What is elemental diet?
An elemental diet is a type of liquid diet that provides nutrients in a highly digestible form. It is sometimes used as a short-term treatment for people with digestive disorders, such as inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis and small intestinal bacteria overgrowth (SIBO), to give the digestive tract a rest and allow it to heal.
An elemental diet typically consists of a liquid formula that provides all of the necessary nutrients in a pre-digested form, such as amino acids (the building blocks of protein), glucose (a simple sugar), and fat. The formula is usually taken by mouth in the form of a drink or a shake, and it is typically the only source of nutrition during the course of treatment.
An elemental diet is typically followed for a short period of time, such as two to four weeks, under the supervision of a healthcare provider. It is not intended to be followed long-term, as it may not provide all of the nutrients that the body needs.
An elemental diet may be recommended for people with digestive disorders who are experiencing a flare-up of symptoms or who have not responded to other treatments. It may also be used as a preparation for certain medical procedures, such as a colonoscopy. It is important to work with a healthcare provider to determine whether an elemental diet is appropriate and to develop a personalized plan that meets an individual’s nutritional needs.
Benefits of the elemental diet
Some potential benefits of the elemental diet may include:
- Giving the digestive tract a rest: An elemental diet provides nutrients in a highly digestible form, which means that the digestive system does not have to work as hard to break down and absorb the nutrients. This can give the digestive tract a rest and allow it to heal.
- Reducing inflammation: An elemental diet may help to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract, which can be beneficial for people with inflammatory bowel disease or other digestive disorders.
- Improving nutritional status: An elemental diet can help to improve an individual’s nutritional status by providing all of the necessary nutrients in a concentrated form. This can be particularly beneficial for people who are experiencing malnutrition due to a chronic digestive disorder.
- Easing symptoms: An elemental diet may help to alleviate symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and bloating in people with digestive disorders.
Side effects of the Elemental Diet
Some possible side effects of the elemental diet include:
- Nausea: Some people may experience nausea or vomiting when they first start the elemental diet, especially if they are not used to consuming large amounts of liquid nutrients.
- Diarrhoea: The elemental diet can sometimes cause diarrhoea, especially if the person is not drinking enough fluids or if they are not tolerating the nutrients well.
- Constipation: On the other hand, the elemental diet can also cause constipation if the person is not getting enough fibre or if they are not drinking enough fluids.
- Dehydration: The elemental diet does not provide enough fluids on its own, so it is important for people on the elemental diet to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
- Malnutrition: While the elemental diet provides complete nutrition, it may not provide enough calories to meet a person’s energy needs, especially if they are very active. This can lead to malnutrition if the person is not careful to consume enough calories from other sources.
- Boredom: Some people may find the elemental diet to be monotonous and may become bored with the limited variety of flavours available.
- Social isolation: The elemental diet can be difficult to follow when eating out or socializing with others, as it may require bringing special drinks or supplements with you. There is a risk of feeling socially isolated as a result.
What to keep in mind about the elemental diet
Here are some things to keep in mind about the elemental diet:
- The elemental diet is a liquid diet that consists of pre-digested, liquid protein sources that are easily absorbed by the body. It is typically used as a way to provide nutrition to people who have difficulty absorbing nutrients from solid food.
- The elemental diet should only be used under the supervision of a healthcare professional, as it can be difficult to follow and may not provide enough calories to meet a person’s energy needs.
- It is important to drink plenty of fluids while on the elemental diet to prevent dehydration.
- The elemental diet may cause side effects such as nausea, diarrhoea, constipation, and malnutrition. It is important to speak with a healthcare professional about any potential side effects.
- The elemental diet can be monotonous and may cause feelings of social isolation. It may be helpful to incorporate other sources of nutrition, such as supplements or fortified foods, to add variety to the diet.
- The elemental diet should not be used as a weight loss tool, as it does not provide enough calories to support weight loss.
- The elemental diet should be followed only for a short period of time, as it does not provide all of the nutrients and fibre that the body needs for optimal health. Once the person is able to tolerate solid food again, it is important to gradually transition back to a more varied diet.
The elemental diet is not a standalone treatment for digestive disorders and should be used in conjunction with other treatments, such as medications and lifestyle changes, to manage symptoms and maintain remission.
It is important to work with a healthcare provider to determine whether an elemental diet is appropriate and to develop a personalized plan that meets an individual’s nutritional needs.
Furthermore, you should speak with a healthcare professional before starting the elemental diet to ensure that it is appropriate and to discuss any potential side effects.
See Also: The Atkins Diet