The elemental diet is a strategy growing in popularity to address serious conditions like SIBO, IBS, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and more.
The strategy can also be used to give the immune system a break from food proteins, allow digestive enzyme production to recover, support microbial balance, and spur gut motility over just 1-5 days.
Elemental diets incorporate a liquid shake with full nutrients, amino acids, and electrolytes in their absorbable form without needing further digestive action – giving a much-needed break to the gastrointestinal system.
Some plans fully substitute 100% of calories with liquid elemental shakes, while benefits have also been demonstrated for plans that substitute 50% of calories.
What elemental diets lack, at least in the main formula I use, are the allergens, bloating compounds, and inflammatory compounds in much of our diet.
I think elemental diets are vastly underutilized as a “gut reset” strategy that many of us could benefit from periodically to give our digestive system, microbiome, and immune systems a much-needed rest as I recommend in my 48-Hour Gut Reset.
Formulas have evolved to be good-tasting, much lower in carbohydrates, and with hypoallergenic ingredients.
Some of the smartest food experts in the world, work daily to hijack our evolutionary tastebuds and survival systems for corporate advantages to keep you eating processed foods and itching for the next emotional-eating fix.
Taking a break from these foods can help your hunger and satiety hormones (like ghrelin, leptin, and neuropeptide Y) recover in as little as 48 hours.
Choosing the Best Elemental Diet
The Physician’s Elemental Diet Dextrose-Free by Integrative Therapeutics is now available as a pleasant-tasting, low-carbohydrate elemental diet option. Conventional forms of the elemental diet are poor tasting and high in dextrose, not to mention poor sourcing of ingredients.
Studies range from tube feeding as well to full and half-elemental diet plans where calorie substitution comprises 50% elemental and 50% regular food. What’s amazing is that the benefits are often conserved nearly as strongly with 50% diets as is seen with 100% elemental diet plans.
If 50% implementation of the strategy can yield results equal to or better than medical therapies like corticosteroids, imagine what a full 14-day elemental program or even just a 2-4 day reset may offer…
Specifically, elemental diets have been proven or have preliminary evidence to be clinically useful for IBD, IBS, SIBO, rheumatoid arthritis, and celiac disease over 2-3 week protocols to jumpstart and support healing and remission (4; 5; 6; 7 8; 9; 10; 11; 12; 13; 14; 15; 16).
Shorter durations can be great if you have a gluten or dairy sensitivity (with honorable mentions to soy, corn, tree nuts, and others!), the elemental diet could be seen as an essential item to have ready in your pantry for the next flare-up, cross-contamination, or unexpected restaurant exposure.
From a proactive, wellness standpoint, elemental diets can be a periodic “detox” or “cleanse” strategy that one may enlist to cover their bases to mitigate week-to-week antibody reactions, toxicity, and inflammatory processes.
The half-life of immune antibodies tends to be around 2 months, so it can take 8-10 months of removal of inflammatory triggers to recover. Micro-exposures can still prolong healing time and maintain antibodies in the system.
Short-term elemental diets can jumpstart this recovery without disturbing healthy gut flora – increasingly necessary in the context of modern diets and lifestyles.
Even a 50% elemental diet (50% from the shakes, 50% from food) can be useful to support inflammatory flare-ups (17) – the research is that strong on using this strategy to give the body a break on multiple fronts.
Check out the full details of the elemental diet for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, inflammatory bowel disease, and irritable bowel syndrome, and our 48-Hour Gut Reset program – leveraging the power of the elemental diet as a quick and powerful cleanse.