If you’re one of the millions of Americans dealing with an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the wrong foods can send your system into a tailspin. Intense pain, uncontrollable diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, chills, fever, and a host of other debilitating symptoms can last for days on end.
It can be difficult to make sense of food. Even supposed healthy choices might trigger symptoms. Being skeptical of crash diets and miracle cures is smart. It’s also smart to find a trustworthy source of information about digestive health, especially when it comes to food. At Vivante Health, we are the digestive health experts. Everything we do is grounded in science, backed by research, and proven effective.
SCD and Low-FODMAP Diets
Let’s talk about two science-based therapeutic nutrition plans that people with chronic conditions like IBS and IBD find incredibly helpful. These diets, with the guidance and support of a registered dietitian, have been shown to reduce inflammation, repair damaged gut tissue, get IBS symptoms under control, and even achieve remission from IBD.
Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)
What is it? A nutrition plan aimed at reducing inflammation by sticking to only unprocessed grain-free, sugar-free, and starch-free foods.
The science: By cutting out complex carbs, lactose, sucrose and other unnatural ingredients, the body can actually heal itself and gut microbes can stabilize. Eventually this allows the bacteria in your gut microbiome to return to optimal levels. Basically, when harmful bacteria in the GI tract are starved out, friendly bacteria that normally live there can return in full force, helping your body digest foods properly again. This means inflammation settles down, you get proper nourishment from the foods you eat, you experience a major reduction in symptoms, and your quality of life is much improved!
Forever diet? Nope. Once you get the hang of it and your symptoms subside, you might want to stick with it for a while, to stay symptom free and allow your gut to fully heal. But after you’ve been in remission for a good stretch and your gut is in solid shape, you can and should add more foods back in. Occasionally you might even splurge—in moderation—on a favorite food you’ve been missing. This varies from person to person, though. Some find they don’t even crave their old trigger foods after doing the SCD.
What is it? An elimination diet that helps you identify trigger foods and heal the gut. For this diet, you cut out all FODMAPs and add them back in, one by one, until you’ve identified all your trigger food groups.
The science: FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. (Yeah, it’s a mouthful.) FODMAP foods are not absorbed well in the small intestine if you have IBS or IBD. This is a problem in itself, but what complicates matters even more is that some gut bacteria really love FODMAPs. What’s so bad about that? Well, a byproduct of these bacteria is gas, and a lot of it. Excessive gas production is one of the biggest causes of IBS symptoms. With a low-FODMAP diet, you minimize fermentation and gas production in the gut by essentially starving out the harmful bacteria. It’s pretty cool—and clever.
Forever diet? Nope. Like the SCD, after symptoms are well controlled, you’ll have a much clearer understanding of your trigger foods and can avoid those while adding others back in safely. In many cases, people are able to heal their guts and find they respond less severely to some of the foods that used to really tear them up.
Before you jump straight into the SCD or low-FODMAP diet, hold up. The info above is a very simplified overview. We highly, highly recommend talking to your healthcare provider before attempting one of these diets. Even then, it’s best to have the support of a wise dietitian when doing the SCD or low-FODMAP diet. Research shows you’re more likely to stick with it and have much better success if you’ve got an expert to lean on when you hit a snag.
With the GIThrive gut health program from Vivante, members are assigned a Care Team of digestive health experts, which includes a nutrition expert. Ask your HR department at work if your company offers GIThrive from Vivante Health.