No Grain, More Gain

Ever wonder why your digestive system seems to be rebelling even though you’ve been meticulously gluten-free?  Me too.

Being quite the social butterfly, I used to think I must be getting bad information from waiters on a regular basis allowing minute amounts of gluten to infiltrate my diet.  I no longer believe this.

Lacking a definitive scientific study on which to rely, I will simply tell you what I’ve learned through trial and error.  The less gluten-free grain I consume, the better I feel.

Mind you, the effect is not immediate, but it is quick.  It takes about a week of eliminating complex carbs from my diet for me to suddenly feel 10 pounds lighter, have my bowel function to return to normal, have less sudden energy drops from low blood sugar, and to feel totally free of intestinal discomfort.

It is possible that Elaine Gottschall had it right when she wrote “Breaking The Vicious Cycle” outlining the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.  While not widely accepted by the current medical and nutrition community as significant, Elaine’s book was not written by an untrained, uneducated, or uninformed lay person.

Elaine was a biochemist and cell biologist whose daughter was a patient of Dr. Sidney V. Haas. As you may know, Dr. Haas was a pediatrician and researcher who in 1924 published a medical paper detailing his use of the banana diet for treatment of Celiac Disease.  His research led to the development of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD).  During his career, Dr. Hass treated over 600 cases of Celiac Disease and in 1951, along with his son, published a medical textbook entitled “The Management of Celiac Disease”.

The basic premise of the SCD is that the elimination of all carbohydrates that are polysaccharides (complex carbs) from the diet in favor of monosaccharides (simple carbs) can correct malabsorption and reverse the course of many intestinal disorders by starving out an overgrowth of bacteria or yeast from the system.

The first time I followed, yes that’s right I said the FIRST time, the SCD, I ran a 101º fever for a week.  After that week I began to improve.  After a year on the diet, my belly felt better than it ever had in my adult life, and my skin, which had always been prone to breakouts, was completely clear.  After a year and a half on the diet, I began to add back complex carbs – yummy tortilla chips, gluten-free crackers, arrowroot cookies – oh yeah!  Except that after a while I went from oh yeah to oh OWWW!

No matter what I would like to be true, I feel better without grain.  I feel better without potatoes.  I feel better when I limit the chocolate, sugar, milk, and soybeans in my diet.  When I consume tortilla chips, my belly hurts.  When I bake with potato starch, my belly hurts.  When I eat gluten-free pasta for 3 days in a row (I make a mean mac & cheese and the leftovers are awesome) my diarrhea returns.

I don’t know if all grains act as toxins to my system triggering a brain response or whether my symptoms are attributable to bacterial overgrowth or whether it’s a combination of the two.  I’m not sure I need to know.  I know that my system responds positively on the SCD.  I know it makes logical sense because eliminating foods that are harder for my digestive system to break down takes a load off my body.  My body can then redirect its energy to healing and proper functioning.  What more do I really need to know?

Of course I need to know what I can and cannot eat.  That’s easy.  I can buy “Breaking the Vicious Cycle”, or visit

Waiters and chefs in restaurants will need to know what I can eat, so I’ll carry Cooking2Thrive® SCD server cards with me to communicate the information easily.

That covers what I need to know.  You may want to know if there are good SCD recipes available.

That answer is easy as well.  Cooking2Thrive will soon release a series of chef-tested recipes that are SCD compliant and scrumptiously tasty.  These recipes include: Empire Waist Cheese Crackers, Health Nut Applejacks (pancakes), Lemon Kiwi Muffins, Coconut Pound Cake, Cheesecake, Cinnamon Shortbread Cookies, 3 Pepper Fried Chicken Tenders, Meat Loaf, Pistachio Encrusted Chicken, Personal Pizza Margherita, Gorgonzola Tarragon Deviled Eggs, Stuffed Summer Squash, Apple Slaw, and many more.

Hopefully science will eventually support the trends many of us already anecdotally observe.  In the meantime, if you’re gluten-free and experiencing recurring digestive problems, please consider taking the burden off your body.  Follow the SCD for awhile (if it’s SCD compliant, it’s automatically gluten-free).  You too may find that with no grain you see more gain.

Author: Cheri Thriver

Hello, Cheri Thriver here blogging about cooking, thriving, and the intersection of the two. I’ve been living a gluten-free lifestyle for over 15 years. I understand that it’s rarely a lack of knowledge or the availability of appropriate food that keeps us from making healthy choices. More often than not, it’s an emotional connection, previous trauma, or fear of social reprisal that keeps us stuck. My wish is that you’ll find something here that informs, entertains, or inspires you to change anything that needs to be changed for you to live fully and thrive.

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