Recently, the team at UVM Children's Hospital noticed that food and diet regularly came up during their monthly UVM Pediatric IBD Advisory meetings. Members discussed their personal experiences and learned from each other about how some respond differently to the same foods, how to be aware of food triggers, and what go-to comfort foods people enjoyed while flaring. Recognizing the power of learning from each other and wanting to reach more members of their IBD community, the team asked Olivia if she would share her story about using the Specific Carbohydrate Diet to help manage her IBD symptoms.

Get #InTheLOOP with Olivia's story 💚💙

Hello! My name is Olivia, and I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age 13 at the UVM Children’s Hospital. I am now 23 years old and transitioned into adult care. I want to share my experience with diets related to IBD. Most IBD patients need to cut out some foods to help manage their disease, along with medication. When I was first diagnosed 10 years ago, I cut out seeds, nuts, hard to digest vegetables, large amounts of sugar, and gluten. Fortunately, I was able to bring gluten back into my diet without an issue. Unfortunately, that changed as I transitioned into college.

My symptoms increased in college, and I tried adjusting my diet to help manage my symptoms. I went gluten free and started to cut out any food that I thought caused more symptoms. Eventually, I started the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), which eliminates sugars and all grains. It focuses on simple carbohydrates, such as fruit and almond flour, and removes complex carbohydrates, such as wheat flour, to help reduce inflammation and promote the growth of healthy intestinal bacteria.

For the first few months, I followed the modified SCD that allows sweet potato and rice. I eventually removed those foods and followed SCD more strictly. I learned what foods work really well for me, such as chicken, green beans, and apples, and enjoyed new foods, such as winter squash. There are some SCD “legal” (allowed) foods that I know do not work for me and I still avoid those. These include lettuce, tomatoes, and carrots. There are also some SCD “illegal” (not allowed) foods that I can handle and still enjoy. These include Hershey kisses, Orgain’s Chocolate Fudge Protein Shake, and maple syrup. Technically, I follow the SCD 95% of the time with a few added foods to keep me going. Below I've listed a few of my favorite SCD recipes.

Click the image for the full recipes

The SCD requires a lot of effort with meal prepping (no boxed or pre-made foods), purchasing whole foods, and avoiding snacks. Not having salty snacks was the hardest part. This diet also becomes difficult when traveling, going out to eat, and for family/friend gatherings. It requires lots of planning, bringing my own food, and feeling okay with eating something different than everyone else. However, it is worth the trouble for me because I saw some improvement after about a year on the diet along with a medication change. I gained weight and my symptoms became more tolerable.

I have been on this diet for about four years now, and I have found what foods work really well for me and what foods trigger symptoms. I also learned how to cook and bake! The transition from gluten free, to the modified SCD, to the strict SCD made the process easier. The SCD may not be for everyone, and there are lots of other diets to try, so talk to your doctor about options. Adjusting your diet as part of your IBD treatment may help your symptoms.

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