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Specific carbohydrate diet: irritable bowel syndrome patient case study

Darla D. O'Dwyer (School of Human Sciences, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas, USA)
Ray L. Darville (Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas, USA)

Nutrition & Food Science

ISSN: 0034-6659

Article publication date: 9 November 2015




The purpose of this paper was to investigate the impact of specific carbohydrate restriction (polysaccharides and disaccharides) in the form of the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD) in treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).


A female patient diagnosed with diarrhea predominant IBS was assigned to the SCD for six months. The diet occurred in phases and was advanced based on the individual’s tolerance level under the guidance of a registered dietitian. Quality of life was measured by a pre- and post-IBS severity score questionnaire. Gastrointestinal symptoms were measured by self-assessment of IBS symptoms using a seven-point Likert-like scale, with −3 = substantially worse to +3 = substantially better. Probiotics were consumed throughout the duration of the study.


The quality of life severity score significantly improved from a severity of 315 (with 500 being the most severe) to 15. The initial symptoms from the first day on the diet compared to the total period for bloating, abdominal pain/discomfort, flatulence/wind, diarrhea, bowel urgency, stool consistency, stool frequency, energy levels, incomplete evacuation and abdominal rumbling were improved significantly (p < 0.0005). The SCD diet significantly improved the quality of life and IBS symptoms in a female patient with IBS-diarrhea.


This study is the first of its kind to evaluate the efficacy of the SCD to treat IBS. The SCD should be considered a therapeutic option to treating IBS after fermentable carbohydrate restriction.



The authors are very grateful to the patient volunteer who took part in the study as well as Dr Carl Jones, a gastroenterologist, who referred the patient and helped with the design of the study. This study was conducted under a grant from the Stephen F. Austin State University Research Enhancement Program. The study was approved by Stephen F. Austin State University Institutional Review Board (Case No. AY2013-1183).


O'Dwyer, D.D. and Darville, R.L. (2015), "Specific carbohydrate diet: irritable bowel syndrome patient case study", Nutrition & Food Science, Vol. 45 No. 6, pp. 859-872.



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