always snacking. I weigh the same now as before the diet if not more. Apart from the obvious avocados, coconut oil and milk, try making smoothies. One of my favourite is frozen banana and date smoothie. Goes delicious with coconut milk. For breakfast I usually have a big bowl of yoghurt with a few spoons of my homemade blackberry jam. I’ll then have two eggs with avocado or bacon. A few hours later I’ll have a slice of homemade SCD bread and then my lunch again soon after. I guess what I’m saying is trying snacking more and more and see if that helps. Best of luck Valene.

  10. Hi Maria,
    I am on day 3 of the intro diet and this morning swapped my usual 3 scrambled eggs for a banana. The banana was ripe but had no yellow spots and just before lunch I experienced painful cramping. Could this be due to the fact the banana was not ripe enough? Also, regarding introducing new foods. Should it be one new food a day and should I eat the new food alone or could I have it with something (ie. spirallised courgette with chicken).
    Your blog has been a major help and a real push to start the scd so I am extremely grateful for you!

    1. Hi Aimee. So glad you find the blog helpful. Regarding the banana, it’s hard to say. If you had cramping then obviously there is some issue. Some people cannot tolerate even ripe bananas whereas for me there are one of my top safe foods. The banana should be very ripe (no green tips or ends at all). I would suggest trying a little bit of banana another day and that should make it a bit clearer for you. Usually the rule for new foods is to introduce one new food every three to four days. The first day just have a little and gradually increase to see if you have a reaction. When you start SCD you become very in tune with your body and now I can tell immediately if I’ve eaten something that I can’t tolerate. It’s such a learning curve and is very much an individual thing. What works for one doesn’t work for another. Your food diary will become your best friend. You might find this link useful : http://pecanbread.com/p/how/afterintro.html

      Best of luck with everything!

  11. Question: I am new to the SCD diet. I am wondering what type of flours I can have to make breads or tortillas or baked goods with.
    I have tried this diet for 2 wks already with excluding all grains and gluten and am feeling great.

  12. Hi Maria,

    Love your blog. just read that you put on weight rather losing it. I am the same, and cannot understand why. I am on the SCD diet for 3 months now. Been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Also I have done a DNA test and follow a protocol accordingly with supplements.

    1. Thanks Andrea. I took it as a good sign that I was putting on weight. It meant that for the first time in years, I was actually absorbing nutrients! If you are putting on too much weight, then you might want to cut down on the nut products. Nuts are extremely healthy but extremely fattening!

  13. Hi
    I was diagnosed with severe UC in June (close to toxic colon by the time is got the the ER after a month long misdiagnosis) and have had one issue after another. Got C Diff while in the hospital and then a UTI – finally clearning those up (I hope). I am following the SCD diet. I was a runner and thin when I got sick and lost 20 pounds so I am way too thin! I have been on SCD for a month and cannot gain weight. I am eating every few hours but can only stomach so much food. Question: is it ok to eat 2 large pieces of banana nut bread and 2 large pieces of regular nut bread a day and 2 cups of the SCD yogurt – or do you think this is too much? Any suggestions on how to add calories (besides avocados, adding oils which I am doing). So far I do not think any foods have caused issues for me. I feel exhausted every day but I think that is because I am anemic which I am told will improve over time. RIght now I am just trying to gain weight. THANK YOU!

    1. Hi Lindsay,

      I’m so sorry to hear all you have been through. I hope things continue to improve for you! I can’t give any sort of medical advice. All I can say is that everyone with IBD is very different so some people have no problems with nuts – others do and so on. I would say go slow with everything at the start. You could consult a dietician to help you with foods that are high in calories to gain weight. That’s what I did when I started out. I saw a dietician a few times who advised me how to add calories and she also monitored my weight. Best of luck with everything!

  14. I started scd diet 3 months ago,did intro for two days,ijust eat boiled meats(chicken and beff), apple sause, some times extra ripe bananas,boiled string beans,squas,zucchini,and still I am on it,but after 1st month my stool started loose and still so…I am on med mesalazine,pred15mg and rifaximin 400×2….I tried to modified, cuts the banana,then apple sause…but without any improve ment…..can u give some help

  15. I’ve been on the SCD diet for 1 month now. Was diagnosed with CD 15 years ago. Being on a GF diet made no difference. In 2015, I became very sick, hospitalized, in ICU for a couple of days then to the ward and put on a PICC line for 2 weeks, plus steroids and other medications. It helped a lot while in the hospital, but to make a long story short, I took myself off of the steroids as I did not feel well on them at all. Way too many side effects. Fast forward to now, I spent 4 days in the medical center on a 2 week Alaskan cruise vacation, came home and went directly to ER, admitted for 9 days, sent home with a new diagnosis of Refractory celiac disease type 2. Had many IVs of electrolytes and vitamins to boost me up as they were all very low. Came home and immediately started the SCD diet that I had started 3 years ago. I had stopped as I was feeling a bit better and was seeing a Naturopath, etc. Down to 102lbs, but it’s slowly climbing up, then down, then up again. Yo-yo affect.
    I appreciate your blog and reading the comments. Is there anyone else out there that has been diagnosed with RCD type2?
    The doctors have no idea as to how to help me. They have never seen someone this severe before. I am the case study. They are now looking for monoclonal gammapathy as I have elevated protein serum. I’m not interested in going down this road. I don’t believe I have cancer of any sort, lymphoma included. The internal medicine team sent me home from the hospital saying it was the worst place for me as I was at high risk for infectious disease and cancer.
    I feel very weak and my BP is very low causing me to be extremely dizzy and fatigued. I was told to eat salted snacks, so knew I couldn’t have potatoes chips, I turned to peanuts with oil and salt. Found out tonight, peanuts are illegal. Learning all of this slowly. but it’s true I’m trying foods I’ve never had before. Just came across your blog now. Thank you.

  16. Maria I have been on the scd diet for 1 month. I”m eating 1 cup of scd yogurt a day,but my joints are really ache.i”mreally to give up the yogurt. please tell me what you think.thanks for any help merry christmas

  17. I have had ulcerative colitis for the last 15 years. Most recently I’ve been in a flare gor the last couple of months. I’ve been eating the SCD Intro chicken “soup” and the home made grape gelatin for the last two weeks. I think the urgency of my BMs have decreased while on the diet but I’m still having significant bleeding on a daily basis.

  18. Hi all, I was diagnosed with UC sixteen years ago, but didn’t find Breaking the Vicious Cycle for 10 yrs after. I remember reading in Elaine’s book not to try the diet unless you are a fanatic (paraphrasing a bit). I knew what that meant. I stopped and thought about it for a few days, then started. The results were quick and fantastic. After several months I reduced my Asacol dosage because I became constipated! After 6 mos I had the mother of flares. Horrible. Doc put me on Prednisone which did nothing good. All the arthritic pain eventually led me to a physical therapist who referred me to a nutritional therapist who put me on the GAPS diet (GAPS =Gut And Psychology Syndrome), which is very similar to SCD. Because I was familiar with SCD, I had already memorized the illegal list, so that part was easy. GAPS is very structured and will take you step by step through the process, so it limits eating mistakes. I lost a scary amount of weight, but it finally stopped. My gut was in very bad shape when I started, and it took a long time to heal (2 yrs), but it did. It was a miracle. I never want to be so sick again, so it’s “easy” for me to stay on this rigid diet. Since GAPS and SCD are so similar, I think all recipes are interchangeable. I was free from flares for 4.5 YEARS! Then during a major kitchen remodel (!) I started taking Advil daily for a couple weeks, and maybe a little too much wine at the end of the day. A cavalier attitude because I had been doing so well for so long, and BAM! A flare. But it took only 1.5 months to get back on track using GAPS/SCD protocol. One thing I carryover from GAPS is my breakfast is almost always bone broth-based soup. It’s a fantastic way to start the day. For variety, I have the usual egg dishes and for a treat, almond flour pancakes, which I also have around for snacks. I tried the various “breads,” but they’re too much trouble and frnakly, not worth it just to pretend I. Have “bread.” Crackers, on the other hand, are essential to have something crunchy! Going out to eat is difficult, so I usually call ahead of time to ask if the chef can make accommodations. They almost never cook broccoli, asparagus, green beans, carrots enough, so I send it back. My husband is supportive, which is essential. It took other family members awhile to accept it all. It’s a lifestyle, so rather than think about all the wonderful foods I can’t eat, I think about all the fabulous foods I CAN eat. I now have a great collection of cookbooks and recipes from internet sites, like comfybelly.com that are favorites. And with this lifestyle, I don’t have to carry extra underwear & washcloths with me, or scout for the nearest bathroom everywhere I go. I actually feel kind of normal! If you can afford a good nutritional therapist, get their help, it is worth it. If not, just go slow. If you are having trouble with some foods, don’t fret. You may find that after a certain amount of healing, you can try those foods again, and they might be fine. Find the courage to stick with these diets and persevere, the payoff is is powerful.

  19. So I have a severe nut allergy. Peanuts are fine (since they’re a legume) but this diet was recommended by my gastro and by my dietitian and I’m unsure what to do since a lot of these recommend tree nuts. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Lindsay,

      You absolutely can follow the diet without nuts. Ok it’s true that many sweets recipes contains nuts but they are plenty of yummy things you can bake. I have a really great nut- free bread recipe coming soon. Also, try making my almond butter fudge but subbing peanut butter. It’s out of this world either way!

      Best of luck


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