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  • Gavin Guard, Medical Director

A New Tool for Better Gut Health

Key takeaways

  • Problems in the gut that can cause non-digestive symptoms

  • An elemental diet is an effective strategy to restore gut heal

  • Make sure to use it in conjunction with a personalized plan of gut-healing therapies

A new tool for better gut health

Problems in the gut can really take a toll on your quality of life. Perhaps you are counting the bathrooms in public or conversely, counting the number of days until your next bowel movement. Other symptoms include uncomfortable gas and bloating that makes you loosen your waistline.

However, an unhappy gut can also cause non-digestive symptoms through increasing inflammation in the body. Such signs of sub-optimal gut health include:

  • Fatigue

  • Sleep issues

  • Brain fog

  • Hormone imbalances (thyroid, female hormones)

  • Joint pain

  • And more…

One of the first things I help patients with who are desiring better gut health is to find an initial dietary template and ensure their lifestyle is not wreaking havoc on their gut (e.g. 4 hours of sleep, sedentary, etc.).

However, I’ve found that many people with an impeccable diet still suffer from poor gut health. My goal for every patient is to find the broadest diet possible while not flaring symptoms. Unfortunately, I’ve found many people further restrict their diet to a list of items that they can count on one hand. Many times, more diet rules and restrictions is NOT the answer. Rather, you need to take further steps to improve their gut health and thus, your symptoms.

An elemental formula can be used as a tool to help repair your gut and get back to better health.

What is an elemental diet?

Imagine you sprained your ankle running. The natural thing to do is to not run on it until it is fully healed, right? You are naturally inclined to give your body a break when it is damaged or hurt. In the same way, we often forget to give our gut a break when it is not in an optimal state of health.

An elemental diet is NOT a set of rigid diet rules and restrictions (it is different from the elimination diet). Instead, it is a meal replacement tool that consists of PRE-digested protein and carbohydrates. As the name implies, the protein and carbs in the elemental formula are broken down into their most elemental form.

Why is this helpful? The elemental formula comes in a powder form much like a normal protein shake. You mix with water or blend with ice to make a shake of sorts. When you drink the elemental shake, it is all absorbed in the first two feet of the small intestine. Therefore, it gives the rest of your gut a break. It does this through 4 key ways:

  • “Starves” overgrowth of bacteria and other “bad bugs” in the gut that can be causing problems

  • Reduces inflammation by limiting foods that could be triggering your immune system

  • Reduces the amount of fiber in your diet that some can be sensitive to

  • And repair the gut lining that can be damaged in those with IBS and inflammatory bowel disease

Can an elemental diet help me?

A little known secret is that the elemental diet has been used in multiple research studies. The most amount of research is found for the following symptoms and conditions:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (X) (X) (X) (X) (X) (X) (X) (X) (X) (X)

  • One study found it was MORE effective than steroids (X)

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)

  • One study found SIBO was cleared in 80% of cases, and IBS symptoms improved in 65% of participants after just 2 weeks of using the elemental diet (X)

  • Those with Celiac disease who are on a gluten-free diet but still have symptoms (X) (X)

  • This may be because a notable portion of those with Celiac disease also have SIBO

  • Rheumatoid arthritis (X)

  • Reduce side effects of chemotherapy such as mouth ulcers (X)

  • Colonoscopy prep (X)

In my clinic, I’ve also found benefit by helping patients with:

  • Rashes, acne, and other skin conditions

  • Fatigue

  • “Brain fog”

  • Female hormone imbalances (PMS, painful periods, unwanted hair growth)

  • Thyroid imbalances (low thyroid, symptoms thought to be from thyroid dysfunction actually from poor gut health)

You can also use it whenever you are having a “flare” of your symptoms or other times you are having an increased amount of inflammation.

How to use an elemental diet?

The tricky part is knowing how and when to use the elemental diet effectively to get the most “bang for your buck”. Here are a few options:

  • Exclusively for 2 weeks (or longer for more serious cases)

  • Meal-replacements as needed

  • Add on to normal meals for extra calories and nutrients (for those who are underweight or malnourished)

However, the most common way I use it to help patients is as follows:

  • Shorter 1-4 day reset: most calories coming from the elemental shake

  • Followed by a “hybrid approach”: replace 1-2 meals per day with the elemental shake

By using a short reset, you can continue the benefits with the “hybrid approach” by giving your gut an extended break each day allowing it to fully become restored.

If you are thinking about using the elemental diet formula, ensure that you are getting a good quality. In fact, the only ones I use in practice require a prescription since they are medical-grade products. Also, make sure you are using it at the right time in your care along with other personalized gut-healing therapies. In other words, you will not likely get the full benefit from using it in isolation.

Is the elemental diet safe?

Research also shows that elemental diets are not only effective but also safe (X) (X) (X) and to my knowledge, do not present any long-term health problems.

Importantly, the elemental diet formula has all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to maintain a healthy diet. In one study, participants who took an elemental diet for 3 months saw an improvement in malnourishment rates (X). In fact, I drink an elemental shake almost everyday for my first morning meal. I have felt a renewed state of energy and mental clarity since using it.

I’ve used an elemental diet, now what?

Let’s say that you’ve used the elemental diet but are still experiencing symptoms of poor gut health. The good news is that there is still hope for you and your journey back to better health. There are a multitude of gut therapies that we can use to get you back to better health.

The problem is that most clinicians and patients alike don’t have a system for prioritizing therapies to heal the gut. Fortunately, my clinic has focused on using a comprehensive intake process along with advanced labs to uncover why you are experiencing your symptoms then creates a treatment roadmap to fix the underlying root cause to give you lasting solutions to your health.

The bottom line

An elemental diet is a very powerful and effective strategy to alleviate the most common gut health ailments along with other symptoms that may be caused from poor gut health. Just remember to use it strategically and along with other personalized gut-healing therapies.

I hope you found this information useful and helpful in your journey back to a healthier and happier life.

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