Flare Ups

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Flare Ups

Flare ups are unfortunately part of the process. Flares can happens to all of us. We may goof once in a while or we may have been sabotaged,"But honey, I only put just in a little bit of corn starch," or Wendy's personal restaurant favorite,"There is no sugar in our pumpkin ginger soup! We use only the finest maple syrup."

Flares also may mark a sign of progress in your healing, analogous to graduating to the next grade of digestive healing. Some people think that when they have a flare up, the SCD diet is not working or not working for them, but just the opposite may be true. This is the time to stick with SCD and have faith that thousands of others have been here before you and succeeded. Digestive healing is a slow process. There is 25 to 30 feet of tubing to heal. We talk about diet and food but we must not forget that ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are auto-immune diseases. That is why the negative responses of our bodies may seem out of proportion to the our transgression.

Why Am I Having a Flare Up?

Oh no! You were doing so well and now you feel awful. Your symptoms have recurred with a vengeance. What happened? You are discouraged and upset. Guess what, it may actually be an important sign of progress!

To get the help that you need, it is necessary to analyze the problem. Here are the usual flare up scenarios:

1. You ate something impermissible in SCD or a combination food that had a hidden SCD impermissible ingredient.

2. You ate an SCD permissible food but you ate too much at one time and your system could not handle it.

3. You ate an SCD permissible food, but it was an advanced food and you had not healed sufficiently to tolerate it.

4. You have been under a lot of unusual stress, life changing event, etc.

5. Congratulations! You feel awful but you are experiencing "die-off."

Ingesting an Food that is Not Allowed

With the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, there are no diet holidays, no days off. One is either on the diet 100%, 100% of the time, or one is not on it. "But I only ate a little bit." Bacteria are tiny things and they only need a crumb to have a feast. Even if you tolerated an not permissible food, do not be complacent. Marilyn posted that if you let your guard down, first you try a little not allowed food here, then a little not allowed food there, it all adds up and suddenly, you are no longer on SCD. You are flaring, you feel awful and you do not know what did it.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Did you fall in love with the yogurt smoothies with lots of fruit and honey and have a bunch in one day? Did you love making and eating too many of the SCD desserts? The truth is in your food log. Look at the total amount of fruit and honey you have been eating. Was some of that fruit dried so the fructose was more condensed? Too much sugar, even easier to digest sugar, may be overwhelming your tender system. Too much nuts or too much cheese or too much yogurt or too much spinach may do it too. Look back at your log and adjust accordingly. SCD is a self regulating process of knowing your body.

But It Was on the SCD Permitted List

Like any typical newbie, Wendy assumed that if a food was on the list of SCD permitted foods, it was automatically okay for her to consume it and start off with normal portions sized servings. A few sessions on the porcelain throne in the bathroom, made her realize that she needed to reread some of the BTVC book. Now she tries each new food very carefully using the methods she used to introduce new foods to her baby many years ago. Try just a little. Wait and see if it is okay. If it is okay, the next day try some more.

Build up slowly. Your own body is the boss. All healing is completely individual. Each persons tolerance for a particular food is unique. We each must walk our own walk within the umbrella of the SCD food list. Typical examples of going too fast: eating salads (raw foods) too soon, jumping into advanced foods such as lentils or beans. Caution is the best policy in the first year. Set backs will slow the healing process because you will first have to recover from the set back.

This is a Stressful Time for Me

Sorry to hear that you have troubles. Do the best you can and be sure to take care of yourself. Self awareness, meditation, walks, warm baths, consulting professional and religious counselors will help ease the stress. The Tapping Cure by Dr. Roberta Temes http://www.DrRoberta.com is a self help book that details 'tapping,' a self administered method of controlling anxiety. Tapping is widely used in other countries, (for example, New Zealand) but is just beginning to be recognized in the USA.

So What Do I Do About It?

  • Have faith and stay on SCD. The treatment is the same for all of the above and for the die-off situation discussed below. Here is where your Food and Event Diary comes in handy as it can help you identify what went wrong. The food diary also has the record of your "safe" foods. Drop back to eating only your safe foods, the ones you could depend on that you found in the beginning of the diet. Some people find that restarting by repeating the intro sequence is helpful. See Getting Started. After the flare has subsided, slowly and gradually reintroduce your expanded food menu.
  • Take Epsom salt baths to help get the toxins out of the body. See discussion below.

See The Scoop on Poop for tips on how to handle diarrhea and constipation.


The working hypothesis of SCD is that digestion should take place in the small intestine based on the work of digestive enzymes. By the time digestive substances reach the large intestine (colon) the nutrients should have been extracted by the villi in the small intestine and absorbed into the blood stream to distribute to the body cells. The colon is not supposed to process nutrients, It is a waste management system. The colon removes water to consolidates waste, recycles bile salts, etc. However, in persons with digestive problems, somehow their villi in the small intestine have been damaged, the nutrients are not completely absorbed and thus, nutrients are getting into the colon.

The colon is filled with hundreds of strains of bacteria who are naturally opportunistic. They enthusiastically feed on this bonanza of nutrients. They overpopulate and can spread upward into other parts of the digestive system. Their activity produces the gas that creates that terrible urgency and produces toxins get all over the body to make us feel awful, aggravate skin problems, aggravate allergies, etc.

The key healing principle of SCD is that if only foods that are easily digested are eaten, the bacteria are not fed and the vicious cycle is broken. On SCD, you are no longer feeding the bad bacteria in the colon, you are trying to starve them out. Some strains go quietly, others hang in there for longer and go down fighting.

Gay B. - Most people with severe digestive problems have an overgrowth of bacteria. Most pathogenic bacteria have a toxin in their cell wall that gets released when they die. When many bacteria die at once, there will be an increase of bacterial toxin. When you see negative symptoms with no known deviation from the SCD diet, you should rejoice as some of the bad bacteria that have destroyed your gut are being eliminated! A coating on your tongue (white or even blue) is a sign of over growth and die-off.

The bacteria, like any living creature, just want to survive. They send your brain chemical messages to go get food, especially carbohydrates. They want all the sugar laden stuff that they have been thriving on all your life. They know they will die if they do not get it, so they are willing to go to desperate measures to influence you, their "host." This is a life or death struggle for them and they mean to win. You may experience cravings for things that you thought you had long abandoned.

On SCD and especially during this time, it is vitally important to always have permissible food with you whenever you leave your kitchen. No matter how short the errand, you can suddenly become very hungry. Hunger strikes quickly and often. Part of this is the bacteria are repeatedly signalling the brain that they are hungry, hoping for some sugar. Another aspect of this hunger is that your digestive system is healing, converting back to being enzyme based and that requires a lot of energy. Many people experience weight loss during die-off. Do not worry about this as it will stabilize. Marilyn has posted that SCD tends to "right size you."

Wendy was ravenous and was saved by bananas. She still takes them with her wherever she goes. Do not rely on finding SCD compatible food anywhere. An entire convenience store usually has nothing allowed on SCD except bottled water and, maybe, some nuts or cheddar cheese. For those on SCD, the word, "traveling" means leaving their house for more than 15 minutes.

Die-Off Symptoms

Die off symptoms vary with individuals. Gay B. has posted some typical die-off symptoms which can last for a few days or weeks: Lots of fatigue but no pain. Irritability. Feeling down and discouraged. Flu like symptoms - runny nose and funny cough. Dizziness, achy joints and back. Nausea, sleep disturbances, strange skin rashes. Bowel changes (diarrhea or constipation). Any combination of the above. Gay B. posts that it is important for us to note that the die-off reaction is an inflammation response brought on by the increase in bacterial toxins.

Stay with your basic safe foods or reboot your system and restart the Intro Getting Started. Epsom salt baths help as they speed the release of the toxins from your body.

Epsom Salt Baths

Taking a detox bath with Epsom salts is one way of getting some relief from a flare. If you do not have a bath tub, a foot bath will work too. Epsom salts help drain the toxins from the body. It is a dehydrating process so drink fluids before and after the bath. Soak for 10 to 15 minutes but never longer than 20 minutes. The reason is that the process is based on osmosis. Since the bath is saltier than you, the fluids drain out of the skin pores to equalize the salinity. By 20 minutes, the process has stabilized and if you stay in the bath you will begin to reabsorb the toxins.

The Epsom salts package says to use two cups of Epsom salts per bath but that may be too strong for some. If this is your first time, Gay B. suggests trying one cup or even less. If you detox on a regular basis (for example, every two weeks), the only toxins draining will have built up since the last bath. That is why the very first Epsom salts bath is a big one.

Another standard detox bath formula that is effective but not as strong as using only Epsom salts is: one half cup each of Epsom salts, baking soda and salt. This formula imitates sea water. It also works on the principle of osmotic pressure and the same 20 minute outside maximum rule applies. Again is is important to stay hydrated. You should feel thirsty after either of these baths.

It is very important, if you decide that you need a second bath, that you empty the first bath and start with fresh water and salts. If two persons in a household are taking back to back detox baths, the tub must be drained and refilled after the first one. Gay B. has advised in her posts that Epsom salt baths can be done up to twice a day if needed.

Patience, Persistence and Perseverance

Patience, persistence and perseverance should be the watch word of SCD. SCD is two steps forward, one step back. During the rough patches, it is important to stay with your basic safe foods for as long as it takes. You may be eating the same 10 foods for a few months but stay with them and you will heal.

In all probability, you were getting sick gradually over a period of years. You just did not know it. Digestive healing takes time, lots of time but it is well worth it in the end.

Beyond SCD

Question - When can I go beyond the foods listed as allowable on SCD?

Answer - On page 70 of Breaking the Vicious Cycle (May 2010 edition) Elaine advises that the rule of thumb is not to try anything at least until one year after the last symptom has disappeared.

She advises to proceed cautiously. Introduce only one new previously forbidden food at a time at a maximum pace of once a week. Try just a little at first in the same way as you tested foods on the diet. For example, try a little bit of sweet potato, then a little more, that a half of a potato, then eat sweet potatoes occasionally.

If all goes well, you can try another food, etc. At the first sign of trouble, of symptoms recurring, drop that food immediately and stay within the SCD food list for a while longer. As with all things, your body is your guide.

Question - How long do I have to be on SCD?

Elaine's Answer - Elaine wrote on page 70 of Breaking the Vicious Cycle (May 2010 edition) that she hopes that no one who has gone through this program ever returns to a diet high in refined sugar and refined flours.

SCDWiki.com Answer - Most of us have come to love our wonderful new, healthy and tasty recipes. We never want to go back to the way it was. We feel great too.

Question - I went totally off SCD. It was great for a while but then I got really sick. I had forgotten how bad it was. Help! What do I do?

Answer - You start all over again. Go back and do the Intro See {{Getting Started]]. After the Intro, slowly expand into your basic safe food list. You may have to stick with the minimal safe food list for a longer time than before. This is because the first time through you killed off the easy to kill bacteria but now your gut has to deal with the most persistent ones. Do not be discouraged. You learned about you. Stick with the diet and you will heal again.

We do not know what causes digestive ailments but going back to the SAD (standard American Diet)is not a good idea as that is how you got sick in the first place. SCD is healthy (and delicious) living for life.

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