For a lot of people, one of the most challenging things about the SCD is the lack of allowed beverages. Water is super healthy but it gets boring fast, and for many of us (myself included) sparkling water causes uncomfortable bloating.
There’s not a huge amount of literature out there about what to drink on SCD, which is strange because everything that you put in your body – whether you chew it or swallow it – is going to affect the outcome of this diet and your health in general. And it’s totally reasonable to want to drink other things besides water. Let’s take a look at what you can safely drink on the SCD.
Certain types of weak tea are allowed on the SCD, as long as you don’t add sugar to them. The SCD Wiki says, “Weak tea is permitted on SCD, and can be consumed hot or cold or poured over ice. If desired, sweeten with honey or saccharine, or use a little lemon juice. Do not add sugar, milk or cream.” Please give the Wiki a read. It offers a wealth of useful guidance for tea lovers.
According to the Wiki, teas that are allowed are black, white, ginger, peppermint and spearmint teas. It also mentions that green tea is allowed, but I’ve read conflicting reports about its effect on the gut. Originally, Elaine said, “Green tea has been associated in some studies with the onset of ulcerative colitis and is not allowed on SCD.” However, she later changed her stance, saying that green tea is okay if limited to two cups a day. For those of you who are actually able to chug this ghastly stuff down, I applaud you. I don’t know how you do it! (I do know it’s incredibly healthy though).
Coffee – the shining beacon of hope at the start of every long work day. In modern Western society, many people are hooked on the stuff, and you can’t walk a mile in a city centre without coming across a java stop. No coffee on SCD?! No thanks!
I’ve cut out all coffee for the first 30 days, which is just my own personal choice. I want to allow my gut to just chill as much as possible.
Coffee, however, is allowed on the SCD. But the rule is: No instant coffee (you don’t know what has been added to it) and no decaf (you don’t know what chemicals have been used in the decaffeination process). Use ground coffee and make sure it’s weak. As with tea, do not add any milk of any kind, or any sugar.
You don’t need to be an alcoholic to miss your tipple. After a long day there’s nothing better than a glass of wine (except a glass of wine paired with some dark chocolate), and what’s a wedding, birthday party or celebration without a glass of the sparkly stuff? Boring, that’s what.
Alcohol is an extremely controversial topic when it comes to SCD, as well as health in general. While overdoing it can lead to all sorts of diseases, not least of which is alcoholism, drinking moderate amounts of certain types of alcohol can actually have health benefits.
For example, red wine can help prevent cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer, and it’s full of antioxidants. But moderation is key: No more than a glass a day, or two glasses every few days. Don’t drink all 7 glasses in one day!
When in doubt, I always turn to Jordan and Steve for advice. And they’ve got some amazing insight into alcohol and exactly why you use it at your own risk when you have IBD:
“When you drink alcohol, about 20% of the quantity is immediately absorbed through the stomach walls, [and] the remaining alcohol in the stomach starts to break down with the help of [enzymes called] alcohol dehydrogenase. The stomach contains limited amounts of alcohol dehydrogenase, allowing most of the remaining alcohol to pass through, [and] it is quickly absorbed by the upper portion of the small intestine.
“The digestive tract blood vessels transport the alcohol to the liver, as liver cells are the only body cells that can produce enough of the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase to breakdown the alcohol quickly. Overall, alcohol is given a first class pass through the digestive system and directly to the liver, [and] doesn’t seem like it impacts the digestive tract too bad right? Let’s look a little closer.
“The following points are distilled (pun intended) from my research on how even the smallest amount of alcohol affects the digestion process. See the end of this post for my sources.
- Alcohol damages mucosa cells (special digestive cells lining your GI tract), which leads to less saliva production in the mouth, inflammation of the esophagus, and inflammation of the stomach.
- Alcohol impairs digestive motility (muscle control and contraction), which slows the movement of food through the esophagus and intestines and usually leads to diarrhea.
- Low alcohol content drinks (beer, wine) raise levels of stomach acid which can cause acid reflux and gastritis.
- High alcohol content drinks (distilled) don’t raise stomach acid levels but they are more inflammatory to the mucosa cells, leading to higher amounts of inflammation.
- Lastly, alcohol impairs the stomach acid solution by precipitating (separating) pepsin, the main enzyme responsible for protein digestion, which limits the digestion process as pepsin is activated by hydrochloric acid (main component of stomach acid).”
If you’re sitting there blinking blankly at your screen after all that, you’re not alone. I’ve had to read it several times to grasp it. But the thrust of it is: Alcohol can exacerbate symptoms such as diarrhoea and inflammation, and leave you worse off.
Is it worth the gamble? Well, if you’ve been symptom-free for three months, then you can try it out and assess the impact yourself. Try not to make it a 3-day binge. Just be moderate and see how your body handles it, and common sense tells me that you should take a break between ‘drinking’ days – perhaps limiting it to twice a week.
SCD Legal alcohol
Legal liquor on SCD includes dry wine (white and red), vodka, gin and whiskey. Those in the ‘grey’ area are rum and tequila. Elaine said light rum was okay, but not dark. However, there’s apparently little (or no) literature on tequila.
Illegal alcohol is any booze containing sugars, grains and yeast (which is illegal), like sweet wines, Passover wine, brandy, beer and cordials.
A note about fizzy drinks
We know that sugar-laden fizzy drinks are completely forbidden, so don’t even think about those. But what about diet drinks, without sugar?
This depends on your tolerance to carbonated drinks, and even if you can tolerate them, Elaine cautions that you should limit your intake of aspartame-sweetened drinks to ONE per week. Many people find it strange that she sanctions the use of this artificial sweetener at all, but it is legal on the SCD.
For me, personally, I will not touch carbonated drinks. No no, this is not some high horsey-type moral issue. Anyway, there are no high horses on SCD 😉 Before my diagnosis, I was basically addicted to diet drinks. I easily drank a litre of diet Coke (or similar) each day, and if I stayed at home all day, or went out for drinks with friends, that amount could easily double.
It caused severe, severe discomfort and endless trouble for me. And I knew it! Subconsciously – even consciously – I knew it was causing me real problems. But it was only when my nutritionalist took a look at my food diary and ordered me to cut down that I realised it needed to go. That, and the night I steadily felt my belly grow more and more distended as I sat talking to friends and drinking my diet drinks. That night, I had to unbutton my looser jeans as I drove home. I couldn’t deny the reality any more.
I don’t know if you can tolerate carbonated drinks and the only way for you to know is to test them yourself. But if you can only have one a week anyway, is it even worth it?
As with anything you consume on SCD, the rule is: Organic, no added sugar, no preservatives and not processed! That means that you have to be very careful about the types of ready-made drinks you buy. You can also make a whole lot of awesome drinks at home without needing too many fancy tools, such as:
- Fruit juices
- Vegetable juices
- Homemade lemonade, ginger ale and ‘sodas’
- Sparkling water
- Sports drinks
If you’re lactose intolerant like me, you won’t be able to enjoy organic smoothies (although you could use dairy-free SCD yogurt. I haven’t figured out how to make it yet). But if you have no problem with dairy, these are a great idea, especially if you use SCD yogurt. Blend together yogurt and organic fruit for a delicious and filling drink. You can also add honey and any spices you know you can handle, like cinnamon or cloves.
Please check out this very informative and helpful link to the SCD beverages Wiki. It provides insight into these drinks and others, including electrolyte drinks and sodas, and also gives some great tips for creating your own smoothies, sodas and legal lemonade.
What am I drinking?
Until 2 hours ago, it had been water only for 19 days. I’ve just had a cup of rooibos (“red bush”) tea – a herbal tea that comes from the indigenous red bush plant here in South Africa. It has some well-documented health benefits thanks to its antioxidants, minerals, anti-spasmodic properties and potential immune system-boosting qualities.
However, I just grabbed a sachet from the kitchen here at work (there was no box so I couldn’t check the ingredients), plonked it in some hot water and drank it. I’m not crazy about the taste of tea with no sugar or milk in it, so I didn’t love it. Plus it made me feel a bit funny and nauseous, so I won’t do that again. Maybe it was all in my head though.
I have, however, ordered some organic carrot juice, apple juice and rooibos and vanilla tea from my local health shop (vanilla is legal). In South Africa, we do have cars, and I don’t have to ride my lion to the shop to collect supplies. But it’s just so much easier to buy online! I hate battling to find parking in town, then fighting through crowds and standing in long queues. So now I patiently (but verrrrrry excitedly) await my beverage delivery!
What are you drinking?