The 5 R’s to Heal Your Gut

So we talked a bit last time about leaky gut — when the used-to-be tight lining of your intestinal walls become leaky (think of a soaker hose leaking out water compared to a standard garden hose that keeps all the water in). Offending foods, medications, pathogenic organisms, or a continual bath of stress hormones, can all contribute to causing leaky gut. As a result, undigested food particles, bacteria, and environmental toxins can slip through your intestinal tissues and into your bloodstream. Nutrients can’t be properly absorbed, and all of these factors together can cause gut and whole-body inflammation. And that’s no good!

Healing With the 5 R’s

It can be really difficult to “fix” leaky gut when you don’t know exactly what the culprit is. Some things may be obvious, but there is likely a combination of factors that are contributing to your symptoms, some of which aren’t so easy to pinpoint.

Those of us working in the realm of functional medicine frequently start with these 5 R’s to get the healing process underway:

  • Remove
  • Replace
  • Repair
  • Reinoculate
  • Rebalance

We’ll unpack each of these in greater detail in the next few posts to come, but let’s briefly explore each one here.

Remove

Removing antagonists is a BIG one and should be the first step in any gut healing journey. Anything that negatively impacts the gastrointestinal (GI) tract needs to get out of there before true healing can begin. Ever try to clean up a party while all the partiers are still making a mess? It’s doesn’t work! You clear out your home, then you get to work cleaning up. Here are some “messy guests” that need to be removed:

  • foods that cause sensitivities, allergies, and intolerances
  • bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitic pathogens
  • physical, emotional, and environmental stressors
  • eating too fast or too late to allow for proper digestion
  • some medications like NSAIDs and PPIs (never stop a medication without first speaking to your physician!)

Replace

There are many essential nutrients required for proper digestion and absorption. Adequate levels of these can be depleted by medications, disease, aging, or diet, and they must be replaced for optimal GI health. Some nutrients that may need a boost:

  • digestive enzymes
  • hydrochloric acid
  • bile acids
  • vitamins and minerals

Repair

Once you’ve removed the offenders and replaced depleted elements of digestion, it’s time to send in the repair crew. Repairing the gut lining is essential for proper absorption, and this happens best with nutrients like:

  • zinc carnosine
  • vitamins A, D, and C
  • amino acids, particularly L-glutamine
  • deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL)
  • serum-derived immunoglobulins

Reinoculate

Restoring the balance of healthy intestinal bacteria is another essential part of healing a leaky gut. Beneficial bacteria can thrive when you eat foods naturally rich in probiotics, and you might need to include supplements that contain “good” bacterial species like bifidobacteria and lactobacillus. It’s also essential to consume foods high in soluble fiber and prebiotics to give good bacteria the food that they need.

Rebalance

This is where lifestyle takes center stage. You must realize that the changes you’ve been making throughout your journey aren’t simply for a short-term diet fix. Rather these are modifications that should take root for a lifetime. Some lifestyle factors that need to be optimized for full GI healing are:

  • sleep hygiene
  • exercise—type and amount
  • stress management and enhancing your parasympathetic nervous system
  • proper mastication (chew your food!)
  • meditative practices like yoga, deep breathing, and other mindfulness-based practices to help restore hormone balance

A complete healing journey with these 5 R’s takes at least three months and up to six depending on the degree of gut inflammation. You may not need to go through these steps in a linear progression, because you’re unique and your path through these 5 R’s should be too.

One thing is true for all us, however…committing to remove, replace, repair, reinoculate, and rebalance your body will transform not just your gut, but your whole body, and life, for the better.

Stay tuned as we look at each R a little deeper in the weeks to come. And if you want to talk before then, let’s plan a time!

In joy and health,

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