Is gas, bloating, constipation, aching, eczema, or diarrhea something that you struggle with? If it is, you’re among millions. Sometimes these ailments are isolated incidents, other times it could be symptomatic of a much larger intestinal issue. If you fall into the second category, you should consider the Elemental Diet.
What is the Elemental Diet?
The Elemental Diet has been used by doctors to alleviate gastrointestinal issues since the 1940s. The “elemental” part of the diet is just that; it brings what you eat back to the basics through carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in the form of broken-down macronutrients.
As part of the diet, you consume these in a liquid or powdered formula, either with other liquids or alongside specific foods. The formula, which often comes in packets, works well because the ingredients are predigested. This makes it much easier for your stomach to handle since everything is in its most basic form. When reading the label, some of the main ingredients that you’ll encounter include medium-chain fatty acids, amino acids, simple carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins.
The Elemental Diet is effective because it supplies you with primary essential nutrients that your body couldn’t metabolize in a non-predigested state and eventually restores your digestive health. It can also help you discover what your food sensitivities are.
The way in which it does this is if you elect to start the diet on a very strict meal plan, and then slowly expand the foods you consume, you’ll be able to identify which of the newly introduced foods causes an allergic reaction in you.
Elemental Diet Benefits
Now you know the basics of the Elemental Diet, but what other benefits are there for you along the way? After all, this diet is an aggressive approach to improve your health and diets, in general, are not easy feats. They must be worth it if you’re going to make major lifestyle changes. When looking at the list below, it’s safe to say that you’ll be glad if the Elemental Diet fosters these side effects in you.
Benefits of the Elemental Diet include the following:
1. Alleviates intestinal inflammation
2. Delivers easily absorbable nutrients
3. Reverses poor calorie intake
4. Supplies nutrient dense content during “catabolic states”
5. Allows you to still obtain nutrients during highly limited diets
6. Promotes a healthier lifestyle
7. Lowers risks for cancer and disease
Who Should Try the Elemental Diet?
The Elemental Diet is for people who have stressed or compromised digestive systems. Crohn’s disease, the Leaky Gut Syndrome, Cystic Fibrosis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) are common conditions that the Elemental Diet is often prescribed for.
It’s also appealing for people with basic food allergies, chronic inflammation, and for those seeking alternatives to herbal and prescription medications.
You might only know your symptoms and have not have diagnosed them so officially. If that’s the case, see if these other common ailments that the diet is said to help are something that you experience.
- Brain Fog
- Fatigue (even with 8+ hours of sleep)
- Autoimmune reactions
- Eczema or psoriasis
- Random aches and pains
- Weight issues
- Headaches and migraines
- Joint discomfort
These conditions are red flags that you’re lacking key nutrients and inflicting excess stress on your digestive system by eating foods that your body cannot tolerate easily. Alternatively, it can also stem from you having a genetic propensity for malabsorption or are experiencing a side effect to medication. Either way, this diet might help.
Most times adults of all ages can try the Elemental Diet. After consulting with a pediatrician, children and infants can be suited for it as well.
How to Do the Elemental Diet?
People on the Elemental Diet will either only consume the Elemental Diet formulas with liquids or they will supplement it with certain foods. The diet can last for several weeks, although you might want to stay on it longer depending on how severe your conditions are and how cured you’d like to feel by the end of it. Since the diet should be used under a physician’s supervision, he or she will determine if you should be on a whole or semi-modified diet.
Generally, the worse your condition is, the more likely you’ll be to have to begin the diet by exclusively drinking the formula. In most cases, this stage only lasts for a brief time before you can slowly incorporate whole foods back in.
If you’re wondering where to get the formula, there are many companies that sell it online. The con is that it is somewhat expensive, but so is poor health for the rest of your life. Read reviews on the quality and side effects of each brand. Different companies make different formulas.
When you first start the Elemental Diet, you might experience severe die-off as your body eliminates toxins and readjusts. This is normal and shouldn’t last longer than a week. It is a good idea to start it on a weekend so that you can avoid initial discomfort at work. Side effects that you can expect during this die-off period include headaches, cramps, constipation, aches, bad breath, and heightened aggravation of the very symptoms that you’re trying to cure.
How Long Does the Elemental Diet Last?
There is no exact number of days to be on it; the duration is individualized. A suggested barometer for knowing when to stop is when you feel better. Assess if your symptoms are on the mend or cured. If they’re cured, you can slowly wean off the diet or stop it.
As a word of caution, if you abruptly stop taking the formula and go back to your old diet, your symptoms might flare up again. The recommendation is to wean off or keep some version of the healthier foods that you were having during the diet in your food repertoire. It’s even better if you can avoid the foods on the do not eat list as much as possible.
What Can I Eat on the Elemental Diet?
The modified diet tries to eliminate or lower the amounts of foods eaten with lectins, histamine, and salicylates, as many people who this diet would be helpful to are sensitive to these. What this translates to is eating foods like cooked vegetables, proteins, healthy fats, and small amounts of fruit.
Elemental Diet Foods to Eat and Recipe Ingredients
Unfortunately, elemental formulas aren’t known for their taste. It is much easier to have with food. Mix it into smoothies with coconut oil/milk and bone broth or pea protein powder. Add it to pureed soups with oil, stock, herbs, and vegetables. If eggs aren’t a problem for you, then you can have it in an omelet. Or eat it with vegetables and your chosen protein. It’s also best to buy all organic foods.
Some people don’t buy the formula and do a homemade Elemental Diet version instead. The preference is up to you. In the long run it might be cheaper to use your own ingredients to make the formula; however, it’s often a matter of the time it takes to do so. Common ingredients and dosages of homemade options that SIBO Survivor recommends are below. They’re often added to shakes.
- 1000 mg of L-Glutamine
- 400 IU Vitamin E
- 500 mg of Vitamin C
- 1 capsule multivitamin
- 50 grams non-GMO maltodextrin or dextrose (tapioca maltodextrin)
- 25 grams of pure, vegan protein
Note that the exact dosages of the ingredients should vary by person.
Foods to Avoid on the Elemental Diet
The common foods to avoid might seem like a harsh list at first, but once you get used to not eating these, it gets a lot easier.
Grains, Tree nuts, Fried foods, Dairy, Eggs, Soy, Corn, Gluten, Hydrogenated fats, Added sugar, Shellfish, Artificial sweeteners, Alcohol, Caffeine, Synthetic ingredients
The best route to success is planning your meals ahead of time. If you take one day a week to shop and cook, so that you’re prepared for the week, that could make the difference between success and failure.
The Elemental Diet helps reset your digestive system by giving it a break from the foods that irritate it, as well as ensuring that you’re consuming essential nutrients that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to digest. To do the diet you eat or drink an easy-to-consume formula of predigest macronutrients.
You either drink it along with liquids or go on a semi-Elemental Diet by having it with solid foods. If you follow it correctly, you could see large improvements in your health. As a strict diet, it only lasts about two to four weeks, but can be shorter or longer depending on your symptoms and doctor’s advice.
If you think that you can benefit from the Elemental Diet, speak to a healthcare professional. Your health is always a priority, so it’s worth looking into. Who knows, it might be that one thing you haven’t tried that has secretly been the cure all along.
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