How Long Does It Take to Heal From IBD?

by Jordan Reasoner

I get emails like this all the time:

“Hi guys, I’ve been diagnosed with Crohn’s since ’09 and I started SCD 2 weeks ago.  I’ve already gone from 10 BM’s a day to 5 and I can’t thank you guys enough.  My only question is: when am I going to heal?   I really want to start traveling more and be able to tolerate more food.  Thanks in advance” – CR

I love this question.  I could reply back with any number of cliché inspirational sayings we have, like:

  • “It took a long time to get sick and it takes a long time to get better”
  • “This healing process is a marathon, not a sprint – you’re doing great!”
  • “Everyone has a custom diet that works for them… you just have to keep testing until you find yours”

Each of these reassuring clichés is completely true, but what I love about CR is: he already started the diet.  He already accomplished the most difficult part of taking control of his health by overcoming thoughts in his head like “What if it doesn’t work for me?” or “I don’t have time to cook all this food

Starting the diet is not only the first step; but it’s the most important one.  CR is going to be just fine.

How do I know?

He cut his BM’s by 50% in two weeks.

In the engineering world, 50% improvement is dramatic

Sure, he’s isn’t healed yet, but let me put 50% improvement in perspective for you.

Imagine you finished a new project at work and it was fantastic… a total home run.  The following week your boss calls you into his office and says, “You did such a good job on the last project I’m going to double your salary and give you a 200% raise.”

What would a 200% raise do for your life? 

Doubling your income would be pretty awesome, right?  Maybe make things a little easier…

Well, so would a natural 50% reduction in your symptoms.

We want you to be your own health engineer… and to think like one too.  A 50% reduction in symptoms in 2-weeks is just as powerful as a 200% raise in your salary from one project.

 [It’s kind of a big deal]

CR’s 50% improvement in 2 weeks tells me he’s on the right track and with a few more tweaks, he’ll be in total control of his health.  I expect another email from him anytime with an update on his improvements.

So how long does it take to heal?

One more cliché response for you: “it depends…

Have you ever heard that no two snowflakes are exactly alike?

It’s fascinating.  My 3-year old has a book about it that we read together.  No two snowflakes have ever been found to be the same.  They do all have commonalities, for example most have six sides and there are three common shape categories that 99% fall into (if you were wondering it’s needle-like shapes, columnar shapes, or irregular shapes).

But in the end, they are all unique, just like your diet.

Here’s the bottom line: This diet works … we’ve seen it work over and over again with thousands of people over the last three years.

But no two versions are exactly the same, just like the snowflakes.  And the analogy continues: there’s common types (like the tough case or mild case versions)… but each will be subtly different in the end.

Your past lifestyle choices, genetics, and current lifestyle choices are all unique to you, and each has an impact on how you’re going to heal.

It doesn’t stop with food either.  Typically, the diet only goes so far – supplement and lifestyle changes help solve the complete puzzle.  So there’s a lot of factors that play a role in this process.

For example, let me show you these 3 case studies:

Case Study 1: Crohn’s Colitis and Diarrhea

Nick* has been on Prednisone ever since he was diagnosed with Crohn’s Colitis 2 years ago.  He averaged at least 10 BM’s a day.  He was exhausted and the blood was getting worse. 

A few years before, he tried following full SCD for a few weeks and didn’t see any improvement, so he gave up.  His doctor was pushing for Humira, which motivated him give SCD one last try.

He started SCD by properly doing the intro diet for 3 days and then tried adding in new foods.  Everything he tried made his diarrhea worse and it seemed like this diet was making him sicker!  After two weeks of horrible D he knew a flare was coming fast.  The first tweak he made was to start taking digestive enzymes and within two days his stools started to take better form and the urgency was less. 

Next, he was frustrated because his stools were still mushy and 4-5 times a day.  He decided to test dairy-free because he saw an article that it was one of our “four horsemen.”  Four days after eating dairy-free, his BM’s were down to 2-3 soft stools a day…  HUGE improvement for him.  Not only that, but during his 2nd month of SCD his energy doubled and he finally slept through the night without waking up to go to the bathroom. The next six months were gradual improvement…

*Name changed to protect identity

Case Study 2: Constipation and Bloating

Joanna* has been sick many times during her lifetime, she’s taken many antibiotics and always seemed to have irregular bowel habits. Most days shed used laxatives/enemas to get by, especially when the bloating got unbearable. 

She’s tried several other natural diets and supplements without any improvement. She finally decided to try SCD for 30-days.

She did the intro diet for 4 days and didn’t have a BM the whole time.  As she introduced new foods on the 5th day, she was feeling really discouraged that the diet wasn’t going to work like all the others.  She read a post we did on Constipation and decided to start eating more coconut oil and made a batch of sauerkraut.  When the sauerkraut was ready, her BM’s started to be more regular every other day and things stayed that way through her 30-day anniversary.

It was nice, but she was still frustrated.  Her acid reflux, frequent burping, and stomach gurgling made her think more about trying Betaine HCL and she did the HCL Challenge.  The challenge made her feel so much better she knew it was the right tweak to test next.  Over the next 7-days, HCL improved her BM’s to one solid movement everyday for the first time in her life… and she never looked back, but stayed on SCD for the next year.

*Name changed to protect identity

Case Study 3: Celiac Disease and Malnutrition

Sue* struggled with undiagnosed Celiac Disease for many years, she alternated between horrible diarrhea and mild constipation.  It was very frustrating for her and she’d been to many doctors over the years.  They could never figure out why she was malnourished and had elevated liver enzymes.

She tried their recommendations to take more fiber and it didn’t help her stomach pain and even made her diarrhea worse most days.  She followed a strict, gluten-free diet for 3 years without an improvement in her symptoms.

7-days after she started SCD her diarrhea stopped completely.  But after that it seemed like once a week she would have diarrhea really bad and it never seemed like it was triggered by a food.  Her blood tests still showed many nutrient deficiencies.  After hearing my story, she tried digestive enzymes and within 2-days her stools seemed more well-formed and her energy levels improved.  But she still had diarrhea randomly once or twice a week.  It seemed like she was stuck and afraid to introduce new foods. 

As it turned out, she was an overworked, stressed-out mom with a history of depression.  She also just moved to a new city and the stress from the move was pushing her to the edge.  She decided to try our 7-day stress challenge and take stress management seriously, just like taking a pill or making a diet tweak. After two weeks of doing a few minutes a day of deep breathing and yoga – she started to notice she felt “more alive.”  And after 30-days of taking her stress seriously, she finally realized the random diarrhea was gone and she was starting to try new foods.  She finally felt like her life was turning around, but had her ups and downs over the next nine months.

*Name changed to protect identity

Each of them had to make different tweaks.  Some couldn’t tolerate foods that others could.  And in the end, each solution was unique, but the formula to get there was the same:

They properly started the diet, discovered their “food safe zone”, made the right supplements tweaks, and used lifestyle changes to help them heal.  But each one had different results over different time periods.

Here’s what this all means for you:

  • I can’t give you a guaranteed template that will heal you
  • I can’t tell you when you’re going to heal
  • I can’t tell you exactly what to eat
  • I can’t tell you how long it takes before you’re ready to try a new food
  • I can’t tell you exactly when you’re going to control your symptoms

But there’s good news:

So here’s what to expect as you heal:

Starting this diet isn’t the easiest choice, but reclaiming your life is, so it’s worth it in the end.  Expect that this journey isn’t going to be the same as anyone else and understand that it doesn’t mean it’s not working for you or that you can’t follow our guidelines.

Use these case studies as a reminder to ask questions and always listen to your body.  It’s giving you subtle clues all the time about what to do next.  It’s also giving you signs about how well you’re healing.

Here’s what you can expect as you re-engineer your health:

Expect to customize…

Expect to tweak…

Expect to have ups and downs…

And expect to feel better over time…

Accept nothing else.

I’ve seen it work and it will work for you… stay focused on finding your custom version of the diet and you will heal over time.   I believe in you and I know you can do this.

More than anything – I’m excited for your new life.

P.S. – In the comments, let me know how long it took you to realize your first improvement on the diet.  For example: “In 3-weeks I went from 8 BM’s to 3 BM’s” or “In 3-days I stopped having D for the first time in years.”

I look forward to hearing from you…

 

About the author

Jordan Reasoner Jordan Reasoner is a health engineer and author. He was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2007 and almost gave up hope when a gluten-free diet didn’t work. Since then, he transformed his health using the SCD Diet and started SCDLifestyle.com to help others naturally heal stomach problems. You can check out his story here and find him on Google+, Facebook or Twitter.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet Works

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

clare wilson April 11, 2012 at 4:47 am

Hi Jordan
I really hope you can help me.. I started the scd diet last november. I was having real trouble digesting anything. I went into hospital a year last march and was given intrevenous antibiotics. I found the problem food was refined carbohydrates and potatoes I just could not digest them at all. lack of bacteria
I started having brain symptoms and my Natropath advised me that I had leaky gut leaky brain.. I have restarted the scd in hope to heal my gut and maybe i went through the phases too quick. I have no beneficial ecoli present in my gut and only 1+ of lactobacillus and bifido bacteria. I have 4+ of haemolytic ecoli and klebsella pneumoniae 2+, pseudomonas aeruginosa 3+, haemolytic streptococcus 1+, streptococcus agalactiae 2+. My bowel just does not function. I am on phase 2 of the diet at the moment and wondering how long do you recomend being on phase 2 before going to phase 3. I tried to buy your book but when I press add to cart it does not connect. I hope youcan help me I feel so so poorly.
regards Clare

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Jordan Reasoner April 11, 2012 at 10:44 am

Hi Clare – you’re so amazing. I know you’ve been through so much but you’re on the right track.

Your symptoms will tell you when to move on to new foods. Are you still improving? If not, you might need to keep testing out some tweaks like digestive enzymes or Betaine HCL before you can tolerate new foods.

I’m sorry about the “add to cart” button trouble. It seems to be working now. Can you try again or try using a different web browser like Mozilla Firefox?

Hang in there!

Jordan

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Marianne April 16, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Hello,

I suffered from stomach aches, terrible gas, weight loss, malnutriotion, low iron, anemia,…Dokters did all sorts of tests and found nothing. But I kept losing weight at a terrible speed, so I went on the internet for some help. Luckily I found SCD. I discussed the diet with my doctor, and the reaction was something like, don’t get your hopes up, but it won’t hurt you. The first weeks were very hard, but I almost felt immediately some releaf (after the die-off that is, that was quite terrible). After 2 months my bloodwork was perfect. My doctor hardly could beleive it. I am still continuing with the diet, introducing new foods one at a time. I am able to start cycling again. And I already regained a lot of the lost weight. So really worth to give it a try.

Best regards, and good luck for everybody trying SCD. Really worked for me.
Marianne

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GK May 9, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Hello!
I’ve been following SCD for almost 16 months and have never felt better. I’ve struggled with Crohn’s for 22 years and never reached a place where I was symptom free until SCD (I had tried other diet modifications in the past as well – gluten/corn/sugar/etc free).
My question is how do you know when it’s time to ditch your meds? I currently am on Remicade – but never experienced a full remission of symptoms until about 6 months in to SCD. How do I know what is SCD and what is medication?
I’d hate to go cold turkey on the Remicade and have a flare, but I also hate being on it when I feel so great! Most blogs/SCD folks just seem to say they ditched the meds, but don’t really go into the thought process behind it – or how long they were symptom free first, etc. I’ve also seen a lot of people go off meds and then have a severe flare – and I’ve been there – and don’t want to be back in the hospital.
Thanks so much for any insight – or for pointing me towards places that might help me make a decision!
Best,
Gia

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Steven Wright May 10, 2012 at 11:56 am

@ GK this is a really good question. I think most bloggers we’ve talked with ditched their meds when they were still sick and not seeing any results from them. We talk with people all the time who are on meds and SCD and pose the same question about which is really working to help them. I think it’s different in each case, my beliefs tell me that foods are either hurting or helping so in this case SCD is helping. But your meds can mask the correct custom SCD for you. So if your eating a lot of advanced SCD foods like tons of nuts and fruits it’s likely you’ll see problems when you taper off the meds. In general your body is going to rebound and have to detox the meds so usually you’ll want to in your food safe zone and possibly fall back to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet intro soup during that time.

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GK May 10, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Steve –
Thanks so much for your reply – that makes a lot of sense! I wasn’t seeing a lot of results with Remicade when I first started SCD, so I was very slow and careful about what I added in and kept a detailed food/symptom diary for the first year (and I’m still very careful with nuts/nut products, dairy, fruit, more advanced items). I was thinking I might need to go back to the intro diet and my safest foods once I wean off Remicade entirely though, so thanks for the insight on that! My current plan is to drop my dosage by half and see how things go from there. Hopefully I’ll be able to be med free in the future. Being symptom-free has been so amazing and empowering, but I always want to keep improving. Thank you!

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Steven Wright May 11, 2012 at 12:21 pm

@ GK – your doing awesome and I wish you the best as you transition. I hope you keep us updated on the site here so others can follow in your footsteps!

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Coach September 24, 2012 at 6:32 pm

My husband has a very mild case of Crohn’s and has been symptom free for a while now, but he has a fistula that Immuran has not been able to heal. His doctor wanted to start him on Remicade, but he refused and decided to try SCD. He’s been on SCD for almost three months now, and his fistula is finally starting to heal. He’s planning on going back to his GI doc soon to see if she’ll start to wean him off of the Immuran. We’ve seen tons of testimonials online, and we’re convinced that SCD is a miracle diet!

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Steven Wright September 26, 2012 at 9:38 am

@Coach – Congrats to you and your husband for making the lifestyle switch. Keep coming back here to update us on his progress and then finally I want his story on the site to inspire others!

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Vibeke December 12, 2012 at 2:22 am

I have had problems believing in the diet because everyone around me has told me it was nonsense and extreme measures to go to. I have been examined 2 times during 10 years of tieredness and D, yellow stools and fatigue, by intestine specialists, but they could find nothing wrong exept Fructose Malabsorption and gallstones. That just doesn’t explain why I can have absolutely no grains or starches. I have also suffered weightloss, bloating, migraines and depression. I have been on the diet now since may 2012 and see major inprovements. I started the diet including sourdough ryebread, but that gave me stomach pain. Then I laid of that but then reacted to alot of vegetables and fruits. So I now follow the FODMAP for FM and that still brings out a reaction if I eat too much of those. I also have problems staying away from dark chocolate. I cut out fruit and nuts for 6 weeks and experiences major stool improvements, but got a depression, I guess because of the dramatic change in sugar and salt my bady recieved. As soon as i started putting more salt in my food and eating at least 1 banana a day, my good spirit returned. I also invested 1 whole month in seeing natural practitioners who helped me find out what supplements I was lacking. That was zink, folic acid, fish oil, calcium, iron, prebiotics. Then my energy started improving dramatically. I also experienced major setbacks during that period, because not every supplement I was adviced to take was tolerated by my body and sometimes made me really ill. Betaine Pepsin was definately not for me. So I would say for me it has taken me alot of time to believe in the diet and stick to it. I still have some sugar once in a while, but are trying to replace it with homemade nutflour cookies which I seem to be more and more able to tolerate in small amounts. I also seem to be able to tolerate homemade youghurt and sour cream. I think what really pushed me to get started was the fact that I am pregnant with my 4th child. I am proud to say I have put on 12 kilo now and the midwife is happy with me, doesn’t see any reason to be concerned. Even my dietist at the hospital why had given the Gotshalk book a bad review way back called me the other day and wanted to talk to me about the food they should serve me at the hospital when I have given birth. I was so touched, it was like I was getting some kind of accept of that the diet actually works. It has taken me a long time to become fond of the huge amounts of protein I have to consume and get used to the new kind of blood sugar levels that makes me not really feel hungry like I used to with the sugar and flour diet I used to have. But I think even my gallstones are dissapearing slowly, because I don’t get any attacks any more. I still have loose stools about every 2-3 days, but I wouldn’t call it D. I rarely have more than 1-2 BM a day now. It isn’t yellow anymore and I have much less nausea and stomach pain. i don’t have migraines, dissiness, brain fog, depression anymore and I just am so much more happy and good company for my family. When I think about it I have had these problems buliding up over the past 10 years and I guess it can take maybe another 10 years of repair to get my stomach up and working again. I have to slowly give up all the illigal foods and get happy with the SCD diet. I am just so much a happier person and healthy person.

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Harkin April 24, 2013 at 8:22 pm

Hi, do you have any experience with heartburn/GERD being the primary symptom of SIBO? Any success stories of people healing GERD via the SCD diet? Thanks, Harkin

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Vic May 30, 2013 at 5:41 am

Hi Jordan & Steve,

I’m into Phase 1 of SCD. After 2.5 years of very severe UC pancolitis, with Humira and Imuran not doing anything for me, I finally reached the point where I was determined to do this diet. I did the Intro for 5 days and experienced die-off symptoms on Day 2 and 3. I have gone from 8-12 BMs a day to 2-3 BMs a day and I’m only on Day 7! Do I just the phase-length by how I’m feeling? Ie. If, after 2 weeks on Phase 1, I’m feeling ok, I can progress to Phase 2? My BMs are still 6, sometimes 7 on the scale, but mainly 6 over the past two days – since I introduced banana. Even though my BMs don’t look right (yet) – I’m assuming the SCD is definitely helping me seeing as my frequency has more than halved since I started it!

Thanks for all the guidance!

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