Autism and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)

The second diet that has been shown to help with autism that is popular is The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), developed by Dr. Sydney Haas for the daughter of Elaine Gottschall, who wrote Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health through Diet. This diet has been shown to heal Crohn’s Disease, colitis, diverticulitis, celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, chronic diarrhea, and symptoms of autism. The SCD is basically, a step or two beyond the GFCF diet: It is a strict grain-free, lactose-free, and sucrose-free meal plan.

Because the Specific Carbohydrate Diet’s goal is to heal the intestinal tract and to rid it of bacterial and fungal overgrowth, it is proving to be a very successful dietary intervention in treating many autistic children and leading them back to a life of normalcy.

The website further supports the use of the SCD with the treatment of autism, summarizing that:

“Research shows that fungi and bacteria in the GI tract cause gastrointestinal problems and neurological problems such as autism. Studies also indicate that starches and certain sugars feed these fungi and bacteria. SCD eliminates the foods that feed these microorganisms, starving the pathogens so that they leave the body. The child is no longer a hostage to billions of pathogenic invaders that poison the gut and brain.

Furthermore, Pamela Ferro, a Nurse in Private Practice in Mattapoisett MA, and a parent of a child on the autism spectrum has treated well over 300 children with ASD utilizing biomedical approaches in her clinic. She summarizes how the SCD diet, helps children with autism by, ‘demonstrating remarkable improvements in bowel function, language, eye contact, self-stimulatory behavior, anxiety, and mood. The SCD unlike other specialized diets works by removing the foods that cannot be properly broken down. The vicious cycle of malabsorption, maldigestion, inflammation, and food allergies seen in children with autism can be corrected using this dietary approach and healthy digestion can begin.’

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet is based on the principle that specifically selected carbohydrates, requiring minimal digestion, are well absorbed leaving virtually nothing for intestinal microbes to feed on. As the microbes decrease due to lack of food, their harmful by-products also diminish. No longer needing protection, the mucus producing cells stop producing excessive mucus and carbohydrate digestion improved.

The SCD corrects malabsorption, allowing nutrients to enter the bloodstream and be made available to the cells of the body, thereby strengthening the immune system’s ability to fight. Further debilitation is prevented, weight can return to normal, and ultimately there is a return to health.

The Brain Connection chapter of Breaking the Vicious Cycle, “highlights the research of many years in which it had been shown that various neurological problems originate in the digestive system. And when the number of autistic children soared within the last two decades, attention has again been directed to the gastrointestinal tract.”

Numerous studies cited in Breaking the Vicious Cycle, have shown a link between G-I health and autism and the SCD diet is the first step beyond the GFCF diet in addressing gut health, and along the way, discovering that the diet, indeed, helped reduce autistic symptoms and in some cases, remove them entirely.

It must be noted that for many children, there is improvement within the first week to 10 days. However, others will go through a “detoxification” period and it would be helpful to find support from other parents who have gone through this change.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet is the base diet for the next two diets explored in this series, that have been successful in treating the symptoms of autism: The Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet and Spectrum Balance from the No Harm Foundation.

Author Bio: To learn more about the relationship between autism and diet, and how the Specific Carbohydrate Diet can help, please visit

Category: Medicines and Remedies
Keywords: autism treatment, autism and diet, specific carbohydrate diet

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