Which Elemental Shake Formula is Best for SIBO, Crohn's, Colitis?

Best Elemental Shake for SIBO, Crohn’s & Colitis

If you’re thinking about going on an exclusively elemental diet for bowel rest (where you do not consume any regular foods, only elemental shakes) you might be wondering WHICH type of elemental formula is best to use?

As I already wrote about, many doctors and scientists cannot even agree on what to call these shakes… elemental, semi-elemental, polymeric, monomeric, oligomeric, hydrolyzed, enteral…??

So I’m going to use the shake products that I formulated (that I used to heal myself and remain 100% drug and surgery-free for over 20 years) as examples, so we can lay down some definitions and have a useful discussion here!

Okay, here we go…

Absorb Plus Original and Vegan are classified as a polymeric formula (some people call this semi-elemental) because the protein component is a di-peptide bond protein like whey isolate or rice protein isolate.

Absorb Plus Amino is classified as a free-form amino acid formula (some just call this elemental) because the protein component is composed of free-form amino acids only.

When embarking on an exclusively elemental (pre-digested) bowel rest diet there are pros and cons to each version or protein source. The rest of the shake ingredients are the same.

Let’s go through each of these pros/cons to help you make the best choice for your body…

Absorb Plus Amino Orange Mango

Absorb Plus Amino

  • Lose Weight? If you are already at a healthy weight or need to lose some weight, then this is the formula for you! Because the body cannot use free-form amino acids alone to gain weight (muscle). If you are in an active disease state, you may have difficulty maintaining your weight on this formula, but if you need to slim down a bit, this is one to use.
  • Low Carb? The amount of organic tapioca (cassava root) maltodextrin in this formula is lower than in the Original formula (less than half the amount), so also better for people looking to lose some weight (less carbs).
  • SIBO? If you are using an exclusively elemental diet for SIBO, IBS, Candida, or allergy testing/clearance (and you don’t need to gain weight) then this formula may work better for a shorter duration diet (1-2 weeks) due to the lowered carb content.

When evaluating free-form amino acid elemental products, be sure to look at how much maltodextrin is in each serving as the carbohydrate component varies widely, as does the amount of protein.

For example, Vivonex contains 61.7 grams of maltodextrin from corn and 11.5 grams of amino acids (protein), whereas Physician’s Formula contains 25 grams of maltodextrin from tapioca and 5 grams of amino acids. Absorb Plus Amino (Coco-Choc flavor) contains 21 grams of organic tapioca maltodextrin and 13 grams of amino acids:

Absorb Plus Original Choco Raspberry

Absorb Plus Original

  • If you are malnourished, or underweight, then this is the elemental shake formula to use! The body cannot build muscle (meat, not fat) without di-peptide bond (or higher) proteins. Amino acids will piggyback on these di-peptide proteins to form muscle. This formula has the highest amount of protein per serving. Note: Absorb Plus Original (and Vegan) also contains a custom blend of free-form aminos chosen specifically to address gut-related health issues.
  • The amount of organic tapioca (cassava root) maltodextrin in this formula is also ideal for putting on healthy weight.
  • Lastly, when it comes time to transition off your elemental diet and back to regular foods, clinical trials show that more people with Crohn’s stay in remission when transitioning from polymeric formulas to normal foods, than when they have been on a free-form amino acid formula.
  • This formula tastes better than Absorb Plus Amino, so it is easier to consume for the longer period needed for disease remission (3-6 weeks). Di-peptide proteins just taste better than free-form aminos! It’s simple food chemistry.

Again, when comparing polymeric or semi-elemental formulas, be sure to check the amount of protein per serving (if you’re trying to address malnutrition you want the maximum amount of protein), also check the sugars, carbs, and the amount of added fat.

If you’re in a hypersensitive disease state, your body may have a very low fat tolerance; so it may be better to use a formula where you can control the amount of healthy fat you add, according to your tolerance. I like to add cold-pressed flax oil, Udo’s oil, or MCT oil.

Transitioning Off An Elemental Diet

Regardless of which formula you select for your exclusively elemental diet (Original/Vegan, or Amino), when your bowel rest diet is over you will need to gently transition back to regular foods. This is where you can choose between:

  • Food-based easily tolerated shakes
  • Well-tolerated raw juices
  • Low residue foods

You can also use my Food Re-Introduction Chart (found in my books, Listen To Your Gut or The IBD Remission Diet) to not only transition to normal foods but test for food allergies at the same time.

When transitioning off an elemental diet and gradually introducing normal foods, you may want to keep using a shake every day for breakfast. Or switch to more shakes during times of stress or travel. Of course, you can also use a straight protein shake with nut milk and a banana – and add your supplements to it (like CoQ10, grapeseed, pycnogenol, bioflavonoids, etc).