The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) Healed My Son
The first 20 months of his life, my son screamed and screamed and screamed for one or more hours in the middle of nearly every single night. There was no consoling him. My husband and I held him, walked with him, rocked him, drove him around, fed him, sang to him, and attempted to distract him in any way possible. He would arch his back and go stiff for five or so minutes, then he would relax and immediately fall asleep. But within a couple of minutes he was back to screaming again. His little tummy was as hard as a rock, and it looked like he swallowed a cantaloupe. Oh, and his gas could make a person pass out.
During the days, he rarely had cramping. However, several times each day he had explosive diarrhea – the kind that could shoot up his back all the way to his shoulders. Occasionally it had blood in it.
I was certain his pain was GI related. So, since I nursed him for the first five months, I cut out dairy, tomatoes, onions, and gluten. None of these things made the slightest difference. Well meaning friends gave us lots of advice, and as a result we also changed his laundry detergent, his type of pajamas, the amount of light in his room, the amount of white noise, the temperature, his medicine, the time we gave him his medicine, the time of his last feeding, the angle of his mattress…you get the picture. We even let him cry-it-out for several weeks (which I deeply regret now, since his waking was not behavior related). Nothing helped. And I was quickly tipping over the edge to insanity.
A Neurologist, Allergist, and GI Specialists
We have the best pediatrician on the planet. I can’t even say enough good things about her. I’m not sure if she realized I was completely sleep deprived and no longer in control of my actions, or if she is just extra nice to everyone. She gave me her cell phone number and encouraged me to call her on it. Several times over those desperately long months, she even called to check up on me. She gave us referrals to three GI specialists. The three gave us these diagnoses: non-acid reflux, acid reflux, and nothing. They each did multiple tests to confirm their diagnoses, and we are still paying on the medical bills. It did not seem to matter to them that my son’s symptoms did not match reflux symptoms at all. Most of the medications made him worse. And I am certain they all thought Hudson was fine and that I merely crazy.
The final GI specialist told me that my son had a sleep problem, not a GI problem. Ludicrous. But I do not want to be that mom who thinks she knows more than the experts. So we saw a neurologist. And she found nothing. And then we saw an allergist. And she also found nothing.
And then it got worse. Hudson got the stomach flu shortly after Christmas in 2011. He vomited for seven straight days. The next six weeks, we didn’t sleep. Also his cramping and screaming started happening in the afternoons. One day my pediatrician asked if any of the GI doctors had said anything about Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). When I asked the current GI doctor about it, he said it was impossible. But I still did a little research on it anyway. So many articles online that talked about SIBO also mentioned the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). I was pretty sure it couldn’t make him get any worse, and our pediatrician decided it couldn’t hurt to try it for a month and see what happened.
Details of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)
This diet was made popular by Elaine Gottschall when her four year old daughter became sick to the point of death. Elaine worked with an elderly doctor committed to treating digestive illnesses through diet instead of medicine. Her daughter became well through the diet. As a result Elaine went back to school, receiving degrees in biology, nutritional biochemistry, and cellular biology, to understand and develop the diet more fully. Her book Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet has more information about the diet, and should be read before starting the diet.
In a nutshell, legal foods in this diet are foods that are easily broken down by the digestive system. Allowable foods are meat, fish, eggs, non starchy vegetables, nuts, and fruits. Notice there are no grains and no sugars (except honey).
The official website says this:
"The allowed carbohydrates are monosaccharides and have a single molecule structure that allow them to be easily absorbed by the intestine wall. Complex carbohydrates which are disaccharides (double molecules) and polysaccharides (chain molecules) are not allowed. Complex carbohydrates that are not easily digested feed harmful bacteria in our intestines causing them to overgrow producing by products and inflaming the intestine wall. The diet works by starving out these bacteria and restoring the balance of bacteria in our gut."
Gut Healed, Medicine Discontinued
Within three days of being on the diet, Hudson’s knock-you-out-gas stopped. His screaming sessions at night also became more bearable after just a few days. It took a few weeks for his explosive diarrhea to stop. And, finally, at 21 months old, he slept through the night and had formed poop.
Getting him to stick to the diet has been a challenge. Not only because he is a normal picky toddler, but also because I am just not used to spending so much time in the kitchen making all of his food. And since I’m using things I didn’t know existed a year ago (read: almond flour, yogurt starter, cacao powder, and coconut oil), my hours in the kitchen often end up with nothing edible to show for them :(. After he was better for a few months, we gradually weaned him off a muscle relaxer (Baclofen) he had been taking. That is another story in itself. We are almost 8 months into the diet now. Hudson is pain free and medicine free. I am so so so thankful we found the SCD; it has literally changed our lives.