Week 1 on the Elemental Diet
I am not going to lie. Week 1 on the Elemental Diet has been challenging. There have been times when I've wondered what the hell I am doing, that I must be insane for giving up food for 21 days and that it felt easier to throw in the towel and walk away from it. Read more about why I've decided to do the Elemental Diet.
Knowing that I had made a commitment to myself, and to my fellow SIBOers, that I would share this journey honestly with you, gave me the courage and motivation to keep going.
I felt really motivated and a little excited to start the Elemental Diet. I've let myself go recently and haven't been feeling great. My SIBO has flared, my haemochromatosis had flared and I felt like I was 100 years old.
My biggest fear was not eating or chewing for 21 days. My first shake was sweet... like, really sweet. As in too much sugar, not awesome kind of sweet. If you've been on a SIBO diet for a while, your taste buds will be used to not eating sugary foods. Whereas if you're just starting out and doing the Elemental Diet as your first treatment option, you probably won't find it that sweet.
I found it reeeeaaaallllyyyy hard not to focus on food. I felt overwhelmed with thoughts about eating. I wasn't feeling overly hungry, so the desire to eat was more emotional than physical. I had to completely avoid watching TV commercials about food, so I would change channels when they came on, and I had to leave the house when my partner cooked his dinner.
To hit my daily calorie requirements I am supposed to have 10 scoops of the Integrative Therapeutics Physicians Elemental Diet formula (standard or dextrose-free versions) per day. I split this out over 3 shakes (2 with 3 scoops and 1 with 4 scoops) on Day 1. I had the standard dextrose containing formula in the afternoon which gave me a massive blood sugar crash and left me feeling shaky and quite weak.
My doctor recommended I have daily Epsom salt baths to help with the detoxification and also to give me something nice and relaxing to do. Crawling into a nice bubble bath was the perfect way to end my first day on the Elemental Diet.
I woke up feeling like my blood sugar was all over the place, as if I'd eaten a huge, sugary dessert the night before.
Despite this, I felt incredibly motivated and positive about the Elemental Diet, feeling like this is the right thing to do. I had a busy day and unfortunately had quite long gaps between shakes, which left me feeling quite hungry. I also didn't have much time to rest, which probably wasn't ideal as I just kept pushing through.
To combat the big blood sugar drop from the night before, I decided to drink the dextrose containing Elemental Diet for my evening meal in the hope that any blood sugar drop would happen when I was asleep and I wouldn't notice it.
I woke up feeling quite poorly, like I was coming down with a cold. I didn't feel well rested, my blood sugar was all over the place and despite sleeping longer than I normally do, I didn't feel well rested. I wondered if this was the start of my die-off symptoms coming through.
Because my blood sugar felt so horrible, I decided to do a water-fast for the majority of the day. I actually felt a lot better for doing this, and my blood sugar felt like it stabilised quite quickly from it.
After a visit to the dentist to have 2 fillings repaired, I realised I should have booked that in before or after the Elemental Diet, as I wasn't able to take any painkillers. Coupled with my period starting that day, I was in quite a lot of pain that day.
I had another episode of my blood sugar going crazy, so had to have a shake before bed which wasn't ideal as I had a horrible night's sleep. I felt like I couldn't sleep deeply, was really conscious of sounds around me (aka snoring next to me!) and felt REALLY angry and frustrated.
Day 4 was the hardest day on the Elemental Diet so far. I felt exhausted, completely devoid of all energy and had the most intense food cravings all day. It was a mental battle all day not to go and eat something. I was angry, frustrated and felt like giving up.
I also noticed a white coating on my tongue, which started to stress me out as I was worried oral thrush was developing (which can happen on the Elemental Diet). My mouth was tender and my tongue was feeling quite sore, and became increasingly sore as the day progressed. To combat this I started doing coconut oil pulling after each shake, and also rinsed out my mouth and brushed my teeth after each drink.
After water-fasting for half the day I had my first shake as a late lunch. The desire to chew was overwhelming and drinking a shake through a straw just wasn't cutting it for me.
Increasing the number of shakes over the day did seem to work better for me. I dropped down to 2 scoops, 5 times a day, which gave me more stable blood sugar than trying to only do 3 shakes.
I also realised just how important my nightly Epsom salt baths have become for me. I am loving my baths. I look forward to them during the day, and they mark the end of another day on the Elemental Diet.
"Treat the Elemental Diet as an emotional and physical retreat. Allow your body to hibernate so you can emerge a beautiful butterfly.
Day 5 was my best day this week. I woke up feeling great, felt incredibly motivated and positive that I could get to Day 21.
My doctor had responded to me and suggested I add some fat in with my shakes. I tried adding ghee initially, but it ended up looking like cottage cheese. I did like the flavour it added to it, but the sight made me want to gag.
I then tried adding in MCT oil, which blended in well because it was already in liquid form. I couldn't taste a difference in flavour from this fat though.
Sadly, by the end of the day I was starting to get a bit of cramping and bloating which I suspect was from the added fat.
The day started out ok on Day 6. Being a Saturday, my partner and I took our dog to a local dog park for his morning run. The sun was shining and it was quite a lovely spring morning. Our normal routine is to stop at a local cafe for breakfast after the dog park. We still went there, but Sam only drank coffee while I sipped on water. I surprised myself that I was able to sit there, with food all around me, and not want to kill everybody.
When I got home I crashed out. It was like someone had taken out the power cable. I crawled into bed and slept for several hours. I felt overcome with emotion, which I guess is part of the cleansing process.
I continued to add fat into my shakes, with disastrous results. By mid-afternoon, I ended up with explosive diarrhoea. My tongue is looking better though, as I now have a routine in place to prevent oral thrush from arising. After each shake, I rinse my mouth out, do an oil pull, brush and floss my teeth.
The rollercoaster ride continued on Day 7 as I continued to feel exhausted and drained of energy. I had to climb back into bed after my shower after feeling completely wiped out.
I have a lower back injury and need to keep moving, but because I have been sleeping so much, my back has flared up and is quite painful. I'm going to have to find ways to incorporate some gentle movement into my days to support my back, but not to overexert myself.
I completely hated the Elemental Diet today and the thought of having to do another 14 days was too much to think about. I found myself negotiating with myself, thinking about only doing it for 14 days, not 21 days, incorporating in one meal a day, doing a water-only fast, and more. By the end of the day I realised I can only think in one-week blocks as I know I can do a week at a time.
I also spent a lot of time thinking about my first meal once I come off the Elemental Diet and what ingredients I will use.
Key Lessons from Week 1 on the Elemental Diet
Do the Elemental Diet at a time when you can afford to focus on yourself
Give yourself permission to rest when you need to
Know that food cravings will pass
Incorporate relaxing activities into your day, such as baths and meditation
Drink LOTS of water in addition to your Elemental Diet
Work from home or take time off work so you can rest when you need to
Work out how many shakes you need per day to keep your blood sugar and energy levels consistant
Tell your friends and family what you are doing. Ask for their support. You don't have to do this on your own
Write down why you are doing this. Keep looking at it on the hard days to remind yourself of your greater purpose
Get a calendar and cross off each day. It's incredibly satisfying to know you are one step closer to the end
Results from Week 1 on the Elemental Diet
Symptoms: SIBO symptoms improved although added fat has caused cramping, diarrhoea and nausea. Blood sugar crashes can happen easily so I will need to continue figuring out how to manage these.
Weight: Lost 3.7kg/8.1lbs (16.8kg/37lbs to go).
Bowel Movements: 4 out of 7 days with BMs decreasing in volume and then stopping by the end of the week.
Food Cravings: Mixed results. Some days I was overcome with cravings, other days I didn't think about food at all.
Mindset: It has been challenging. I am glad the first week is over, but there have been days when I have wanted to give up. I hope the next 7 days are easier.
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