The 5 ‘R’ Approach to Healing Your Gut
I think of the gut as our body’s “hub” because it is involved in every aspect of our health; mood, energy metabolism, immunity are just a few examples. And if you have issues with acid reflux, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, bloating or nausea (and really, who hasn’t experienced these things?), you understand the impact that gut health can play in your day-to-day life. There are a number of things that can throw our gut out of balance and lead to the aforementioned symptoms including illness (virus, infections), stress, dysbiosis (where you gut bacteria are out of balance), food allergies and sensitivities, lack of fiber, parasites, and a whole number of other reasons. It can be really difficult to restore balance when you don’t know where to start in figuring out the culprit -and most likely, it is a combination of factors that are contributing to your symptoms.
Here is where I work with my patients to implement the 5 ‘R’ Approach.
This is a modified version of the Institute for Functional Medicine’s model, and it focuses solely on diet and lifestyle interventions.
1. Remove: whatever is either in excess or is a suspected (or known) sensitivity or allergen. Sometimes this requires a bit of investigative work and mapping of symptoms to see if there are patterns. Food sensitivities are tricky because your symptoms may occur hours or days after exposure. This is where I will often implement an elimination-style diet and/or do MRT food sensitivity testing.
2. Replace: Once the offending foods and lifestyle triggers are removed, I work on replacing the factors necessary to optimize digestive secretions/enzymatic activity (help you properly digest), adding in fiber is several different forms to support gut transit time and motility (elimination of toxins). Here we also will look at repletion of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
3. Repopulate: restoring the balance of good bacteria in your gut is absolutely crucial to overall health. This involves using probiotic foods, fiber-rich foods, and sometimes a supplement.
4. Repair: The gut lining can be severely compromised during periods of inflammation, stress and when exposed to allergens over time. Repairing the gut lining is needed to ensure proper absorption of nutrients. This involves eating foods rich in zinc, vitamins A, D and C and amino acids, particularly L-glutamine.
5. Rebalance: This is where lifestyle really comes into play. It is important to address the external stressors in your life that may increase your sympathetic drive in the nervous system and reduce the parasympathetic drive. With practices like yoga, meditation, deep breathing, good sleep and other mindfulness-based practices, you can help restore hormone balance that will protect your gut and subsequently, your entire body.