The specific carbohydrate diet (SCD) has helped to improve the quality of life for many thousands of people who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease and other digestive ailments.  This diet is intended to reduce symptoms experienced by people with inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis), celiac disease, diverticulosis or diverticulitis, cystic fibrosis, irritable bowel syndrome, and chronic diarrhea.  The specific carbohydrate diet permits only foods which are unprocessed and free of grain, sugar, and starch.  The diet is based on the principle that not everyone’s digestive tract is able to easily digest complex carbohydrates and sugars.  On the specific carbohydrate diet, only simple, easily digestible carbohydrates are allowed, thus preventing a buildup of undigested carbohydrates which can feed bacteria in the gut and lead to irritation of the intestinal lining.

How does the diet work?

The guidelines of the specific carbohydrate diet are based on the chemical structure of foods and how easily they are digested.  The allowed carbohydrates are simple monosaccharides (single molecules), which are easily digested and absorbed in the intestines.  Complex disaccharides (double molecules) and polysaccharides (chain molecules) are not allowed.  Complex carbohydrates that are not easily digested can feed harmful bacteria, leading to bacterial overgrowth, irritation, and inflammation in the intestines.  The diet works by starving these bacteria and restoring balance to the gut flora.  As the microbiota begins to stabilize, the corresponding reduction of toxins and irritants in the intestines leads to decreased levels of inflammation.

What do I eat?

Allowed Foods:

Allowed Meats: eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, fish, pork, wild game, bacon, lamb

Allowed Vegetables: fresh or frozen forms of most commonly eaten vegetables are acceptable (asparagus, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, kale, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, peas, peppers, pumpkin, spinach, squash, string beans, tomatoes and watercress)

Allowed Fruits: commonly found fresh, frozen, or dried fruits with nothing added are acceptable (apples, avocados, bananas (ripe with black spots), berries of all kinds, coconut, dates, grapefruit, grapes, kiwi fruit, kumquats, lemons, limes, mangoes, melons, nectarines, oranges, papayas, peaches, pears, pineapples, prunes, raisins, rhubarb, tangerines)

Allowed Dairy: SCD yogurt, natural 30-day aged cow and goat cheeses (not Kraft), butter, ghee, and dry curd cottage cheese (DCCC)

Allowed Nuts: almonds, pecans, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, chestnuts (no additives for butters, salted mixes, and flours)

Allowed Legumes: peanuts, white beans, navy beans, lentils, split peas, lima beans, kidney beans, black beans

Allowed Spices: most non-mixed spices are allowed, screen for anti-caking agents, and make sure the ingredients are listed

Not Allowed Foods:

No CEREAL GRAINS: wheat, barley, corn, rye, oats, rice, buckwheat, millet, triticale, bulgur, spelt, quinoa

Not Allowed Meats: ham, processed sausages, lunch meats, bratwurst, turkey dogs, hot dogs

Not Allowed Vegetables: canned vegetables are not allowed due to the usual addition of sugars, processing aids, and preservative chemicals

Not Allowed Fruits: canned fruits and most fruit juices are not allowed due to the common addition of sweeteners, preservatives, and processing aids

Not Allowed Legumes: soybeans, chick peas, bean sprouts, mungbeans, fava beans, garbanzo beans

Not Allowed Dairy: commercial yogurts, milk of any kind, unnatural cheeses (Kraft and most other mainstream shredded cheeses fall into this group), all of the following cheeses: cottage, cream, feta, gejetost, mozzarella, neufchatel, primost, ricotta, processed cheese spreads

No STARCHES: including potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, arrowroot, parsnip, cornstarch, tapioca starch

Not Allowed Spices: curry powders, most onion and garlic powders are filled with anti-caking agents

Allowed Drinks:

weak tea or coffee, water, mineral water, club soda, dry wine, gin, rye, Scotch, bourbon, vodka

Not Allowed Drinks:

instant coffee, most commercial juices, milk, soda pop, sweet wines, flavored liqueurs, brandy, sherry

Allowed Sweeteners:


Not Allowed Sweeteners:

sugar of any kind (cane, coconut, table, etc), agave syrup, maple syrup, artificial sweeteners

Click here for a comprehensive list of which foods are allowed and not allowed on the specific carbohydrate diet. 

Want more information?

Suggested book:  Breaking the Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall

Suggested website:

Author Natalie Bransky Assistant to Dr. Treyzon

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