Thursday, October 27, 2011

Elevator Speech: Our Healing Diet

When we were preparing for our healing diet I took advantage of a couple of my girls' twenty minute epsom baths and spent that time drawing diagrams of the human digestive tract. We talked about intestinal villi, enzymes, food molecules, and that sinister villain, "the belly bug."

I don't always have an opportunity to speak to a captive audience (particularly in my bathtub) so over the past 15 months or so I have perfected my elevator speech for people who look at me questioningly as I pull out the cooler at a birthday party or picnic. I have found that it is best to generally stick to the science behind the diet and not get dragged into any of the reasons we are on the healing diet. Our diet can be boiled down to this in a nutshell:

Point #1: The human body runs on fat, protein, and carbohydrates. The bacteria in our gut utilizes the carbohydrates for energy. If there is a bacterial or yeast overgrowth the carbohydrates will continue to feed them.

Point #2 There are three main forms of carbohydrates (technically there are four but because I use the word "main" I am not going to split hairs on the difference between an oligosaccharide and polysaccharide):
Monosaccharide (think of this as a ball)
Disaccharide (think of this as two balls with a bar between them)
Polysaccharide (think about many balls strung together in different shapes, mostly long lines but also circles and star shapes)

Point #3 The human body can immediately use the single ball / saccharide without any sort of enzyme action or digestive process. The disaccharide must be split into to saccharide molecules before it can be used. The polysaccharide must be split, and split, and split, and split (you can keep going for dramatic effect). Unfortunately, some people have a deficiency in digestive enzymes to aid digestion of the disaccharides and polysaccharides.

Point #4 Anything your body is unable to digest and use will pass through the body. The carbohydrates you were unable to digest and use make wonderful food and energy sources for gut pathogens. To starve out the gut pathogens and allow for maximum healing our family avoids disaccharides and polysaccharides until our bodies are able to more easily digest them.

Point #5 This is a healing diet and after the healing is complete (six months past the last symptom) we will add back wholesome foods to see if our bodies can digest them.

From here you end up at a decision point on whether or not to go any further or tell any bit of your healing story, a friend's story, or whatever. Hopefully you read social cues well and are looking at your listener for those cues. Sometimes it is helpful to take a deep breath and wait for their social cue. I mean reaction.

If your listener has the slightest bit of interest in the science/background:
The basis for this diet is called Specific Carbohydrate Diet and it is the original diet from the 1950s/60s for celiac disease. It has historically been used for ulcerative colitis, IBD, IBS, Crohn's disease, and celiac disease. These days it garners a lot of interest and support for healing children from autism, ADHD, allergies, and asthma.

If your listener asks for a recommended book:
Recommend Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. All the other books do not explain the science well enough and do not draw all the parallels to the variety of ways this gut condition can present neurologically. Even if you send someone to check out SCD, this is the better book to read.

If your listener asks for a website:
If s/he is associated in any way with autism the is the easiest place to start. It is an SCD website but tailored very heavily to parents of children with autism.

If s/he is just asking in general then I would usually just suggest the GAPS website as a starting place:

If your listener asks for a video or doesn't want to read anything:
Here is a worthwhile 90 minute video of a presentation by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride.

If you can perfect this short elevator speech you may find greater levels of support and a little less eyeball rolling. Some people are haters and are going to be eyeball rollers regardless so don't take their dysfunction personally (I never do). The vast majority of people, however, tend to be curious and generally want to be supportive.

It really is pretty simple. It is about the physiology of our digestive system and giving it time to heal before going back to a life of sourdough bread and gnocchi. Which, by the way, I hope to go back to one day.


  1. Thank you for this, Kati! I'll put these suggestions into practice when I'm sharing with others about the diet! :)


  2. Here is another write-up that is perhaps more conversational - Thanks Laura!
    ------------------- the picnic:

    We prepare this food because our digestive systems/ guts are compromised/ sick/ out of balance (depending on what needs to be conveyed). We are eating the most easily digestible and absorbable foods that carry the most possible nutrients to allow our digestive system to heal.

    The body and the microbes in the human gut use carbohydrates.
    Monosaccharide (think of this as a ball)
    Disaccharide (think of this as two balls with a bar between them)
    Polysaccharide (think about many balls strung together in different shapes, mostly long lines but also circles and star shapes)

    Monosaccharides are simple carbohydrates.They are easy to digest. The others are more difficult fora weak digestive system to utilize. They end up sitting in the gut too long and feeding bad bacteria and yeast rather than being absorbed. Eating any foods that are not easily digestible will ruin (Yes, strong words here !) the healing procress by strengthening the pathogens and it is very important not to bend the rules.

    Our diet avoids difficult-to-digest foods so the digestive tract has maximum ability to heal.

    When the digestive tract has healed we will encorporate a larger variety of wholesome foods in our diet. Thank you for asking :)