For us, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet came as a rescue aid in a devastating situation, at a time when I was powerlessly watching Alexandru collapsing deeper and deeper in his own world, in a world in which myself or those who loved him enormously seemed to have no place in. It was a sad world without words, with a lot of screaming and weeping that we realized were caused by a deep physical and emotional pain.
Alex was always bloated, suffered from chronic diarrhea and intestinal cramps. He was always lying with his stomach on the floor, on the table or on a pillow, in order to find comfort. He used to cry a lot, he was unable to understand anything he was told or asked for, he couldn’t even point at a desired object and any environmental change used to scare him terribly,
After being diagnosed with autism, we immediately started the necessary therapies, both behavioral and speech therapy. But his language skills haven’t developed at all. The prognosis on how things were going to be for us was uncertain.
While in Malta, I’ve heard about the Gluten-free and Dairy-free Diet but back then I didn’t know about the link between autism and the gut.
I’ve decided to put it into practice immediately and just seven days after we eliminated gluten and casein from his diet, Alex began to utter his first words.
Seeing the results, I completely removed all the grains and sugar and the amazing changes have not ceased to appear.
We measured the progress we made during the first two years of following this diet and also other biomedical interventions using specific tests from the United States at the Autism Research Institute (ARI) and also from Romania. The difference is huge and highly obvious: the DSM-IV-TR scale has dropped from 77 points in 2014 to 37 points in 2016.
In 2015 the ATEC score was 85 points, which indicates the severe form of autism, and recently in 2017 ATEC score was 11, at the lower limit of the spectrum and close to recovery.
Today Alex no longer suffers, he is a happy, cheerful child who is able to communicate and read and sing, and who also has an incredible appetite!
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet is based on Dr. Haas’ studies, who treated celiac disease and other disorders of the instestinal tract in the 1950s in the USA. One of his patients, the daughter of the biochemist Elaine Gottschall, who was suffering from ulcerative colitis, recovered completely following this diet.
Elaine Gottschall devoted the rest of her life studying the link between the intestines and this diet, which she called the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.
Later on, she successfully treated cases of ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, Chron’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, cystic fibrosis and even cases of autism.
This diet was successfully implemented in the treatment of thousands of children diagnosed with autism and adapted dairy-free, because of these children inability to digest lactose or casein.
It was renamed as the Specific Carbohydrate Diet Dairy-Free.
The diet focuses on improving digestion by concentrating on the problems of diarrhea, constipation, intestinal dysbiosis, increased intestinal permeability and low micronutrient intake.
We already know that the balance of the intestinal flora is essential to heal the intestinal tract. This diet does exactly this-it brings the intestinal flora back into balance by depriving the intestinal microbes of their energy source, so their number gradually decreases along with their byproducts.
Along with harmful bacteria, proteins that are not decomposed into amino acids can get into the bloodstream and cause inflammation. To protect the body from these proteins, the immune system is trying to outmaneuver them by creating antibodies. The best-known proteins of this type are gluten and casein.
A gluten-free, casein-free diet is not sufficient because the complex carbohydrates are not fully digested and they nourish further harmful bacteria, fueling a vicious cycle. It has been observed that replacing bread and dairy products with other products like rice, potatoes or other types of starch (polysaccharides) or even buying gluten-free, dairy-free products, with additives or extra sugars leads to a decline in children’s development.
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet slows down or completely stops the fermentation process by avoiding foods that cannot be digested fully and at the same time cutting down on other sugars or artificial additives.
When the balance of the intestinal flora is disturbed, there is increased intestinal permeability and the stressed digestive system can no longer fully digest the most complex carbohydrates only partially or not at all, the SCD Diary-free helps the body repair itself and continue it’s normal functions.
The aim of this diet is to reduce the body’s free radical level by reducing it’s exposure to pollution, keeping only the digestible food that provides the most nutrients for the human body and the least for the harmful intestinal microbes, and by ensuring that key nutrients are absorbed. So it is based on the principle that only carbohydrates that require minimal digestive processes are included, like monosaccharides, simple sugars such as honey, fruits and vegetables which are fully digestible even if the intestinal tract is damaged or sick.
During a normal digestive process, the body splits the food into smaller pieces until it is fully absorbed in the small intestine. For example, the polysaccharides such as the starch in bread, potatoes, corn, soy or rice should be split into disaccharides and finally into monosaccharides that are absorbed by the small intestine into the bloodstream.
Disaccharides are sugars consisting of 2 joined molecules, such as the milk (lactose) or the table sugar-basically the intestinal mucosa is unable to split them for digestion and they get to feed the harmful bacteria – particularly in the colon-which causes a bacterial overgrowth.
In order to better understand the digestion of carbohydrates we should look at the intestinal mucosa and the role which the microvilli have in the last part of this process. Here comes the vital role of enzymes (maltaza, isomaltaza, sucraza and lactase), the microvilli enzymes, which split and basically digest disaccharides, these sugars consisting of 2 molecules such as lactose, sucrose, maltose and izomaltoza from milk, sugar, starch, grains. Practically, these disaccharides are split into monosaccharides, in a single molecule, and only so can be fully digested and taken in the bloodstream.
The simple localization of these digestive enzymes in microvilli makes them extremely vulnerable and can easily be damaged for various reasons: folic acid or vitamin B12 deficiency, toxic substances produced by yeast, bacteria, parasites, gastroenteritis, chronic diarrhea, milk protein intolerance, soy protein intolerance, Chron disease, etc.
Besides, an abnormally thick layer of mucus prevents contact between microvilli enzymes and the carbohydrates.
Virtually, the entire intestinal surface changes which disrupts the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates remaining in the intestine they provide energy for the fermentation process, leading to further bacterial overgrowth.
The latter removes a lot of toxins that further irritate the intestinal mucosa, which is provoked to produce excessive protective mucus. The necessary nutrients are no longer absorbed through the intestinal wall, while the vitamins and minerals are not absorbed properly-malabsorption appears. Finally, as the goblet cells, which produce mucus become exhausted, the intestinal surface is laid bare through which all sorts of proteins, germs, toxins etc. can pass.
In the Specific Carbohydrate Diet disaccharides and polysaccharides are primarily avoided depriving excessive population of microbes in the intestines of their own food.
As the microbial population decreases due to lack of food, the intestinal flora begins to regain it’s balance, the harmful byproducts also decrease, freeing the intestinal surface of injurious substances. No longer needing protection, the mucus-producing cells stop producing excessive mucus. The malabsorption ceases, nutrition improves, cells receive more energy and the condition of the immune system improves.
Improvements in emotional stability, socialization, cognitive functions, communication, awareness occur with these changes.
Therefore, once digestive problems are treated, the behavior also improves.
Legal and illegal foods of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.
All grains: cereals, rice, corn, bulgur, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, quinoa – even if it is doesn’t belong to grains it has a high starch content.
Potatoes, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, soy, black-eyed peas, fava, garbanzo, or pinto, cassava roots, yam or vegetables containing artificial additives.
Processed sweets, table sugar, corn syrup, molasses.
Completely forbidden: cottage cheese, different cheese creams, Feta cheese, Gjetost cheese, Mozzarella cheese, Neufchantel cheese, Primost cheese, Ricotta cheese, processed cheese slices or different creamy specialties, pre-shredded cheese.
All processed foods, including gluten-free products with artificial additives, preservatives, food colorings, canned products, sausages, spices mixed with other ingredients such as all kinds of binders, preservatives, cooking oils with additives such as cooking sprays, soybean oil, canola oil, corn oil and grape oil, condiments like mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, etc., which already contain gluten, sugar and other additives.
Avoid stevia, agave, chocolate, carob and cocoa powder.
Great attention to labels – avoid products that claim to be contaminated with gluten because they were packed in a unit where grains are also packed.
Meat: fish (fresh or frozen, but not smoked), chicken, turkey, beef, pork, lamb, etc.
Most vegetables, with the exceptions of the above mentioned.
All the fruits, noting that bananas should be eaten when they are very ripe, with black spots on them (banana starch turns into monosaccharides during the riping process).
Peas such as green beans, lentils, lima beans, with the specification that they must be soaked for a minimum of 12 hours and the water must be repeatedly discarded, because they contain complex carbohydrates in crust which are removed in the soaking process.
All nuts and seeds or nut butters and seeds without preservatives.
Nut milk or coconut milk.
Olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, walnut oil etc. Occasionally you can use sunflower oil and cold pressed sesame oil.
Flaxseed oil is also approved in small quantities.
You may use honey as a sweetener, as long as your child is older than 12 months and your pediatrician agrees with it.
You may use all the spices and seasonings possible as long as they are not contaminated or don’t contain other ingredients or preservatives.
It is recommended to consume water, 100% natural fruit juices are allowed in limited quantities, without added sugar, preferably fresh, half diluted with water.
Several dairy products such as homemade yoghurt fermented between 24 and 29 hours, dry curd cottage cheese and other types of cheese that virtually no longer contain lactose are allowed. Thus, are allowed: Asiago cheese, Blue cheese, Brie cheese, Cheddar cheese, Edam cheese, Gorgonzola cheese, Gouda cheese, Colby cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, Parmesan cheese, Romano cheese, Stilton cheese, Swiss cheese, Roquefort cheese, Muenster cheese, Gruyere cheese, Havarti cheese, Brick cheese.
When needed to treat autism the Specific Carbohydrate Diet Dairy-Free needs to be implemented. It allows the same list of legal or illegal foods, stating that milk and other dairy products, with the exception of ghee butter, are strictly forbidden.
I recommend you two vital books to understand and apply these diets, available in English:
“Breaking the Vicious Cycle” by Elaine Gloria Gottschall and Pam Ferro’s book about treating autism and ADHD, “The SCD for Autism and ADHD: A Reference + Dairy-Free Cookbook for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet”.
These books can be found on Amazon, I bought them on Amazon UK but I am sure that after an internet search you will find several other possibilities.
At the same time here is the original website made after Elaine Gottschall’s indications and studies, with numerous useful information and details about legal and illegal foods: http://www.breakingtheviciouscycle.info/
For those who need help in implementing this diet I developed a special program with detailed explanations, videos, audio, work sheets and countless recipes for a complex and varied diet.