Are Grain-Free Diets Actually Risky?

by Steven Wright

“It’s risky to eliminate whole food groups,” said by doctors and dieticians everywhere.

Really? What kind of risk are they actually talking about?

Because the scientific evidence is starting to clearly back up SCD and other real food diets like Paleo.

Success stories and anecdotal reports are popping up all over the internet of people just like us who have achieved levels of health usually higher than most doctors enjoy.

There are resources available that show exactly how to do it… so there aren’t any risks figuring it out.

And Yet Everyone Thinks Diet Change Is Risky. Why?

Well, for one I think it’s because everyone seems to be an expert. If you can eat, you must know a thing or two about food right? WRONG. Doctors, moms and co-workers won’t hesitate to give us their opinion on why what we’re doing is wrong and then turnaround and offer us a Twinkie.

It doesn’t matter that these people haven’t done their homework or tried the diet. Nope they have an opinion and we should listen. For example, my co-worker told me the other day, “If you’re trying to improve your digestion you really need more fiber and the best place to get it is whole wheat bread.”

“Oh, really?!”

The reason I understand this is I used to be this way too. About 10 years ago I had several conversations with a crazy smart uncle of mine who stopped eating grains. Didn’t he know he was going to slowly die an awful painful death and turn to dust in like a month or two?

Nope, he told me as he tried in vain to lay out the science for me – to which I did a great job of not listening.

What Is Going On Here?

Well, there’s either one of two problems happening in these situations.

#1 The person giving us diet advice when we change to SCD or other real food diets is totally ignorant of actual science.

Or

#2 The reason they think diet change is risky is that most people evaluate risk irrationally, thus gauging the riskiness based upon emotions rather than fact.

If we were rational creatures (we’re not, but we like to think we are) we would read the scientific literature, look at our ancestors and the right changes would smack us in the face. But it’s not that easy. You see, our brains won’t let us.

No, we like our emotions too much. Actually, they usually help us make the right decision most of time. But there are times, like in choosing processed food, when it’s probably a bad idea to trust them.

The Actual Risk of a Grain-Free Diet

The scientific risk of SCD or Paleo is non-existent. They are safe and effective. You’ll suffer no ill effects from eating this way. You might actually reverse every medical problem you have.

So, what is it?

The risk is doctors will write you off, spouses will sleep on the couch and friends will make fun of you.

The risk is you might feel like an outsider, left out and sad on the inside.

The risk is the people you eat with will judge you.

The risks of a new diet are all emotional… and it seems like you have to confront them at every meal. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so hard to change sometimes. If you change your diet, you risk emotional pain with every bite until you grow as a person and realize these people can only affect you if you let them.

I’ve been there and damn if it isn’t hard to change in the face of these emotional risks.

We’re all emotional and irrational beings… don’t forget that.

I no longer perceive eating my custom SCD as riskybut I had to grow to this level.

Have you dealt with these emotions? I’d love to hear about it below.

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About the author

Steven Wright Steve Wright is a health engineer and author. In 2009, he reached a breaking point when IBS took over his life and the doctors didn't know how to help. Since then, he has transformed his health 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

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Wendy May 4, 2012 at 8:05 am

I hear almost everyday how crazy, hard, unrealistic and fanatical I am regarding the SCD for my teenage son. One year ago, he was feverish, 30 pounds lighter, in unbearable pain and eventually hospitalized for the first time since his healthy birth. He was diagnosed with such a severe case of Crohn’s, they told us he needed intestinal reattachment surgery right away. Needless to say, we didn’t accept that so quickly, but it was only after two exteneded hospital stays, prednisone, 6MP, methatrexate and Remecaid; that we were told again he MUST have the surgery. I begged for ANY other alternative and his doctor said it’s a long shot, but he would give me four weeks to try the SCD. We started the next day on September 1, 2011 and haven’t looked back. All of his symptoms are GONE!!! THANK YOU LORD!!! He takes NO MEDICATION. He has gained almost 30 pounds, he can now play outside with his friends and I get teary-eyed every time he says “Mom, I feel good.” So guess what, I don’t give a happy hoot about ANYTHING anyone says about the SCD not being good for you. I just nod my head and say, “really?” and keep it moving. It has even helped my husband and I feel better – so it’s good for ALL of us. Thank you for this blog to share. Be blessed and well!!

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Bruce May 4, 2012 at 8:41 am

I stopped eating grains about 20 years ago due to food allergies. People were amazed it could be done and asked what did I eat instead. Buckwheat, quinoa, lentils, green peas and lots of extra virgin olive oil for more calories (I used to bike race). I never cared what people thought because I finally felt GOOD! after years of suffering and not knowing the cause.

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Karen May 4, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Most of my friends and family have been amazing in supporting me. My family more or less follows the SCD with me.

I have, however, had some negative comments from “friends”, such as:

“you’re too skinny, anorexic, you look like you have an eating disorder.”
“when are going to go off that crazy diet?”

I also have a friend who laughs at my baking. She won’t even try the cookies I’ve made with almond flour. She asumes they will taste like sawdust. On the other hand, I’ve had friends who’ve tried the cookies and many have asked for the recipe.

I’ts all about preconceived notions, I guess.

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Steven Wright May 8, 2012 at 10:49 am

@ Karen – thanks for comment! The one who laughs is usually hiding something and is covering it by trying to knock you down to build them up.

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Anthony May 4, 2012 at 4:50 pm

I think it would be incredibly risky to eliminate a whole food group–that is, if human beings had already evolved to need that food group. But in the case of grains (and dairy) our ancestors made what seems to me to be a very risky decision to introduce these new food groups into our diets only about ten thousand years ago, and the human species has been around, pretty much unchanged genetically, for around 75,000 years, I think.

Now, of course clearing out whole ecosystems to grow grains (which can be stored) on the land gave rise to a lot more people and domesticated animals. But whether these revolutionary dietary changes were better for the individual is a different matter. And in our day and age, as we ingest many new drugs and chemical groups and the two new sweet deals, sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup, in addition to two whole new food groups, it’s not really surpising to me that our bodies are becoming increasingly fed up with the situation.

But I’ll admit that my opinion of SCD didn’t first arise so much out of evidence based theory as from personal experience. I read Gottschal’s book of course, but for me, having been diagnosed with Chron’s, and having suffered from it for six years, the proof had to be in the pudding (or rather, home-made yogurt). And it only took about 24 hours for the SCD to clear up my symptoms and keep them cleared up. I just returned from four months in Ecuador, and haven’t had to use meds. for over a year, and though I’m currently working on a refined combination of the SCD and Paleo diets, and going to start trying to repopulate my gut with probiotics to achieve even better health, I will always be greatful to this diet and the direction it has pointed me in.

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Steven Wright May 8, 2012 at 10:51 am

@ Anthony thanks for sharing man!

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Jenny May 6, 2012 at 9:53 am

When I started on the SCD I met with a registered dietitian to find out if the diet was okay nutritionally. She said it was fine. Everyone needs carbohydrates, but they don’t need to come from grains. People on the SCD get sufficient carbohydrates from vegetables and fruit.

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gabriel June 5, 2015 at 8:07 pm

i’m on SCD for about four months now. i have some LES issues. stupid thing won’t close properly so acid reflux is the result. i read some were that SCD could help, so her i am. one thing is for damn sure, you lose weight like a mother.. pardon my ”french”. i just need to get the hungers under control because vegys don’t seem to get me full for a very long time. so when you think you can load up on almonds or other nuts or fish for that matter, you read again that to much of these foods is also not very good for you 🙁 what the hell!!! also with acid reflux i cant have trigger foods that are allowed by SCD, so that doesn’t leave me with much ells to munch on.. to think that my beloved olive oil is also a light trigger for GERD.. well you can imagen my frustration 🙁 good luck everybody….

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Lori Jo Berg June 9, 2015 at 10:12 am

Hi Gabriel, please read this article here, as it is exactly what you will need to regain your health: http://scdlifestyle.com/2010/04/the-specific-carbohydrate-diet-cures-gerd/ The best place to start the SCD diet (not just the legal, illegal foods but the actual whole process) is here: http://scdlifestyle.com/scd-quick-start-guide/

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KC September 23, 2015 at 10:51 pm

I had participated in a post regarding those with celiac or gluten intolerance eating grains and the inflammation and digestive issues that can occur from eating them. I don’t know what post that was under so I’ll leave some info here. I’m gluten intolerant and am currently healing from a bout of constipation and digestive issues starting a while ago after not eating gluten foods and then eating gluten foods for 3 days. (Newly diagnosed a few months ago). Taking the proper supplements and eating the better foods, I was healing. My fav foods are Asian so I’m learning various foods and cooking them at home. I was missing eating sticky rice and happened upon the Shirataki noodle, made from a Japanese yam-totally gluten free, flour free, etc. I cooked it and as I was eating it was delicious, just like a regular Asian noodle and then I wondered why I felt so full from it. It’s all fiber, no carbs, no sugar so it swells in the stomach/digestive tract. I felt like crying….here I go again back to square 1. Well, I worked that deep constipation out, eased the digestive issues. Now regarding rice: in researching something else, I found info regarding making rice and grains more digestible. What it said to do with rice is per 1 cup of rice add 1.5 cups of water and 2Tbs of an acid-white vinegar, or lemon juice. Let the rice soak in it for at least 8 hours before cooking. I tried it except I soaked mine for 8 hrs, rinsed it then added 1 T of vinegar and let it soak for 3 more hours. It was too much soaking. The 8 hrs would’ve been enough. I’ve eaten the sticky rice 4times and no digestive issues. Google the info and don’t overeat the rice. It may not be fine for everyone, but it seems fine for my system. If you don’t have to have rice, then don’t eat it. I’m not promoting it, because leaving all grains alone is the best thing to do, in my opinion. I just desire it a couple times weekly with my Asian food. Gods healing in Jesus name!

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