by: Gottschall, Elaine, M.Sc.

Elaine Gottschall is an author, lecturer, and nutritional consultant from Kirkton Ontario. She has specialized in the study of the biochemical effects of food on the human body for the past 20 years and has conducted research on the causes of inflammatory bowel disease at the University of Western Ontario. Elaine is a well-known and well-loved lecturer on the subject of intestinal problems. She is the author of the popular book Food and the Gut Reaction.

From the time my daughter was about four months old, even while she was still nursing, she had severe episodes of diarrhea. At the age of four, she began to have night seizures and one year later, she was diagnosed as having incurable ulcerative colitis and her condition was deteriorating. She was given drug treatment but after three months her symptoms returned and her specialist recommended removal of her colon. The idea of doing this to my little five-year-old girl was more than I could bear. Instead, she was put on drug treatment for three more years but it stopped her growth and she was having accidents at school. At this point, by the grace of God, we were led to a 92-year-old pediatrician, an internationally renowned celiac specialist who had published a medical text book in 1951 called The Management of Celiac Disease. He reported that he was curing celiac disease by putting his patients on his Specific Carbohydrate Diet for a year or two, after which they were able to eat in a normal fashion with all symptoms gone. Interestingly enough, he reported that he had treated children with cystic fibrosis with the same diet and had arrested the terrible progression of that disease. He reported the results to his colleagues, the book is in the medical library. One can look it up. But it is not being used by the medical profession even today.


Dr. Haas put my daughter on his diet. She was not allowed to have any dairy products which contained a milk sugar called lactose, but she could have dairy products in the form of specially prepared yoghurt and certain cheeses as outlined in my book. She could not have any refined sugar, maple syrup, or corn syrup, but she could have honey. I am sure many of you have been told by health professionals that there is no difference between honey and refined sugar. However, a person who has diarrhea has lost the capacity to digest sucrose and carbohydrates but is able to digest honey and fruits because they contain predigested sugars (glucose and fructose).

She could not have any grains. Any cereal grain was absolutely forbidden including corn, oats, wheat, rye, rice, millet and buckwheat, whether as bread, cake, toast, crackers, cereals, flour or pasta. New grain substitutes such as amaranth and quinoa are also not recommended while on this diet. This floored me, but fortunately I had a dear friend from Austria who always baked cakes out of ground up almonds and pecans. It was very simple to grind up almonds, mix them up with some eggs and some honey and get beautiful cakes and cookies and muffins.

We got our daughter on the diet and within three days the night seizures stopped and never returned. Within two to three months all the intestinal symptoms subsided but then she had a relapse, which is very common with ulcerative colitis. She got over this relapse in five weeks and from then on it was pretty much clear sailing. She was eight years old when she began the diet and she grew like a weed, eventually reaching her optimum height of 5'8". My daughter is 40 years old today and has two beautiful children.

In 1960, about a year after my daughter began to get better I did a little research on my own at the medical library. I found reference after reference in medical journals which stated that anyone who has a condition of diarrhea must not have lactose. We had been to 15 different specialists over the course of three years and not one of them, except Dr. Haas, had told us about this lactose problem. I spent the next 11 years in university trying to find out what on earth was going on, so that perhaps some day I would be able to help somebody avoid the years of distress we went through with our daughter. I spent five years investigating the effects of the various sugars, sucrose, glucose, and fructose, on the digestive tract.

Over the next six years, I tested this diet on 400 people, among them, people with Crohn's Disease, diverticulosis, diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis, spastic colon, celiacs who were not doing very well on the gluten free diet, children with hyperactivity, all sorts of interesting cases that were responding to the diet. Even in the most serious cases of chronic diarrhea, after one or two weeks of being placed on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, the diarrhea stopped. In the case of babies who had constipation, within three days after placing them on this diet (or their mothers if they are breast-feeding), bowel movements returned to normal. Three to five percent of people with inflammatory bowel disease have a serious neurological problem also. I have had cases of patients with diarrhea and epilepsy, night seizures, schizophrenia or other neurological disorders. The neurological disorders clear up when you get them on the diet, even before the diarrhea clears up. I have had three children whose epilepsy cleared up within a week or two. This research is all described in my book.

I usually tell people to try the diet for three to four weeks and to keep a very careful record of how much gas, diarrhea, pain or any other symptom they have. At the end of three weeks they must evaluate their progress and decide whether or not they are going to commit themselves for the necessary longer period, which is usually a year or two. A rule of thumb is to stay on the diet for at least one year after the last symptom has disappeared. I give instructions in my book about weaning yourself from the diet. But if you go back to being doughnut or pop addicts, there is no guarantee of what is going to happen.


In many cases of diarrhea the villi and microvilli, the little hills and valleys inside the intestine which are responsible for breaking down sucrose, lactose and starch, will disappear and you will be left with a flattened intestinal surface. This also frequently occurs in cases of infectious hepatitis, ulcerative colitis, parasitic infections, malnutrition, protein intolerance, any diarrhea of infancy, Crohn's Disease, strict reducing diets, bacterial overgrowth and celiac disease. If you continue to feed people with intestinal problems a "normal diet", you perpetuate the intestinal problem because it is impossible to complete the digestion of these carbohydrates.


Diseases such as arthritis, celiac disease, lupus, and some forms of thyroiditis are also improved by this diet. Eminent researchers in England and California, under the auspices of the Rheumatoid Arthritis Council of Great Britain, have published research which states there appears to be a connection between intestinal problems and autoimmune diseases. Dr. Ebringer in England discovered that patients treated with a drug for Crohn's Disease or ulcerative colitis to reduce the proliferation of bacteria in the intestine would have remission of their arthritis symptoms. Arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the white blood cells for some reason attack the membranes between the joints. He found that intestinal bacteria were especially high at the height of an attack. The white blood cells, in an effort to kill off these bacteria, were getting confused and attacking the person's own tissue. Dr. Ebringer concluded that the reactive arthritis was caused by infection produced by the bacteria, probably triggered by a high starch diet. We know intestinal bacteria live on carbohydrates such as starch which has not been digested. He decided to starve the bacteria out by putting his patients on a diet which does not support the growth of these bacteria. He gave them fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, seeds. And he is getting fabulous results. In fact, my diet is very much like that, although we do have legume starch in the diet I prescribe. This diet is being tested in reputable clinics throughout London, England and some in California.


Starch is nothing but long chains of sugar molecules. Digestion is the ability to break down those sugar molecules into single units, otherwise they cannot be absorbed and nourish you. Salivary and pancreatic enzymes break down the long chains of sugar in starch to disaccharides and further digestion takes place in the small intestine. Milk is another food which contains double sugars and this occurs in the form of milk sugar or lactose. It also requires digestion by the intestinal surface. In the last 30 years we have learned that the intestine is a digestive organ, especially for carbohydrates. If there is any injury to the surface of the small intestine, the sucrose and the lactose molecules cannot be properly digested. However, the sugar which you find in fruits and honey is a monosaccharide and it requires no digestion. It is simply transported across the small intestinal membrane into the blood stream to give your cells the sugar which it turns into cellular energy.


After the food has been broken up into single molecules, millions of capillaries surrounding the small intestine pick up the digested food and carry it to every part of the body including the brain. If the digestion of food is incomplete, it will be attacked by billions of bacteria and yeast organisms which start pulling off the hydrogen, carbon and oxygen, producing hydrogen and carbon dioxide gas which becomes trapped, causing flatulence. The residues, the fermentation products which are left over are called fatty acids and these undigested carbohydrates, all the undigested sucrose, lactose and starch residues, cause the population of yeast and bacteria in the colon to multiply perhaps a thousand times more than is normal. If you ate nothing but proteins, they would not be able to live on the residues of those foods. Carbohydrates is what they need. So that's why I'm stressing restriction of carbohydrates in my diet. If you are having a problem with bacterial and yeast overgrowth which we believe normally starts in the colon, the solution to the problem is to starve them out.

Numerous medical journals have reported that these fermentation products are getting to the brain somehow and causing unusual behaviour. This was discovered in cases of obese patients who had had portions of the small intestine removed. Since the digestive process of starch was incomplete, they began to show aggressive and bizarre behaviour. These studies found that there was a high level of fatty acids present in their blood resulting from the fermentation process which were evidently passing into the brain.

Medical literature states that ulcerative colitis can actually be produced in laboratory animals by injecting fatty acids in an enema. Additionally, we know that the fermentation products, the fatty acids, are irritating and can enhance the development of cancer. Yet drug companies are putting these products in bottles and claiming they are good for your colonic cells; medical practitioners are using fatty acid enemas as a treatment for ulcerative colitis. It's contradictory to established scientific research and intensifies the diarrhea and the colitis. I don't know what is happening, but published research is evidently not being put into practice.

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The Specific Carbohydrate Diet is outlined in Elaine Gottschall's book Food and the Gut Reaction.

Article Information
Volume 15 Issue 7

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