Gut Problems & Developmental Delays:
Is the Specific Carbohydrate Diet the Answer?

This article is a compilation of material from the Kids and SCD website

Research shows that more than 50% of children with AD(H)D, PDD and autism have gut problems, food allergies, poor digestion or malabsorption. A Harvard University study found altered intestinal permeability ("leaky gut") in 43% of autistic patients, but not in any of the controls. Leaky gut leads to vitamin/mineral deficiencies, inflammation and toxins in the bloodstream. For parents of these children, their GI problems are a major concern. Those wishing to pursue chelation for heavy metal toxicity must wait until their children‘s gut pathogens are under control.

Autism Listservs host frequent discussions on GI issues, with prescription drugs and natural remedies as common topics. Many swear by the Gluten- and Casein-Free (GF/CF) diet. Some have combined it with yeast-free or anti-yeast diets as well as prescription and over- the-counter anti-fungal remedies. But nothing seems to be "the answer" to the chronic microbial problems these kids face. Enter the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD).

What is the SCD?

To thoroughly understand and implement this diet, it is imperative to read Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through DietBreaking the Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall. Gottschall details the progression of allowed foods as well as providing many delicious recipes.

How is it different from GF/CF?

The SCD is intended to stop the vicious cycle of malabsorption and microbe overgrowth by removing the source of energy to the microbes: sugars. Unlike the GF/CF Diet, the SCD prohibits complex carbohydrates, a problem for those with leaky guts, and allows only simple carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates do not need to be broken down in order to be absorbed. Thus, inflammation decreases and the immune system can return to normal. Once the immune system functions better, it can keep the intestinal microbes in proper balance.

How does it work?

The SCD starts with an introductory plan, consisting of proteins and a limited selection of carbohydrates including fruits, honey, properly-prepared yogurt and certain vegetables and nuts. All fruits and vegetables must be peeled, seeded and cooked in order to make them more easily digested. Nuts, seeds, raw fruits and certain vegetables such as salad greens, carrots, celery, and onions are not allowed at this stage, but are introduced later (after diarrhea is under control). This step usually lasts about a week or two. It‘s important to emphasize that any cereal grain is strictly and absolutely forbidden.

Partial Food List

Where can I get more Information? Go online to: Breaking The Vicious Cycle - Elaine Gottschall‘s Website. Also the following websites: Kids & SCD, the SCD Web Library and The SCD Recipe. There are also a number of Internet support groups.

[Initially published in New Developments: Volume 9, Number 1 - Fall, 2003]

All material in this web site is given for information purposes only and is not to be substituted for advice from your health care provider.


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Page last modified: February 23, 2009
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