What is an Elemental Diet?
An elemental diet, is also known as a ‘bowel reset’ diet.
It’s not what you would call a diet, really, because it’s actually a short-term protocol during which time, you don’t eat food.
The idea of this elemental protocol is to literally starve the bad bacteria in your small intestine. When you do that, you take a special liquid formula which has been formulated for tube feeding patients. This liquid formula is made up of predigested nutrients.
These nutrients are easily assimilated into the body and bacteria can’t feed off them to proliferate.
Actually the Elemental diet may be used to treat Crohn’s Disease and other challenging digestive conditions. Again, by taking the liquid Elemental Diet in place of eating, it promotes the GI tract to start repairing.
How Does an Elemental Diet Treat SIBO?
The bacteria in the small intestines live mainly off of particular carbohydrates that we ingest. This means that when you’re eating these carbs that are fermentable sugars, you not only feeding yourself, you’re feeding the bad bacteria as well!
This isn’t a life sentence. It doesn’t mean you won’t be able to ever eat carbs. You want a ‘healthy’ level of bacteria in your gut. It’s only a problem when you’ve got too many of certain carbs in your gut. This causes the bacteria to proliferate out of control.
This is what causes SIBO, and it turn, can result in other more serious conditions like leaky gut. We know that some carbs are a lot worse than others, and there are a lot of reasons why you might have excess carbs in your small intestine.
When you are on an Elemental Diet, you don’t eat, you only take a liquid formula which has all the predigested nutrients you need that are absorbed directly into your bloodstream which means that bacteria can’t use them for food. This way the bacteria don’t get food and die off.
Is the Elemental Diet Effective?
An elemental diet is effective.
In one study, 93 subjects with IBS and SIBO diagnosed with a high lactulose breath test used an elemental diet.
After 15 days, 80% of them had negative breath tests.
According to RD Kelsey Marksteiner, the elemental diet has a cure rate of 80-85% for SIBO.
In comparison, the cure rate for use of antibiotics for SIBO is as low as 40%.
Another consideration is that it may also help cure some underlying causes of SIBO because your gut is able to rest and heal itself while on the elemental diet.
Thus may even reduce the possibility of recurrence of SIBO.
What good and bad about the Elemental Diet?
The primary good news is that the elemental diet for SIBO is an effective treatment.
The bad news is that doing an elemental diet is not a pleasant experience.
You don’t have any solid food for 2 weeks and the powders don’t taste good.
You need to make some serious lifestyle changes while doing it.
Another consideration is cost.
There is one excellent natural source from Integrative Therapeutics. It has to be ordered by a health care practitioner.
We can do it for you. Call toll free 877-240-7528 to place your order.
Read more about Integrative Therapeutic’s Information on the Elemental Diet.
You can save money by making your own elemental formulas. However, even homemade elemental formulas are pricy when you buy all the nutrients individually. That can be anywhere between $300-$400 for 2 weeks.
4 Good reasons for doing the elemental diet for SIBO
1 You’ve tried using medical antibiotics or herbal anti-bacterial for SIBO but haven’t had success.
2 Your SIBO condition is severe i.e. the methane and/or hydrogen numbers are over 80 at any point in the 3 hour test.
3 Not only do you have SIBO, but other inflammatory gut problems like Crohn’s or IBS
4 You feel determined and ready for the extreme measure of going without food. That’s 2-3 weeks for it to be effective.
Elemental Diet Options
You’ve got a few options when it comes to the elemental diet for SIBO: you can do a homemade formula or buy ready-made formula from Integrative Therapeutics or Vivonex. Many prefer the homemade as its easier to mix up. You can do it 1 time per day and then put it into 3 jars and refrigerate.
Their formula is specifically formulated to contain free amino acids, partially hydrolyzed carbohydrate and medium chain triglycerides to aid in their absorption from the GI lumen.
- Designed to maintain nutritional sustenance as a sole source of nutrition for up to four weeks.
- Produced as a strictly hypoallergenic formula, free from intact protein, polypeptides, corn, gluten, wheat, soy, and dairy.
- Formulated with a well-tolerated flavor for improved patient adherence.
It is definitely pricy at about $1000 for two weeks, but it’s the easiest. You just add water and take it. This formula has also actually been studied and proven effective. You can easily buy Vivonex Plus online here. You will need to buy enough for about 6 packets per day.
CAUTION: Vivonex Plus contains some not-ideal ingredients like corn, which is contraindicated in SIBO so it could still feed the bacteria some, slowing down the die-off procedurre. It is also high carb and low fat, so not ideal for everyone.
Vivonex taste is a huge challenge. People suggest adding Crystal Light, whihc contains a lot of ‘undesirable’ ingredients like soy, dyes, artificial sweeteners, etc. However, some choose this option so as to prioritize starving the bacteria for a short treatment time.
Dosage: 1800 calories per day
Use 6 packets per day.
Double up if need be – 2 packets, 3 times a day or
6 packets separately.
Homemade Elemental Formula:
This way you are able to choose each ingredient individually. Generally, they are a lot cleaner. You can also adjust the amount of carbs and fats a bit to meet your needs.
You buy each ingredient separately and mix them together each day. The oil doesn’t mix well so this can be taken separately.
Recipes for Homemade Elemental Formula
These recipes come from Dr. Siebecker’s website siboinfo.com
There are two options: high fat/low carb and low fat/high carb.
Ingredients (for 2 weeks)
- 2.2lbs Jo Mar Labs Amino Acids (Original, No-MSM)
- 10lbs Dextrose
- Half gallon high-quality oil: organic coconut oil and organic olive oil is a good combination. You can also use cod liver oil or macadamia oil. Make sure it is great quality.
- 1 bottle Pure Encapsulations Nutrient 950 Multivitamin
- Unrefined Celtic Sea Salt
- Optional flavorings e.g. vanilla in small amounts per meal.
Low Carb/High Fat Option:
These instructions are per dose/meal.
If you mix everything up at the start or end of the day, then multiply everything by 3 and then divide it into 3 cups to place in the refrigerator.
2 tbsp Jo Mar amino acids (24 grams)
3.5-5 tbsp dextrose (3.5T = 35g carbs, 5T = 50g carbs)
3-3.5 tbsp oil (3T = 41g fat, 3.5T = 49g fat)*
2 capsules of the Pure Encapsulations multivitamin, emptied out
¼ to ½ tsp salt
*If using higher dextrose amount, use lower oil amount, or use higher oil amount if using lower dextrose amount.
Low Fat/High Carb Option:
These instructions are per dose/meal.
If you mix everything up at the start/end of the day, then multiply everything by 3 and then divide it into 3 cups to place in the refrigerator.
- 2 tbsp + 1 tsp Jo Mar amino acids (28 grams)
- 2/3 cup dextrose (106g carbs)
- 1 tsp oil (4.6g fat)
- 2 capsules of the Pure Encapsulations multivitamin, emptied out
- ¼ to ½ tsp salt
Instructions on how to take the Elemental Diet Powder
- Mix everything together in a blender with water.
- You may use as much or little water as you want to get a desired thickness.
You may add ice as well.
- Don’t use juice, milk or any other liquid but water to blend the ingredients.
- Another way is to take each of the ingredients individually.
- It’s best to sip it throughout the day, even if it doesn’t taste very good.
- Adding small amounts of vanilla extract as flavorings is optional.
Dosage: 200- calories per day
3 x per day
2-3 weeks to be effective