Part 2: How to cope with the Elemental Diet

In the first Elemental Diet article, I reviewed what the Elemental Diet is, how to know if it’s suitable for you and what preparations you need to take before undertaking it as a treatment option.

In this article, I give you some tips on how to cope with the Elemental Diet, how to consume it correctly and what signs you need to look out for while doing the treatment.

Coping with the Elemental Diet

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Undergoing treatment for your SIBO can be difficult and overwhelming. When doing something as drastic as the Elemental Diet, you need to prepare yourself and develop a game plan to do it successfully.

If you need some guidance on how to cope with this treatment, consider the following tips to achieve the best outcomes.

Make time for it

Treat this time as a special healing time. Keep your calendar empty and only do the necessary things. You may want to take time off work depending on how you feel. 

Remember that sleep is also vital when doing the Elemental Diet, so take all the time you need to rest and energise. Treat the Elemental Diet as an emotional and physical retreat. Allow your body to hibernate so you can emerge a beautiful butterfly.

Expect a lot of changes during the treatment

How you feel while doing the Elemental Diet can change, sometimes several times a day. Based on my experience and that of my 1:1 SIBO Coaching clients, the first three days are often the hardest. Your body is adjusting to not eating solid food and you may experience die-off symptoms. 

Some people can feel great, have improved energy, and experience reduced bloating during days 4 to 10. On the 11th to 14th day, some SIBOers shift to the next level of healing and might feel like they’re regressing with symptoms. From day 15 onwards, many can expect to feel more energetic.

Take note that the journey is different for everyone. All you have to do is roll with it. If you’re feeling weepy, let it out. It can be as much a psychological cleanse as a physical one. However, if something feels wrong, or if you are in a lot of pain or feel very unwell, don’t ignore those symptoms. Seek medical advice when necessary.

Set your goals

Planning is a huge part of your treatment. You need to set a goal and plan how you’ll do this, as this can be especially helpful on difficult days. Ask for help from your friends and family. If you don’t want to be surrounded by food during these times, you can ask your partner or anyone from your family to cook dinner for other family members. I would take a bath during dinner time so I don’t have to smell or see the food.

Do some exercise if you need to

If you think exercising can help you cope during this time, do it. Just keep it light and gentle. This is not the best time to do high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts or heavy lifting. Just do some walking, gentle yoga or stretching. 

Remember exercise is optional. If you choose not to exercise during the treatment and keep your energy output low, that’s okay.

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How to properly consume the Elemental Diet

Before starting the treatment, you need to read the instructions on the packaging of your chosen Elemental Diet brand. Calculate how many scoops you need each day and how many you need per shake. You may like to work out this calculation with your practitioner as this may change depending on whether you are commencing the Elemental Diet underweight, overweight or at a healthy weight.

To help you get started, here are some tips on how to properly consume the Elemental Diet.

Drink it slowly

Drinking it too fast can give you a stomach ache or diarrhoea. Allow at least one hour of your time to consume one serving. You can pour it into a fancy glass and get a nice straw to make it special and make the treatment more enjoyable. Drinking it with straw also has added benefit of bypassing the tongue, which can be useful if you are experiencing a fungal overgrowth (see more below).

For some people, the Elemental Diet can cause blood sugar spikes or drops due to simple sugars in the formula. So it is best to sip slowly to provide an even intake throughout the day.

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Always have water and ice ready

A proper Elemental Diet does not allow for any other items to be consumed. When doing the treatment, you only need to drink water unless you’re doing a partial Elemental Diet or otherwise advised by your practitioner. 

Having ice ready is also recommended. You can always mix the formula with ice to improve the consistency. If you miss chewing foods, you can also chew on ice blocks to get that ‘crunch’ sensation.

Brush and floss your teeth after every shake 

The Elemental Diet can displace the natural balance of bacteria and fungus in your mouth and gut, leaving you with a fungal overgrowth in your mouth which can be very painful as well as leaving your tongue coated white. Cleaning your mouth well between shakes can help prevent or reduce this from happening. Brush your teeth and tongue after each shake and be sure to floss as well.

Do coconut oil pulling 

Coconut oil pulling can also help you prevent a fungal overgrowth in your mouth. To do it, you just need to take one teaspoon to one tablespoon of coconut oil and swish it around in your mouth for 5–20 minutes. Spit the oil into the trash once you’re done and rinse your mouth well using water. Repeat these steps a few times a day or after every shake, if necessary. 

It can be challenging to take too much oil to start with, so start with a small amount for a short period of time and work your way up from there.

Signs to look out for

Not everyone does well on the Elemental Diet. Some people react to it poorly and they need to finish it earlier than planned. This is why it is so important to have a practitioner guiding you through this treatment. If you’re concerned about your symptoms, here are some signs you need to look out for while doing the Elemental Diet and what to do when you start experiencing them.

Painful symptoms

The first few days are the hardest and when you’re likely to experience die-off symptoms, but it should pass. If you are in pain, feel very sick, have a fever, can’t get out of bed, or are experiencing anything that makes you feel absolutely rotten, speak to your doctor immediately. 

Constipation

If you’re worried that you’re not pooping while doing the treatment, don’t worry because it’s common. It is not traditional constipation, but instead is a result of exclusively consuming a formula that is almost completely absorbed with nothing left to come out.

Stools slow down in the first few days and often people will only have one to two bowel movements a week. Your stool colour can also change and look different, but this is normal. It can take a few weeks for your stool to return to normal after reintroducing foods. But if you’re worried about your constipation and you think it’s unusual, I highly recommend talking to your practitioner immediately.

Diarrhoea

Another symptom to look out for is diarrhoea. This can be caused by consuming the Elemental Diet too quickly. Try slowing down the speed you consume it, ensuring you take at least an hour to consume each shake. If the problem persists, speak to your doctor.

Bloating

Some patients experience increased levels of bloating when undertaking the Elemental Diet. This can be caused by a range of issues, but commonly is because the shake is being consumed too quickly, the person is reacting to the ingredients of the shake, or there are other factors at play that need to be addressed. If concerned, please speak to your doctor.

Remember, the Elemental Diet is a short term treatment option for some

When considering if the Elemental Diet is right for you, remember this is a treatment option that works for some, not all SIBO patients. If you would like to know more about how to decide if the Elemental Diet is right for you, check out the first part of my Elemental Diet series here.

If you would like to see my first-hand experience at doing 14-days on the Elemental Diet, you can watch my YouTube vlog series here.

This article is Part 2 of a four-part series on the Elemental Diet. If you haven’t read the first one, access it here. Stay tuned for the next one where we discuss reintroducing food after the Elemental Diet!

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