Elemental Nutrition

What is elemental nutrition?

In an elemental diet, elements have been broken down into small, easy-to-absorb components.

What are the benefits of elemental nutrition?

When a meal is ingested, the body breaks down nutrients into tiny pieces or “elements” that may be absorbed. For instance, after eating a meal rich in protein, the body will break down this nutrient into amino acids and peptides. The process of nutrient breakdown and absorption requires a great deal of energy — ask anyone who has eaten a large meal!

The critically ill patient typically does not have this energy to spare — or the little energy they do possess could be better served in healing and repair of the body. Elemental nutrition provides nutrients in small sizes like amino acids for easier and quicker assimilation of nutrients. Elemental nutrition is also better tolerated in patients with gastrointestinal problems, particularly malabsorptive states like inflammatory bowel disease, infectious enteropathies, dietary sensitivities, neoplastic infiltration of the bowel, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, lymphangiectasia, or proventricular dilatation disease in birds.

EmerAid nutrition for intensive care and recovery

The EmerAid System for Intensive Care is a series of partially elemental or semi-elemental diets that provide species-specific nutrition.

EmerAid Intensive Care products contain:

  • Free essential amino acids including increased quantities of glutamine and arginine to meet the needs of the debilitated patient
  • A highly digestible blend of fats and simple carbohydrates for energy
  • Balanced omega 3/6 polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • Dietary nucleotides to provide DNA and RNA precursors

The EmerAid Sustain line contains more whole nutrients than Intensive Care nutrition and is designed for the patient recovering from critical illness or suffering from chronic medical conditions. Sustain is also an excellent choice for the underweight animal. Products available include EmerAid Sustain HDN Canine, EmerAid Sustain HDN Feline, and EmerAid Sustain Herbivore, a high-fiber recovery diet designed for long-term feeding of debilitated small herbivores.

Learn more about elemental nutrition

Curry AS, Chadda S, Danel A, Nguyen DL. Early introduction of a semi-elemental formula may be cost saving compared to a polymeric formula among critically ill patients requiring enteral nutrition: a cohort cost-consequence model. Clinicoecon Outcomes Res 10:293-300, 2018.

Menezes JS, Andrade MC, Senra B, et al. Immunological activities are modulated by enteral administration of an elemental diet in mice. Clin Nutr 25(4):63-652, 2006.

Shkurupii D. Nutritive support for newborns in critical conditions: semi-elemental formilas as a means of enteral nutrition. Wiad Lek 71(2 pt 2):266-270, 2018.

Smith PA. Nutritional therapy for active Crohn’s disease. World J Gastroenterol 14(27):4420-4423, 2008.

Watanake O, Ando T, Ishiguro K, et al. Enteral nutrition decreases hospitalization rate in patients with Crohn’s disease. J Gastroenterol Hepatol 25 Suppl 1:S134-S137, 2010.

By Christal Pollock, DVM, DABVP (Avian Practice); Lafeber Company Veterinary Consultant. Written February 2011, updated October 23, 2018.