How the SCD Diet Stopped Derek’s Years of Stomach Pain and Anxiety

by Brent Kovacs


I’m a strong believer that things in life, however you want to define them, happen for us instead of to us.

But it can be hard to keep this in perspective when you’re in the midst of dealing with chronic illness. The “Why me’s?” might even start to creep in.

A lot of your focus and energy is spent on how to make the pain and suffering go away… and you begin to wonder if you’re ever going to feel “normal” again. And there are only so many setbacks you think you can endure.

But it’s simply amazing what you can do when you make your mind up isn’t it?

And that’s why I’m so excited to share Derek’s story with you today, as his mom, Kathy, graciously emailed us.

It’s a shining example of choosing health… and deciding to have that “never-give-up” mindset Jordan and Steve talk about so much throughout the blog.

As Kathy chronicles for you, unfortunately Derek had become another victim of the current medical system… on a downward health spiral of misdiagnoses and medications…

And while some of the pieces of the puzzle were beginning to show up, the setbacks and disappointments were beginning to take their toll.

But Kathy knew deep down that there were answers and she wasn’t willing to give up until he was better.

See, sometimes all it takes is that one thing that happens for us in our lives… like a phone call I had 4 years ago with my good friend Steve.

Or like the conversation Kathy had with a co-worker…

And it is my hope that if you (or someone you know) are struggling with chronic illness right now that Derek’s story is the catalyst that helps you on your healing path.

And that we can help keep you from any more pain and suffering…

DISCLAIMER: We recommend each person finds their custom version of the SCD diet that works for them and Derek’s story is a good reminder of just that. In Derek’s case, finding success means not eating meat right now. But know that meat is an important staple in our recommendations and it’s vital to not go more than 6 months without eating meat if you can help it, as research shows that micronutrient deficiencies, among other issues, are likely to arise. In fact, we feel that if you go meatless and/or overly restrictive in order to live symptom-free then it’s highly likely you’re actually masking an underlying root cause (or many). Now, Derek may be able to tolerate meat again down the road with the aid of digestive enzymes and Betaine HCl. In some cases, histamine intolerance can cause a lot of symptoms and a supplement like DAOSin can really help. If you find yourself in a similar situation as described in this post, we would recommend working with a skilled functional medicine practitioner and ordering the right root-cause testing. Either way, this is an incredible story and we can’t wait to stay up to date on how Derek progresses 🙂

[Enter Kathy, Derek’s Mom]

Derek was born in 1981, and by 19 months he was experiencing recurrent ear infections.

He was frequently on penicillin and by age 4 allergic to it (and repeatedly prescribed other replacement antibiotics).

As a child, he had allergies to dogs, trees, ragweed, apples, almonds, peanuts and beef. These caused mild asthma-like symptoms and headaches.

Otherwise, he was a smart, normal, healthy, athletic child and teenager.

Antibiotics for Infection Lead to Anxiety Attacks (and More Medication)

In 1999, when he was almost 18, Derek had a nipple ring inserted, got a rash on his chest and down his abdomen caused by an infection. In order to clear it up, he was given an antibiotic called Biaxin.

Immediately following this antibiotic treatment, he began having severe anxiety attacks. In fact, he was hospitalized because of his fear that he might hurt himself.

The doctors diagnosed him with severe anxiety and depression as a result of his parent’s divorce, etc.

He was prescribed Paxil, which he remained on until 2013 (32 years of age), except for several attempts to wean off of it (each time severely unsuccessful).

The Vicious Cycle of Chronic Inflammation and Sciatic Pain Begins


From 2010 to 2012, his diet was very poor and he went from a good weight of 180 to 240 pounds. He was getting pins and needles and pain in his abdomen when he ate certain foods, such as donuts, chocolate milk, cereal with milk, etc. (He had always eaten 2 bowls of cereal before bed every night.)

In early 2013, Derek again tried to wean off of Paxil, but during this time he had to take Clindamycin for a bad tooth. His stomach was “scoured” by this antibiotic. 

Also, at the time, he was seeing his chiropractor for sciatic pain (which he had taken 6 Advil a day for 3 years for) who told him he believed he had a herniated disc. An MRI proved this to be true.

His chiropractor explained to him that his herniated disc was caused by inflammation from food sensitivities

This was Derek’s turning point.

Root-Cause Testing Influences Discontinuation of All Medication

He sent a stool sample to Enterolab and his results showed severe sensitivities to:

  • Gluten = 264
  • Casein = 153
  • Eggs = 53
  • Soy = 47

Note: Normal sensitivity rating for all of these is 10!

In March 2013, Derek stopped eating all of the above foods. He experienced extreme withdrawal, but once out of his system he never took Paxil again – proving, in my mind, that his anxiety was caused by eating foods to which he was sensitive.

In April 2013, Derek began juicing, however he used mostly fruits to do so, which he had difficulty tolerating. So, he changed to mostly veggies and seemed to do fine as a whole with the juicing, until about January 2015 as he was rapidly losing weight.

Setbacks Give Rise to Discovery of SCD Diet

In January 2015, he had some increased stress in his business life. He had also “cheated” a little by eating in restaurants where he couldn’t be sure of whether his food was cooked with foods he was sensitive to and sometimes had bacon and eggs.


He began having difficulty eating almost all foods. And he soon lost more than 30 pounds beyond his normal weight of 180 (which he had successfully reached after removing the foods he was sensitive to).

By about March of 2015, out of desperation, I began to discuss Derek’s health issues with anyone who might have knowledge about what to feed him that he could tolerate.

Thankfully, I found out from a coworker of mine that June that he had cured his daughter of her autism symptoms using the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.

I immediately ordered the SCD Lifestyle book and started Derek on phase 1. We had to make modifications, as he wouldn’t eat the gelatin and couldn’t eat the yogurt or eggs…

But he stuck to the diet extremely well (with a few cheats of fruit he tried before he should’ve).

The Struggles and Frustrations of the SCD Diet

Derek struggled and experienced a lot of frustration while on the diet.

And he realized that food was making him sick and was very afraid he might not recover when he hit 146 pounds. (Way too low on his usually stocky 5’10” frame.)

When he was really ill, from January to about December of 2015, he was unable to workout regularly at the gym, as it made his stomach even worse.

He would be going along great on the diet but would start eating something that set him back 2 months in time. For example, avocado is one food that seems to have given him a lot of discomfort and he still can’t eat it.

The hardest part about doing the SCD diet was flushing out the bad bacteria in Derek’s gut. (He had his stool tested through a naturopath and was advised he had the build up of bad bacteria.) I believe he likely had Candida as well and that it took so long to clear because his gut was so leaky from years of damage.

The SCD Diet Successes are Truly Remarkable

Derek now weighs about 170lbs, and has been able to work out again (for the last 3 months). He now eats NO gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, MEAT and hardly any nuts. He couldn’t eat the gelatin at all. And many of the veggies gave him problems at the start.

I know the SCD specifies meat as one of the staples of the diet, however Derek simply cannot tolerate it right now so he had to stop. He found that his body just doesn’t feel completely well and free of those foods. Some days, he can still tell that he’s eaten something that doesn’t work for him.

The best tool was introducing one new food every 4 days. Once he religiously stuck to this eating method (and stopped eating the ones that didn’t work), he was gradually able to expand the foods he could eat. When he strayed away from this, he would have setbacks and wouldn’t be able to figure out which new food was the culprit.

After about 9 months on the SCD diet, and only after he gave up eating meat as well, did he truly feel like himself again.

The most remarkable thing about Derek’s journey, though, is that he feels so much better psychologically.

In 1999, I was shocked when my normal, healthy son had to go on anti-anxiety medication. And I was further shocked when every time he tried to stop taking it he crashed and was incapable of functioning without it.

Ever since he stopped eating the foods to which he’s sensitive to in April 2013, he hasn’t needed any medication and is an extremely successful, healthy, fit, positive and wonderful young man!

Thank you to Jordan and Steve and all of you at SCD for giving my son his mental and physical health back!


[Enter Brent]

Wow! What a powerful story of triumph and overcoming health adversity, Kathy and Derek. Thank you so much for sharing it with us and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to pass this on to our community.

If you’re just getting started and you’re ready to take your health into your own hands like Derek and you need more support, a great place to start is our step-by-step 90-Day SCD Diet guidebook. Time and time again, it has proven to be the most efficient and effective way to heal your gut.

Not fully convinced? That’s okay, skepticism is encouraged here. We’ve got quite a few more stories of SCD success for you here.

Who knows, maybe Derek’s story is the inspiration you’ve needed and it’s just a matter of time before you’re on our blog too!

In health (from all of us at SCD Lifestyle),


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About the author

Brent Kovacs After graduating from Michigan State University in 2006, with a degree in Crop & Soil Sciences, Brent was on a fast-track in a professional career in Golf Course Management. That all changed in the fall/winter of 2011 when his health mysteriously began to decline and (well-meaning) doctors led him down a slippery slope of several misdiagnoses. After a phone call with Steve in the spring of 2012, Brent turned to functional medicine, which quickly led to a chronic Lyme disease diagnosis and the start of a determined healing journey. When he’s not wearing one of his many “SCD Lifestyle hats,” you’ll find him cooking up a grain-free storm in the kitchen, working on a new song on his acoustic, or hitting up the links during warmer weather.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet Works

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Allison May 6, 2016 at 1:50 pm

What foods does Derek eat in order to get a sufficient number of calories daily?


Deborah May 9, 2016 at 9:51 am

That’s a good question! I have many more food sensitivities so when I eat what I can I lose weight fast which I can’t afford because I’m very thin to begin with. That’s why I end up eating things I shouldn’t just to keep wight on then I go through the cycle of feeing worse all over again?


Mariel Heiss May 11, 2016 at 11:12 am

Hi Allison – I reached out to Derek to see if he would share with us a sample menu from a day in his life 🙂 Some SCD_legal foods he could eat would be properly prepared legumes, some nuts, fruit, lots of veggies. Long-term, we suggest adding in protein from meat as we think animal protein is crucial for achieving the best health


Jennie May 6, 2016 at 7:05 pm

What an amazing story! I would also like to know what to eat to put on weight?


Cyndy May 7, 2016 at 4:06 am

Thank you so much for sharing sounds exactly like me! This is insane I too found quitting meat a huge turning point. Please do tell what does he eat. It will help me tremendously.


Mariel Heiss May 12, 2016 at 2:17 pm

Hi Cyndy – w’re glad to hear you’ve found what works for you!!

I reached out to Derek for a sample menu of what he eats in a day. I’ll update here when I get that info


Cyndy May 16, 2016 at 6:41 pm

Thank you I would greatly appreciate it as I’m already so restricted on what I can eat most my foods are scd illegal so I’d really love to know and hopefully get out of this horrific pain, exhaustion, and out of this bed in over 5yrs!


Trudy May 10, 2016 at 4:33 am

This is an amazing and truly inspiring story and I am so thrilled for Derek. As a vegetarian,with suspected histamine intolerence,so eggs and dairy are out, I am desperate to know where Derek gets his protein from,as he doesn’t eat nuts either,and on the SCD diet legumes are not allowed plus I can’t tolerate them anyway. I also wonder if Derek ate gluten free oats and rice? Also how on earth do you make sure you are getting all the nutrients and vitamins you require, in balance, and how do you maintain a healthy weight with what sounds like so few calories!? I would so love to see the SCD team do an in depth article on these issues for people such as vegetarians and vegans and how we go about starting the intro diet without bone broth etc. I desperately need help in this area and really don’t know where to turn to for this information. Hope you can help SCD team, bearing in mind the excluded foods on the low histamine diet as well!! It’s SO difficult. Would love to hear from Derek too regarding these questions. Here’s hoping? Thank you for all the info you already have out there.
Love and Light
Trudy x


Mariel Heiss May 12, 2016 at 2:15 pm

Hey Trudy thanks for reaching out and for your patience 🙂 I reached out to Derek and was hoping I could give you a reply directly from him. I don’t want to put words in Derek’s mouth regarding what exactly he eats on a day-to-day basis.

I can tell you that Steve and Jordan don’t think a vegetarian diet and SCD are sustainable long term. Their experience and research shows you need nutrients from animal protein to achieve the best gut health. We encourage everyone to source the highest-quality, most ethical and sustainable animal products possible as these are best for animals, our health, and the planet.

Properly prepared (by soaking) legumes are allowed on SCD and are an important food for those who try SCD as a vegetarian.

Here’s 4 things you can review today that will (hopefully) help you:

1) Read about Cheryl Cravino’s SCD Success story, where she was starting out as a vegetarian:

2) Listen to a specific question we answer about SCD and vegetarian in podcast 21 (9:34 The myth that a vegetarian can’t follow SCD and what to try instead of meat – especially in the beginning)

3) Read the comments from SCD’er vegetarians Elizabeth and most especially Jenny in this podcast comments section:

4) Listen to this podcast:


Trudy May 13, 2016 at 4:19 am

Thank you SO much for your reply Mariel?? And for all the links, some of which I had already been to, and a couple I hadn’t found! They are all very helpful and interesting but, as I can’t tolerate beans or lentils, and because of the histamine issues dairy is out and eggs are limited, this is why I am so interested in how Derek managed, as his mum has stated he couldn’t tolerate nuts, meat, eggs or dairy!! I don’t know if he tolerated legumes or lentils? I also note his mum said he struggled/s with fruit! And yet in the picture of him now he looks glowing with health! So whatever he did and continues to do has obviously worked wonders for him which is so wonderful. So to find out exactly what he ate/eats and how he maintained a balance in nutrients, and particularly protein, would be so helpful. I wonder how he manages to not be hungry all the time and where he gets his energy from!? And I really want to know what he ate for his intro diet as a vegetarian, this alone would be so helpful. Really hope Derek, or his lovely mum Kathy, responds to your request to help us all out here.
Thank you again for your fantastic site and for reaching out to as many people as possible to try and help them regain health – you do an amazing job SCD team x and wishing Derek and his mum continued amazing health in the future.
Love and Light
Trudy X


Mariel Heiss May 13, 2016 at 2:19 pm

Thanks Trudy!!

I do know that Derek didn’t follow the Intro diet without meat – he took meat out later on (about 9 months into the diet). He followed the Intro diet with meat, but without Dairy and Eggs – you can do that too using our Tough Case meal plans here:

I hope this helps!


Cyndy May 16, 2016 at 6:56 pm

Hi Trudy, I can totally relate with the histamine, vegan etc have you tried sancha inchi or inca inchi (same thing diff name) powder it’s amazing for protein


Cyndy May 16, 2016 at 6:58 pm

Very high in all essential aminos and omega 3! Its scd legal too from what I gather and so easily digestible. Let’s do this I just know we’ll all get there! ?


Trudy May 19, 2016 at 4:13 am

Awww Cyndy thank you SO much for responding to me that’s so kind of you? I have never heard of that before but will definately look in to it, thank you! And yes, we will get there – we can do it.
Love and Light
Trudy xox


Trudy May 17, 2016 at 4:07 am

Thank you Mariel X If you hear back from Derek or Kathy I assume you will post the details here?
Thank you so much for all your help and for taking the time to respond to my posts??
Love and Light
Trudy x


Mariel Heiss May 17, 2016 at 3:08 pm

Absolutely, Trudy!!


Mariel Heiss May 26, 2016 at 2:52 pm

Hi Trudy!

Here’s an update from Derek on some of the foods he eats:

“Several bananas, apples, peaches, apricots, pears, oranges in a day; 2 or 3 large salads with romaine lettuce, spinach, walnuts, carrots, sundried tomatoes, a little olive oil and very organic balsamic vinegar; stir fries with a variety of veggies such as sweet potato, onions, garlic, carrots, broccoli, brussel sprouts, zuccini, sugar snap peas; for snacks walnuts, dates, figs.”

To be clear – we DO NOT recommend avoiding meat and eggs altogether. We respect the right of everyone to find the custom diet that works for them, but we also believe humans need nutrients from animal products to have the best health.


Trudy May 27, 2016 at 3:28 am

Thank you Mariel! I just can’t see where he is getting any protein from other than a few walnuts, which just sounds totally inadequate to me!!! This would concern me a lot. I was hoping he would answer this particular question? I find it astonishing that he has any energy and can do workouts and looks so healthy and full of life!! Hope he can, and will fill, us in on that one!!
Thank you so much for getting back to me Mariel, you are a star and I am so grateful for all your help. X
Love and Light


Mariel Heiss May 27, 2016 at 12:41 pm

Thanks Trudy 🙂 Have to say I agree with you.


Nick June 10, 2016 at 12:32 am

I also too wonder how he can get enough calories without eating meat?! I think I get about half of my 3000-3500 cals per day from meat alone, and I feel I’m already at the lower end of what I ned cals wise, otherwise I notice an energy slump!


Trudy October 14, 2016 at 8:25 am

Hi again Mariel! I have a question for you. Can I use illegal SCD/FODMAP foods,as in vegetables, if I am only using them to make a broth/stock and not actually ingesting the food itself. I would really like to put seaweed in my stock for its high mineral/vitamin profile and mushrooms, both of which are either SCD illegal or a FODMAP. I have tried searching this but can’t find any advice.
I loved your article on the Airbiotics btw, I have already placed an order!! I just wondered, do you know if it also gets rid of black mould that tends to grow on the sealant around the shower cubicle? Also can it’s used for cleaning the toilet bowl?
Many thanks Mariel, looking forward to your reply.
Love and light


Mariel Heiss October 14, 2016 at 12:23 pm

Hi Trudy!

First – you may find you still have reactions if you put the veggies in the broth. I think it is important to remember, though, that just because a food is high in FODMAPS or illegal on SCD doesn’t mean it is BAD. If I were you, I’d give them a try and see how you react (as long as you’re feeling good right now – don’t try new foods if you’re in a flare).

For the Airbiotics – I haven’t used the All Purpose Cleaner in my toilet bowl, but you definitely can do that! I did use it all over my tub (including on the black mold that tends to grow by the drain) and it worked great! I’m really loving it.


Trudy October 15, 2016 at 6:22 am

Thank you so much Mariel, as ever, I am so truly grateful for your reply to me and all your advice, words can’t really convey my heartfelt gratitude?
Mariel, I have another question that is really confusing me and I can’t really seem to get a definitive answer, so wondered if you could give me your opinion please? So here goes! Should a healthy poo float or sink? Mark, from Marks daily apple, who I respect greatly and love his web site, says a healthy poo should absolutely float and this is a very good sign, but he does seem to be in a minority here. Most other sites say a floating poo is not good and a definate sign of fat malabsorbtion and this would definately fit in with the results of my stool test which said I had too much fat in my stool and mine almost always floats!! So you can see you dilemma here and I have become a bit obsessive over it!!! Lol Every day I am looking to see if it’s sunk to see an indication that things are improving but I feel really unsure as to whether that IS actually what it should be or not. Most of life I grew up believing a poo that floats was a really good sign, I was told,way back then, that it showed you have plenty of fibre, but again, my stool test revealed not enough fibre, even though, at the time of the test and for many, many years, I ate tons of vegetables!!!! So, any help or light you can shed on this for me Mariel would be so much appreciated.
One other thing regarding the Airbiotics Mariel, why don’t you use it for cleaning the toilet bowl as well?!! And in that case what do you use for that job? I have not managed to find any natural, or at least more natural product, that cleans like bleach for stain removal. Also how does the Airbiotics cope in the kitchen,with the unavoidable grease you get when cooking, on work tops and appliances? Do you find you still need a separate cleaner for some jobs just to cut through and remove the grease? And the same for soap scum in the bathroom, especially with Castile soap which is very greasy and leaves a lot of residue behind on tiles and shower doors?
Thanks again Mariel, so very much.
Love and Light


Mariel Heiss October 17, 2016 at 11:08 am

Hey trudy – you’re very welcome!

Regarding poop that floats or sinks – you’re poop shouldn’t be very heavy in dense (sign of constipation) or stick to the bottom of the toilet. If it floats a little bit that is OK, but floating poop is generally a sign of fat malabsorption. You can do several things to improve your fat absorption – try digestive enzymes, HCL, or ox bile supplements; replace some of the fat in your diet with coconut oil (it is digested differently than other fats); and eat more beets (they stimulate bile). The most important thing is not to panic or become obsessive – that will only make healing more difficult 🙁

I actually used the Airbiotics on my toilet for the first time yesterday and it worked great! I typically use baking soda and vinegar, but I was very happy with the Airbiotics. I have used it in my kitchen as well, and found it cleans up grease really well – although I have to admit I rarely have really greasy messes to clean up in there. It has worked well in my shower – and there is castile soap AND coconut oil in there – making it probably the hardest part of my house to keep clean!

Hang in there Trudy 🙂


Trudy October 17, 2016 at 12:44 pm

Aww thank you so much Mariel, you are a star????
Can’t thank you enough!
Love and light
Trudy X

Trudy October 23, 2016 at 10:34 am

Hi Mariel
So very sorry to trouble you – yet again!! – but I have something else that’s been confusing and perplexing me and I just haven’t known who to ask. Then suddenly , just a moment ago, I thought Mariel!! I am sure she will be able to tell me my answer! So here’s hoping! Mariel, I very recently had the breath test for SIBO (3 hour lactulose) and my result stated ‘These results do not suggest small intestinal bacterial overgrowth’, but there is an accompanying note saying, ‘ Note the presence of a high level of methaneogenic fermentation, probably colonic in origin, from the start of the test’ So what exactly does that mean as I thought if you had either high methane or hydrogen it was SIBO, but if my test is saying it doesn’t indicate SIBO then what would be the cause for the high presence of methane? And how does that get treated differently to SIBO? I am completely confused! I also know that high methane usually indicates constipation but this has rarely been an issue for me it has always been the opposite problem. My main symptoms are constant gas both ends, I even burp continuously after water!! My tummy is always bubbling and gurgling on the left side of my body, I have fat malabsorbtion and I am constantly feeling weak, hungry and fatigued. Weight is also continually dropping due to the restricted foods I can tolerate and I can’t add in more fat for calories because of the malabsorbtion. I am almost certain I am not getting the vitamins and minerals I need due to malabsorbtion issues again. ANY help you can give me with this high methane but no SIBO result would be so very much appreciated, as always. If I eat just white bread with eggs the tummy gas goes away, although it doesn’t change the burping, but then I can start to get constipated due to lack of vegetables!!! I am not eating any grains at the moment of course and am currently on phase 1. I just don’t know how to proceed.
Love, light and wellness
Trudy xxx


Mariel Heiss October 24, 2016 at 1:51 pm

Hi Trudy – thanks for thinking of me!

i’m sorry to hear you’re struggling. I’m not a doctor or a practitioner, so I can’t help you interpret your tests, but I can share a few things I know.

First, I encourage you to listen to this podcast Jordan did with Chris Kresser. In the podcast, they discuss how a baseline high level of methane can indicate an overgrowth of methane-producing archaea.Here’s the link:

I also suggest you work one-on-one with a practitioner like Stephanie: Stephanie will be able to help you interpret your test results and get you on the right path to healing!


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