Do not take this article as medical advice. I am not a medical professional. Thank you.
Before the gluten-free diet was proposed, Sidney V. Haas, M.D., spent decades helping children with celiac disease, eventually writing a medical textbook on it, “Management of Celiac Disease,” in 1951 along with his son, Merrill P. Haas, M.D. Building on previous research that celiacs didn’t tolerate carbohydrates well, Haas developed a grain-free diet that focused on the foods listed below. After keeping the children on this diet for at least a year, and with ”no recurrence of symptoms, forbidden carbohydrates may be added . . .” He says, “When the cure is obtained, there should be no relapse.”
The theory of gluten being the culprit in celiac disease was first proposed in 1950 and the less restrictive diet took hold. (I’m not saying a gluten-free diet won’t work; I’m giving the history of diets for celiac disease.)
It’s proven that not everyone responds to the gluten-free diet and that those people may be given the diagnosis of refractory celiac disease. A 2007 article in The New England Journal of Medicine said, “Approximately 5% of patients may have refractory celiac disease, defined as persistent symptoms and villous atrophy despite scrupulous adherence to a gluten-free diet.”
A Bit of Background
Elaine Gottschall was an accidental hero. When her 4-year-old daughter was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in the 1950s and was unresponsive to drugs, doctors suggested removing her colon and having an external bag collect waste – a terrible prognosis at any age but especially for such a young child.
Refusing to accept this fate for her daughter, Elaine went from specialist to specialist, receiving no new answers until she learned of 92-year-old Sidney V. Haas, MD. The diet he had spent his lifetime perfecting healed her now 8-year-old daughter, but the elderly doctor died not long after so some of her questions had no answers.
Elaine spent the rest of her life learning more about what she would call the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, a term mentioned in Haas’ book. After earning her B.A. and Master’s degree, Elaine researched how the diet worked then wrote and self-published “Breaking the Vicious Cycle, the book that became the bible for the diet and has now been translated into many languages and has sold more than a million copies.
I recommend that everyone on a medically necessary gluten-free diet at least read Chapter 6 of her book, “Beyond Gluten.” The background she gives on the science of gluten-free vs grain-free is fascinating. She also discusses the validity of the intestinal biopsy. I would love to believe this statement from the chapter’s last paragraph true. “The Specific Carbohydrate Diet has been shown to completely cure most cases of celiac disease if followed for at least one year.”
The diet is used by those with ulcerative colitis, crohn’s, celiac disease, diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and autism.
Basics of the Diet
Note: This is not intended to be a comprehensive directory but an overview. Please refer to “Breaking the Vicious Cycle” or to the official website for specifics which must be followed.
The foods that are allowed on the diet have a different composition from those that aren’t allowed, and your body uses them more easily (chapter 5 of the book). On the SCD, processed foods are avoided to eliminate added sugar and undesirable starches. This makes purchased ketchup, mayo, pasta sauce and other things you may have found to be ”gluten-free” now unacceptable. Canned vegetables can have hidden sugars and starch so they aren’t allowed.
- Meat, fish, eggs, aged cheeses
- A special homemade yogurt that cooks for 24 hours.
- Many vegetables – not potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, parsnips
- Most legumes including black beans, kidney beans, green beans and peanuts – not pinto beans, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), soybeans, mungbeans or faba beans
- Honey but no cane sugar, maple syrup or molasses. (Honey is a monosaccharide and the others are disaccharides – the body digests them differently)
- No chocolate or carob
At this point, you may be thinking this is even harder to follow than a standard gluten-free diet. Consider this: the foods on a gluten-free diet may or may not be contaminated with gluten. It’s a constant process of reading labels and verifying with companies that a product is safe. The SCD uses very little processed food and the rest are naturally gluten-free foods.
There are many resources for recipes both on the Internet and in cookbooks. I recently interviewed the co-author of this one. A few sites are:
I want to thank Jenny Lass for the wonderful history of the SCD that she wrote for the beginning of “Everyday Grain-Free Gourmet.” She also told me that Dr. Haas’ book had been reprinted so I ordered it inter-library loan and was delighted to have one of the original 1951 copies sent to me.
Elaine Gottschall died in 2005. She gave of her time to help others even as she grew old.