I continually get questions from my readers who are either drinking a few Absorb Plus Elemental shakes per day (along with their normal diet) OR they are exclusively on an elemental diet and not eating any normal foods. One of the most common concerns are bowel issues they are experiencing on an elemental diet.
Both these scenarios may result in bloating (extended belly), which may be a sign of intolerance, but may also be just the normal effect of consuming an elemental food supply. Think of a breastfed baby, with it’s fat Buddha-belly. That is just how elemental foods affect our gut. When I was on the elemental diet for 7 weeks, my belly was so bloated I looked 4 months pregnant, but that quickly disappeared when I transitioned onto normal foods.
NOTE: Always be alert for signs of allergy or intolerance to any substance (headaches, nausea, skin rash, swelling of lips and throat, etc.). Unfortunately, many of these reactions also mimic the Herxheimer or Die-Off effect you experience when bad bacteria and yeast are leaving your body – so it may take week or two to be sure which one you are experiencing! Although any swelling of throat, lips, wheezing, or anaphylaxis are due to allergy, not pathogens dying.
In people with gut disorders, their small intestine may not produce enough DAO (diamine oxidase) an enzyme needed to break down histamine. And so they can have a histamine reaction to various foods, fermented foods, and sometimes to maltodextrin. Fortunately you can supplement with DAO and my assistant Linsy tells you how she healed this issue in her own journey with colitis.
Diarrhea or Liquid Stools
Absorb Plus or other elemental shakes will also produce marked changes in stool and bowel movements because elemental shakes (like Absorb Plus) are completely pre-digested food sources (just like breastmilk is).
The most common result is that the stool becomes more liquid (and therefore more urgent or explosive). When your stool consistency loosens, you can also have more frequent bowel movements.
If you are consuming Absorb Plus Elemental shakes with other foods, your stool may only become more mushy, but the most common result from an exclusively elemental diet (like The IBD Remission Diet) is to have frequent, loose, watery stool.
This is because Absorb Plus is a pre-digested, liquid food product. Therefore, whilst consuming it, you will have mushy or liquid bowel movements – they may feel and look like diarrhea, but they actually are not – there is no loss of nutrients or electrolytes – they are just reflecting the liquid nature of the food source. Think of how a breastfed baby receives premium quality nutrition, yet has up 7 or 8 liquid bowel movements per day. The same thing is happening here.
NOW, having said that, there are also instances where the elemental shake can cause constipation. This is because the carbohydrate component of the shake (tapioca maltodextrin) absorbs a lot of water. So, if you are not drinking a full glass of water between shakes, or your body just naturally tends towards constipation, firmer, less frequent stools can also be the result.
You can combat these elemental diet bowel issues by:
1. Taking a stool bulking and softening agent. Stool softeners (also known as stool bulking agents) will bulk up your stools by absorbing and holding water. Therefore, if you suffer from diarrhea, they help absorb the excess water in the colon. But if you suffer from constipation, they will keep your stools soft and spongy, stimulating peristalsis and making them easier to pass. Hence, in both conditions, they help avoid hemorrhoids. I used to recommend MetaCleanse, but the manufacturer has stopped producing it, so in its place, you can use 1 tbsp. sprouted flax and chia powder (available locally and online at various sites; you may have to purchase the two powders separately) along with 1/2 tsp. bentonite clay. NOTE: You cannot use these remedies if you are on an exclusively elemental diet – only if you are combining Absorb Plus with regular foods.
2. You can also try taking L-glutamine on an empty stomach, in between shakes. Start with 1/4 tsp and gradually build up to the amount that causes water to be re-absorbed from your colon and thus reduce the liquid volume in your stool. *Must be taken on an empty stomach to have this effect.
3. Drink the elemental shakes at room temperature. If they are cold, it can increase the amount of bloating.
5. Take Natren brand probiotics whilst consuming the shakes, as this can often reduce the urgency and liquidity of bowel movements. If you are constipated, then you can take the Natren Healthy Trinity capsules. But if you are having frequent bowel movements, then you need to use the Natren powders. You can mix the probiotic powders into the shake by hand:
If Using the LTYG BlenderBottle:
- Shake your Absorb Plus shake in the BlenderBottle first as usual until well blended.
- Add your probiotic powders to your shake and shake briskly for 10 seconds or so.
- Drink as usual.
If Using an Electric Blender:
- Whip up your Absorb Plus shake in the blender first as usual.
- Take out 2 ounces of shake and mix in your probiotic powders with a spoon, to form a smooth paste.
- Add the paste mixture back to the rest of the shake and stir well with a spoon to mix thoroughly.
- Drink as usual.
I also urge you to consider using Jini’s Probiotic Retention Enema sooner, rather than later. This email from a reader shows the value of this protocol:
“The second positive impact was the implementation of Jini’s probiotic retention enema protocol. I first tried it after completing a 9 week stint on the absorb plus elemental diet. Despite the diet and the use of other supplements suggested in the LTYG book, I was still having some persistent physical symptoms (loose stool, blood, urgency) so I decided to give the probiotic enema a try. This protocol provided me very fast improvement of physical symptoms. Within a week my stool quality improved demonstrably and within a month my stool was fully formed and solid and there was almost no blood! I should also mention that the die-off symptoms lasted for an entire week after doing the enema so my gut must have been really toxic. I hope this feedback will be helpful. Thanks to you, Jini, and the entire LTYG team!”
Original post dated June 2013. Most recently updated November 2021.