The People's Perspective on Medicine

Special Diet Plus Coconut Controls Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease

Q. My husband has had Crohn’s disease since he was 17, and he’s now 48. Fourteen years ago, just before our first child was born, he was in the hospital with a bad flare and was very close to surgery.

As he was recovering, the doctors wanted to put him on lifetime steroid meds. He didn’t want to go that route and did some research. He discovered the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), which would change his life forever.

His gas production significantly decreased within a day or two on the diet. He’s been med free and has had no flares ever since (14 years!). The diet is very demanding. You essentially cut out all grains, even foods like soy and rice, and all forms of sugar except honey. I use a lot of almond flour in cooking. And yes, he eats a lot of coconut through macaroons and other baked goods I make. For my husband, the diet is not a cure for Crohn’s, but it keeps the disease in check.

A. Thank you for sharing this amazing story. A recent article in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition (Jan., 2014) offers a case series in which the SCD approach improved symptoms and lab results.

We have heard from dozens of readers that coconut can be helpful in controlling hard-to- manage diarrhea. Our book, Favorite Foods from The People’s Pharmacy (online at discusses food as medicine and provides a popular recipe for coconut macaroon cookies.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Thank you for sharing your personal experiences. My 17 year old nephew has Crohn’s and I am trying to find alternative remedies to try rather than biologics such as Humira.

It’s very easy to make your own coconut macaroons at home. Many recipes online.

HL, you are a wise parent! Yes, following your gut, both physically and intuitively, is the best advice you could give anyone. My gut “told” me not to let them remove my entire colon or to believe what they told me about diet having nothing to do with the condition. The SCDiet proved them so wrong. Like your daughter, I was given bad advice at the hospital about diet by a degreed nutritionist who said to eat plenty of bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes to get my weight back up. I followed that advice for 1 week and lost 10 MORE lbs. on top of the 40 lbs. I had already lost–those are the worst possible foods (all complex carbs) for any inflammatory bowel disease, especially the white versions! (non-SCD whole grain brown rice and sweet potatoes are actually quite beneficial, according to Chinese Medicine) I’m forever thankful to author Elaine Gottschall and the intenet that I found the SCDiet and kept improving!

The SCD diet significantly helped my daughter recover from an acute case of post infection IBS, which hit her out of nowhere. Perfectly happy 10 year old, one day after dinner, howling in pain, stomach distended as if 5 months pregnant.
It took 7 months and hard work but it truly helped. I refused all the medications the doctors were pushing on her – omeprazole, Elavil (! An anti-depressant!) etc. I was sent home with her and the prescriptions and told to ‘feed her whatever she wants so she feels some sense of normalcy”. It was the worst advice ever.
She was at Boston’s Children’s Hospital. Her doctors were alarmed that she was on the SCD diet – “too restrictive!” and advised a FODMAP alternative.(No thanks, we will continue the SCD).
In the end, even her doctors had to admit that ‘she recovered a lot faster than we would have expected”
Follow your gut! Seriously!

Unfortunately, after buying Jennie’s Macaroons for many, many years, they have replaced the honey in the macaroons with sugar, therefore making them illegal for people on the SCD diet. I wrote several protest letters to the manufacturer to no avail. So my husband no longer eats coconut macaroons after doing so for 14 or so years (we have not found any commercially available SCD legal macaroons and have macaroons difficult to make ourselves). We have switched his “carbohydrate fix” to Larabars- many of which contain dates, figs, cashews, peanuts, cherries, apples- all SCD legal. You have to read the ingredients as some Larabars are not SCD safe (chocolate, chocolate chips, etc.) My husband no longer eats a lot of coconut, but still sticks to the SCD diet and is fine health wise.

Please send me follow ups.

Due to a severe, nearly-fatal case of colitis, a GI doctor performed a colonoscopy, then told me that my colon was “too far gone” and the entire thing needed to be surgically removed. That made no sense to me, especially since the “specialists” didn’t know what caused the problem, didn’t know how to fix it, and said diet had nothing to do with it.
I thank God and the internet that I read about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and bought the book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle! After the first three days of being strictly on the diet, I started to improve significantly, going from 20+ bowel movements a day to 5 or 6. After three weeks, I was having just a few nearly normal bowel movements a day. This diet saved me from surgery, so I stayed on it strictly for 2 years. In the 15 years since that time, I have managed my condition by limiting the foods that make it worse and yes, by adding coconut macaroons or taking extra virgin coconut oil–that’s the magic ingredient in the macaroons and it can be taken by the spoonful for better absorption than eating the cookies.

Yes for coconut, for any form of “spastic colon” distress. Allergies bring it on for me, soy, etc. Eating macaroons 19 years ago made me realize that the key IS coconut. I keep unsweetened coconut, shredded, in the freezer at all times. A small dish of it along with an organic “real” Gingerale and some peptobismal stops the painful cramping and rampant diarrhea if in serious distress. Just coconut works if a milder episode.
I’m in debt to the peoples’ pharmacy for the macaroon remedy and countless others through the years. I know I wouldn’t be hale, healthy and still dancin’ if it weren’t for the diligent Graedons.

Thanks for using our story and for the link to the small study done on the SCD and children. Imagine that- all 7 kids in the study had their symptoms resolved after being on the diet ! I sure hope they do a larger study and start spreading the word about SCD and Crohn’s disease.

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