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Globe and Mail
Thursday March 2, 2006

Elaine Gottschall

Author, nutritional biochemist, mother, grandmother. Born Aug. 18, 1921, in Pittsburgh. Died Sept. 5, 2005, in Cobourg, Ont., of cancer, aged 84.

From the age of 47 when she entered university to the day she died at 84, Elaine worked tirelessly to help those suffering from diseases such as ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome and, more recently, autism.

One e-mail of condolence read: “Elaine was one of those rare individuals who, having found her way through her own personal crisis in the form of her young daughter's ulcerative colitis, felt compelled to help those who are still suffering.”

The messages of condolence often included photographs of now-recovered children: a son receiving his master's degree after three years on Elaine's Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), a young woman on her wedding day or a healthy six-year-old. None of this would have been possible without Elaine's work, each note repeated.

Initially, Elaine's mission had been to figure out what had happened to her own family: how her daughter, after being treated by so many doctors yet so near death, could have been cured by diet.

As Elaine's academic research became more advanced, so did her effort to understand the complex relationship between food and the human body. She never ceased working. At times she became discouraged and emotionally drained, but she would always pick herself up to fight on. Elaine was angry. Too many people were suffering needlessly when the answers were so simple.

Elaine wrote her first book, Food and the Gut Reaction, in 1987. She was in her mid-50s when she received her master's degree from the University of Western Ontario and was about to start a PhD, but she decided she wanted people to know what she had found.

The subject of her research, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet that had cured her younger daughter of ulcerative colitis when she was 8, was not Elaine's invention. It was the diet of Dr. Sidney Valentine Haas of New York. Her daughter was grown up, living life free of the disease that had nearly killed her and had almost destroyed the entire family. So for Elaine, getting the message out was urgent.

Shortly after the book's release, Elaine appeared on television. Hours later, Food and the Gut Reaction was flying off the shelves from the basement of the Kirkton, Ont., farmhouse where Elaine and husband, Herb, had set up a publishing company. As the years went by, Elaine lectured across North America and abroad, pursuing her academic research. She expanded the book to explain the neurological effects of intestinal disease. Renamed Breaking the Vicious Cycle, the book has sold more than one million copies and been translated into seven languages. Through Internet sites and on-line support groups, thousands of people worldwide have been helped by the SCD.

One of the most important breakthroughs Elaine made in recent years was the diet's beneficial effect on autism. An Internet website devoted to explaining the diet and autism has helped thousands of parents who would never have heard about Elaine's work. As one mother of an autistic child wrote, “When you see them emerge -- the true child -- with a loving personality, like an iridescent butterfly breaking out of its cocoon - well, that's why we all persevere.”

Elaine died without realizing the one achievement that could have helped hundreds of thousands of more people: the diet's acceptance by the mainstream medical community. For those of us who have been helped or cured, we believe that day will come.

Judy is Elaine's younger daughter who was cured by the SCD.

Breaking the Vicious Cycle, by Elaine Gottschall, BA, M.Sc.
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