Specific Carbohydrate Diet Interview: Rochel Weiss

Name: Rochel Weiss
Location: Spring Valley, NY
SCD experience: Rochel Weiss runs Digestive Wellness, a store which serves hundreds of people on the SCD diet.

On November 12, 2007, Rochel Weiss spoke about her personal experiences with Crohn's disease and the specific carbohydrate diet. She also shared a few ideas for those just starting out on the SCD diet.

We met at the warehouse where her company packs and ships orders. Their products may be seen at the Digestive Wellness website: www.digestivewellness.com.

How old were you when diagnosed with Crohn's disease?
I was suffering from diarrhea for approximately ten years before I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at the age of 36.
What led you to the diet?
Desperation! A friend heard about the diet on the radio, lent me the book, and highly recommended it. I read the book, and placed it high up on my bookshelf, with a long list of excuses why this diet just won't work for me.

After many attempts, both medically and alternatively, spending thousands of dollars with little or no relief, I reached a desperate point. That's when I made my commitment to give the diet a try.

Armed with Breaking the Vicious Cycle, a couple of recipes from the book, and loads of motivation, I began my diet journey. The beginning was a nightmare! Getting used to different types of foods; nobody to cook for me; going to family affairs, my eyes popping out at the yummy foods, was all a huge challenge.

Despite it all, I persevered. And wow! A miracle occurred! After only three days my diarrhea stopped. It goes without saying that after that, the diet went by itself. It was as if my body was saying to me: "I like this diet; keep it up!"

Since then, I learnt a lot of tricks, which I now share with people considering the diet.

Were you okay after that?
I was doing well for a year and a half. At that point I was undergoing a lot of stress in my personal life; I started experiencing some symptoms again. I was frustrated being on the diet, and not feeling well, so I started cheating.

I didn't eat junk, but added spelt flour, and potatoes to my diet. Obviously, I did not respond very well to these new foods, and trotted along another three years until I developed a severe blockage. I was rushed to the hospital, put on high prednisone and different kinds of antibiotic which caused major side affects. Thank God, these medications got me back on track.

Did you find out what happened that led you to the hospital?
Yes, it seems that at one point I became allergic to almonds.
What did you do next?
Thinking about the future on my hospital bed, I knew I had to get back on the diet faithfully. I just didn't know how, without the main ingredient - almond flour. I picked my hand up to God, and said: "Please, help me. I'm going back on the diet and I've got nothing to eat. I need my [SCD] cake. I need my [SCD] ice cream. I need something, otherwise I can't do it." God responded, and an idea formed in my mind.

Since cashew is the starchiest nut, I came to the conclusion that a cashew cake might be an idea. I didn't know I had cooking creativity. I cooked and baked but never created my own recipes. I mixed together a couple of allowable ingredients, and popped it into the oven. The base of the cake was not almond flour, but cashew butter. I was standing over the oven and waiting for it to flop. To my great surprise it didn't. I took out of the oven the most delicious sponge cake you could ever imagine. [I tried different brands of cashew butter, and had the best results with Yum's brand.]

My body responded to it beautifully. Since I was allergic to almonds, the cashew cake was a lifesaver. The cashew cake has great benefits: It's spongy, it's light, and it's filling! After that I steadily improved. I gained a much needed 40 pounds. I have energy now, and feel great.

What are the tips you'd like to share with people starting the diet?
Most people are successful using the introductory diet in Breaking the Vicious Cycle. Some people need to do some adjustments. If you feel there is a food that doesn't work for you, discontinue it, and try it at a later date.
Can you give an example of what you would say to someone who is starting the diet?
The way of doing it is to get your body to talk to you. Set up a plan for the first week. I'm very fond of chicken soup. I feel it is a life saver. When I left the hospital, that's all I lived on: chicken soup and chicken, with some vegetables from the soup. I found that it gave me the energy I needed. Cook it for two-three hours on a low flame and it will really energize you. I like to refer to chicken soup as penicillin.

Eat it whenever. Eat it every hour. Enjoy the cooked chicken. Eat the carrots and butternut squash from the soup.

Fresh fish is a good idea too. You can cook, bake or grill the fish.

Do you purée the vegetables?
Puréed vegetables are always top priority for those starting out. For those whom puréed vegetables are not an option, make sure the food is soft, and chew it well.

Scrambled eggs could be a problem sometimes, but if you scramble the egg and drop it into the chicken soup when it's at a high boil it works wonderful. It digests completely different. It's very tasty. It gets the taste of the soup. It's an exciting addition to the soup. Ground chicken or ground turkey works well too. Make a meatball mixture, drop some balls into the soup and cook it together with the soup.

Anytime you'd like to try a new food, try one food at a time, and wait 24 to 48 hours watching out for any symptoms. If there are no symptoms, try something else. I find this fantastic. It works beautiful.

And most people respond to the diet?
99% respond beautifully. More with Crohn's than ulcerative colitis. With colitis I know a couple of people where it would not work no matter what they did.
In the SCD community, by word of mouth, it's estimated that 15% of people do not respond. What do you think is happening with those people?
If the symptoms don't clear up, they either need to [consult their doctor regarding] medication to go along with the diet, or they need to modify their introductory diet even more. Some examples would include omitting dairy, almond flour, juices, and the like. In earlier stages, the body may not tolerate certain foods, even if they are allowed on the SCD.
By eating the wrong food even though it's "SCD-legal", do you mean people who might eat too much of one thing, like having 10 peanut butter cookies a day?
That's it. Peanut butter is a good example. Don't start with peanut butter. It's made for those who are at an advanced stage of the diet.
Some people also seem to overdose on almond flour goods.
Some people eat almond flour goods as their main food, which can be problematic. The important thing is to eat meals such as chicken, fish, soup, banana, avocado, cooked or baked apples, and selected cooked vegetables. Use almond flour baked goods as a snack in between meals.

For those starting the diet with a lot of diarrhea, I advise to work with cashew butter instead of almond flour. Cashew butter is much more binding.

We have a delicious cashew ice cream recipe which is wonderful. It has the unflavored, natural gelatin. It's very high in nutrition and calories, and it's very soothing on the stomach. I highly recommend that.

What do you say to people that have very busy work schedules and want to try this diet? Do you think most people need support?
It's most important to have plenty of food with you, and plenty of food waiting for you when you come home. Work in advance. Stock your freezer on your day off.

Some food ideas to take along to work would include: cold chicken patties, homemade applesauce, banana, cake, cookies, etc. You can bring along some soup in a thermos too.

Do you have any other advice for people starting the diet?
The introductory diet is very important. I find that the way you eat your food is very crucial as well. Eat small meals frequently throughout the day, and never fill yourself all the way.

I made a list of some important rules for people that I'll share with you.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about the diet but is scared?
People are scared by the thought of doing it for two years. Tell yourself I'm doing it for two weeks. If two weeks is still scary, then try one week. When people start getting a positive response, it just goes by itself.
On your tip sheet you advise walking.
The walking is very important. I myself walk at 7 o' clock each morning for 40 minutes. I find it really enhances your mental and physical health. It gets your muscles and digestive system working properly. It actually enhances the healing process. Don't push yourself. Listen to your body. Start with five minutes a day, gradually increasing it to 30-40 minutes. Think about joining a yoga exercise class, which is a great bonus too. Doing exercise will also help you keep a positive outlook to life.
Have you met with people using the diet for autism?
A large percentage of the orders we receive are for autistic kids. In terms of personal experience, I had the privilege of watching an autistic child before and after the diet. If I hadn't seen it myself, I wouldn't believe it. When he started out, he had no eye contact, and no interaction whatsoever. After a couple of months on SCD, he would ask questions, had excellent eye contact, and acted almost perfect. He in fact was switched from a special school to a regular school (his new school did not know he's a special child). I was truly amazed by the results!
Tell me more about the shop.
Our goal is to make the SCD diet the most pleasurable experience as possible, by offering delicious baked goods, ingredients, snacks, drinks, and hard to find SCD legal items.
How many people are working for the shop?
Right now it's a family shop. It's my husband David, my daughter Esther, and myself, Rochel.
You're involved with a lot of SCD work.
I'm [laughing] over my head. We're always looking for new ideas, trying new recipes, and looking for different ways to enhance the diet. This keeps me occupied full time along with being a busy mom.
This information will help a lot of people. Thank you for your time.
DigestiveWellness.com, as well as the other SCD websites are a continued extension of Elaine's fantastic work. She spent endless hours giving of herself, of her time, and of her expertise helping to heal as many people as she could possibly manage.
Note: the interviewer received one sample pack of baked goods as well as a delicious cashew cake. The sample pack barely lasted for the 20 minute drive back to a friend's house:)