Navigating the diet world can be quite daunting, especially when it seems like a new diet book or theory is entering the market every other week. Having studied over 100 diet theories at IIN, I definitely know how overwhelming (and contradictory) all that information can be!
And just when I didn’t think I ever wanted to touch another diet book again, a friend of mine recommended that I read about The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD, for short)–> a diet thought to heal the intestine through avoiding certain types of starches and sugars, while still embracing others.
What piqued my interest in this diet, is that it gives a great explanation of WHY some sugars are better than others for our bodies, and puts to rest the notion that “sugar is sugar”–> whether it comes from fruit, whole grains, or even a processed source. According to this book, our bodies do handle the sugar found in fruit differently than, say, the sugar found in chocolate.
That makes sense, doesn’t it?
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet breaks down sugar into two categories:
- Monosaccharides (single sugars)
- Disaccharides (double, or complex, sugars)
Monosaccaharides, including natural fruits and honey, require almost no digestion, meaning they are more likely to pass through the wall of the small intestine and should easily enter the bloodstream to nourish the body. Because these types of sugars are digested so easily, they are thought to cause no harm to the intestine, nor do they contribute to the feeding of microbial overgrowth in the intestine. (a controversial topic among Candida cleansing diets!)
Disaccharides, on the other hand, are complex sugars, including all grains, potatoes, lactose and more, requiring multiple digestive processes to be absorbed in the body. According to the SCD, “A poorly-functioning intestine can be easily overwhelmed by the ingestion of carbohydrates which require numerous digestive processes. The result is an environment (of fermentation) that supports overgrowth of intestinal yeast and bacteria.”
This theory around intestinal yeast and bacteria overgrowth is what really sparked my interest.
If you all remember, I tackled my own version of a Candida Cleanse last year, and I missed eating fruit dearly! While I do feel like the D4W approach to cleansing is effective, it’s certainly not the only approach to Candida Cleansing. Other cleanses, like The Body Ecology Diet, encourage the consumption of non-gluten grains daily, while others shun them completely. D4W allows for the consumption of goat cheese and dark chocolate, while many other programs say cheese and chocolate should be strictly avoided. There’s also controversy over the benefits of fermented foods while attempting to kill-off yeast. In other words, there’s a lot of contradicting information.
But up to this point, almost every Candida diet I’ve read agreed on one thing–> fruit should be avoided! Simply because fruit is “sugar,” and “sugar feeds yeast.”
Well, now that we know about the difference between monosaccharides and disaccharides, we have a new debate on our hands, don’t we?
I’m not sure if I mentioned it before, but the main reason I stopped my Candida cleanse when I did, was because my skin had stopped healing well. I noticed that small scratches I had on my arms and hands (from picking up my wiggly dog!) were taking MONTHS to heal. Minor scratches, that shouldn’t have lasted for more than a few days!
You can see a few of my scratches in pictures from my best friend’s wedding last August:
Pretty bride… stupid scratches.
However, I noticed that as soon as I reintroduced fruit into my diet, my skin started healing much faster. Hello, antioxidants.
This made me think back to the days when I was eating “all raw.” My skin was naturally glowing, and healed quickly. I dropped a significant amount of weight, all while eating more calories and more natural fats than I ever had before. I always assumed the benefits were from all the raw plant enzymes I was consuming– which very well could have been the case– but it could also have been due to the fact that I was naturally adhering to the rules of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet–> without even knowing it! As a raw foodie, I was avoiding all potatoes (they don’t taste good raw), grains (again… I don’t think they taste good raw), and used raw honey as my sweetener of choice!
So, was it all the raw food making me glow, or was it the fact that I was avoiding disaccharides–> potentially healing my digestive system? Honestly, I don’t know. But, the idea that we potentially could heal microbial overgrowth, while still enjoying the natural sweetness of fruit and a variety of other delicious foods, excites me!
In fact, since Austin and I have already transitioned ourselves away from grains this year, I would probably have no problem cutting out the rest of the disaccharides in my diet for a period of time…
…except for the fact that I’m obsessed with this pudding.
(Made with purple-skinned Korean yams last night, which have a white flesh. So good!!)
Well, that and dark chocolate. 😀
So, I’m mostly sharing ideas behind The Specific Carbohydrate Diet with you today, not because I’m planning to jump into a new diet, but to shed some light on a concept that may be new to some of you reading. It was certainly new to me, and I love having a new perspective on intestinal health.
After all, our gut houses our “second brain,” so it needs to be healthy!
If you’d like to learn more about the SCD, I highly recommend reading Breaking The Vicious Cycle, by Elaine Gottschall. Not only does it include more in-depth information about how various carbohydrates are digested, it also has bunches of delicious recipes to enjoy!
Reader Feedback: I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts–> have you ever tried a diet like this? Would you be willing to try it? It’s somewhat Paleo-esque, so I wonder if that explains why the Paleo diet works so well for many people, too? Food for thought!