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Yesterday I wrote a detailed explanation about the condition I suffer from called SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). That post was the result of over 3 years of research and if you want to learn more please do check out part one of this two part series:
My SIBO Story (part 1) - What is SIBO & How it has Effected Me
Today I want to comprehensively cover the treatment that I am currently three days into called the physicians elemental diet. This is not a traditional diet that anyone would recognize, it's a medically formulated powdered diet of predigested food. I covered what it entails in brief in the previous post.
The elemental diet - this is a diet that consists of macronutrients broken down into their elemental state requiring little to no digestive functionality which allows time for the gut to rest and starves the bacteria. The nutritional make up of most elemental formulas are 14-18% of calories from protein (in the form of amino acids), 42-76% calories from carbohydrate (in the form of monosaccharaides), 6-43% of calories from fat (in the form of fatty acids) and a full spectrum of vitamins/minerals.
I will expand further on this with my understanding of how it works and why it has 80% success rates with a two week course and 88% success rates with a three week course (which I am undertaking). Also, I will cover the side effects that you might experience while on the diet and my plans/thoughts about transitioning off this extreme (no solid food) diet to try and balance/acclimatize the digestive system back to a healthy, functional state.
What is an elemental diet and how does it work?
A temporary diet (usually for 2-3 weeks), during which no food is consumed, and only pre-digested nutrients are consumed in the form of a drink. The mixture can be a medically formulated elemental powder or made at home using special ingredients purchased on the internet.
When used properly it has an 80-84% success rate eradicating SIBO. Gas levels should reduce within 2-3 weeks, which can help reduce or eliminate the need to use prescription or herbal antibiotics.
- The goal of the elemental diet is to provide the body with pre-digested nutrients so that the digestive tract has to do very little work.
- When the nutrients reach the small intestine, they are already in a form that is absorbed easily, so they can be quickly taken up by the gut and into the bloodstream to nourish the body.
- The idea is that when the pre-digested nutrients reach the small intestine, they get absorbed so quickly that any bacteria in the small intestine (as is the case with SIBO) won't have a chance to feed.
- This should quickly reduce any symptoms of bloating if SIBO is the cause, as there will be nothing for the bacteria to ferment which is why hydrogen/methane is created.
So basically, the elemental diet starves the bacteria in the small intestine, while providing a rest for inflamed or injured bowels as the food needs little to no digestion.
My Food for the Next 21 Days
Side effects on the elemental diet?
I've been on the diet for two and a half days now and I can attest to the fact it is hard to adjust to not eating. I'm feeling a bit overly emotional and irritable. Also, general background cravings for proper food and last night I dreamed about coffee 😂
From what I've read the solution is to try to stay active with friends and family during this time to keep your mind occupied. This is a little difficult as I've also been experiencing severe fatigue before and during this diet.
As the formula is concentrated, it can cause cramping if consumed too quickly in large doses. I haven't really felt this effect but I am actively trying to drink the solution slowly and take a full 60 minutes to consume it.
As no fiber is being consumed, constipation is likely. If this becomes a problem, a prokinetic supplement can be taken (ginger is a natural prokinetic and ginger tea is an option if constipation causes an issue).
Temporary die-off reactions occur when bacteria or yeast are eradicated as the bacteria throws out toxins into the system as they die. This can cause flu-like symptoms, but should resolve within 10 days. I've definitely started to experience this with phlegm, headaches and overall sluggishness above and beyond the fatigue I was already experiencing. A good rule of thumb here, is to sip water throughout the day as the die-off is happening as this will help process the toxins quicker through frequent urination.
You can pass strange smelling diarrhea as the system purges foods that have been fermenting in the guts for a long time as well as toxins that have bound themselves to fungal and bacterial colonies. Trapped food can be a problem with long term cases of SIBO and this also adds to this rather unpleasant symptom. Yeah, I've been experiencing this... say no more!
Transitioning safely off the elemental diet!
There is a lot of conflicting information out there about this but one thing that seems to be universally agreed upon is to start slow. A lot of people suggest drinking only bone broth for the first day supplemented with some of the elemental diet formula before adding in various low-FODMAP foods
from day two, over the course of a week.
I've been a vegetarian since the age of six so bone broth is a bad idea. Instead I will follow the same methodology but with organic veg broth on the first day. Saving the vegetables from the mix to add to soups over the next 6 days of food reintroduction. I have decided to create my own systematic path for food reintroduction based on research and intuition.
As the fodmap diet and other exclusion diets I tried in the past had little effect, I'm not convinced that I have food sensitivities, but there are food types that are harder to digest and it makes sense to add them carefully, one by one to check for reactions. I will start with easily digestible low-FODMAP foods, while carefully reintroducing five common (hard for unbalanced digestive systems to process) trigger foods.
These are the five trigger foods:
- Gluten (wheat based products)
- Corn (including corn syrup, corn starch etc)
I am planning on introducing these trigger foods one by one, slowly over the course of 5-6 weeks. For example, eating a small amount of dairy on week 2 or 3 after the elemental diet on a Monday and then reverting back to the low fodmap for the rest of the week and monitoring my system's reaction. Then repeating this process 7-8 days after with another trigger food group. Possibly if there is a reaction I will leave it longer for the symptoms to die down if needed.
I will be eating only organic vegetables and no processed food during this whole reintroduction process and may experiment with probiotic supplements (or natural sources of good bacteria) once my system is used to solid food again.
This is what I have to look forward to for the next 2-3 months 😅
Wish me luck, and I hope those people who follow my content will understand if I disapear for periods over the next few months.
Thank you for reading.
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This post reflects my views and insights inspired by the insane amounts of research I've had to put in to this issue. The facts about how the elemental diet works, side effects and effectiveness are all accurate. I don't have any source links as I checked everything I've wrote here against written notes from six months ago when I first started researching this treatment in preparation for battling the specialist over a prescription. The plan for transitioning of the diet is based on research and common sence. That process is highly intuitive and all doctors notes I've read, say to trust your body (and how it reacts) when transitioning off the elemental diet.
I just want to tag a few long term friends into this post to let them know that this is why I might disappear from steem and discord periodically over the next month or two.
@nathanmars, check out the video. I know you prefer visual content m8. This is why I didn't actively compete or even ask for delegation this round, as I won't be able to put it to effective use over the next 6 weeks. Also, my twitter hustle will decrease during this time but I'm going to continue with the #seven77 challenge, even if I miss the odd day or two
@f3nix, you know all about my health shiz already but just letting you know this is why I'm unlikely to join Finish the Story much over the next 6 weeks. Also, unable to work on the secret project under management in the @bananafish realms
Thanks for reading/watching this post, you can check out similar work on my homepage @raj808.