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Healthy Diet Plans >>  Types of Diet >>  Elemental Diet

Elemental Diet

An elemental diet is a diet that is ingested with the help of a feeding tube or intravenously and only comprises liquid food. It is a diet that does not permit the person to ingest any solid foods. Food is given in a liquid form so that the body does not have any trouble digesting the food. The elemental diet is usually a diet meant only for people who are unwell and are having difficulty either swallowing food or digesting food. This diet is designed to be hypoallergenic, nutritionally sound, with required calorie intake and complete with pre-digested proteins by way of amino acids.
For people with digestive issues, giving them food in a liquid form allows their digestive system to recuperate and heal. This diet needs the supervision of a medical professional and is not advised to be undertaken on your own. This diet is also called a bowel rest diet. 

In the elemental diet, foods like fats, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and sugars is largely what is fed through the intravenous tube.  As it is in the liquid form, it easily gets absorbed into the bloodstream. The elemental diet can have some side effects especially if it is continued for a long time. The side effects can be quite serious as the elemental diet does not allow any proteins. The patients on elemental diets are often allergic to proteins. Due to a lack of proteins, the patient lacks nutrition and is not able to get strong. This diet is designed to help people who may suffer from malnourishment as a result of not being able to eat whole foods due to a number of health conditions that prevent it. The elemental diet is used for patients who have Crohn's disease as such patients cannot eat. People who suffer from ulcerative colitis or IBS also follow an elemental diet. In case of people who suffer from the irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, the elemental diet is used to heal and stop inflammation of the colon, provide direct nutrition and rejuvenate the immune system. The elemental diet is often used for the treatment in colitis to restore the balance in the colon and repair the damage. The elemental diet for the irritable bowel diseases (IBD) is one of the fastest ways of long term healing of any problems related to the colon, the intestines and the bowels. This diet is used to primarily eliminate or reduce symptoms.

Elemental Foods

The elemental diet is also used as a temporary measure for eosinophilic esophagitis and other similar conditions like Crohn’s disease. In the elemental diet for eosinophilic esophagitis, some amount of salt, artificial flavoring and ice may be allowed. The elemental diet is often used to treat children with eosinophilic esophagitis. It becomes very important for parents to remain strong as it can be a difficult diet for children to sustain. Children are also given formula while on the elemental diet. Sometimes patients are put on a semi elemental diet which means they are fed nourishment through a tube for a fixed amount of time, as part of a larger treatment. People who have been treated with a semi elemental diet have been seen to have   a lesser chance of a relapse.
Typically all proteins are avoided and as all natural foods contain at least small amounts of protein, all these foods are to be avoided. Foods that are safe to eat are sugar, oils and rice. That is why formula is often used as it is nutritionally sound food, especially for children. There are a variety of brands available in the market. There are many readymade products that are used in elemental diets. These products are a nutritious mix of proteins and other important and required dietary elements. These products are designed for people who need pre-digested meals, which is a big part of the elemental diet. These products for elemental diet are basically a formula, which is manufactured industrially. These drinks, though not prescription, are usually marketed for the elemental diet. These drinks contain nutrients in their broken down form so that digestion is not a problem. These readymade drinks can be classified under different categories and can satisfy different segments of patients who go on the elemental diet. Based on which nutrient is higher in the drink, the drink is classified as elemental or monomeric, semi elemental or oligomeric, polymeric and specialized. The elemental drinks are high in individual amino acids and glucose polymers. The fat content in these drinks tends to be very low hence sometimes this diet is also called a monomeric diet. So when you consume readymade products, be sure to read the labels and the ingredients properly so as to consume the right combination of ingredients for an elemental diet.

There are even other specific diets created for intestinal and colon diseases. These diets should not be substituted for elemental diets. One such diet is the Irritable Bowel Disease or IBD Remission Diet. Colitis and ulcerative colitis are other diseases where the elemental diet can be used. Colitis and ulcerative colitis, both are diseases that affect the digestive systems and bowel movements. Eating spicy or heavy food can trigger attacks or even eating foods like chocolate or chocolate milk can make it worse. You can try and avoid flare ups by eating non acidic fruits and steamed vegetables. To cure your symptoms and prevent flare ups, the elemental diet is used. But this diet, especially for these conditions, depends on person to person and there is no fixed diet that is given as a prescription. Ulcerative colitis is especially treated with a combination of elemental diets and regular nutrition. This is known as a semi elemental diet. Most nutrition is provided in liquid form. The protein and fiber component is given through regular food consumption patterns. Though elemental diets have helped in diseases like irritating bowel syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome, the best way to deal with these diseases is to try the elemental diet. However consultation with your health care expert is always advisable.

Submitted on May 11, 2011