Elemental Diet vs Elimination Diet: What’s the Difference?

There are different kinds of diets including elemental and elimination. The two diets take different approaches. Elemental diet recipes are liquid diets that gradually add back elements the body needs. An elimination diet removes foods one at a time from a person’s diet to figure out which one the person cannot process properly.

lady eating an avocado for the elemental diet

Food is something we all need for nutrients and energy. However, sometimes it can cause problems for various reasons. It could be due to a medical procedure or food allergy. There are special diets known as the Elemental and Elimination diets that both deal with such situations in opposite ways. For example, the one with elemental diet recipes is a liquid diet that adds elements back to a person’s diet. This diet is quite rare and is used for cases like a person having surgery that affects the digestive system, or people with serious gut-related conditions. In these cases, the patients can’t consume solid food.

Then there are elimination diets that are basically the opposite of elemental diets. That’s because foods are removed instead of elements added. For example, if someone has a condition like food allergies. It starts with a limited diet including foods that are suspected of causing symptoms. This diet involves removing one food at a time to figure out which one is causing digestion problems like stomach aches or other symptoms. Food like dairy, peanuts, or shellfish are usually removed every few weeks to determine if that’s the one that’s definitely causing a negative reaction in the patient.

Elemental Diet Recipes

Let’s start out with the elemental diet. This is a liquid diet that’s usually given to people who are recovering from particular health issues. The diet gets its name because nutrients are reduced to forms as close to their original elements as possible. There are many commercial formulas for people on this diet.

The elemental diet allows patients to absorb nutrients in the most digestible form possible. So this is a good option for people who have digestion problems. It’s believed the small intestine first absorbs all nutrients so the large intestine is able to take a break.

It’s worth noting that this diet is actually rarely used and is only effective for a small percentage of people. That includes those with a surgery that involves their digestive tract. In very rare cases it includes people with gut or absorption problems.

This diet isn’t just used by people suffering from serious digestion problems. The diet can also be effective for people with conditions like small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and Crohn’s disease.

Let’s get to the nitty-gritty of the diet itself. A person might take in the elemental diet formula through a liquid drink or feeding tube. During the next couple of days, the quantity of liquid is gradually boosted in order to reduce side-effects like stomach pain and LBM.

When doctors prescribe this diet for treating the digestive tract it’s the only “food” allowed. No other foods/liquids besides water are permitted. The only exceptions are black coffee, herbal tea, or dietary supplements. However, these must be prescribed by the doctor. You should only follow the elemental diet if you’re also getting medical supervision.

Finally, what exactly is in the diet’s formula? The liquids include nutrients in a form that’s easy to digest. Some stuff in the formulas include:

  • Vitamins (water/fat-absorbing)
  • Fat (under 1%)
  • Electrolytes
  • Glucose (sugar)
  • Minerals
  • Amino acids (essential/non-essential)

What’s the Elimination Diet?

Then there’s the elimination diet, which is basically the opposite of the elemental diet. This is used when people have some sort of food allergy/intolerance. The key is to find out what’s causing the condition, which can be tougher than it might seem at first.

The elimination diet is one way you can figure out any food intolerances you might have. Here’s how it works. You totally avoid particular foods for a couple of weeks.    Then you add them back to the diet gradually one by one. This allows you to figure out which foods are causing negative reactions.

There are various reasons for doing the elimination diet. For example, you might have symptoms that are constant or short-term. Sometimes a doctor might not even know what’s causing your symptoms. That’s because it could be due to various factors like sleep or age.

In some cases, you know that something is wrong in terms of your body’s or brain’s functioning. However, you don’t know the exact cause. This could be caused by things like food allergies.

It’s important to note that food allergies aren’t’ always very severe. For example, they might not happen suddenly or cause serious symptoms when you eat shellfish or peanuts. The range of symptoms can range from none at all to serious swelling.

Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Bloating
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach
  • Migraines
  • Itching
  • Joint aches/pains
  • Dry skin
  • Stomach ache

Even if you don’t have any food allergies/intolerances it’s a good idea to do an elimination diet. The reason is this can provide various benefits like energy boosts and clear thinking. In fact, if you feel 100% better after an elimination diet it was likely due to foods/drinks.

Modern life can be tough on the human body. That’s due to factors like pollutants and stress. There are also tons of chemicals in food/water. You can deal with problems by fixing inflammation that’s affecting the immune system.


Common Food Allergies


This is another common allergy that affects about 1% of the United States population. This includes allergies to:

  • Almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Cashews
  • Macadamias
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts

If you have this allergy you should avoid all tree nuts even if you’re only allergic to 1 or 2 of them.


This allergy results from the body attacking various proteins from shellfish. Sometimes it’s difficult to determine if a person has a shellfish allergy or a reaction from stuff like bacteria or viruses in the seafood. The reason is the symptoms like stomach pain and vomiting are often similar.


This isn’t the most common allergy overall but it’s the second most common among kids. The reason you don’t hear about this allergy too much is nearly 70% of kids with an egg allergy grow out of it by 16 years old.

One of the most interesting things about this allergy is you might be allergic to either the whites or yolks. That’s because there’s a little difference between the proteins of the whites and yolks. However, egg white allergies are more common.


Fun Fact: peanuts are beans, not nuts. However, it’s interesting that people allergic to peanuts are frequently allergic to nuts also. Experts think the main risk of peanut allergies is a family history of them. Up to 22% of kids with peanut allergies grow out of them by ten years.

Cow’s milk

There’s a good chance you’re either allergic to cow’s milk or know someone who is. This is easily one of the most common food allergies. It’s most common in babies/kids and mainly ones who drink cow’s milk before 6 months old.

Cow’s milk allergy affects up to 3% of babies/toddlers. However, about 90% of kids outgrow the health condition by three years old so it’s less common than elemental diet recipes.

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