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How To Do An Elemental Diet

Written by Joe Cohen, BS | Last updated:

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An elemental diet helps diagnose food sensitivities, but it can be hard to stick to. Learn about a few of your options & how to use them here.

I recommend first reading The Benefits of an Elemental Diet and Who Should Try It.

All 5 elemental diets take into account lectins, histamine, and salicylate sensitivities, among others.

The modified elemental diet still has some lectins and salicylates, but they are in lower amounts. You’d need to do a real elemental diet to be certain that you aren’t sensitive to these proteins/compounds, but I feel for most people modified elemental diets are good enough.

Stick to the first 2 diets to do a real elemental diet.

I present 5 options for people so that they have more freedom to do what works for them.

However, I can’t tell you which one you should do unless I know more of a history. If you’re a client/former client, you can email me and I’ll let you know.

I recommend to keep these diets for a minimum of a week and ideally for 2 weeks. Perhaps you can try one version one week and a different version another week. This will make the results more meaningful and certain.

No matter which diet you do, include chewing gum before every meal since you need to for cognitive health and digestive support.

1) Mediclear SGS

The easiest and most convenient option is Mediclear SGS.

This is not as good as some of the other options, but it should take care of most food sensitivities. It has all the nutrients and protein that you need, most of it in the form of pea and rice protein.

You might want to add Caprylic acid for fats.

2) Elecare Jr: Amino Acid-Based Formulas

This is meant for people who don’t have issues with microbial overgrowth.

This tastes overall pretty bland, with a slightly negative twist and some post-consumption nausea, but it’s very mild. Overall, I am happy with this product.

Honestly, though, this was too hard for me to follow and I caved after a day. I’m of average willpower, so I assume compliance will be low. This is why I’m recommending some more foods to consume – especially chicken, avocado and cod liver.

Think about adding to Elecare:

Other allowed foods:

I recommend adding Extra virgin olive oil since this formula is too low in fat.

Scoop out 6 scoops of the powder and put in a tbsp of the safflower oil. Mix it with 2 – 3 cups of water and drink according to hunger.

The ingredients are free of lectins, harmful proteins, salicylates, and histamine. This formula can be distinguished from the Vivonex by the fat and fructose content.

This formula has more fat (Vivonex only contains maltodextrin/glucose). The serving size is 100g, which yields about 4 servings per container. Each serving has 469 calories. That means this should last you about a day, especially if you add safflower oil. Therefore, you want to buy 7 of them to last you a week. The benefit of this is the convenience of not having to buy a whole bunch of ingredients. Take a serving with water and take as many servings as your hunger dictates.

Ingredients of Elecare Jr

Corn Syrup Solids (55%), High Oleic Safflower Oil (9%), Medium-Chain Triglycerides (8%), Soy Oil (7%), L-Glutamine (2%). Less than 2% of the Following: L-Asparagine, L-Leucine, DATEM, L-Lysine Acetate, L-Valine, Calcium Phosphate, L-Isoleucine, Potassium Phosphate, L-Arginine, L-Phenylalanine, L-Tyrosine, Potassium Citrate, Sodium Citrate, L-Threonine, L-Proline, L-Serine, L-Alanine, Magnesium Chloride, Glycine, L-Histidine, L-Methionine, Ascorbic Acid, Calcium Carbonate, L-Cystine Dihydrochloride, L-Tryptophan, Magnesium Phosphate, Choline Chloride, m-Inositol, Ferrous Sulfate, Taurine, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Zinc Sulfate, dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, L-Carnitine, Niacinamide, Salt, Calcium Pantothenate, Manganese Sulfate, Thiamine Chloride Hydrochloride, Cupric Sulfate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Beta-Carotene, Biotin, Phylloquinone, Chromium Chloride, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenate, Sodium Molybdate, Vitamin D3, and Cyanocobalamin.

3) A Real Elemental Diet: For Crohn’s Disease, SIBO, and Candida

This is the worst tasting option. This will surely test your resolve. It wasn’t easy even consuming one meal. Maybe people get used to it. But this elemental diet has unique properties that the others don’t have. I’ve tried Vivonex and it was pretty bad. A client who has tried Tolerex has informed me that it tastes better than Vivonex (I may order it to confirm).

You want to use this if you have SIBO or candida as the carbs won’t reach your small intestine and will eventually starve the pathogens. It’s also useful in cases with gut damage that’s pretty bad that you can’t metabolize fat well. A bad case of Crohn’s disease is an example.

If you have a confirmed candida case, then I would take fluconazole and anti-candida supplements while you’re doing this.

If you plan on doing this for months then you should monitor your liver function tests because when consuming fully broken down amino acids, the digestive loading is shifted from the gut to the liver.

  • Tolerex
  • Vivonex Plus Elemental Powder

Tolerex and Vivonex are considered a true elemental diet. The benefit of this is the convenience of not having to buy a whole bunch of ingredients.

I would also add a Probiotic to this regimen.

Here’s a description of Vivonex by the company, which is pretty accurate:

  • This high-protein, low-fat beverage is a nutritionally complete, elemental diet.
  • High in glutamine an important nutrient for the health of your digestive system it also helps improve protein retention.
  • 100% free amino acids for better tolerance and easy absorption.
  • Contains arginine, a building block of protein important for healing.
  • Low in fat (6% fat) which makes it easy to digest.
  • Mix with Vivonex Flavor Packets for variety and great taste.
  • Vivonex Plus is a medical food – please consult with your health care professional on the use of this product.
  • Vivonex Plus is commonly recommended to people with: Major intestinal surgery, Cancer treatment, Poor digestion, Surgery, After surgery, Clear liquid diet, Crohn’s disease, Pancreatic and intestinal disorders.

Ingredients

Maltodextrin, L-Glutamine, Modified Cornstarch, L-Leucine, L-Arginine Acetate, Soybean Oil, L-Lysine Acetate, Magnesium Gluconate, L-Isoleucine, L-Valine, Calcium Glycerophosphate, L-Phenylalanine, L-Threonine, Potassium Citrate, L-Cysteine Hydrochloride Monohydrate, Citric Acid, L Methionine, L-Tyrosine, L-Histidine Monohydrochloride Monohydrate, L-Aspartic Acid, L-Proline, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Phosphate Dibasic, L-Tryptophan, Potassium Chloride, Choline Bitartrate, L-Serine, L-Alanine, Glycine, Ascorbic Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Polyglycerol Esters of Fatty Acids, L Carnitine, Zinc Sulfate, Niacinamide, Ferrous Sulfate (Iron), Alpha Tocopherol Acetate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, BHA-BHTto Preserve Freshness, Alpha Tocopherol Preserve Freshness, Copper Gluconate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Manganese Sulfate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Riboflavin, Thiamin Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Biotin, Chromic Acetate, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Molybdate, Sodium Selenite, Phytonadione Vitamin K1, Cyanocobalamin Vitamin B12, Cholecalciferol Vitamin D3

4) DIY Elemental Diet

This is an elemental diet that is nutritionally superior, yet it takes more time and money to implement.

This isn’t quite a real elemental diet because the real ones don’t include little fat. But for what I intend people to use this diet for, it’s good.

Be forewarned that this diet is tough since the essential amino acids taste horrible (nonessentials like glycine and glutamine taste sweet).

But this is the most accurate of the diets that check for sensitivity to proteins or other compounds that cause problems in food.

If you think you won’t be able to hack this, I recommend trying one of the other options.

I’ve designed this option to be particularly useful if you have a bad case of SIBO or candida.

If you have hypothalamic dysfunction, you might get a bit tired from the glucose, but this will subside. Just make sure to sip the glucose instead of gulping a large amount down in one shot.

Feel free to be a bit creative.

Option A Ingredients

  • Glucose (carb source). You want to put 10g of glucose per 8 oz of water and sip throughout the morning, according to thirst or cognitive energy demands.
  • Palatinose (carb source). Useful as a low glycemic index carb and also protects the gut [1].
  • Essential Amino Acids. This tastes pretty bad. Have one serving in the morning and one in the evening. Take this with as much glucose as you need to get this down and exercise to blunt the insulin spike. This is the only gulping of glucose that I’d recommend.
  • High-Oleic Safflower Oil (fat source) – high in MUFA and low allergenic potential. Olive oil has salicylates. 3 tbsp per meal and have as many meals as your hunger dictates.
  • MCT Oil – this is pretty pure and can be added to the mix. This can be useful if you want to use your mornings to get into ketosis. Not more than 1 tbsp at a time (spaced by 3 hours). Just use MCT oil and water.
  • Nonessential amino acid: Arginine protects mucosal barrier [2] Use 2g throughout the day. 1g 2X a day. Not needed with Jomar labs.
  • Nonessential amino acid: Glycine protects the gut [3]. Use 6g throughout the day. 3g 2X a day. Not needed with Jomar labs.
  • Nonessential amino acid: Glutamine protects the gut [1] Use 10g throughout the day. 5g 2X a day. Not needed with Jomar labs.
  • Nonessential amino acid: L-Tyrosine 1g 2X a day. Not needed with Jomar labs.
  • Nonessential amino acid: NAC. Not needed with Jomar labs.
  • Arabinogalactan for fiber
  • Multivitamin by Thorne for nutrients.
  • Potassium gluconate for potassium.
  • Vitamin K1 and K2 (not needed if you get the pure encapsulations one)
  • Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc, Vitamin D
  • Alpha-GPC Choline
  • Fish oil
  • Table salt
  • Scale for measuring powders
  • Probiotics

Option B Ingredients

  • Glucose (carb source). You want to put 10g of glucose per 8 oz of water and sip throughout the morning, according to thirst or cognitive energy demands.
  • Palatinose (carb source). Useful as a low glycemic index carb and also protects the gut [1].
  • Jomar labs amino acids. You want to take 30g per meal, 2X a day. This tastes pretty bad. Have one serving in the morning and one in the evening. Take this with as much glucose as you need to get this down and exercise to blunt the insulin spike. This is the only gulping of glucose that I’d recommend.
  • High-Oleic Safflower Oil (fat source) – high in MUFA and low allergenic potential. Olive oil has salicylates. 3 tbsp per meal and have as many meals as your hunger dictates.
  • MCT Oil – this is pretty pure and can be added to the mix. This can be useful if you want to use your mornings to get into ketosis. Not more than 1 tbsp at a time (spaced by 3 hours). Just use MCT oil and water.
  • Arabinogalactan for fiber
  • Multivitamin by pure encapsulations
  • Potassium gluconate for potassium
  • Calcium, Magnesium
  • Alpha-GPC Choline
  • Fish oil
  • Table salt
  • Probiotics
  • Scale for measuring powders

What I recommend is using pure glucose and water for the first 8 hours in the day.

Alternatively, you can try ketosis with the MCT oil for the first 8 hours of the day.

The reason I recommend this is so that if you have some intestinal overgrowth of bacteria, the glucose won’t reach the small intestines, but if you add fat then some may reach it.

Since you’re only doing this for one meal in the day, if you have a serious case of overgrowth, then I recommend doing the first elemental diet.

“Meal 1”

Sip glucose water (10g per 8oz) until 8 hours after awakening. Put 2 capsules of the multivitamin in the water.

“Meal 2”

  • 3 tbsp safflower oil
  • 30g of essential amino acids (35g if option B),
  • 20g of glucose
  • 20g palatinose
  • 5g glutamine, (exclude if option B)
  • 10g arabinogalactan
  • 3g glycine, (exclude if option B)
  • 1g arginine (exclude if option B)
  • 1g L-Tyrosine (exclude if option B)
  • 2g potassium gluconate
  • 2g salt
  • 2 capsules of the multivitamin
  • 1 capsule Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc, Vitamin D (replace with 3 caps calcium, magnesium if option B)
  • 1 capsule Alpha-GPC Choline
  • 1 capsule NAC (exclude if option B)
  • 1 capsule K1+K2 (exclude if option B)

“Meal 3”

  • 3 tbsp safflower oil
  • 30g of essential amino acids (35g if option B),
  • 20g of glucose
  • 20g palatinose
  • 5g glutamine, (exclude if option B)
  • 10g arabinogalactan,
  • 3g glycine, (exclude if option B)
  • 1g arginine (exclude if option B)
  • 1g L-Tyrosine (exclude if option B)
  • 2g potassium gluconate
  • 2g salt
  • 2 capsules of the multivitamin
  • 1 capsule Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc, Vitamin D (replace with 3 caps calcium, magnesium if option B)
  • 1 capsule Alpha-GPC Choline
  • 1 capsule NAC (exclude if option B)
  • 1 capsule K1+K2 (exclude if option B)

“Meal 4” optional a few hours before bed

If you’re craving another one of these delicious meals, who can blame you??? That’s why I have an optional fourth meal.

  • 2 tbsp safflower oil
  • 10g of glucose,
  • 10g palatinose
  • 5g arabinogalactan,
  • 3g glycine,
  • 1g arginine.
  • 2g potassium gluconate

These meals and dosages are just templates for you to start with. Feel free to be creative and switch up the dosages to suit your needs.

Carbs with a lower glycemic index:

If you have a bad case of SIBO, I’d stay away from all of these temporarily and just use glucose.

  • Hi-Maize resistant starch
  • Waxy Maize (must be by now foods)
  • Trehalose
  • Palatinose

These are recommended but not necessary. I separated these from the other suggestions so that it doesn’t cause the reader to think they are absolutely necessary.

You want to start with 30g of hi-maize 2X a day ramp it up slowly until you’re getting 30g 4X a day. This is in addition to the above meals and not instead of.

For the WM and Trehalose, you want to use close to an equivalent dosage instead of glucose. So instead of 25g glucose, you can use 10g waxy maize, 10g trehalose, and 10g glucose. This will give you steadier energy, but the other recommendations are good enough because this is only a short term diet.

5) A Modified Elemental Diet

This is a good option if you just want to avoid lectins or other harmful proteins, but don’t want to throw up from the diet. This is a more doable version.

Feel free to be a bit creative.

Ingredients

  • Hi-Maize resistant starch
  • Waxy Maize (must be by now foods)
  • Trehalose
  • Table sugar
  • Palatinose
  • Glucose
  • Fructose
  • Pea protein, (or Hemp protein or Rice Protein). You may potentially be sensitive to one of these, but they are the least inflammatory protein powders.
  • Collagen – you may be potentially sensitive
  • Arabinogalactan for fiber
  • Multivitamin for nutrients
  • Potassium gluconate for potassium
  • Vitamin K1 and K2
  • Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc, Vitamin D
  • Sunflower Lecithin
  • Stevia
  • Xylitol
  • Fish oil
  • High-Oleic Safflower Oil
  • Probiotics
  • Scale for measuring powders

Meal 1

Sip glucose water (10g per 8oz) until 8 hours after awakening. Put 2 capsules of the multivitamin in the water.

Meal 2

  • 35g pea protein
  • 30g hi-maize (not necessary if you can’t get it)
  • 3tbsp Safflower oil
  • 12g collagen
  • 10g waxy maize
  • 10g glucose
  • 10g trehalose
  • 10g fructose or palatinose
  • 10g arabinogalactan
  • 2g potassium gluconate
  • 2 caps multivitamin
  • Vitamin K1 and K2
  • Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc, Vitamin D

Meal 3

  • 35g pea protein
  • 30g hi-maize (not necessary if you can’t get it)
  • 3tbsp safflower oil
  • 12g collagen
  • 10g waxy maize
  • 10g glucose
  • 10g trehalose
  • 10g fructose
  • 10g arabinogalactan
  • 2g potassium gluconate
  • 2 caps multivitamin
  • 5g lecithin

Use stevia and xylitol as needed. Any other meal is optional – just use the same ingredients. The last meal could contain cod liver and some carb source, in addition to some pea protein.

Pea Protein

Pea protein isn’t normally part of an elemental diet, but since elemental diets are tough, anything that makes them easier should be explored.

I’ve experimented with all of the protein powders on the market and pea protein didn’t cause me any noticeable inflammation.

It’s possible to be sensitive to pea protein powder, but it’s unlikely the case for most people.

Upon researching if pea protein has lectins, I was glad to find out that it doesn’t contain any lectins [4]. Trypsin inhibitors were also reduced by 46% (a new process might reduce that by more) [4]. In the pea protein linked. The pea protein is treated with phytase so it has very little phytic acid [5]. See the full study: Pea protein

Antinutritional FactorsPea proteinPea (Seed)
Trypsin inhibitor (TIA/g protein)2.58.1
Lectins (HU/mg protein)Approx 0.237.1
Tannins (mg cat eq/g protein)None detected0.96
Phytates (mg/g protein)1.2101.1
Saponins (mg/100g)12.5

Checking For Lectin, Histamine and Salicylate Intolerances

It’s pretty easy to check for sensitivity to salicylates and histamine. For salicylates, just take an aspirin and see if you have an adverse reaction. If yes, then salicylate sensitivity should be suspected, but this isn’t definite since aspirin usually has other excipients.

For histamine, you can take an enzyme that breaks down histamine called DAO or you can take an antihistamine like Benadryl.

Lectin sensitivity is a bit harder to check for since the damaging effects last for days. However, 2g NAG and 4 caps Sialic Acid before every meal should lessen the response to lectins and you should notice some improvement with these supplements.

Still, I recommend elemental diets to be more certain.

Buy

Mediclear-SGS (Quasy Elemental Shake by Thorne)

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About the Author

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen won the genetic lottery of bad genes. As a kid, he suffered from inflammation, brain fog, fatigue, digestive problems, anxiety, depression, and other issues that were poorly understood in both conventional and alternative medicine.Frustrated by the lack of good information and tools, Joe decided to embark on a journey of self-experimentation and self-learning to improve his health--something that has since become known as “biohacking”. With thousands of experiments and pubmed articles under his belt, Joe founded SelfHacked, the resource that was missing when he needed it. SelfHacked now gets millions of monthly readers.Joe is a thriving entrepreneur, author and speaker. He is the CEO of SelfHacked, SelfDecode and LabTestAnalyzer.His mission is to help people gain access to the most up-to-date, unbiased, and science-based ways to optimize their health.
Joe has been studying health sciences for 17 years and has read over 30,000 PubMed articles. He's given consultations to over 1000 people who have sought his health advice. After completing the pre-med requirements at university, he founded SelfHacked because he wanted to make a big impact in improving global health. He's written hundreds of science posts, multiple books on improving health, and speaks at various health conferences. He's keen on building a brain-trust of top scientists who will improve the level of accuracy of health content on the web. He's also founded SelfDecode and LabTestAnalyzer, popular genetic and lab software tools to improve health.

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