Educational Tip
Jan 25, 12:01 AM

Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)

By Gali Health in partnership with @plentyandwellwithnat, medically reviewed by Kate Schlag, RD

Gali App

A completely grain-free and refined-sugar-free diet, low in lactose and focused on specific carbohydrate sources developed by Dr. Sidney Haas in the 1920s as treatment for celiac disease.


  1. How It Came to Be
  2. Let’s Eat
  3. Foods to Steer Clear Of
  4. SCD Pad Thai
  5. Flare Friendly Foods
  6. Common Swaps
  7. Weekly Tip
  8. Research



The SCD diet was originally created by Dr. Sidney Haas in the 1920s as treatment for celiac disease.

Years later, in 1987, Elaine Gottschall noticed that SCD helped improve her daughter’s IBD symptoms and published the book “Breaking the Vicious Cycle,” which focuses on the use of SCD for the management of IBD.

SCD allows monosaccharides, which are single sugar molecules that are easily absorbed by the intestine wall.

Disaccharides, oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides (complex carbohydrates) are not allowed on SCD because they are not digested easily and may add to the growth of harmful bacteria in the intestines.

The original SCD is particularly rigid, with defined stages at which certain foods are reintroduced.



With all dietary restrictions, it’s important to focus on what you CAN eat, not just on what you can’t eat. With that being said, it’s definitely an easier process with stricter dietary changes like SCD to look at the elimination foods and know that all other foods ARE allowed.

On the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, you can eat unprocessed meat, poultry, and seafood, TONS of different veggies and fruits, most nuts, healthy fats from oils like avocado, olive and coconut oil, certain aged cheeses, etc. It is also very easy and even fun to experiment with SCD baking using ingredients like almond flour, coconut flour, and honey!


  • Any foods processed with refined sugar or additives
  • Anything canned
  • Most root vegetables
  • Flax, chia, and hemp
  • Sweeteners: agave, stevia, cane sugar, molasses, date/coconut/palm sugar
  • Artificial sweeteners except for Sweet’N’Low
  • Processed meats, poultry, or seafood
  • All grains and grain-derived products
  • Milk and milk/cream-based products
  • Soft cheeses
  • Sauces: soy and tamari
  • Drinks: soda, instant coffee, fruit/veggie juice made from concentrate, some herbal teas
  • Garbanzo beans, pinto beans and soy
  • Chocolate/cacao

For a full list of “no” foods, click here.




(** makes 2 servings)

  • 1 chicken breast
  • 3 medium zucchinis
  • 1/2 cup chopped red, orange, or yellow bell peppers
  • 1 small cucumber
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  • 2 Tbsp almond butter
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 Tbsp warm water
  • 1 tsp honey


  1. Start by “zoodling” your zucchinis. You can also buy zucchini noodles already prepared at many stores.
  2. Place your zucchini noodles in a pot with a steamer basket and steam on medium heat until fully cooked (about 10-12 minutes).
  3. While your zucchini noodles are cooking, make your sauce by combining the nut butter, apple cider vinegar, warm water, and honey.
  4. Bake your chicken breast with a little spray of oil, salt, and pepper on 380 degrees F until fully cooked (the chicken should be 165 degrees once cooked).
  5. While the chicken is cooking, cut your cucumber into thin strips.
  6. Place your zucchini noodles in a bowl, top with peppers, cucumber, chopped chicken, cilantro, and sauce.



Steamed carrots – try pureeing them with some spices or puree with cinnamon and coconut oil for a sweeter version and top with a drizzle of smooth nut butter or coconut butter.

Avocado – try baking half of an avocado with an egg in the middle and drizzle with olive or avocado oil
Baked chicken, white fish, scrambled eggs.

Smoothie – try cooking then freezing your fruit (for easier digestion) and blend with smooth nut butter or avocado for healthy fats (if tolerated during flares) and unflavored collagen powder for easy-to-digest protein.

Bone broth – sip on it plain or cook in some veggies and chicken until soft.

Apple sauce (no-sugar-added).



Flour: almond flour, coconut flour

Sugar: honey

Oats: cauliflower rice cooked with SCD friendly protein powder, honey, nut milk, and cinnamon. Top with banana, berries, nut butter, and/or shredded coconut

Rice: cauliflower rice

Candy: SCD friendly homemade gummy bears, homemade marshmallows

Sweet treats: there are SO many SCD friendly cookie, cake, pie, etc. recipes on Pinterest. We suggest searching around and keeping note of fun SCD friendly recipes to keep on hand

Cereal: Wellbee’s SCD Granola

Waffles: Liberated Specialty Foods frozen waffles, there are also many SCD friendly homemade waffle recipes online

Bread: Liberated Specialty Foods cashew bread, Liberated Specialty Foods coconut bread


Making dietary changes can be intimidating. Meal planning helps you to always have new and exciting recipes lined up. Dietary changes can also feel isolating, so cook a meal that also works for your significant other, family, or group of friends, so they can further understand how you eat. Food can still bring you together with others!



While the Specific Carbohydrate Diet has existed for quite some time, only recently has research started to investigate its effects on IBD.

While Gottschall never published research, she hypothesized in her book that IBD patients are unable to digest and absorb disaccharides, oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides; their consumption contributes to dysbiosis within the gut, which further damages the intestinal lining.

A diet composed of monosaccharides, combined with healthy fats and proteins, she posited, could help heal the gut and reverse dysbiosis.

Because the diet was initially piloted with Gottschall’s 5-year-old daughter, its use has been popular among pediatric patients with IBD.

A small retrospective study following seven pediatric patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital found that all patients achieved symptom remission after 3 months of the initiation of the diet and showed improved biomarkers, including normalized CRP, albumin, and hemoglobin.

Following this study, the same group surveyed 417 pediatric and adult patients with IBD; 33% reported remission after following the diet for 2 months, and 42% reported remission at 6- and 12-month intervals. This study, while survey-based, is quite compelling as it shows a significant self-reported benefit to following the diet; independent of improved biomarkers, patients may still find the diet beneficial.

Other studies have also reported a clinical benefit: a 2015 study followed 50 patients with IBD who followed the Specific Carbohydrate Diet for an average of 35 months. Of those, 33 patients reported complete symptom resolution; the diet was self-rated on average as 91% effective in controlling acute flares and 92% effective at maintaining remission.

Studies looking at mucosal healing, one of the key targets in IBD treatment, are conflicting: a 2014 study, also following a pediatric population, showed improved mucosal healing; however, a 2017 study did not show mucosal healing in any patients.

For more information and tips on living with inflammatory bowel disease from the medical and patient communities, download the Gali friend for IBD mobile app and she will create a personalized feed of articles just for you!

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