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  • Intestinal Health Institute

    Inflammatory Bowel Disease - Stop the Burn!

    A Review of

    Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet
    by Elaine Gottschall

    This newsletter pulls together much of the material I have written about Gottschall's groundbreaking work on the effect of complex carbohydrates on the intestines. I provide urls and their listserve at the end of the article for those of you who wish more information and communication with others on the diet. I know I have carbohydrate indigestion and mine is a result of early and unattended constipation. One of the effects of constipation or the stagnation of material in the intestines is bacterial and fungal overgrowth which can lead to inflammation. I feel great when I follow the diet.

    If you or anyone you know has any of the symptoms or conditions, the book will be very valuable reading.

    Breaking the Vicious Cycle

    I recently came across an informative book entitled Breaking the Vicious Cycle, Intestinal Health through Diet by Elaine Gottschall, M.S. Her areas of focus are the effects of sugars on the digestive tract, changes that occur in the bowel wall in inflammatory bowel disease, and the effect of food on the functioning of the digestive tract as well as on behavior.

    Gottschall originally wrote the book for Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, and chronic diarrhea. The circle has expanded to include some forms of schizophrenia and other psychiatric symptoms, physical and mental retardation, seizures, candida, Epstein-Barre, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

    If you think we are the only generation experiencing intestinal distress , Gottschall notes that as far back as 300 A.D., a Roman doctor prescribed fasting and plantain juice to cure a diarrhea condition like celiac disease. Her chapter, "Beyond Gluten", deals with celiac.

    After reading her book, I realized that over 50% of my colon hydrotherapy clients have carbohydrate indigestion. The most common symptoms are gas and bloat that might appear late every afternoon, or after each meal, or after eating one thing. Occasionally, the person will suffer periodic bouts of deep intestinal pain or extremely painful gas attacks. In some, the peristaltic response is nil due to bacteria and yeast by-product damage.

    What Are the Sugars?

    Medical evidence of the twentieth century has indicted carbohydrates as the major culprit in numerous intestinal disorders. Carbohydrates are various types of sugars and starches. Gottschall lists the three types and defines them.

    One, are single sugars called monosaccharides. Glucose, fructose, and galactose are absorbed directly into the bloodstream without digestion. Glucose and fructose are found in honey, fruits, and some vegetables; galactose in fresh yogurt.

    Two, are double sugars or disaccharides. The double sugars "require splitting by intestinal cell enzymes." The disaccharides are lactose and sucrose from milk and refined sugar. The other two, maltose and isomaltose, are from the breakdown of starches by enzymes of the saliva and pancreas. Enzymes at the tips of small intestinal microvilli break them down into single sugars.

    Three, are the multiple sugars or polysaccharides such as potatoes, yams and grains. Pasta and bread are on this list.

    Simple sugars can be directly absorbed into the bloodstream. Trouble begins when double and multiple sugars do not get fully digested, assimilated, nor eliminated by intestinal enzymes. The undigested sugars ferment through bacterial action. They are the primary source of energy for the yeast and bacteria. These little critters have their own by-products: gases such as carbon dioxide, hydrogen, methane, and sometimes alcohol; and acids such as lactic and acetic. She cites research from the New England Journal of Medicine that claims lactic acid formed from fermentation causes abnormal brain function and behavior accompanying so many intestinal disorders.

    The presence of the undigested carbs in the small intestine encourages bacteria and yeast from the colon "to take up residence in the small intestine and continue to multiply." Bacterial by-products in the small intestines destroy enzymes on the intestinal cell surface so that digestion and absorption are nearly impossible and more fermentation occurs. At this point the mucus-producing cells of the small intestine, the goblet cells, kick in. Their mucus secretions protect the intestinal wall against microbial toxins and undigested carbohydrates. The mucus-coating prevents sugars and starches needing digestion from reaching the absorptive and enzyme cells. Fermentation and damage escalate and "normal absorption of B 12 is disturbed."

    The Diet

    Gottschall calls her intestinal recovery program through diet practices, "The Specific Carbohydrate Diet." or SCD The main foods not permitted are processed meats since they contain starch, whey powder, lactose, or sucrose. No grains or grain products, potatoes, parsnips, yams, chick peas, bean sprouts, or soybeans, are allowed however a person could have lima beans, squash, artichokes, navy beans, peas, and lentils. Nuts, fresh juices, and even a smoothy made with homemade yogurt, and fruits sweetened to taste with honey are permitted. Gottschall requests that if you have candida you eliminate the fruit, fruit juices, and raw honey in the beginning.

    Another big NO went to the lactose sugar group mainly all those milk based dairy products. Our digestive enzyme, lactase, begins to disappear at two or three years old once we are weaned from mother's milk. We begin to derive our nutrients from other sources than milk. Some of us were never breast-fed. We started right off with sugar and milk or soy based formulas. It has taken a toll on our intestines.

    The basic idea is to end the bacterial destruction of the intestinal wall by depriving them of the foods that give them energy. It takes time for the microvilli of the small intestine to repair themselves but they do. At the end of the book she claims that after one heals their small intestinal track and has no symptoms for one year, they can return slowly to grains, potatoes, yams, pasta, and soy products. However, she admonishes everyone to stay away permanently from white sugar and flour. They are two of the main energy sources for the harmful bacteria and yeast.

    Other Components of the Book

    The Appendix has a list of the amount of sucrose ( table sugar!) commonly added to foods. The winners come in at 50% for hard candy, 44% soft candies, 42% chewing gum, 31% for jams, jellies, sweet sauces, toppings, and syrups, 26% breakfast cereals, and 25% processed cheese (that's a new one for me). One small section is devoted to baby foods! She also lists allowed cheeses and alcohols for those who dare to venture.

    The book also contains nineteen pages of references, ten excellent illustrations, a glossary, and an appendix. A Gourmet Section of some great recipes takes up 45% of the book, 65 of 143 pages. I found a good Honey-Ginger Chutney for vegans!

    Gottschall's work brings attention to a long overlooked part of our digestive tract, the small intestines. She gives us a new piece of the puzzle in our big jigsaw of understanding intestinal health.

    Role of Intestinal Hydrotherapies

    Colon hydrotherapy sessions combined with appropriate dietary and herbal programs are sometimes used to alleviate carbohydrate indigestion. Herbal formulas to cleanse, rebuild, refoliate and soothe the intestinal tract may form an integral part of the intestinal wall healing program. Psyllium, bentonite, raw juices, fruits and vegetables along with the intestinal hydrotherapies help dissolve mucus layers especially for those with excessive mucous conditions. Massage therapy techniques during the colon hydrotherapy session cover the small and large intestine.

    Colon hydrotherapy is indicated under prescription and direct physician supervision for colitis, mucous colitis, ulcerative colitis, diverticulosis(itis) and Crohn's disease. A person may also choose to use enemas and colemas as well as colonics and develop their own massage and breathing techniques that assist their healing.

    Elaine Visits Tucson!

    After I wrote the original book review, Elaine Gottschall called me and asked if I would help sponsor her in Tucson. With an enthusiastic, "Yes", I sent out a newsletter inviting clients and friends to come to a talk we planned for her. The response was excellent. The following excerpt is from the invitational newsletter. The following article is a review of her talk.

    "Some of the most dramatic and fastest recoveries have occurred in babies and young children with severe constipation and among children who, along with intestinal problems, had serious behavior problems. (That sounds like my childhood!). These included autistic-type hypoactivity as well as hyperactivity, often accompanied by severe and prolonged night terrors."

    - Quote from Gottschall's book

    Elaine Gottschall's Talk September 1995

    This energetic 74 year old powerhouse explained the research contained in her ground-breaking book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle, Intestinal Health Through Diet, reviewed the principles of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, interpreted electron microscope slides, and answered many questions. The dynamic seminar was attended by over 100 people.

    During the evening, many people chronicled their story to Elaine for her expert advice. She encouraged people with carbohydrate indigestion symptoms to read her book, and give the diet a chance for three weeks. It has had significant effect within two weeks in the most severe cases.

    Points from the talk. Food for thought.

    • Tapeworms thrive on a complex carbohydrate diet.
    • In Hirschsprung's disease, muscle movement in the intestines has ceased. In a less severe condition, the intestines are temporarily paralyzed. I observe this in a number of clients. She said the cause could be a toxin or acid that destroys the nerves.
    • Is currently reading Deadly Medicine by Moore.
    • A study of Crohn's disease shows that sufferers eat 40 - 400% more starch than other people.
    • A mutant E. Coli is the cause of ulcerative colitis.
    • Ulcerative colitis is an immune disorder. White blood cells attack our own tissue.
    • Intestinal disorders are associated with mental illness: ulcerative colitis with schizophrenia or bipolarity; chronic diarrhea with epilepsy. When the Specific Carbohydrate Diet is eaten, mental symptoms disappear first then intestinal!
    • If you have intestinal problems with diarrhea, go off lactose.
    • Carageenen is the seaweed targeted for causing carbohydrate indigestion. It's highly refined and used as a thickening agent/emulsifier in many products. (Read your labels. I find it even in 'healthy' toothpastes!)
    • Genetic breeding changes the digestibility of food. Corn is indigestible.
    • One electron microscope slide shows many bacteria and yeast contained within a mucus layer on a small intestine wall. She explained many antibiotics don't work because they can't penetrate the mucus.
    • Another slide shows intestinal cells sending out fimbrils (arms) to the fimbrils of mutated bacteria, clasping each other, and bonding!

    SCD Url and Listserve Information

    Website for SCD

    Listserve for SCD
    Send a blank e-mail (no subject, no message) to
    mailto:[email protected] (regular subscription) OR
    mailto:[email protected] (digest subscription).

    Details about how to order the book from the publisher are on this website:

    That also has a mirror site:


    Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Information.
    Site of Ronald Hoffman MD in Manhattan regarding IBD.


    ©Sheila Shea 1999 All Rights Reserved


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