I want to talk about my experience doing one of the toughest SIBO treatments I did – but also the most effective…
… the ELEMENTAL DIET!
The elemental diet isn’t easy, and yet a lot of people who do it wish they had done it sooner. It is known to be the most effective treatment for SIBO/IMO.
Fun fact: The elemental diet was actually developed in the 1950s by NASA! They needed to create absorbable nutrition while limiting fecal matter for their astronauts. It was later used in the 1970s as a bowel rest diet for those who couldn’t eat, digest, or absorb nutrients from food. The elemental diet is now used in a wide variety of medical treatment, including SIBO, IBS, Eosinophilic Esophagitis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Cystic Fibrosis, Rosacea, AIDS, and cancer.
So what is the elemental diet?
The elemental diet consists of a liquid medical shakes designed to provide “pre-digested” nutrients that are easily absorbed by the body, requiring minimal digestive effort. They are hypoallergenic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, safe and effective.
This isn’t a regular protein powder, though! Elemental shakes consist of the simplest form of hydrolyzed protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
The proteins in the Elemental diet are broken down into the most elemental form – amino acids. The carbohydrates in the Elemental diet are fully digested, and so it essentially contains no fiber – which can be very helpful as a meal replacement, break, or reset for sensitive guts.
The Elemental Diet is the only diet that can actually resolve SIBO completely, and it’s one of the most effective treatments we have available. This is because elemental diets starve bacterial and fungal overgrowths! They give your gut a chance to rest and repair and reduce exposure to irritants that can make SIBO/IMO and IBS worse.⠀
I think of it as eating all your nutrients “pre-digested” to both completely eradicate bacteria (which feast on undigested carbs) and give your gut a much-needed break.
Yes. This diet is 100% a “heavy lift” SIBO treatment.
A lot of people ask me: am I going to be hungry? Will I be cranky? Will I lose weight? Will I gain it? Is it expensive? Will it be weird only drinking a shake in social situations?
Although the answers will be different for everyone, here are a few tips from my experience:
1. Yes – you’ll miss food. As humans, we’re really attached to food as a source of pleasure. However, in my opinion, you’d rather do hard once and get results than half-commit to your treatment, and a few weeks goes by faster than you’d think.
2. Use essential oils to distract your senses! Fantasizing about that orange juice you normally gulp in the morning? Dot some citrus essential oils under your nose and on your wrists to keep yourself distracted and go about your day.
3. SIP IT! When I first started the elemental diet, I would gulp it down like a meal whenever it was time to eat. However, one of my practitioners advised to instead carry in with me throughout the day and sip it slowly. This helped me to stay full all day and keep my blood sugar up during the treatment.
4. Worried about cost? There are two things to consider. First, you won’t be purchasing food – so buying a premade elemental diet shake mix should actually prove much cheaper. Second, Dr. Allison Siebecker has created a homemade version – if buying the ingredients and making it yourself is more cost-effective and interesting to you.
4. Consider taking Dr. Roy and Debbie’s masterclass on the elemental diet (more information below). These two are experts and have helped hundreds of people complete the treatment – they’ve NEVER had someone not complete it while following their advice or working with them. They do a lot of psychological preparation so that the actual diet feels easy.
While completing the elemental diet doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll resolve your SIBO – again, it’s the most effective treatment and not trying it is only reducing your chances of feeling better.
Another question I get asked most often by SIBO/IMO patients who are interested in the elemental diet is what type of elemental powder they should buy. My reply: there’s no one-size-fits-all answer!
Elemental shakes can differ from one another in their protein, fat, carbohydrate, and nutrient contents. They can also be elemental or semi-elemental. Elemental shakes contain proteins that are already fully digested, while semi-elemental shakes are partially digested proteins, short chain peptides like whey protein, and free form aminos. You can tell the difference because semi-elemental will have proteins in their ingredient list like this:
When choosing your elemental shake, you should consider your food sensitivities, SIBO, and weight loss/gain goals.
Shivan, I’m interested… but how long will I have to drink these shakes?
There are three different ways to take on an elemental diet. Depending on your condition, you can do a 3-5 day elemental diet for short-term bowel rest, a 1-4 week elemental diet for deep healing and bowel rest, or a long-term, ongoing elemental diet that replaces half of your daily calories with shakes.
#1 Gut Friendly Meal Replacement
You can use the Elemental Diet to replace any meal with highly digestible nutrients and give the gut a break. If you’ve been looking for SIBO-friendly protein powder or meal replacement shake, this is it!
Use as a gut-healing meal replacement shake. Elemental Heal can be safely used long term to replace 1-2 meals per day. It’s a complete meal replacement but also predigested, giving your gut a chance to rest and heal.
#2 Gut Reset: 3-5 Days
This is an easy way to stop a flare of gut symptoms and give your gut a rest. Suggested use is to replace all meals and snacks with Elemental Diet for 2-4 days.
#3 SIBO Healing: 1-4 Weeks
When used for 1-4 weeks, the Elemental Diet can resolve even stubborn SIBO cases. Suggested use is 1-4 weeks of replacing all meals and snacks with Elemental Diet.
In SIBO patients, this type of elemental diet treatment is good for high gas levels and helps avoid multiple rounds of antibiotics.
Elemental diet benefits include bowel rest, passive absorption of nutrients, decreased inflammation, and reduced bacterial populations. When Dr. Mark Pimental studied the diet in SIBO patients, 2 weeks was 80% effective at eradicating bacterial overgrowth and 3 weeks was 85% effective, and 65% of people experienced an improvement in IBS symptoms.
I do know that drinking shakes for an extended period of time might not sound like the most fun idea in the world.
However, implementing the elemental diet into your treatment for a few days to a few weeks could drastically improve or even resolve your SIBO completely. It was a waste of my time and energy not to try it sooner – trying it now may save you from more months (or years!) of SIBO/IMO symptoms.
There’s even a 3-step method that makes it extremely easy to prepare for and complete the elemental diet effectively:
- 1. Calculate calories
- 2. Order shakes and supplies
- 3. Plan your schedule
- 4. Addictive foods
- 5. Understand challenges
- 6. Organize support
- 7. Start/stop supplements
- 1. Start on a day off
- 2. Drink slowly
- 3. 5x per day
- 4. 3-Day hump
- 5. Troubleshoot symptoms
- 6. Mindset
- 7. SIBO re-test
- 1. Half/partial elemental diet
- 2. Transition diet
- 3. Assess your symptoms
- 4. Expectations
- 5. Follow up SIBO Results
- 6. Beyond the elemental diet
If you think you’re ready to try the elemental diet and would like to learn more about what these steps entail, you’re in luck!
Dr. Siebecker and I are co-hosted Dr. Roy and Debbie Steinbock for a masterclass and LIVE Q&A: Using an Elemental Diet for SIBO, IMO, IBD & More.
- What is an Elemental Diet?
- Elemental shake options and how to choose which one is best
- The many benefits of an Elemental Diet for SIBO, IBD and more
- How to – overview of our 3-step process for Elemental Diet success
- Case studies: success for hydrogen, methane, and hydrogen sulfide SIBO
Here’s a 2 minute preview of the class:
When you purchase the masterclass, you also get a recorded Q&A with Dr. Roy and Debbie Steinbock in which members of the community asked their questions live.
Interested in more ways to take control of your gut health? Dr. Hawrelak’s masterclass goes hand in hand with Using an Elemental Diet for SIBO, IMO, IBD & More with Dr. Roy & Debbie Steinbock. In his class, he discusses constipation causes and treatments using natural foods, probiotics, prebiotics, and what to test for when treatments don’t work or make things worse (hint: you might have SIBO/IMO).
Click here to enroll in one or both masterclasses.