Week 1 on the Elemental Diet

Week 1 on the Elemental Diet

I am not going to lie. Week 1 on the Elemental Diet has been challenging. There have been times when I've wondered what the hell I am doing, that I must be insane for giving up food for 21 days and that it felt easier to throw in the towel and walk away from it. Read more about why I've decided to do the Elemental Diet.

Knowing that I had made a commitment to myself, and to my fellow SIBOers, that I would share this journey honestly with you, gave me the courage and motivation to keep going.

If you'd like to watch how I'm going each day, don't forget to tune in to my daily vlogs on my YouTube channel. At the end of each week, I'll be sharing my highs and lows from the week on my blog.

Day 1

I felt really motivated and a little excited to start the Elemental Diet. I've let myself go recently and haven't been feeling great. My SIBO has flared, my haemochromatosis had flared and I felt like I was 100 years old.

My biggest fear was not eating or chewing for 21 days. My first shake was sweet... like, really sweet. As in too much sugar, not awesome kind of sweet. If you've been on a SIBO diet for a while, your taste buds will be used to not eating sugary foods. Whereas if you're just starting out and doing the Elemental Diet as your first treatment option, you probably won't find it that sweet.

I found it reeeeaaaallllyyyy hard not to focus on food. I felt overwhelmed with thoughts about eating. I wasn't feeling overly hungry, so the desire to eat was more emotional than physical. I had to completely avoid watching TV commercials about food, so I would change channels when they came on, and I had to leave the house when my partner cooked his dinner.

To hit my daily calorie requirements I am supposed to have 10 scoops of the Integrative Therapeutics Physicians Elemental Diet formula (standard or dextrose-free versions) per day. I split this out over 3 shakes (2 with 3 scoops and 1 with 4 scoops) on Day 1. I had the standard dextrose containing formula in the afternoon which gave me a massive blood sugar crash and left me feeling shaky and quite weak.

My doctor recommended I have daily Epsom salt baths to help with the detoxification and also to give me something nice and relaxing to do. Crawling into a nice bubble bath was the perfect way to end my first day on the Elemental Diet.

Day 2

I woke up feeling like my blood sugar was all over the place, as if I'd eaten a huge, sugary dessert the night before.

Despite this, I felt incredibly motivated and positive about the Elemental Diet, feeling like this is the right thing to do. I had a busy day and unfortunately had quite long gaps between shakes, which left me feeling quite hungry. I also didn't have much time to rest, which probably wasn't ideal as I just kept pushing through.

To combat the big blood sugar drop from the night before, I decided to drink the dextrose containing Elemental Diet for my evening meal in the hope that any blood sugar drop would happen when I was asleep and I wouldn't notice it.

Day 3

I woke up feeling quite poorly, like I was coming down with a cold. I didn't feel well rested, my blood sugar was all over the place and despite sleeping longer than I normally do, I didn't feel well rested. I wondered if this was the start of my die-off symptoms coming through.

Because my blood sugar felt so horrible, I decided to do a water-fast for the majority of the day. I actually felt a lot better for doing this, and my blood sugar felt like it stabilised quite quickly from it.

After a visit to the dentist to have 2 fillings repaired, I realised I should have booked that in before or after the Elemental Diet, as I wasn't able to take any painkillers.  Coupled with my period starting that day, I was in quite a lot of pain that day.

I had another episode of my blood sugar going crazy, so had to have a shake before bed which wasn't ideal as I had a horrible night's sleep. I felt like I couldn't sleep deeply, was really conscious of sounds around me (aka snoring next to me!) and felt REALLY angry and frustrated.

Day 4

Day 4 was the hardest day on the Elemental Diet so far. I felt exhausted, completely devoid of all energy and had the most intense food cravings all day. It was a mental battle all day not to go and eat something. I was angry, frustrated and felt like giving up.

I also noticed a white coating on my tongue, which started to stress me out as I was worried oral thrush was developing (which can happen on the Elemental Diet).  My mouth was tender and my tongue was feeling quite sore, and became increasingly sore as the day progressed. To combat this I started doing coconut oil pulling after each shake, and also rinsed out my mouth and brushed my teeth after each drink.

After water-fasting for half the day I had my first shake as a late lunch. The desire to chew was overwhelming and drinking a shake through a straw just wasn't cutting it for me.

Increasing the number of shakes over the day did seem to work better for me.  I dropped down to 2 scoops, 5 times a day, which gave me more stable blood sugar than trying to only do 3 shakes.

I also realised just how important my nightly Epsom salt baths have become for me. I am loving my baths.  I look forward to them during the day, and they mark the end of another day on the Elemental Diet.

"Treat the Elemental Diet as an emotional and physical retreat. Allow your body to hibernate so you can emerge a beautiful butterfly.

Rebecca Coomes

Day 5

Day 5 was my best day this week. I woke up feeling great, felt incredibly motivated and positive that I could get to Day 21.

My doctor had responded to me and suggested I add some fat in with my shakes.  I tried adding ghee initially, but it ended up looking like cottage cheese. I did like the flavour it added to it, but the sight made me want to gag.

I then tried adding in MCT oil, which blended in well because it was already in liquid form.  I couldn't taste a difference in flavour from this fat though.

Sadly, by the end of the day I was starting to get a bit of cramping and bloating which I suspect was from the added fat.

Day 6

The day started out ok on Day 6. Being a Saturday, my partner and I took our dog to a local dog park for his morning run.  The sun was shining and it was quite a lovely spring morning. Our normal routine is to stop at a local cafe for breakfast after the dog park. We still went there, but Sam only drank coffee while I sipped on water.  I surprised myself that I was able to sit there, with food all around me, and not want to kill everybody.

When I got home I crashed out. It was like someone had taken out the power cable. I crawled into bed and slept for several hours. I felt overcome with emotion, which I guess is part of the cleansing process.

I continued to add fat into my shakes, with disastrous results. By mid-afternoon, I ended up with explosive diarrhoea. My tongue is looking better though, as I now have a routine in place to prevent oral thrush from arising. After each shake, I rinse my mouth out, do an oil pull, brush and floss my teeth.

Day 7

The rollercoaster ride continued on Day 7 as I continued to feel exhausted and drained of energy. I had to climb back into bed after my shower after feeling completely wiped out.

I have a lower back injury and need to keep moving, but because I have been sleeping so much, my back has flared up and is quite painful. I'm going to have to find ways to incorporate some gentle movement into my days to support my back, but not to overexert myself.

I completely hated the Elemental Diet today and the thought of having to do another 14 days was too much to think about. I found myself negotiating with myself, thinking about only doing it for 14 days, not 21 days, incorporating in one meal a day, doing a water-only fast, and more. By the end of the day I realised I can only think in one-week blocks as I know I can do a week at a time.

I also spent a lot of time thinking about my first meal once I come off the Elemental Diet and what ingredients I will use.

Key Lessons from Week 1 on the Elemental Diet

  • Herbal Leaves H1qygbnam

    Do the Elemental Diet at a time when you can afford to focus on yourself

  • Herbal Leaves H1qygbnam

    Give yourself permission to rest when you need to

  • Herbal Leaves H1qygbnam

    Know that food cravings will pass

  • Herbal Leaves H1qygbnam

    Incorporate relaxing activities into your day, such as baths and meditation

  • Herbal Leaves H1qygbnam

    Drink LOTS of water in addition to your Elemental Diet

  • Herbal Leaves H1qygbnam

    Work from home or take time off work so you can rest when you need to

  • Herbal Leaves H1qygbnam

    Work out how many shakes you need per day to keep your blood sugar and energy levels consistant

  • Herbal Leaves H1qygbnam

    Tell your friends and family what you are doing. Ask for their support. You don't have to do this on your own

  • Herbal Leaves H1qygbnam

    Write down why you are doing this. Keep looking at it on the hard days to remind yourself of your greater purpose

  • Herbal Leaves H1qygbnam

    Get a calendar and cross off each day. It's incredibly satisfying to know you are one step closer to the end

Results from Week 1 on the Elemental Diet

Symptoms: SIBO symptoms improved although added fat has caused cramping, diarrhoea and nausea. Blood sugar crashes can happen easily so I will need to continue figuring out how to manage these.

Weight: Lost 3.7kg/8.1lbs (16.8kg/37lbs to go).

Bowel Movements: 4 out of 7 days with BMs decreasing in volume and then stopping by the end of the week.

Food Cravings: Mixed results. Some days I was overcome with cravings, other days I didn't think about food at all.

Mindset: It has been challenging. I am glad the first week is over, but there have been days when I have wanted to give up. I hope the next 7 days are easier.



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30 thoughts on “Week 1 on the Elemental Diet”

  1. Hi Rebecca,

    I’m about to start my Elemental Diet journey and was wondering if you had any tea while on the diet. Specifically, Matcha Green tea (which is just ground up tea leaves)?

    I am not sure that I can function without caffeine, and this is daily morning ritual.

    Thank you,

    1. Rebecca Coomes

      Hi Lynn
      The advice I was given was to exclude all other intakes, including drinks (other than water). I do know some practitioners do allow their patients tea, but this does mean you are bringing in a substance which could potentially feed the overgrowth. It was for this reason that I decided to abstain from everything except water – I didn’t want to undo all my hard work!
      Kind regards

  2. Rebecca. I tried Physicians Elemental Dextrose Free and got sick right away, within 10 minutes (horrible nausea, heartburn, belly cramps, light headiness, etc.). It was so bad that I called the company and they told me to stop the product that my reactions were not normal. I see many people on your site including yourself have also had issues with elemental diet, but later on. Not sure I understand the sugar spike -load others are referencing here as I read on the packet it has less than 1 g of sugar. Can you please explain this a bit more? Wondering if I should eat something and then try the product or if I should try something like a semi-elemental diet like the Elemental Heal from Dr. Ruscio (semi-elemental diet).
    Thank you

    1. Hi Talia
      I’m sorry to hear you had a reaction like that. As with anything in the world, there are some substances that people react to. This formula sounds like it was too much for your system. There are still carbohydrates in the Dextrose-Free version, which converts to sugar in the bloodstream, so if you’re sensitive to sugar (as I am) it can lead to these quick drops in blood sugar. It sounds like a semi-elemental diet might be better for you. You might find my podcast with Dr Michael Ruscio about his approach to a partial ED helpful. You can listen here.

  3. Hi Rebecca !!
    I am currently on Day 5 of the Elemental Diet. It has definitely been a hard go as I am a foodie as well. One of my concerns is that this won’t work at reducing my gas levels/ killing bacteria. Maybe this is pessimistic or paranoia, however I am a naturally anxious person.
    Also I am doing the homemade elemental formula, and the taste of the amino acid powder is unbearable. My ND recommended I mix crystal light with it, have you ever heard of this or done it yourself ? Also she gave me a recipe for a hydration drink because of some diarrhea I’ve been experiencing… however this has orange juice in it, she assured me this is fine but I’m very worried this is counterintuitive? I’ve also been experiencing bloating/ gurgling when consuming the elemental diet, maybe from the fat content as you mentioned similar symptoms to the MCT oil in your day 5 vlog?

    I apologize for bombarding you with all my questions !! Thanks so much for your podcast, it is very encouraging and uplifting to know I’m not alone

    1. Rebecca Coomes

      It’s best to follow the advice of your ND as they are the one supervising your medical care. Have a chat to them about the gurgling you’re feeling and your concerns at not getting the results you’re after. They will have a plan in place so it’s best to work with them so you’re clear on what it is. Good luck!

  4. Hi Rebecca,
    I am getting ready to embarke on the elemental diet. I am also taking oregano oil and berberine to as natural antibiotics to help remove the yucky stuff. I am wondering what herbs you took on top of the elemental diet? I am also a foodie and really scared how I am going to do this with so many hours in the day and not much to do to keep my mind occupied. I am currently not working. Any advice? Thank you!

    1. Rebecca Coomes

      Hi Amy
      I didn’t take any herbs while I did the Elemental Diet as it’s not necessary (plus it can be really hard on the gut taking them on an empty stomach). Herbs can come in at the end once you reintroduce food, if you still need to be in a killing phase.

      1. Thank you. I’m on Day 4 currently. The first 2 1/2 days I took Dr. Ruscio’s formula (I had gotten from a friend) and then I bought mostly the Dextrose Free Integrative Therapeutics. I started taking that mid day yesterday and it hurts my stomach as well it’s disgustingly sweet. I’m not sure how well I am tolerating it. I ordered more of Dr. Ruscio’s but I”m stuck with this for the next 4 days. I hope I can manage. Did you have problems with the formula?

        1. Rebecca Coomes

          Not initially but by the end of the ED I was starting to hate it. I wonder if those symptoms could be die off? Have you ever experienced die off before?

        2. Amy. I tried the Dextrose Free from Integrative Therapeutics and within 10′ I felt horrendous. Sever nausea, light head, horrible heartburn, etc. Did you continue with that or did you switch to Dr. Ruscio – which is a semi-elemental….Wondering if that’s easier for the body? Thank you

  5. Hi Rebecca I loved your whole blog on the elemental diet .. I just began mine today after a diagnosis of sibo .. I’ve already been sick for 10 weeks with a stomach flu that got worse after a stupid doctor (who I quit ) gave me strong antibiotics that further damaged my body and gave me candida of esphogus.. I did a week of antifungal and switched to a new doc who discovered the Sibo
    I also have a sensitive body and tho I’m not diabetic it runs heavily in my family and my glucose can run high sometimes
    So my question is … after drinking a shake did you ever start to feel kind of out of it a bit ? Like a weird fog ? I only did two doses so far with 1 scoop and 8 Oz of water but that’s what I’m noticing as a reaction …

    Wondering if that’s part of the sugar spike experience …

    Trying to figure out how to split this thing up .. I actually decided today to split the diet in half and ate some normal food .. I’m going to try another shake later …

    I agree about there being too much sugar .. I’m using the dextrose free version

    Desperate to get better ..
    thanks for your input
    My only other fear is this will make my candida come back tho I’m going to be taking flucanzole twice a week ( another drug I react horribly too)

    1. Hi Lynn
      I can’t remember feeling out of it as such, but I do remember having big highs and lows with my blood sugar, despite using the dextrose-free version.
      I think us ladies with sensitive bodies can feel a lot when we put our body into an almost complete fast.
      Good luck with your ED experience. Let me know how you go.

  6. Hi!
    All in all are you happy you did the elemental diet? Or did you find more success through another method? Its a hard thing to undertake well done! Just wondering if other options you had tried eg herbs and a healthy diet worked better in the end. Thanks!!

    1. Rebecca Coomes

      Hi Lilly
      I am happy I did it, but it was very challenging. You might like to watch my results vlog where I share how I feel after doing the 14 days on the ED.

  7. I’m will be on day three of the Physicians Elemental diet the dextrose free version. I get very shaky/weak with heart palpitations, between 1-3 hours after drinking a shake, even with drinking one every 1-2 hours. I know you said you also experienced some shakiness but was wondering if you ever experienced heart palpitations from it as well?
    I’m trying to figure out if I’m experiencing these symptoms due to a blood sugar thing.


    1. Hi Michelle
      Yes I did. I added MCT oil into my shakes, and that definitely helped smooth out my blood sugar issues. However, my system never really got ‘used’ to the sugar load and by Day 14 I was ready to come off and eat real food.
      I used this time to rest, sleep, relax and take it very easy. Remember, this is a time for healing and recovery, so give you body space to allow that to happen.
      But as with all medications and treatments, if you are concerned with how you are feeling, please see the advice of your doctor.

  8. I am having sore mouth and tongue also. I have been on the ED for 9 days. What is a coconut oil pull? Does it make the bacteria grow more? Nancy

    1. Hi Nancy
      The coconut oil pull helps balance the bacteria and fungus in your mouth, reducing the candida overgrowth that can cause the sore tongue and mouth. I found it to be extremely beneficial and very soothing.

  9. Hi. Where can I purchase the eliminatal diet shakes? I’m in Scarborough Qld. Are they lactose, sugar and gluten free?

    1. I purchased them when I was in the US and brought them home with me to Australia. You should be able to get your practitioner to order them in for you. The Integrative Therapeutics Physicians Elemental Diet is lactose and gluten free. They do contain sugars/carbs as one of the macronutrients.

  10. Hi Rebecca,
    Excellent review of your week. Well done!
    I did 14days of Physicians Formula, a number of months ago.
    A few things that I did, whilst on mine.
    -I took an anti-fungal supplement (Phytaxil) at the same time
    -I sipped my ED from a straw
    -I still got the white at the back of my tongue: did the tongue scraping and coconut oil pulling ,which helped
    -I calculated the total calories I needed over the day, and divided up the doses. My schedule was one shake every 75mins. If I was out and about I, I had some doses with me and my shaker. Often I missed doses, and was just fine. In general, I missed a few doses each day – which suited me, since I was happy if I lost a few kgs.
    -after completing one week, I felt I was on the home stretch – and only started dreaming about food in the last couple of days!
    Keep up the good work! Looking forward to hearing about a great (not positive!) breath teat result, post ED.

    1. Thanks for the tips Sandra! I’m using a straw for every shake to help save my tongue. I find if I miss an oil pull then my tongue gets coated and sore again. How many days did you do it for? And how do you feel now?

  11. Dear R., thank you so much for posting your experience. Mine was quite similar- I couldn’t stand the sugar load, even with the Dextrose Free version, even sipping constantly throughout the day. When I added extra fat, my stomach couldn’t tolerate it, even with extra pancreatic enzymes. I quit on day 8 when I vomited after a shake. I felt like I had an ulcer and had to go on bland food regimen for several weeks to heal. It was traumatic– and not in the ways I expected. I was ready to tough it out! But it wasn’t working for my body. I did experience quite a bit of SIBO die off and I hope you did as well. I hope you have recovered from this!

    1. I’m sorry to hear it didn’t work out for you, but I don’t think the Elemental Diet is for everyone. A bit like the herbs and antibiotics aren’t for everyone. We each need to find what works for our unique bodies. I’m on Day 10 now so feel like I’m on the home straight. Only 11 more days to go!

  12. Wishing you success on your Elemental Diet journey, Rebecca. I could only do 2 shakes a day for a week, because I couldn’t afford to lose more weight and mostly because the taste was so unappetizing. I tried every kind of oil and Bragg’s extra virgin olive oil was the only ingredient that made it taste halfway appetizing. You’ve got this… keep your determination strong!

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