We make it a priority to highlight SCD personalities from across the internet. We love hearing success stories and want to spread the knowledge of those brave enough to share their specific carbohydrate diet stories.
This week I just can’t wait any longer to roll out our spotlight… Christina from Organically Autoimmune. Christina is doing something I wish I would have done and documenting her SCD healing journey every step of the way, and it is incredible! If you haven’t checked out her site you it is a must read for anyone on the diet or even if you are still considering it. She has committed to 365 days on the SCD Diet (awesome by the way) and she is sharing every detail along the way.
You can ride along with her on her healing adventure and see for yourself what can happen. Plus, it’s really cool to be able to read through her experiences and know what you can expect if you are considering starting the diet. If you are thinking about starting the diet, live vicariously through her everyday for a while and see what your thoughts are. Christina is an incredible person and she is doing something so awesome for the SCD Community.
Here are her answers to the questions we love to ask… enjoy:
1: Why did you start the diet (symptoms, health problem)?
Before I was diagnosed with UC, I scoured the internet for information on what could be wrong with me. My symptoms were pretty classic of IBD, so I had an idea it was Crohn’s or UC. For almost a year up to my diagnosis, I was experiencing symptoms such as blood in my stools, debilitating abdominal pain, fever, bouts of constipation and then extreme diarrhea. Because I didn’t have insurance at the time, I was looking for any kind of treatment that didn’t require the hospital.
On one of those online UC message boards, people were talking about a diet called “SCD” and I became curious. It took a while, but I figured out that they were talking about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet as outlined in Breaking the Vicious Cycle (BVC). I ordered the book, read it from cover to cover the day it arrived and went immediately to Whole Foods to buy my introduction diet ingredients.
I gave the diet a so-so attempt, but the fact was that I was already too sick. I had spiraled so far down that I was going to the bathroom twice an hour and had lost 20 pounds in about one month. I literally could not stand long enough to prepare the chicken soup or yogurt. It was at that time that I had no choice but to go to the ER and they admitted me immediately.
Because my mom has RA, I already knew about the types of treatments they were likely to offer me with a UC diagnosis. I did not want to use steroids like Remicade or Humira or any type of immunosuppressant drug, for that matter. It didn’t make sense to me that I would weaken my immune system in order to solve one problem, and leave myself vulnerable to the common cold in the process.
My doctor reluctantly agreed to let me try 16 Asacol pills a day, despite the fact he said on a scale of 1 to 10 he thought I was already at an 8 in severity. Luckily, within two weeks of treatment, I had reduced my trips to the bathroom to about 3 times a day and I had absolutely no fever or pain. It was quite a miracle.
Although Asacol treated my UC very well, I experienced a lot of hair loss. I think part of it was due to the fact that I was malnutritioned for so long, but it’s also a side effect of Asacol. For any female—especially one in her twenties—watching your hair fall out in clumps is quite traumatizing. So, I started cutting down my meds to try to regenerate my hair growth; while my hair did stop falling, it wasn’t growing back.
I was down to two Asacol pills a day when I made the decision to stop treatment against my doctor’s recommendation. After a couple months of being off meds, I became aware of subtle symptoms returning: fatigue, slight cramping, diarrhea in the morning and up to three BMs a day. I was worried that the reckless way I was consuming food and beverages combined with the fact that I was no longer on medication was putting me at risk for a flare-up. That’s when I knew that if I was going to be indignant enough to refuse prescriptions drugs, then I had to take control over my diet.
I took BVC of the book shelf, brushed away the dust and instantly made the decision to give it my all for at least a year. I’d say I was most motivated by personal convictions (to be medication free); fear (of having my colon removed); and vanity (I want my hair to be restored to its previous thickness).
2: How did the SCD Diet change your life?
I’m barely approaching my second month, so I feel like I’ve only skimmed the surface of SCD, but already there have been some substantial changes:
I lost almost 5lbs immediately without trying. I know for some UC sufferers, this would be a bad thing because when we’re in a flare, we tend to be underweight. But I’ve had about two years of what some people call “remission” but I like to refer to as “packing on the pounds.” So, I have 15 pounds to spare.
Before SCD, I was caught in the sugar trap and I couldn’t control my appetite. That has totally ended. Now, I eat when I’m hungry and I don’t ever eat past the point of fullness (except for peanut butter cookies—the BTVC recipe really is to die for and I can tear through a batch with a vengeance).
By far, the biggest change has not been in or on my body, but in the way I am spending the hours in my days. Now, I am conscious about what I am putting in my body; I spend hours in my kitchen baking sugar-free desserts; I am acquainted with kitchen appliances I never knew were in my cabinets; my creativity is bursting at the seams as I continually seek new and interesting ways to cook with vegetables and nut flour; and I’ve been pushed past my comfort zone with socializing because eating out just isn’t that much fun for me anymore. I have been forced to branch out and think of other ways to connect with people—like Scrabble tournaments!
You know, when I started SCD I expected to drop a few pounds, regulate my BMs, and stop my morning cramping, but I never thought it would breathe inspiration back into my life again. I don’t really even think that I knew I was lacking in inspiration! Eating was such a robotic, thoughtless action before—now it’s like I have the opportunity to engage in an art project three meals a day. It’s a radically different approach then what the American marketing machine is feeding us, always pushing convenience, easier, cheaper, more, tastier, faster. SCD is the antithesis to this marketing mantra as it encourages us to slow down, spend a little more and eat a little less—to make a connection with what we’re feeding ourselves so that our life can be fuller.
3: What was the biggest challenge you faced on the diet and how did you overcome it?
I still really struggle with coffee. I am a self-proclaimed coffee addict but it’s worthless to me without cream and Splenda. I pray every day that there was a legal dairy that tasted good in coffee (by the way, do not use yogurt as a creamer—it’s beyond disgusting). I have chosen to look at this as an opportunity to cut down on caffeine, and have reduced my coffee intake from essentially a constant IV drip in my right arm, to ½ a cup every other day.
Also, I have to make sure to watch my moods and emotions. That’s a big trigger for me. Like I talk about in my blog, I have been self-medicating with macaroni and cheese or some other comfort food for my entire life. Since that’s no longer an option, it’s really important that I don’t get too high or low at this stage of the game. I feel like I’m in the SCD incubation period and it’s just so delicate that I can’t afford to rock the boat with too many crying fits or tantrums—that’s like two steps away from a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream binge for me.
4: What is the number 1 piece of advice you would give someone thinking about starting the diet?
Commit to it for one month with everything you have. Follow every rule, get crazy, make the yogurt and don’t allow yourself even one cheat. If you hate it at the end of that month, then give yourself full permission to go back to your old ways—junk food isn’t going anywhere, you guys. But if there is even the slightest possibility that SCD could improve the quality of your life—whether you have an autoimmune disease, a weight problem or a hormone imbalance—don’t you owe it to yourself to sacrifice one very small month out of your entire lifetime to see if it will work? Personally, I believe we all deserve that chance.
Christina, you are an inspiration to us all and on behalf of the SCD community, thank you so much for sharing every detail of your journey to give everyone else evidence of what the diet can do! You are awesome! Good luck and I can’t wait to see every new page turn.