7 Healing Lifestyle Diets for Digestive Conditions

I talk to a lot of people trying to find compelling stories of how they are using alternatives to overcome their digestive condition. Everyone has a different set of tools that they use. One of the most common and important of those tools is what I call a Lifestyle Diet. I have come across a number of various Lifestyle Diets that appear to help the healing process.

Despite what many gastroenterologists believe (that food doesn’t matter), food is the most important part when trying to heal from digestive conditions including Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Celiac disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. This is because these conditions are often the result of extreme inflammation in the intestines and foods can be inflammatory or anti-inflammatory. Eating the right foods can reduce inflammation in the body, along with the symptoms.

Here are seven Lifestyle Diets that I believe can help because they often share common denominators. In the coming weeks, I hope to share with you guest blog posts from various people using each of these Lifestyle Diets. The posts will be personal stories of why and how they started using their Life Diet of choice. What their health was before and after using it. Hopefully, if you haven’t tried using a Lifestyle Diet to begin your healing journey, you will be able to after reading the series of posts to come. For now, here’s a list and brief overview of each of the healing Lifestyle Diets.

Before we get to each Lifestyle Diet, Kitchen Stewardship has a good overview of three of the below, SCD, GAPS and Maker’s. As you read the below, you’ll notice a common denominator among each of the diets is the exclusion of most grains, refined sugar and processed foods.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet

It’s based on the work of Dr. Haas and Elaine Gottschall to allow people to heal their damaged intestines by eating only simple carbohydrates. The science behind this is related to liquid pre-digested diets, more popular in Europe than in the US. Because the ingredients are simple and pre-digested they are easily absorbed even by damaged intestines.

Complex carbohydrates from grains for example do not get digested properly in damaged intestines. The theory of why SCD works is that bacteria have infected the body and when complex carbs are eaten and not digested, they become food for the bad bacteria to thrive off of. The bad bacteria produce waste toxins that further inflame the intestines and cause more damage. This cycle of eating complex carbs which feeds bad bacteria and then causing damage to the intestines is part of the “vicious cycle” at the root of inflammatory bowel diseases.

If you can break the cycle, you can begin your healing journey. All lifestyle and dietary changes work this way. If you don’t exercise much, you become too tired to exercise, until you break the vicious cycle and exercise anyway.

What you can eat: dairy, eggs, meat, fish, nuts, fruits and vegetables

What you can’t eat: all grains, refined sugar, processed food, starch.

Official website: http://www.breakingtheviciouscycle.info/

Gut and Psychology Syndrome

GAPS was developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride and is rooted in SCD, but is a little regimented in its stages and introduction of dairy. It is used by families with Autistic children, who tend to also have digestive issues. Considering the fact that the digestive system has the same if not more neurotransmitters than the brain and is often referred to as the second brain, it makes perfect sense to me that GAPS and SCD (also used by those w/Autism) can see their Autistic behaviors dramatically diminish.

What you can eat: eggs, meat, fish, nuts, fruits, vegetables, fermented foods, dairy, recommended supplements (containing probiotics, essential fatty acids like cod liver oil, vitamin A, digestive enzymes). It also recommends detoxing the body.

What you can’t eat: all grains, refined sugar, processed food, starch.

Official website: http://gapsdiet.org/

The Maker’s Diet

Jordan Rubin, owner of the supplement company Garden of Life, used the SCD early in his healing journey. There’s dispute on whether he was really healed from it exclusively or not. He states in Heal Thy Patient that he believes it is a good diet, but was too restrictive for him and that he needed special bacterial soil organisms (BSO’s) to fully heal. BSO’s are whole other controversial topic I won’t go into because I haven’t read enough of the research.

The intro phase is very similar to SCD, but afterwards the foods allowed and not are based on references found in the bible and then backed up with numerous studies on grass fed beef vs. grain fed, coconut oil and raw milk vs. pasteurized milk to name a few. Interestingly, another big difference from the above diets is that it recommends food be eaten from organic sources and raw whenever possible.

What you can eat: dairy, traditionally prepared whole grains (soaked), most meats, nuts, fruit and vegetables.

What you can’t eat: processed and pasteurized dairy, most grains like white rice, cereal or unsprouted grains, refined sugar, some meat (pork, shellfish), processed food.

Official Website: http://www.makersdiet.net/


Macrobiotics means “large” (macro) and “life” (bios) and the word itself may have originated from Hippocrates to describe healthy and long-lived people. Macrobiotics has also been described as a lifestyle, including a balanced diet of seasonal foods, supplements and lifestyle behaviors that balance energy.

Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland, a German physician (1762 – 1836) wrote “Makrobiotik, The Art of Prolonging Life” (1797). He was the first to use the term “macrobiotics” in the context of food, health and life force energy. He wrote about how a life force exists in everything and in people it can be weakened and it can be strengthened through external stimuli. To Hufeland, illness could be prevented through proper diet and lifestyle.

In recent times, Macrobiotics has been formalized and popularized by George Ohsawa.

What you can eat: Whole grains, sea vegetables, miso and shoyu soup (fermented), vegetables, beans, fish, seeds, fruits.

What you can’t eat: meat, eggs, dairy, processed foods, refined sugar.

More Info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macrobiotic_diet

Jini’s IBD Remission Diet

Created by Jini Patel Thompson, she designed elemental powders that when mixed with water and oils turns into a liquid shake that is packed full of nutrients and calories. Based on other liquid enteral elemental diets, it aims to provide the body with pre-digested, easy to absorb nutrients. Because the shakes do not need to be digested, they give the intestines a chance to rest and begin the healing process.

What you can eat: AbsorbPlus shakes or homemade version based on key ingredients, bone broth soups, jello.

What you can’t eat: Anything solid, dairy, meat, nuts, fruit, vegetables, refined sugar, grains, processed food.

Official website: http://www.absorbplus.com/

Raw vegan diet

A raw vegan diet allows only raw foods (cooked below 118 F, 48 C) and excludes food of animal origin. The idea is that the food in raw or lightly cooked retains many more enzymes and micronutrients than when fully cooked and therefore is much healthier for people.

What you can eat: grains, nuts, raw vegetables, raw fruit, seeds, oils, herbs, fresh juices.

What you can’t eat: dairy, meat, refined sugar, processed foods.

More info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raw_veganism

Paleolithic diet

In 1975, Gastroenterologist Walter L. Voegtlin suggested a diet based on the eating habits of those living in the Paleolithic era can improve health. He often treated his patients who had Crohn’s, Colitis, and IBS with the Paleo diet. This diet aims to provide the food that pre-agriculture hunter-gatherer humans ate 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago. Advocates of the diet argue that over millions of years our genetics have changed little and our bodies have evolved to digest the foods on an ancestral diet best.

What you can eat: meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, roots, and nuts

What you can’t eat: grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar, and processed oils

More info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleolithic_diet