If you’re planning on doing an elemental diet, or even just drinking a shake or two per day, then it is important to learn to distinguish the difference between normal bowel/body changes from elemental shakes, versus signs your body is intolerant, or allergic, to one or more of the ingredients in the shake.
Do not persist in ingesting something your body is allergic or intolerant to, and risk triggering a flare-up of your gut issues!
Elemental, or semi-elemental shakes are liquid, pre-digested nutrient shakes. They are the closest equivalent to breastmilk that is available, and they give the bowel a chance to rest and heal. They also facilitate detoxification, healthy weight gain, or weight loss (depending on your goal), and can provide a clearance period, to then carry out a systemic re-introduction of foods – to test for food allergies.
But what if you are allergic, or intolerant, to the shake itself?
Here is the range of reactions you might experience if you are allergic to a substance:
- Nasal congestion, or a runny nose, or sneezing
- Hives (reddish, swollen, itchy areas on the skin)
- Redness of the skin, particularly around the mouth or eyes, or a persistent dry, itchy rash
- Itchy mouth or ear canal
- Nausea or vomiting
- Stomach pain
- Slight, dry cough
Severe reactions include lips, tongue or throat swelling, shortness of breath or wheezing, trouble swallowing, turning blue, feeling faint or weak or confused or passing out, chest pain, weak pulse, or anaphylactic shock.
Now, if you look at this list, the only symptom in common with a ‘normal’ response to an elemental shake is the Diarrhea. Except that what you experience with a solely liquid-source food is not actually diarrhea… it is just the natural result of eating nothing but liquid food.
Other common results of being on an exclusively (i.e. no other food) elemental diet, are bloating and sometimes low energy (others experience an increase in energy). If you’re experiencing loose diarrhea-like stools or abdominal bloating, here’s what you can do to help counter those effects.
So when you are thinking of going on an elemental diet, it is very important to test a sample, or a few servings of the elemental shake first – to ensure your body likes the ingredients. You may even want to consume just 1-2 shakes per day for a week first – to allow your body to slowly adjust to this new food source, and at the same time to check for tolerance levels.
The elemental shake I formulated, Absorb Plus, has 43 different ingredients, but the ingredients most likely to be the culprits in an allergy or intolerance are the protein and the maltodextrin components. I’ve used cassava root (tapioca) maltodextrin in Absorb Plus and the protein source is either whey isolate (casein-free and lactose-free since those are the top allergen for those with a dairy allergy or intolerance), or, sprouted brown rice protein (typically well tolerated).
So you would definitely want to test both the Vegan and the regular Absorb Plus to see how your body responds and which one it prefers – or maybe your body will do best if you alternate between them?
But let’s say you’re allergic to the tapioca maltodextrin in Absorb Plus, in that case, use this guide to formulate your own elemental shake according to which ingredients you can tolerate. Or use a free-form amino acid elemental shake (but it will be very difficult to maintain or gain weight without a di-peptide bond protein source) that does not contain maltodextrin. Or, use these whole-food shakes instead, if you can.