My Primal Motivation for Staying (Mostly) on SCD

I came to the SCD diet through figuring out that grains were causing me digestive problems (yeah it took a few years to come to that conclusion). I found the diet literally by doing a Google search for “rice causing stomach upset”. Somehow in the dozens of hits returned that preached the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) there was a blog or message board post about SCD. I clicked on that and finally felt like I was reading something that would actually help. My naturopath at the time agreed it was the best thing for me to try, but that’s it’s a hard diet to follow. It certainly was a change from the current diet I was on, which was mostly grains, some vegetables and fruit, lean meats only (chicken breast & fish) and very low fat. I don’t think I found the transition as hard as most people and that might be because of the support I found on the Internet. The Yahoo groups for SCD are wonderful and people are literally right there to answer your questions within a couple hours. With all the blogs around, I felt like at least I wasn’t alone.

And then I found the Primal/Paleo blogs (first one I found happened to be the best, Mark’s Daily Apple) and couldn’t believe my eyes. People were following this diet (well, very similar diet), not because of pain, stomach upset, digestive diseases, autism, or other autoimmune illnesses. People were actually choosing to do this diet because it’s the right diet to have. It helped them lose weight. It helped them get stronger. And for that they stayed on it. I found it easy to have motivation considering eating a bowl of rice would leave me curled up in a ball in pain all evening. Here was a group of people who liked feeling better, losing weight, and being generally healthier and that was enough motivation for them to eat this way. At first most blogs I found seemed to be of healthy people who didn’t need to ‘diet’ and as I found more of these blogs, I realized some people were in fact coming from backgrounds of dealing with some difficult illnesses. You wouldn’t even believe it upon first sight because they all look so healthy.

For those who aren’t familiar with the terms, Primal and Paleolithic diets refer to eating the way humans did for millions of years, before the neolithic agricultural revolution some 11,000 years ago. The fact is, humans evolved on a diet of mostly foods they could find including meat, fish, tubers, vegetables, berries, fruits, some nuts, and a bit of honey infrequently. Sound familiar? It’s pretty much SCD minus the yogurt and cheese. The idea is that we have only been eating grains and sugar a very short period of time in our very long history as modern humans. We may have adapted to live on grain-based diets but in terms of evolution I don’t think our biological make-up has caught up yet. Some people seem to do ok with grains, but are they really part of the ideal diet for humans? I know I have answered that for myself and don’t need a scientific study to prove it to me. I do like the fact that logically this all makes sense.

I have been following these Primal blogs for a while now (there’s a lot, will post a list soon), enjoying the recipe ideas and stories of achieving health goals. It has formed me a bit in my ways of thinking about how we should be living our lives, how we should be playing, and what we should be eating. While everyone starting SCD or GAPS is already asking when they can ‘go off the diet’ I have been considering the possibility of never. I’m even at a point now where I am adding food back into my diet (and I have done a couple) but I’m hesitant. Why? Because deep down inside I know this is the right way to live. It certainly doesn’t feel like I’m trapped in a diet, when I can eat bacon and eggs for breakfast and feel great. Who would trade that for a ‘biscuit’? I realize some people just read that and said to themselves “mmm a biscuit” I guess they would be the ones to want to go off this diet! I honestly won’t judge anyone for going back to what they consider normal foods. At least they could fall back on SCD if (when?) they need to. I don’t understand people who would want that, but I’m not about to think any less of them. I just hope everyone realizes they can be on this type of diet forever if they want to. I certainly don’t feel like I’m missing out on much considering every meal I eat tastes wonderful.

I will continue adding new foods and playing around with tolerances. I’m mostly excited about potatoes just because it makes it a lot easier to eat at friends and parent’s houses. That being said, I think I’ve had sweet potato a grand total of 3 times in the past 4 months. Maybe I’ll eat more since I’m still hoping to gain more weight, so adding in some starchy stuff might help. Part of me wants to try each and every food just to see what I react to. I’m just about the most sensitive person I know to dietary changes, so it would be a fun experiment (even cooking in vegetable oils instead of saturated fats seems to cause problems). It would be nice to be able to eat at a friend’s house or a restaurant and not get sick. I haven’t eaten a salad since starting SCD. Hmm I realize maybe only the UCer and Crohnies would understand that one. Might be a good thing to try salads so I can eat everything my parents serve for dinner at their house. Meat, potatoes and multiple salads oh my. My mom does make the best salad dressing ever!

I’m probably going to be more focused on other aspects of my life too. Fitness is something I have been interested in since University but has been on the back-burner while I have been healing. I do enjoy walking, yoga, and playing volleyball and tennis as well so I want to do more of that this summer. Notice how I’m not mentioning gym? I do have one at work that I go to for walking and stretching when the weather’s bad. But reading all these Primal blogs about more natural ways of working out (think run, jump, swim, play, carry and throw heavy things) has made me change how I think about being fit. I’m planning to start out slowly since I don’t want to overdo it, just ease into it. These are lifelong changes, no need to rush!

I will be sharing recipes, I still have a bunch in my head somewhere that I’ve never written down. I’m continuing to try and sort through advice I would have for people following the SCD or GAPS diets. Snacks, traveling, feeding kids, eliminating/introducing foods, cooking on a budget, these are all common questions people really need answers to. If I plan on sticking very close to SCD long-term, I think I’ll have to figure all that out one way or another.


I have been following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet since January 2008 to recover from Celiac disease. As part of the diet, I don't eat grains, sugar or potatoes and prepare all my meals from scratch.


  1. I've never heard of the GAPS diet. So I looked it up. Not only is it complicated, but it comes right out and states that you must buy the book. From the intro I read I find it contrived and lacking in the simple logic of the paleo diet, where foods are either in or out.

    Those of us that are on the paleo diet to avoid the diseases of civilization plan to remain on it for the rest of our lives. Or else you don't avoid them. The only time I stray is eating out (like traveling) where I will eat rice or potatoes to fill up. But there is no reason to ever cheat at home.

    Of course if you are celiac a strict gluten-free diet for life is required. And that includes all the contamination issues. Often after a celiac's guts have healed, other food sensitivities will go away. Though I would expect that dairy would also have to be eliminated completely to overcome the gut damage.

    The problem I have with the SCD is the allowing of dairy. The reason to eliminate dairy is the casein protein is toxic, not some sugar issue. And why allow one type of bean? It still has lectins.

    Now dairy is the food that people find the hardest to give up. So to me paleo+dairy=primal. I don't want to see dairy be included in any diet called paleo. I don't want to see the paleo name diluted and used simply because it is now in.

    A concise explanation and the variations of the paleo diet can be found here: http://paleodiet.com/definition.htm.

  2. Hi Don,
    Thanks for your comment and clarification of paleo. I did not mean to dilute the paleo name. I removed any mention of dairy on the Primal/Paleo page. I specifically said in this post that Paleo/Primal does not include dairy, so I hope I didn't give anyone false impressions.

    Ok I realize I forgot about beans, because even though I'm on full SCD I do avoid them. I could have clarified that better!

    The paleo/primal diets are just examples of life-long diets that people follow that exclude many of the foods SCD happens to as well. Hence why I feel more motivated not to go back to a SAD diet. This post was not meant to be an introduction to a paleo diet, it was just my reasoning for why I continue to eat the way I do even though I'm pretty healthy now. I want to stay healthy and believe this is the way to do it.

    Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned paleo in this post, but I learned so much from reading about it that I wanted to include it to be honest about my experience. I think I will modify the Primal/Paleo page to clearly separate the resources and avoid any confusion. Really I just wanted to share the blogs I follow that have recipes and food ideas we can (almost) all enjoy.

  3. About GAPS: I will be posting soon about the GAPS diet. I also didn't like how complicated it seems. i incorporate some aspects of it, such as fermented vegetables, mainly for taste and beneficial bacteria. I think one reason for the extreme nature of the GAPS protocol is for dealing with Autism. It's not something I have any experience with so I don't really have an opinion on the diet for that use. For digestive problems, I think GAPS is more complicated than necessary. Again, I'm sharing recipes, experience and motivation that can be useful to SCD or GAPS, so I do refer to both if I see appropriate.

  4. Hi again,
    You mentioned wanting to gain weight. First, if you are celiac you have to be 100% gluten-free. Then instead of starches I gain weight simply if I eat a lot of food. Like really pack it in, and not be on a bicycling vacation where I'm bicycling say 40 miles a day and will always lose weight. Recently I added a banana a day to my diet. A bit more carby than the berries, homemade applesauce, and Larabar I also eat daily. I started gaining a pound or two. So I cut it out.

  5. The weight is slowly coming on. I probably could use another 5-10 pounds so I'm trying to eat a lot. I do find if I add starchy foods then I gain weight a bit easier. Bananas are good yeah, need to get some on a more regular basis I think. 🙂

  6. While strict paleo eschews dairy, I find that fermented dairy (yoghurt and hard cheeses) sits just fine with me, so I include it, though not in any large amounts.

    Of course, butter is my standard fat for cooking. You could "paleo-ize" it by turning it into ghee, but it's rather time consuming and you don't get out nearly as much as you put in.

    I agree with you though, the "primal" moniker is probably a better one to use – I don't think Sisson has it trademarked.

  7. Well, I forgot what I was writing about.

    I came to the primal scene in a similar way to you finding SCD. Through process of elimination and self diagnosis, I had concluded that wheat was causing my problems. I suffered from GERD and hives after eating certain things. Of course, these were only a few of the problems as once I got off the SAD I found so much more that was "clearing up" for me. Skin got clearer, the dandruff shampoo was no longer needed, and most importantly my mood shot up. Within a month of "going primal" I was out of a funk I'd been in for nearly 5 years. I actually do things now instead of sitting at home playing video games.

    Personally, I'm never looking to "get off" this lifestyle. It pretty much gave me my life back.

  8. Great to hear you are doing well. I was surprised to learn that this style of diet helps with mood, depression and anxiety. For me it was mostly just anxiety. I would get panic attacks for seemingly no reason. Now I can't remember the last time I felt like that.

  9. I don't know exactly how you eat, but sometimes people are still afraid of saturated animal fats. I'd say you should eat more fat instead of carbs (like bananas – 18g/100g carb), since carbs will increase your insulin production/response and I'm not sure that's optimal for you having bowel trouble (inflammation?).

    In Sweden there's a "diet" called LCHF (Low Carb High Fat) that you might want to google. One of the best bloggs according to me is http://www.kostdoktorn.se (use Google translate since it's in Swedish and you'll get a decent translation).

  10. Interestingly enough, I was just reading about this on Dr Eades blog, part of the whole a calorie is a calorie is a calorie myth. http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/metabolic-advantage/thermodynamics-and-the-metabolic-advantage/ check the addendum.
    "I’ve had a number of patients and countless letters from readers who have had the same experience. They consume a ton of fat, but don’t gain weight…or even, as with the guy you described, lose a little."

    Of course, for most of us, not gaining is a *good* thing. But if you need to gain then SFAs might not get you there (and of course PUFAs would be a bad thing). The paleo/evolutionary hypothesis would be that the insulin response is a temperate zone hunter-gatherer's body packing on fat during the autumnal abundance of fruits, nuts, tubers, etc.

  11. Yeah I'm eating plenty of fats. Fatty cuts of meat, extra tallow, tons of butter, egg yolks, some coconut oil and lard. Saturated fats seem to be the best thing for digestion.

    I have been gaining weight without resorting to any drastic change in diet. Maybe being patient and waiting for it to slowly come on is all I need. I do think eating some potatoes and tubers might help so I'm hoping to do that.

  12. If you're slowly gaining, then why stress it and add unneeded carbs at all? Eating like you do will balance your weight I'm certain of.

    And the unbalance (weight) created should take some time to mend. It's like "curing" headache with a pill instead of drinking water or dealing with the cause instead. We're too happy about fast solutions.

    No worries, you're on the right track =)! Just keep up the good work!

  13. I thought this was a great post, Kat. Nice job!

    I think it's important for those paleo/primal folks stumbling across this post to understand that while GAPS/SCD functionally look a lot like paleo, people generally come to them for different reasons, and they aren't totally the same.

    Don, GAPS is primarily used by parents of autistic children, who often find it helps IMMEASURABLY with their children. The rationale for why this works makes a lot of sense to me (though I'm not going to explain it here). GAPS is based on SCD, but (in my opinion) adds a few more details that I think make a lot of sense — like focusing heavily on bone broths, and fermented foods. I think of it as SCD with a Nourishing Traditions flavour. I think anyone on SCD would benefit from those things, which is why GAPS made more sense to me. I'm not a parent of an autistic kid, I'm just following GAPS in order to heal my own digestive issues. I make modifications that make sense to me.

    I think most people who have a primal or paleo "conversion" feel like they will eat this way for the rest of their lives, because they feel great. Conversely, people starting SCD/GAPS often wonder how long they'll need to do it for – because it feels so restrictive, and they aren't choosing it necessarily out of a belief that it's the way they want to eat forever – they're doing it as a means to an end.

    I thought Kat did an amazing job of explaining how she came to realize that in fact, this way of eating is actually optimal, and why she intends to stick to it!

  14. Thanks Sarah! Especially for providing some GAPS knowledge. I came to Nourishing Traditions before finding GAPS, so I really never got to 'know' the GAPS diet and protocol very well. It makes sense to focus on broths and I believe the original intent of Elaine's intro was to get lots of broth too. The fermented foods I wish I could have experimented with myself early on.

    I see what you mean about people finding SCD out of sickness and looking at it as a treatment plan, which naturally would seem temporary. I found this diet so liberating though, as if I had tried treatments for years that didn't work and now this did. I think I was searching for a way to validate staying on it (to family and friends), which Primal diets seemed to provide.

  15. Hi Andy, I have read two of Cordain's books, Paleo Diet and Paleo Diet for Athletes. I'll check out Art Devany's site thanks!

  16. Hi Kat,
    I’ve just found your blog and have loved reading the posts. This one especially rang a bell with me. I have UC and after years on / off of checking out scd blogs (there are so many now!) and I had the same feeling of revelation first when I found Mark’s daily apple. You describe it very well.

  17. why ever say you will do anything forever?
    change is the only constant. best not to get attached to a way of eating. bodies change and so do their needs. stay open but keep listening to the bodies signals.

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