maltodextrin elemental dietA number of articles have been published recently reporting on the harmful effects of maltodextrin on Crohn’s patients. The articles say that maltodextrin increases bacteria’s ability to form biofilms and adhere to intestinal epithelial cells. “While dietary additives like maltodextrin are generally considered safe, these findings suggest that perhaps people who are prone to develop IBD should consider limiting their maltodextrin intake,” Dr. McDonald said. Since maltodextrin is a glucose polymer (a sugar) this is not really surprising – since when are sugars ever good for you? But wait a minute, Absorb Plus, elemental diet shake, contains maltodextrin!

Well…. let’s take a deeper look at this. First of all, ALL carbohydrates are composed of sugars. And when you eat a complex carbohydrate like potatoes (a polysaccharide), the digestive process breaks it down into a simple sugar unit (a monosaccharide) for absorption to the bloodstream.

Monosaccharides (glucose, fructose, dextrose, galactose) are the smallest unit of carbohydrates. They consist of a single sugar unit. Glucose is the main molecule from which humans and animals get energy. We get this energy from eating fruits, vegetables, beans, etc. Plants make glucose by photosynthesis.

So now let’s take the scientific info and put it into practical terms. If you were a healthy person, or at least not suffering from a disease affecting your digestive system, I would say: Keep your carbohydrates (sugars) low. Eat lots of green, leafy vegetables (raw juice is great). Have beans and legumes rather than grains (rice, wheat, etc.). Eat a moderate amount of protein (grass-fed or organic) and eat lots of good fats (organic butter, coconut oil, olive oil, fish oil). Use stevia to sweeten wherever possible and definitely avoid sugar, high fructose corn syrup and maltodextrin. That’s how I eat today and that’s how my 9-year-old daughter got a solid, healthy body like this (my 2 sons also have strong, healthy bodies):

healthy lifestyle

Now, you’ve got Crohn’s disease. You’re malnourished, skeletal in appearance, your intestines are ulcerated and bleeding… how many of these raw, whole foods are you able to tolerate? And beyond tolerating them, is your gut able to extract and absorb the nutrients from them? Mine sure wasn’t, back when I was in that state. Any raw vegetables or raw juice gave me instant, copious diarrhea. By the time I developed The IBD Remission Diet, even one bite of solid food caused me to hemorrhage from my colon.

In severe cases of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, the body loses tolerance and becomes super hypersensitive. The intestines are so inflamed and ulcerated, the GI tract is incapable of digesting or absorbing nutrients from regular food.

Why Use Maltodextrin in Elemental Shakes?

And that’s where maltodextrin and a bowel rest (elemental) diet comes in. If you try to do a bowel rest diet using only whey protein (no carbohydrate component) you will quickly surpass your maximum daily protein limit whilst still feeling really hungry and tired. But more importantly, you will likely not gain any weight, so will remain very thin and weak, with low energy and lots of fatigue.

If you try to use only monosaccharide sugars for the carbohydrate component (and I did try this for weeks in one of my experiments) you can gain the muscle, but you end up with a “sugar high” after you drink each shake – because they hit the bloodstream so fast – followed by a nasty plunge that leaves you feeling really fatigued, depressed and anxious. Also not good.

Sports supplement companies really understand this, so they combine maltodextrin (glucose polymer) with monosaccharides to produce both a stronger and sustained burst of energy: “…glucose polymers alone can only deliver a maximum of 1g of sugars per minute. However, the combination of glucose polymers and fructose has been scientifically proven to supply an extra 30% energy compared to just glucose polymers alone. Statistically speaking this could make an enormous difference to athletes during competition, in fact it could be the difference between winning or losing.”

However, if you don’t need to gain weight, then you can certainly create your own elemental shake and reduce the amount of maltodextrin you use to suit your needs/goals. We sell elemental shake kits and here are the instructions for how to create/customize your own shake. Or, you can use my newly formulated Absorb Plus Amino, which is a low-carb elemental diet option intended for those who do not need to gain any weight.

Why Not Increase The Fat Instead of Adding Maltodextrin to Elemental Shakes?

So you may ask, but why use maltodextrin in elemental shakes to supply the necessary calories, why not just increase the fat component? Absorb Plus contains ZERO fat – on purpose. This is because many people with IBD have lost tolerance to fats. And so a cold-pressed flax oil (or Udo’s oil) needs to be added very slowly and gradually increased over time. Many can only start with 1/4 teaspoon of flax per serving.

Myself and many others find our body (in dis-ease state) tolerates cold-pressed flax oil much better than MCTs (medium chain triglycerides). So although you can add MCTs to a room-temperature product, you cannot add cold-pressed flax – and don’t believe anyone who tells you they can! Flax MUST be refrigerated and protected from light, or it will go rancid. You can mask the smell of rancidity in a product, but your gut will know and will not react favorably.

Some of my readers are so sensitive to fats that they must keep their flax or Udo’s in the freezer (the fridge doesn’t preserve well enough for them) and just use a bit at a time.

A Word About Proteins…

Another question I get asked is, ‘Why do you use whey isolate? Why not just use hypoallergenic free-form amino acids?’ Keep in mind, the whey isolate in Absorb Plus is both lactose-free and casein-free (the top allergenic protein in milk).

Well, if you try to use only free-form amino acids for your elemental diet, you will likely lose weight – since amino acids need to ‘piggyback’ on at least a di-peptide bond protein to be used for muscle-building. So now we have the conflict between the theoretical “ideal” and the practical reality.

Elemental diets, where the protein and carbohydrates are pre-digested (broken down into smaller, absorbable units) are really like returning to breast milk. Have you ever tasted breast milk? Let me tell you, it is super sweet! The largest component in breast milk is… sugar (lactose). The next highest component is good fat (lipids). And this is not significantly affected/altered by the amount of sugar the mother consumes.

“The one thing that has evolved with humans, to nourish humans, is breast milk,” says J. Bruce German, a food science professor at the University of California, Davis. “It is the ideal evolutionary model for what nourishment should be.”

Now here’s where things get really interesting, did you know that ALL BUT ONE of the 10 most abundant proteins in human milk are glycosylated – where a sugar molecule is attached to the protein?

Breast Milk Proteins Are Bonded With Sugar!

Some medical doctors say this is a bad thing; that glycosylation of proteins diminishes their effectiveness and causes inflammation. But if that were true, why would this perfect food, that causes a baby to grow muscle and bone at an extremely rapid rate, have 90% of its proteins glycosylated?

Other scientists maintain that glycosylation as an enzyme-directed site-specific process has many beneficial effects, as opposed to the non-enzymatic chemical reaction of glycation… have I lost you yet? I’ve lost myself! This is where we’d need to bring in someone with a PhD in this specific area to try and get a clear picture of what we do know about this topic and what we don’t know, and then what that might mean for elemental diets… if you hear of one, please let me know!

SO then we have to bring things out of our patchwork, inadequate (and often incorrect) theoretical understanding and plunk ourselves back down in experiential knowledge; what actually works in real life? And here’s what I know, based on my own experience, and feedback from thousands of readers over the last 12 years:

If you can nourish yourself adequately by using raw pasture-fed milk (goat, cow or camel), or raw vegetable juice mixed with whey or veggie protein and good fat, to heal yourself, that is ideal and some people can tolerate that. I’ve written an article on using common foods to heal IBD, so definitely check that out. Absorb Plus is for people whose digestive systems have degenerated past that point; where they cannot digest and absorb nutrients from whole foods.

One of my readers is a raw foodist yoga instructor – but she cannot gain weight on these foods and was becoming skeletally thin and had no energy to look after her child. She has gained weight and is feeling good with Absorb Plus. No doubt once she has fully recovered, she will go back to her nut butter, hemp, banana shakes – and this is great for ongoing health. I eat this way myself.

I once received an email from a man who had been in the hospital for months, he was so underweight and ravaged by IBD that his doctors had told him they were very sorry, but there was nothing more they could do for him and he needed to get his Will in order. He then went on The IBD Remission Diet and at the point he wrote to us he had gained 40 pounds, was out of the hospital and just thrilled that he was getting his life back.

Healing In Layers

In The IBD Remission Diet, the bacterial (and Candida) components (that can be exacerbated by the maltodextrin) are addressed by using Jini’s Wild Oregano Oil Protocol (a broad-spectrum anti-pathogen) in combination with high dose Natren probiotics and in many cases, people use Jini’s Probiotic Retention Enema as well. In recent years, there has also been a lot of data published showing how elemental diets are effective in treating SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth).

With IBD it is often a case of needing to heal the body in layers – from most severe to less severe. Malnutrition, intestinal bleeding, ulceration, inflammation are the more severe symptoms and The IBD Remission Diet (using Absorb Plus) works for the majority of people. As I outlined above, without the maltodextrin in elemental shakes, it is almost impossible to gain any solid weight (muscle) or have adequate energy. Absorb Plus has also recently switched to tapioca maltodextrin (from cassava root) as it is non-GMO and also less hydrophilic than corn maltodextrin.

The microbiota (including SIBO) throughout the GI tract is addressed during the Diet by using these protocols, but is also intensely treated after the Diet, with high dose oral probiotic supplementation for at least 6 months. Many people (especially if they are infected with mycobacteria) also continue on Jini’s Wild Oregano Oil Protocol for 2 – 3 more years (cycling on and off every few months).

This I know: If your body is seriously malnourished, you can throw all the supplements (or drugs) in the world at it, but it cannot use them very well. Receiving (absorbing, utilizing) nutrients and building muscle tissue are the foundation for the wholistic healing of the body – in my experience.