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Breaking The VICIOUS C y c l e Intestinal Health Through Diet

BY Elaine Gottschall B.A., M.Sc.


In the research, writing, and publishing of this book I received moral, intellectual, and emotional support from many people. Among these, the following people stand out and to them goes my deepest appreciation: Dr. Donald B. McMillan for his time, expertise, sup- port, and friendship. Catheryne Dahlke for her ability to establish order and coherence to the present reorganization of this book. With "one foot" in biological sciences and the other in the world of publishing, she has accomplished the task of mak- ing me proud of the 2004 edition of Breaking the Vicious Cycle, featuring the new chapter on autism. Patricia Wilson for her friendship and willingness to share her artistic talents by producing the illustrations. Diane Jewkes for her patience and expertise in editing the manuscript. Sue Brown, Callie Cesarini, Marge Moulton, Debbie Newsted, and Jane Sexsmith for their good humor and assis- tance in helping me execute the numerous revisions. Valerie Tabone and Sandra Rule of the Department of Graphic Services (University of Western Ontario) for their cooperation and expertise in typesetting and artistic layout of the manuscript. My husband, Herbert, for his unlimited patience, moral support, and continual prodding to "write the book." My daughter, Judith Lynn Herod, and her friend, Tad Crohn, for their superb job of initial editing. My daughter, Joan Beth Gottschall, for her continual encouragement.


This book contains a diet and nutritional information that, in the author's experience, has helped those who have followed it. The author recognizes that the treatment of illness and the enhancement of health through diet should be supervised by a duly qualified physician. Readers should not engage in self diagnosis and self treatment. Consult your doctor before starting the regimen proposed here. This book will be particularly complemented by discussions with a physician who has a particular interest or training in nutrition. The author and publisher do not assume medical or legal liability for the use or misuse of the information and regimen contained in this book.

The progress of science implies not only the accumu- lation of knowledge, but its organization, its unification, and this involves the periodic invention of new syntheses, coordinating existing knowledge, and of new hypotheses which give us methods of approaching the unknown. George Sarton Introduction to the History ofscience


This book is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Sidney Valentine Haas who first showed me the importance of understanding the effect of food on the body.


. . Foreword by Ronald L . Hoffman. M.D. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I-IV CHAPTER 1 Past and Present . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 CHAPTER 2 Scientific Evidence Relating to Diet . . . . . . . 5 CHAPTER 3 Intestinal Microbes: The Unseen World . . . 11 CHAPTER 4 Breaking the Vicious Cycle . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 CHAPTER 5 Carbohydrate Digestion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 CHAPTER 6 The Celiac Story . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 CHAPTER 7 The Brain Connection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 CHAPTER 8 The Autism Conrlection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51 CHAPTER 8 Introducing the Diet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61 CHAPTER 9 The Specific Carbohydrate Diet . . . . . . . . . . 73 GOURMET SECTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83 Addendum: The Mom and Dad Brigade . . . . . . . . . . . . 163 For Those on the Internet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 175 Glossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177 Appendix . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 180 References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 189 Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 203

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Upon discovering Food and the Gut Reaction, the first edition of Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet, I realized that it contained a useful solution for the dietary treatment of many gastrointestinal disorders. By introducing the approach of the "Specific Carbohydrate Diet", it enables patients to thrive on a varied diet that very often reduces symptoms and allows healing of an inflamed intestinal tract. Simply presented, yet sophisticated in its conception, the "Specific Carbohydrate Diet" transcends sev- eral oversimplifications to which patients with gastrointesti- nal problems and their physicians often fall prey. Several years ago my book, Seven Weeks to a Settled Stomach (Simon and Schuster), was published. Since that time, I have earned a reputation as a trouble-shooter for gas- trointestinal problems. Patients from many- parts of the country have consulted me. Many complain of symptoms consistent with irritable bowel syndrome. Others have been diagnosed formally with classic inflammatory bowel disease. And though some patients have responded well to the usual arsenal of natural digestive aids, intestinal flora replace- ment, elimination diets, conventional antifungal drugs and antibiotics, still others found no relief. Food and the Gut Reaction, the first edition of this book, was introduced to me by a colleague and friend, Dr. Leo Galland. He mentioned the book after one of his patients brought the book to his attention. I immediately recognized Elaine Gottschall's book as a potential godsend to my patients. Its value lay in providing a palatable but potent alternative to those dietary approaches commonly in use for management of gastrointestinal problems: the high-fiber diet; the low-fat diet; the low-residue diet; the anti-yeast diet; the gluten-free diet; and other elimination diets. i


Based on my experience with patients, I already had reason to question the complex carbohydrate plan a s the most healthy eating program, especially for patients with gastrointestinal complaints. Many gastroenterologists, like most North American physicians, propound this "low-cholesterol"diet plan. Fat, it is reasoned, is the bane not only of arteries but also of the intestinal tract: in combination with excess animal protein, so it is said, fat sets the stage for a host of Western ills from diverticulosis to appendicitis and colon cancer. Unquestionably, some patients are excellent fiber responders, but others do poorly with common sources of roughage. The radical alternative, a meat and salad diet that eliminates all sugars and starches, is unpalatable and unen- forceable for all but the most dedicated patients. In fact, this strict vegetable and protein diet, sometimes referred to a s the "caveman diet", is dangerous for marginally nourished, underweight patients with Crohn's disease or ulcerative coli- tis. One oversimplification Elaine Gottschall's book avoids is the notion that food allergy is the source of many gastrointestinal complaints. Since dietary manipulation can produce results, it is, perhaps, natural to assume this. But over- reliance on the ambiguous results of allergy testing leaves many patients incompletely treated. The more sophisticated belief that it is not individual foods themselves but the byproducts of inges- tion of certain foods that cause intestinal problems is fast replac- ing the concept of food allergy. This theory was first set forth by Dr. 1.0. Hunter in a landmark Lancet article in 199 1. Elaine Gottschall's "Specific Carbohydrate Diet" is an acknowledgement of Hunter's theory. Another recent Lancet article underscores the frequency of intol- erances to corn, wheat, milk, potatoes, and rye. This may be the reason why patients who derive inconsistent benefits from the gluten-free and lactose-free diets respond so completely to the regimen set forth in Elaine Gottschall's book. This diet addresses carbohydrate intolerance more broadly than other approaches. The second edition of Food and the Gut Reaction, Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal health Through Diet, should be among the vital resources of every gastroenterologist.


Other corrective strategies amount to a preoccupation with eradicating intestinal pathogens. Those who take this approach believe in the "find a bug, use a drug" philosophy. Elaine Gottschall substitutes the more holistic goal of re- establishing the healthy balance of intestinal flora. As I began placing patients on the "Specific Carbohydrate Diet", using Food and the Gut Reaction a s a comprehensive guide, I became impressed with the results. Many patients with Crohn's disease,ulcerative colitis, irrita- ble bowel syndrome and even refractory constipation, found relief although their progress had been stymied previously with elaborate but unsuccessful elimination schemes. The clinical value of the "Specific Carbohydrate Diet" was unquestionable, but interestingly, I began to notice other unanticipated benefits. Patients with muscle aches, stiff joints, and even full-blown arthritis, chronic skin rashes, psoriasis, generalized fatigue and "spaciness" were alleviat- ed. Elaine Gottschall's diet had probably reduced intestinal toxicity. Unfortunately, the chances of wider acceptance of dietary approaches like this one are small. While many of my innovative, nutritionally-oriented colleagues have availed themselves of Food and the Gut Reaction and intro- duced patients to this approach, most gastroenterologists are, sadly, not even curious. They scarcely acknowledge the role diet can play. For example, a recent Lancet article demonstrating the efficacy of the exclusion diet in the treat- ment of Crohn's disease has not prompted a single gastroen- terologist in my large metropolitan community to administer a facsimile of the successful diet to patients - even when their diseases do not respond to the most skillfully adminis- tered drug treatment. Fortunately, increasing numbers of patients are rec- ognizing the need to break away from total dependency on drugs and symptom-oriented medical care. Many have endured years of suffering, coupled with economic and men- tal stress, and they are willing to try a wholesome diet, grounded in medical research, which makes sense. The reception given to Food and the Gut Reaction (the first


edition of this book) by patients has the makings of a true grassroots uprising. Patients, en masse, are willing to try the diet and many are finding that it works. Elaine Gottschall is a tireless crusader on behalf of her natural approach to digestive problems. She selflessly gives of her time, love, compassion, attention, and concern to patients and clinicians alike. She has become an energetic cheerleader for many of my patients and has provided invaluable direction when progress has faltered. Her reward is surely the secure knowledge that she has made a difference in the lives of thousands of patients with gastrointestinal disorders.

Ronald L. Hoffman, M.D. Hoffman Center 40 East 30th St. New York, New York 10016 June, 1994

Chapter 1


In 1951, after many years of clinical experience, Drs. Sidney V. and Merrill P. Haas published a book entitled Management of Celiac Disease. Directed to the medical community, the book documented the doctors' experiences in treating and curing hundreds of cases of celiac disease a s well as cases of cystic fibrosis of the pancreas.' Their approach was dietary, and they used a well-balanced, normal diet that was highly specific as to the types of sugars and starches allowed. When patients followed this Specific Carbohydrate Diet for a minimum of one year, they were then able to return to a normal diet with complete and permanent disappearance of symptoms. In 1958, we took our eight year old daughter to the Drs. Haas. Three years before she had been diagnosed by specialists as having incurable ulcerative colitis and her condition was deteriorating. The years of treatment with cortisone and sulfonamides, plus innumerable other medical approaches, had been unsuccessful and surgery seemed imminent. The Drs. Haas placed her on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and within two years she was free of symptoms. She returned to eating normally after another few years, and has remained in excellent health for over twenty years. Many students, friends, and others whom I have seen in my practice who were suffering from ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, celiac disease (not cured by a gluten free diet), diverticulitis, and various types of chronic diarrhea have tried the Haas Diet and most of them are now free of their respective diseases. Some of the most dramatic and fastest recoveries have occurred in babies and young

Chapter 1


children with severe constipation and among children who, along with intestinal problems, had serious behavior prob- lems. These included autistic-type hypoactivity a s well a s hyperactivity, often accompanied by severe and prolonged night terrors. Very often the behavior problems and night terrors cleared within ten days after initiation of the Haas Specific Carbohydrate Diet. It is interesting to note that in June, 1985, the Schizophrenia Association of Great Britain launched a research project to investigate Dr. F. C. Dohan's research concerning a relationship between celiac disease and schizophrenia. The basis for this project is a strict grain-free, milk-free, low sugar diet, closely related to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.2,3 Meanwhile in research laboratories throughout the world, investigators have been studying intestinal problems. Physicians and researchers have found that a special type of synthetic diet (chemical nutrients assembled in the laboratory) called an Elemental Diet shows great promise in the treatment of digestive and intestinal problems of all types. The malabsorption problem seen in cystic fibrosis of the pancreas a s well a s diarrhea which occurs after cancer chemotherapy have been overcome by the use of the syn- thetic Elemental Diet.4,5When used for patients with Crohn's disease, not only did symptoms disappear but children who had not grown properly for years showed dramatic weight and height gains while on the diet.6 The level of sodium chloride in the perspiration (the sweat test which measures the severity of the condition) of children with cystic fibrosis of the pancreas decreased dramatically when these children were given the Elemental Diet.' Over six hundred scientific publications have appeared in medical journals in the 1970's and early 1980's testifying to the fact that this Elemental Diet is effective in correcting mal-absorption and reversing the course of many intestinal disorder^.^ However, since the Elemental Diet is an artificial diet, usually administered via a stomach tube, it cannot be continued indefinitely. When it is discontinued, usually after six to eight weeks, improvement gradually decreases and symptoms usually return.

Past and Present


The common denominator underlying the effective- ness of both the natural Specific Carbohydrate Diet and the synthetic Elemental Diet is the type of carbohydrate which predominates. In the synthetic Elemental Diet, the principal carbohydrate is the single sugar, glucose, which, in biochemical circles, is called a monosaccharide (mono=one; saccharide=sugar) a s contrasted with a two-sugar disaccharide such a s sucrose (table sugar) or a many-sugar polysaccharide such a s starch.

Each Circle


Represents a Single Sugar Molecule

1. Monosaccharide

2. Disaccharide


3. Polysaccharide

Figure 1

Dietary carbohydrates

In the natural Specific Carbohydrate Diet, the carbo- hydrates are also predominantly single sugars - those found in fruit, honey, properly-made yoghurt, and certain vegeta- bles. The many research reports indicating that the synthetic Elemental Diet is beneficial in intestinal diseases provide support for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet which can be used in the home. Those who choose to follow the Specific Carbohydrate Diet need not feel deprived. Many of the delicious recipes in

Chapter 1


this book could easily be part of any gourmet cookbook. The fact that they are so appealing, however, in no way compromises the underlying scientific reasoning: the carbohydrates specified in the recipes are biochemically correct. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet presented in this book is highly nutritious and well-balanced. It is safe and very likely to be effective in overcoming many lingering and vexing intestinal and digestive problems.

Chapter 2


The distressing and debilitating intestinal problems seen today have existed for centuries. The names given the various conditions with the symptoms of diarrhea, excess gas, loss of weight, excess mucus, cramping, blood loss, and severe constipation have changed throughout the years. The methods of diagnosis as well a s those of treatment and management have also changed with time. But always, there has been a strong underlying belief that diet is an important factor to consider, not only in determining the causes of the disorders, but also in their treatment and cure. The medical literature is rich with reports relating the favorable effects of dietary changes on the course of intestinal disease. As far back a s 300 A.D., a Roman physician described in detail a diarrhea condition sounding like celiac disease and suggested that fasting, along with the use of the juice of the plantain, a member of the banana family, would cure the disease.' In 1745, Prince Charles, the Young Pretender to the throne of England, suffered from ulcerative colitis and was said to have cured himself by adopting a milk-free diet.2 During the early 1 900's, numerous physicians brought further insight to our understanding of the effect of food on intestinal problems. Dr. Christian Herter, a physician and professor a t Columbia University, noted that in every case where children were wasting away with diarrhea and debilitation, proteins were well tolerated, fats were handled moderately well but carbohydrates (sugars and starches) were badly tolerated. He stated that ingestion of some carbohydrates almost invariably caused a relapse or a return of diarrhea after a period of imp r ~ v eme n t . ~~~ About that time,

Chapter 2


Dr. Samuel Gee, another world-renowned children's specialist, saw clearly several important facts that continue to be missed by modern researchers. Dr. Gee said that if the patient with intestinal disease could be cured a t all, it would have to be by means of diet.5 He added that milk was the least suitable food during intestinal problems and that highly starchy food (rice, corn, potatoes, grains) were unfit. Dr. Gee stated, "We must never forget that what the patient takes beyond his power to digest does harm." Any food, and particularly carbohydrate, given to a person with intestinal problems should, therefore, be a food that requires little or no digestion so that the digestive process itself will not stand in the way of the absorption of the carbohydrates. Contrary to what some may think, undigested (and therefore, unabsorbed) carbohydrates are not passing harmlessly through the small intestine and colon and out in the feces but, somehow and somewhere in the digestive tract, are causing problems. There is much recent evidence to support the hypothesis that the course of several forms of intestinal problems can be favorably changed by manipulating the types of carbohydrates ingested. Cystic fibrosis patients have responded remarkably well to the removal of certain carbohydrates from their diets, especially refined sugar (sucrose) and the milk sugar, lactose, a s well a s starch."-" Lactose has been implicated over and over again in ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, and other types of intestinal disorders referred to a s "functional" diarrhea.loi3 The removal of lactose from the diets of patients with these problems has resulted in remarkable imp r ~v e r n e n t . ~~ Crohn's disease research has yielded some dramatic results relating to carbohydrates in the diet. In the 1980's two reports appeared in the medical literature. The first reported the results of Drs. Von Brandes and Lorenz-Meyer of Marburg, West Germany who brought about remissions in twenty patients with Crohn's disease by forbidding foods and beverages containing refined carbohydrates, mainly sucrose and s t a r ch . 'Vn the second study involving twenty patients with Crohn's disease, dietary changes involving the

Scientific Evidence


elimination of specific foods, particularly cereals and dairy products, resulted in sustained remissions. The physicians conducting the research concluded that "dietary manipulation might be an effective long-term therapeutic strategy for Crohn's d i ~e a s e . "~" A recent medical textbook on the subject of inflam- matory bowel disease reported the results of twenty worldwide studies on the eating patterns of patients with ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease prior to the onset of symptoms and subsequent diagnosis. Two of three studies on the dietary habits of ulcerative colitis patients showed a high consumption of bread and potatoes along with a high intake of refined sugar (sucrose). In one of the studies, a large one comprised of 124 patients, it was concluded that "a dietary factor in ulcerative colitis cannot be dismissed, especially in relation to bread."26 In this same textbook, the results of seventeen studies dealing with Crohn's disease were reported and all studies found sucrose intake to be higher in Crohn's patients than in people without Crohn's disease. The author of the report stated: The consistency of this finding is remarkable consider- ing the variety of countries and methods used to carry out the studies. Among the patients in the seventeen studies reported, it was found that sucrose intake varied from between 20% to 220% more in Crohn's patients than in people who did not develop Crohn's disease. In concluding, Dr. Heaton, author of the report, stated: The connection between Crohn's disease and a sugar- rich diet is proved beyond reasonable doubt. Apart from smoking, this is the strongest clue to an environmental etiology of the disease.26 Dr. Claude Morin of Hospital Sainte-Justine, Quebec, reported his results in treating four children who were suffering from long-standing Crohn's disease. When Dr. Morin administered, via a stomach tube, a synthetic elemental diet containing the monosaccharide

Chapter 2


glucose (a single sugar) a s the main carbohydrate source, the children showed remarkable gains in both height and weight a s well a s remission of their symptoms.21 Unlike sucrose, lactose, and starch, glucose requires no digestion and is, therefore, more likely to be absorbed by the cells of the small intestine. This "predigested" sugar can easily pass through the intestinal absorptive cells, enter the blood- stream, and nourish the body. Glucose in the synthetic elemental diet a s well a s glucose found in fruits and honey is not beyond the power of those with disturbed digestive systems to absorb. Dr. Jan Van Eys of the University of Texas Cancer Center reaffirmed this principle by stating: The gastrointestinal mucosa (surface) of children is especially prone to damage from diarrhea and, a s a result, disaccharide intolerance. The development of disaccharide- deficient formulae and of elemental diets gave a means by which physicians could allow patients to recover without drastic measures.22 Dr. Van Eys did not elaborate on the conditions that lead to the inability to digest double sugars (disaccharides) nor did he state how diarrhea is related to the problem of disaccharide digestion. More recently, however, Dr. J. Ranier Poley of Eastern Virginia Medical School has shown a link between diarrhea and the inability to digest starch and disaccharide sugars.23 By microscopically examining the intestinal surface of patients with various forms of diarrhea, Dr. Poley found that most patients have lost the ability to digest disaccharides because of excessive mucus production by intestinal cells. An abnormally thick layer of surface mucus appears to be preventing contact between the disaccharides and the digestive enzymes of the absorptive cells. Sugars that need digestion cannot be processed and, therefore, will not be absorbed to provide nourishment for the individual. Dr. Poley has shown this phenomenon to take place in those suffering with celiac disease (gluten-sensitive enteropathy) , soy-protein intolerance, intolerance to cow's milk protein, intractable diarrhea of infancy, chronic diarrhea in children, parasitic infections of the intestine



(Giardia), cystic fibrosis of the pancreas, and Crohn's disease." Reasons for the production of excessive mucus will be discussed in greater detail in the next chapter dealing with intestinal microbes. Carbohydrates (sugars and starches) will be discussed in Chapter 5 in order to understand how some are more likely than others to escape digestion and, therefore, absorption. It will become clear that when this occurs, they remain in the intestinal tract and are utilized by the microbial world of the intestine which depend on this available carbohydrate for

Injury to small intestinal surface

Increase in bacterial

Impaired digestion of disaccharides

by-products and mucus production


Flgure 2 Chain of events

Malabsorpt~on of d~sacchar~des

Bacterial overgrowth

the energy the microbes need to live and multiply.24 Yeast and bacteria change the carbohydrates in ways that can injure the intestine which may respond to these microbial by-products by secreting excessive mucus. A chain of events (Figure 2) is then established. At present, it is difficult to pinpoint the first step that triggers the cycle involving dietary carbohydrates and intestinal microbial growth. As far back as 1922, in a speech to the medical community entitled, "Faulty Food in Relation to Gastrointestinal Disorders," Dr. Robert McCarrison warned his colleagues that intestinal diseases were increasing. He asked them to remember that microbes, often blamed for intestinal disease, are dependent upon the conditions of life, especially nutrition, which "frequently prepare the soil of the

Chapter 2


body for the growth of these microorganisms."25 It is reason- able to believe that undigested, unabsorbed carbohydrates remaining in the intestine can serve a s "the soil of the body" which encourages the growth of microorganisms involved in intestinal disorders. In various conditions, a poorly-functioning intestine can be easily overwhelmed by the ingestion of carbohydrates which require numerous digestive processes. The result is an environment that supports overgrowth of intestinal yeast and bacteria thus either initiating the chain of events or perpetuating it. The purpose of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet is to deprive the microbial world of the intestine of the food it needs to overpopulate. By using a diet which contains predominantly "predigested" carbohydrates, the individual with an intestinal problem can be maximally nourished without over-stimulation of the intestinal microbial population.

Chapter 3


The two most hazardous things an astronaut takes into his capsule on extendedflight are his brain and his intestinalfora. f (Bengson) A man i s only what his microbes make him. (Kope l ~ f l ) ~ It is generally accepted among physicians and researchers that during intestinal upsets and chronic intestinal disease, the normal, harmonious state of balance between intestinal microbes living in our gastrointestinal tract is lost. It is important, therefore, that we have some understanding of the inhabitants of our unseen world. Before birth, the human intestine is free of microbe^.^,^ From the moment of birth, however, a massive invasion of the gastrointestinal tract takes place and it soon becomes populated with various types of microbes depending on the type of milk ingested a s well a s other environmental factors. Some of the microbial growth develops from contact with the mother's skin; some originates from the air. If the infant is breastfed, more than 99% of all microbes in the intestine are of one type.3 As other foods are introduced, the baby develops a wide variety of bacteria. Studies have revealed that eventually more than four hundred bacterial species live together in the human colon.52 The stomach and most of the small intestine do not normally

f intestinalflora - the vanous bacterialand other rnicroscopic~orms qf I'e in the intestinal contents.

Chapter 3


harbor more than a sparse population of microbial flora. However, the number of microbes normalIy increases a t the lowest part of the small intestine, the ileum, because of its close proximity to the microbial-rich colon.5 In the healthy intestinal tract, intestinal microbes appear to live in a state of balance; an overabundance of one


------- Pancreas ---Transverse Colon - - -- -Jejunum (Mlddle of small ~ntesene) - - -Descending Colon

The ~ntest~nal tract

Flgure 3

mtestnal Microbes: The Unseen World


type seems to be inhibited by the activities of other types. This competition between microbes prevents any one type from overwhelming the body with its waste products or toxins. Another important protective factor which works to maintain the sparse bacterial population of the stomach and upper small intestine is the high acidity of the stomach's hydrochloric acid in which microbes cannot usually survive. In addition, normal peristalsis (waves of involuntary muscular contractions) sweeps many microbes out of the intestine to be lost in the feces, thereby, decreasing their numbers. However, bacterial overgrowth in the stomach and small intestine can and does occur for various reasons among which are: (1) Interference with the high acidity of the stomach through the continual use of antacids; (2) A decrease in the acidity of the stomach such a s occurs in the aging process 6; (3) Malnutrition or a diet of poor quality, and the resulting weakening of the body's immune ~ y s t e m ~ , ~ ; (4) Antibiotic therapy which can cause a wide range of microbial changes. A microbe commonly residing in the intestine without harmful effects may undergo a wide range of changes a s a result of antibiotic the rap^.^ Once the normal equilibrium of the colon is disturbed for any reason, its microbes can migrate into the small intes- tine and stomach hampering digestion, competing for nutri- ents, and overloading the intestinal tract with their waste p r o d ~ c t s . ~ Quite early in bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine, the normal absorption of vitamin Biz is disturbed. There is considerable evidence that B12, is poorly absorbed when microbes multiplying within the small intestine pre- vent uptake by the i l e ~ m . ' ~ . ' ~ There has been a long history indicating that bacteria and yeast are involved in intestinal disease. As far back a s 1904, an examination of the stools of children who were

Chapter 3


suffering with what appeared to be celiac disease, revealed abnormally large numbers of fermentative (carbohydrate "eaters") and putrefactive (protein "eaters") bacteria which were, undoubtedly, contributing to the disease process. The physicians making this observation proposed that although the normal intestine controlled the growth of bacteria, in "celiac-type" cases some intestinal abnormality prevented the normal regulatory control.14 Early researchers working on ulcerative colitis believed this disorder to be caused by bacteria. From 1906 to 1924, numerous researchers isolated certain types of bacte- ria, injected either the bacteria or the bacterial toxins into laboratory animals, and claimed that the injections produced ulcerative colitis in the animals.15--'"n 1932, when Dr. B.B. Crohn spoke about a "new" intestinal disorder which he called regional ileitis (now known a s Crohn's disease), some physicians attending his lecture stated that this new disease entity might be due to mi croorgani~rns .~~ From the 1920's until the present, the role of microbes and the products they produce continues to be investigated in an effort to find the cause of the various forms of inflammatory bowel d i ~ e a s e . " - ~ V f t e n there has been very convincing evidence that particular bacteria could initiate a certain type of intestinal disease but, eventually, the work has been dismissed because of insufficient proof. Some of the difficulties which these investigators experi- enced in trying to pinpoint the "culprit" microbes were undoubtedly due to the ever-changing conditions of the microbial world of the intestine, to variability in the strains of intestinal microbes, or to the lack of precise laboratory techniques of identification. During these early years of investigation, Dr. Ilya Metchnikoff proposed that bacteria in the intestine were pro- ducing toxins which were then absorbed into the blood- stream. These toxins, Metchnikoff stated, were the cause of many human afflictions, and he named the process by which harmful microbes in the intestine cause disease, "autointox- i ~a t i on " . ~ ' Unlike investigators who unsuccessfully attempt- ed to find the precise microorganisms involved in the

mteshhalMicrobes: The Unseen World


various types of intestinal disorders, Metchnikoff approached the problem quite differently. He maintained, a s many others have done, that if the intestinal environment can be kept in a healthy state, harmful microbes will no longer be a threate30 He advocated the widespread use of acidified (fer- mented) milk, similar to yoghurt, and proposed that the ben- eficial bacteria used in producing the fermented milk, and still remaining therein, would enter the intestinal tract and prevent other bacteria in the intestine from forming harmful toxins. While Metchnikoff's proposal has not been univer- sally adopted, his ideas are acknowledged by outstanding gastroenterologists and researchers. In 1964, Dr. Donaldson stated in a lengthy article about the role of bacteria in intes- tinal disease, 'in certain respects the concept of autointoxication offered by Metchnikoff must now receive serious reconsideration.I2 Investigators continue to be fascinated by Metchnikoff's proposals and to study the potential benefits of acidified milk. Modern researchers are asking: Do the bac- teria used to ferment the milk actually take up residence in the intestine and, if so, for how long? Which of the "yoghurt-type" bacteria used to acidify milk will counteract toxins produced by other intestinal Is the bacte- ria used to acidify the milk or the acidified (fermented) milk itself the beneficial factor?29 In the 1980's an increasing number of reports have been published stating that intestinal bacterial toxins appear to be injuring intestinal cells and, a s a result, causing a vari- ety of diarrheal diseases. Some of the bacteria producing these toxins have not, in the past, been considered to be dis- ease-causing types.' Although there is still insufficient evi- dence to link a specific microbe to each of the chronic intestinal disorders, it is generally agreed that intestinal microbes are not innocent bystanders. A simple approach to minimizing the undesirable activities of intestinal microbes would seem to be through the use of antibiotics. This approach is often tried but,

Chapter 3


unfortunately, in most chronic intestinal disorders, it has limitation^.^^ 48 We are faced, then, with intestinal disorders which involve microbial populations which have been altered in number, in kind, or both. The normal contractions (peristal- sis) of the intestinal muscles are not able to remove them; they appear to be tenacious. Indeed, there is evidence that intestinal microbes will not cause disease unless they devel- op methods of adhering to the gut ~ a l l . ~ ~ " O Antibiotic therapy is of limited usefulness while other drugs of the cortisone and sulfa families have side-effects if continued too long. A sensible and harmless form of warfare on the aber- rant population of intestinal microbes is to manipulate their energy (food) supply through diet. Most intestinal microbes require carbohydrates for energy," and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet severely limits the availability of carbohy- drates. By depriving intestinal microbes of their energy source, their numbers gradually decrease along with the products they produce.

Chapter 4


Of all dietary components, carbohydrate has the major influence over intestinal microbes. Through a process of fermentation of available carbohydrates remaining in the intestinal tract, microbes obtain energy for continued rnain- tenance and growth.' The fermentation process by which intestinal microbes consume dietary carbohydrates is diagrammed below: f Carbon dioxide gas Hydrogen gas Methane gas Sometimes alcohol /

Acetic acid )+ Other microb~a! / Lactic acid \ by-products

Bacteria and


Undigested sugar molecule remaining in the intestine

Energy for microbial growth

Intestinal fermentation

Figure 4

Fermentation is encouraged when the diet contains carbohydrates which remain in the intestinal tract rather than being absorbed into the b l ~od s t r e am. ~ Unabsorbed car- bohydrates constitute the most important source of gas in the intestine. For example, the lactose contained in one ounce of milk, if undigested and unabsorbed, will produce about 50 ml of gas in the intestine of normal people. But under abnormal conditions when intestinal microbes have

Chapter 4


moved into the small intestine, the hydrogen gas production may be increased over one hundred-fold. The presence of undigested and unabsorbed carbohy- drates within the small intestine can encourage microbes from the colon to take up residence in the small intestine and to continue to multiply. This, in turn, may lead to the forma- tion of products, in addition to gas, which injure the small intestine. Examples are lactic, acetic, and other acids (Fig. 4) which are short-chain organic acids resulting from the fer- mentative process. In addition to the damage to the intes- tine, there is a growing body of scientific evidence that lactic acid formed from fermentation in the intestine causes abnor- mal brain function and b e h a ~ i o r , ~ , ~ . ~ which could account for the behavioral problems which often accompany intestinal disorders. This would also explain the dramatic improve- ments in behavior noted in Chapter 1: the formation of large amounts of lactic acid resulting from the fermentation of unabsorbed carbohydrates is prevented by following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.

Figure 5

The vicious cycle

I Increased metabolic

Chronic diarrhea




Water drawn into intestine



Carbohydrate malabsorption


Breaking the Vicious Qcle


The production of large amounts of short-chain organic acids by bacterial fermentation in the intestine may ultimately prove to be an important clue in discovering the cause of some forms of inflammatory bowel disease. A recently published paper in Science entitled "Grain Feeding and the Dissemination of Acid-Resistant Escherichia coli from Cattle" casts a new perspective on the effect of these organic acids in changing bacterial character- istics." Since the early 1980's medical research has shown that some forms of ulcerative colitis appear to be caused by a commonly-found intestinal bacterium, Escherichia coli, which, a s a result of a change in its characteristics ( a muta- tion), has developed the ability to produce d i ~ e a s e . ' ~ - - ~ Although there are numerous reasons a s to why harmless forms of bacteria might change their characteristics through genetic mutation, the question could be asked: Is the fer- mentation of undigested, unabsorbed starch by intestinal bacteria in the human colon causing an acidic environment which could cause harmless bacteria to change to harmful forms? Once bacteria multiply within the small intestine, the chain of events diagrammed in Figure 5 develops into a vicious cycle characterized by an increase in the production of gas, acids and other products of fermentation which per- petuate the malabsorption problem and prolong the intestin- al d i ~o r d e r . ~ Bacterial growth in the small intestine appears to destroy the enzymes on the intestinal cell surface preventing carbohydrate digestion and absorption and making carbohy- drates available for further f e rmen t a t i ~n . ~ It is a t this point that production of excessive mucus may be triggered a s a self-defense mechanism whereby the intestinal tract attempts to "lubricate" itself against the mechanical and chemical injury caused by the microbial toxins, acids, and the presence of incompletely digested and unabsorbed carbo- hydrates. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet presents a method for breaking the cycle by maximally nourishing the individual and minimally nourishing the intestinal microbes. By this

Chapter 4


method, undesirable stresses on the intestine decrease. The diet is based on the principle that specifically selected carbo- hydrates, requiring minimal digestive processes (as will be discussed in Chapter 5) are absorbed and leave virtually none to be used for furthering microbial growth in the intes- tine. As the microbial population decreases due to lack of food, its harmful by-products also decrease, freeing the intestinal surface of injurious substances. No longer needing protection, the mucus-producing cells stop producing exces- sive mucus, and carbohydrate digestion is improved. Malabsorption is replaced by absorption. As the individual absorbs energy and nutrients, all the cells of the body are properly nourished, including the cells of the immune sys- tem, which then can assist in overcoming the microbial inva- sion. The practical Specific Carbohydrate Diet aims for the same goals a s the clinical synthetic Elemental Diet: the reduction and change of bacterial growth and the mainte- nance of the optimum nutritional state of the ~atient.~.'O

Chapter 5


Digestion is the great secret of lre. (Go and


What the patient takes beyond his ability to

digest does harm. fGeel2

While the underlying causes of the various intestinal disorders cannot be stated with certainty, faulty digestion and malabsorption of dietary carbohydrates may be, in large part, responsible for these disorders. (Carbohydrate refers to starch and disaccharide sugar molecules; both require diges- tion before absorption.) As we have seen in previous chap- ters, this can lead to more serious malabsorption of all nutrients due to injury to the intestinal surface. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet most often corrects malabsorption allow- ing nutrients to enter the bloodstream and be made available to the cells of the body thereby strengthening the immune system's ability to fight. Further debilitation is prevented, weight can return to normal, and, ultimately, there is a return to health. Malabsorption is the inability of the cells of the body to obtain nutrients from foods eaten. As a result, the caloric energy, vitamins, and minerals are lost a s all parts of the body are deprived of the proper nourishment. There are many places in the gastrointestinal tract where problems could lead to malabsorption: (1) if food travels too rapidly through the intestinal tract (as happens most often when diarrhea is present), there is insufficient time for large food molecules such as starch, fat, and protein to be broken down by various enzymes and, consequently, their absorption into

Chapter 5


the bloodstream is seriously impaired; (2) if a poorly-func- tioning pancreas does not deliver sufficient digestive enzymes to the small intestine to break down large rnole- cules of protein, fat, and starch, absorption of these nutri- ents will not take place. However, a large number of research reports point to a later step in digestion a s the site leading to malabsorption in many intestinal This last step in the digestive process occurs a t the microvilli of the cell mem- branes of the intestinal absorptive cell.

splitting enzymes, the disaccharidases (solid circles)

0 0


0 0 Oo

0 Completely O digested

Dietary disaccharides

d~saccharides now enter the bloodstream


Figure 6

Tall, healthy, mature intest~nalabsorptive cell

The membranes of cells lining the intestinal tract serve a s more than a passive barrier between the contents of the digestive tract and the bloodstream. When the digestive system is functioning normally, the membranes of these "gatekeeper" cells actively participate in the last step of digestion a s well a s aiding in the transport of nutrients into the bloodstream. The last step in carbohydrate digestion takes place a t the minute projections called microvilli (Fig. 6) . Only those carbohydrates which have been properly processed by the enzymes embedded in the microvilli can cross over the barri- er and enter the b l o~d s t r e am. ~ This is where the milk sugar, lactose, and sucrose, are split apart (digested). This is also

Chapter 5


the site of the last step in the digestion of starch from such foods such as grains and potatoes. Figure 7 summarizes the steps involved in carbohydrate digestion in the gastrointesti- nal tract and lists the microvilli enzymes which carry out the last step of the digestive process. The structure of the intestinal surface is dramatically altered during intestinal disease4 and, as a result, digestive activity is seriously inhibited. This makes the last step in the digestion of these carbohydrates difficult, if not i m p o s ~ i b l e ~ - ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ (Fig. 8)

few or no enzymes

Undigested disaccharides remain in





Figure 8

Flattened, injured, immature absorptive cell

The location of the sugar-splitting enzymes, the dis- accharidases, in the membranes of the intestinal cells makes them very vulnerable to damage from many sources. A vita- min deficiency of folic acid,29 for example, and/or of BIZ , can prevent proper development of the microvilli which carry the disaccharidases. An abnormally thick layer of mucus pro- duced by the intestinal cells can prevent contact between the microvilli enzymes and the disaccharides lactose, sucrose, maltose and i s~ma l t os e . ~ In addition, irritating or toxic sub- stances produced by yeast, bacteria, or parasites which have invaded the small intestinal tract can cause damage to the intestinal cell membranes, destroying their enzymes.I3 Conditions involving the small intestine that are fre- quently associated with deficiencies of lactase and other dis- accharidases are celiac disease, malnutrition, tropical sprue, cholera, gastroenteritis, infant diarrhea from any cause, pel- lagra, irritable colon, post-gastrectomy (removal of part of



stomach) , I 4 soy protein intolerance, intolerance to cow's milk protein, intractable diarrhea of infancy, parasitic infections of the intestine, cystic fibrosis, and Crohn's disease.4~5~s14,16~18 In addition, lactase deficiency in ulcerative colitis is well documented as was noted in Chapter 2. The first enzyme to suffer damage is usually lactase, but often there is a combination of enzyme loss involving sucrase, isomaltase, and, less often, maltase." The enzyme, lactase, is depressed earlier than the other disaccharide- splitting enzymes in intestinal disturbances such as celiac disease (and other conditions where diarrhea is present) and is the last of the microvilli enzymes to return to normal after intestinal disease has subsided. In fact, lactase may be per- manently depressed after severe malnutrition and tropical diarrhea (sprue) and a deficiency of lactase may be the sole legacy of some previous disorders." It is difficult to prove the absence of disaccharidase activity by present medical techniques. A biopsy sample of the small intestine during intestinal disease may show that enzyme activity of disaccharidases is normal. However, upon feeding lactose, sucrose, and starch, cramping, diarrhea, and vomiting will follow. This apparent contradiction could be due to a lack of contact between the enzymes and sugars caused by the mucus barrier referred to in Chapters 2 and 3. When a biopsy sample does indicate that there is a deficiency of disaccharidase enzyme activity, the reason could be a primary genetic problem or a secondary problem caused by a direct injury to the intestinal cell surface with loss of the microvilli and a flattening of the cell itself. Among those factors which lead to injuries of the intestinal surface are malnutrition and irritation caused by substances produced by microbial growth.l5.l6 The sugars, then, remain undigested in the small Their presence in the lumen (interior space) of the intestine causes a reversal of the normal nutritional process. Instead of nutrients flowing from the intestinal space into the bloodstream, water is drawn into the intestin- al lumen (Fig. 5) . The water, carrying nutrients, is lost in abnormal intestinal function (diarrhea) and the cells of the

Chapter 5


body are deprived of energy, minerals, and vitamins. Most seriously, the sugars remaining in the intestinal lumen provide energy for further fermentation and growth of intes- tinal microbes. The increasing levels of irritating substances given off by the growing microbial population cause intestinal cells to defend themselves. Mucus-producing cells (goblet cells) which are normally present in the intestine secrete their product to cover and protect the naked free surface of the intestinal absorptive cells. The small intestine responds to a disruption of the normal balance by producing more goblet cells which increases the secretion of intestinal mucus. As the integrity of the small intestine is further threatened by the microbial invasion and by the products it produces, a thick mucus barrier forms for self defense. The enzymes embedded within the absorptive cell membranes cannot do the job for which they are designed: to make contact with and split certain sugars in the diet.* If the goblet cells become exhausted (and there is a limit to their valiant efforts to defend the absorptive lining against irritation), the "naked" intestinal surface is subject to further ravaging. It is very possible that, a t this stage, ulceration of the intestinal surface, a s seen in ulcerative coli- tis, can occur. This might also explain how certain proteins such a s gluten can inappropriately enter the interior of the absorptive cells and destroy them. Sometimes, but not often, even the absorption of sin- gle sugars is disturbed because of severe injury to the absorptive cells, but this extreme condition is usually diag- nosed by routine hospital tests.18 Sometimes, the invasion of microbes into the small intestine is so pervasive that yeast, for example, will be found in the esophagus.19When it is suspected that yeast invasion is widespread (the oral infec- tion, thrush, would be an indicator) it is wise to cut back on honey ingestion a t the beginning of the dietary regimen (amount of honey in recipes should be decreased by a t least 75%). The amount of honey may be increased a s the condi- tion improves.

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