The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)


By Carol Frilegh

SCD is proving to be an effective dietary intervention for autism and is receiving recognition from DAN! doctors. Dr. Sidney Baker, co-founder of DAN! and the author of numerous books, has said "SCD is the best treatment that I have found so far for many children on the Autism Spectrum."

What is The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)?

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet was developed from the work of Dr. Sydney V. Haas, a pioneer in Celiac Management by the late Elaine Gottschall, B.A., M. Sc.,. She was a biologist and scientist who successfully healed her daughter from Ulcerative Colitis using SCD.

How Does It Work?

Research indicates starches and certain sugars feed microbes, such as bacteria, yeast and fungi. These harmful microbes in the intestinal tract can cause GI problems, autism and other illnesses. SCD eliminates these microbes by starving them while continuing to nourish the body.  As the body heals the gut/brain connection is repaired.

How Is It Different From GFCF?

You can remain GFCF on SCD. SCD is gluten free, but does not allow starch and sugar. SCD includes dairy that is virtually lactose free and contains denatured casein. However, dairy foods are not mandatory on SCD. Pam Ferro, of The Gottschall Autism Center and Hopewell Clinic, says the first three months for ASD children should be dairy free.  The majority of ASD children begin SCD without dairy and many successfully integrate dairy back into their diet after some healing occurs.

How Successful Is SDC?

Anecdotal reports indicate a success rate of about 80-85%.  With guidance this rate increases. Pam Ferro, R.N. of The Gottschall Center reports an amazing success rate with the children she has been treating. Parents and teachers of autistic children on SCD report a change in their attitude, increases in skills and responsiveness. In some of these cases it occurs only a few weeks after beginning the diet. Many children recover with SCD. As one mother has said, "When you see them emerge, the true child, with a loving personality, like an iridescent butterfly breaking out of its cocoon, well, that's why we all persevere."

What Kind Of Food Is Required?

SCD uses healthy nutritious meat, fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, cheeses, honey, nuts and milk that is incubated into yogurt to remove the lactose and denature the casein. These natural foods are used to create kid-friendly recipes such as ketchup, crackers, cookies etc.

What Do I Need To Get Started?

The information to get started on SCD can be found in the book:

"Breaking the Vicious Cycle, Intestinal Health through Diet" by Elaine Gottschall.

Online information is available at:




Common Questions from Parents about SCD

  • My child is a picky eater, can I still do SCD?Picky eating may be a sign of starch addiction which many children lose after they do SCD.
  • My child is allergic to nuts, eggs and dairy.SCD can be implemented despite these restrictions. As the SCD heals the gut, many allergies and sensitivities go away.
  • My child does not have any GI symptoms. Can he/she still benefit from SCD?SCD is a balanced, healthy, nutritional diet and generally beneficial to overall health. Many parents of ASD children find that despite having no obvious GI symptoms SCD helps their children behaviorally.



Note from TACA friends:

Many families who tried the Gluten and Casein free (GFCF) diet with little to no benefit need to consider the SCD Diet and allergen free diet prior to “ditching diets altogether.” Often, taking the “diet” one step further can be the key to success for many children on the spectrum. That one step depends on the unique issues to the child.

Many TACA families have gone SCD after the GFCF Diet only to be amazed and happy to find that the SCD Diet helped their child immensely - while the GFCF Diet did not. It is also important to note BED (Body Ecology Diet) and Low Oxylate Diets are also valuable tools to for families to consider. Each diet has a benefit that needs to be fully evaluated before families “DITCH THE DIET” as an effective treatment and should be discussed with the child’s doctor in defining direction and next steps in a treatment protocol.

Antedoctal information regarding diets, feedback from families, and a progression of treatments unique to an individuals needs should be shared with all families on the spectrum. Not every solution works for every child. SCD and other diets in our community offer strong benefits out there and should be considered as a valuable tool for treating issues.