Digesting Diets
Sara Thyr, ND
Friday, August 29, 2014
by: Sara Thyr, ND

Section: Weight Loss

Sara Thyr, ND

Dr. Sara Thyr is a licensed naturopathic doctor practicing in Petaluma, California. She graduated from Bastyr University, Kenmore, Washington, from both their naturopathic medicine and midwifery programs. She has served as the president of the New Hampshire Association of Naturopathic Physicians, as well as on the board of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. Dr. Thyr is passionate about how our environment and nutrition impacts our health, and leads detoxification groups twice/year. Her free time is full of fun with her husband, Geoffrey Smith, her two cats, permaculture, gardening, tennis and running. For more information visit www.drthyr.com/.
Would I be dating myself if I said, “Pritikin”? I am sure almost everyone is familiar with Atkins Diet. Then the more reasonable Mediterranean Diet came. Paleo is a more recent diet trend. (My pet peeve about the Paleo Diet is now people say “carbs” when they mean refined carbs like bread and pasta and donuts. “Carbs” include very healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.)
Just as soon as most people know the ins and outs of the most recent health craze, more seem to pop up. Some surface with lots of good theory, even science behind them. Others, not so much. What about ones, claiming to treat diseases, like SCD, GAPS and low FODMAP? I will attempt to bring some concise clarification of to some of the new food plans on the scene.
SCD: Specific Carbohydrate Diet
This was first developed Dr. Sidney Valentine Haas. It was expounded upon by cell biologist Elaine Gottschall after her daughter was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and led to her authoring a book in 1994 titles, Breaking the Vicious Cycle. SCD and its premise has more recently come into favor by patients and parents trying to treat various gastrointestinal diseases such as irritable bowel disease, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, and also autism and spectrum disorders.
The premise is that SCD starves the anaerobic bacteria in the GI tract, restoring the beneficial bacterial balance and thus gut function, without drugs and surgery. The details of the diet are quite complex and the diet involves a very strict change in foods consumed. There are several phases to this diet; additional foods are allowed during subsequent phases, as symptoms resolve themselves. If you decide to try it, I encourage you to visit a naturopathic physician for guidance in what is best for you.
There are numerous resources online to introduce you to the concept. The basics are to completely avoid grains, lactose, and sucrose. The following are examples of foods you may and may not eat on the diet. (This is by no means complete!)
  • Dry curd cottage cheese
  • Homemade yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Homemade or unflavored gelatin
  • Chicken soup
  • Beef patty
  • Fish
  • Figs
  • Filberts
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cheese (as long as it has had a bacterial culture in its creation, is not processed, and aged at least 30 days)
  • Wheat flour
  • Amaranth flour
  • Feta cheese
  • Cannellini beans
  • Chewing gum
  • Chevre
  • Seed butters and flours
  •  Soy
GAPS: Gut and Psychology Syndrome
The GAPS diet has roots in the SCD diet, and was developed by Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD. She is author of, Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural treatments for autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, depression, and schizophrenia. She makes the connection between the digestive system and the brain, based on her extensive training in neurology and human nutrition. I appreciate that her focus is on whole foods, persisting that if people have many processed and canned foods, they are getting much less nutrition than if they ate food in its most whole form. Simply put, this means avoiding foods with barcodes and chemicals that you cannot pronounce or understand. In her book, McBride states:

“The best foods are eggs (if tolerated), fresh meats (not preserved), fish, shellfish, fresh vegetables and fruit, nuts and seeds, garlic and olive oil.  Apart from eating vegetables cooked, it is important to have some raw vegetables with meals, as they contain vital enzymes to assist digestion of the meats.  Fruit should be eaten on their own, not with meals, as they have a very different digestion pattern and can make the work harder for the stomach.  Fruit should be given as a snack between meals.”

She also recommends healthy fats such as ghee and olive oil, as well as fermented foods to restore gut probiotic balance. There are lists of foods to have and avoid on the diet’s website.  The site insists that to be truly successful one must buy the book (which I have not yet done, so cannot speak to its indispensability).
FODMAP: Fermentable Oligo-saccharides, Disaccharides, Mono-saccharides and Polyols
Developed at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, by Peter Gibson and Susan Shepherd, a low FODMAP diet may help treat digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGID). The theory is that the FODMAP culprits are carbohydrates and related alcohols that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine. These are very common in the western diet.
When one consumes a FODMAP that is not absorbed in the small intestine, it moves to the large intestine where it is fermented by bacteria, producing excessive gas, and bloating, and IBS in some patients. Fructose malabsorption and lactose intolerance may cause the same symptoms, and are easily tested for via hydrogen and methane breath exams.
What are FODMAPs to avoid?
  • Fructose: honey, high fructose corn syrup, fruits like apples, apricots, blackberries, cherries, mango, and grapefruit
  • Lactose: dairy, especially buttermilk, ice cream, cream, yogurt, and milk
  • Fructans: wheat, garlic, onion, inulin
  • Galactans: legumes such as beans, lentils, soybeans
  • Polyols: sweeteners containing isomalt, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol and stone fruits such as avocado, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches and plums
Foods allowed
  • Vegetables: bamboo shoots, pepper, lettuce, leafy greens, potatoes, squash, celery, corn, and cucumbers
  • Fruits: bananas, berries, cantaloupe, orange, passion fruit, pineapple, rhubarb, tangerine, grapes, grapefruit, honeydew, and kiwi
  • Protein: beef, chicken, canned tuna, fish, eggs, lamb, nuts, nut butters, and seeds
  • Dairy (and diary alternatives): small amounts of cream and cream cheese, hard cheese (cheddar, Colby, parmesan, swiss), mozzarella, sherbet, almond milk, and rice milk
  • Grains: wheat/gluten-free grains and flours, GF bagels, and hot/cold cereals (corn flakes, cream of rice, grits, and oats)
  • Beverages: water, coffee, tea (some people do better if caffeine is limited), and low FODMAP fruit/vegetable juices (only ½ cup/serving)
As with the SCD diet, there are massive resources and food lists online. An ND can help you sort through it all and determine what is right for you. For example, many websites list artificial sweeteners as legal to have on the low FODMAP diet, which I would disagree with if not for the benefit of improved gut health, certainly for general health and optimal weight.
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