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Healthy Gut-The 4 R’s of GI restoration

If you struggle with digestive issues you’re not alone. Next to the common cold, digestive problems are the most common reason people seek medical advice.  Dr. Tanya has helped hundred’s of people with gastro-intestinal (GI) problems using this program; “The 4 R’s of GI restoration”

As you might already be aware, good digestion is the cornerstone of optimal health, and 70% of our immune system exists in the GALT (gut associated lymphoid tissue) so if your digestion is faulty you’re likely suffering from other health challenges as well. If you want to strengthen your immune system and prevent disease, improving your digestion is a must.

This 4-step program can be followed by almost anybody, regardless of health challenge or digestive problem; however, the specifics of the protocol definitely need to be individually tailored, especially if you suffer from a more serious digestive disorder.

The 4 R’s have been used successfully for years in Functional Medicine as a protocol for gastrointestinal restoration. The steps don’t necessarily have to be done consecutively for you to obtain results; however, the first step definitely needs to be addressed in order for the following 3 to be effective.

This isn’t some quick-fix solution – it requires diligence and dedication – but the result on the other side is well worth the effort. The good news though is that you don’t have to complete all 4 steps before experiencing improvements in your symptoms!

The 4 R’s of Gastrointestinal Restoration:

1. Remove

This step is all about removing the stressors that negatively affect the environment of your GI tract. This includes all allergenic foods and chemical irritants. If you’re unsure of which foods you may be sensitive to it can be helpful to follow the “elimination diet” aka “hypoallergenic diet” which consists of removing the most common allergens like wheat, dairy, soy, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, peanuts, corn, eggs or even all gluten-containing products for a period of time.

Some patients chose to do the IgG food sensitivity test which we can be included in your tailored program however it’s best to also follow the elimination diet and then once we have your blood results from the IgG food sensitivity test then we simply make sure you don’t add back the foods you are sensitive to into your diet.   Running this test isn’t 100% accurate on it’s own for the “remove phase” since for example you may test negative on the IgG food sensitivity test to dairy but you may find that when you eliminate it you feel better since you actually have a lactose intolerance not a protein intolerance.  It’s important to rule out more serious allergies through skin scratch testing (with an allergist) and running blood tests (anti-transglutaminase and anti-gliadin antibodies) for intolerance to gluten in the case of celiac disease.

This step also involves eradicating pathogenic bacteria and yeast (we can assess you for h.pylori, pathogenic overgrowth of commensal bacteria, small bowel overgrowth and yeast overgrowth; more on this in step 3).

Lastly, emotional stress can also have serious effects on your GI tract and can’t be overlooked. Take time to rest and relax, and only eat when you’re mentally calm.  When you are in “sympathetic nervous system mode” (fight-or flight; ie. running away from a bear) your circulation is diverted from your digestion to your periphery (muscles) so you can run!!!  Unfortunately you can’t digest on the run!  So sit and relax through all your meals. Put your fork down between bites and chew your food, a lot!  Acupuncture combined with guided relaxation exercises can be a very helpful part of this program as it aids in reducing stress in addition to improving circulation to the digestion meridians.

2. Replace

This step refers to adding back or replacing all those factors that may be missing or lacking in the body and diet. In order to digest our food properly we need sufficient amounts of enzymes, hydrochloric acid (HCL), and bile which are all compromised by poor food choices, medications, various diseases, aging, and other factors.

You can think of this step as doing everything you can to support your digestion – and it will vary from person to person. Some people will do well supplementing with a digestive enzyme, and possibly one with HCL if acid is low – often mistaken for too much stomach acid.  It’s important though to work on the other phases of this program first (remove, regenerate and re-inoculate) before using HCL supplements since increasing stomach acid when you have any kind of “itis” (ie. gastritis) or inflammation can aggravate your condition.  We can help you determine what will work best for you as an individual.

Many people will do well by adding more raw vegetables and fruit to their diet which are naturally enzyme-rich, while others with severely compromised digestion may have to avoid raw foods and only eat their veggies and fruits well cooked or blended.

3. Reinoculate

Our intestinal tracts are host to over 500 different types of bacteria. In fact you might be surprised to know that you have more bacteria in your gut than cells in your body!  Due to poor diets, overuse of antibiotics and medications, environmental stress, diminished soil integrity, being born by C-section, among other factors, most people have too many bad bacteria compared to the good bacteria.   

This step involves replenishing the gut with healthy flora through the use of supplemental probiotics.  We can assess your levels of healthy gut flora with a specialized test called the “Stool Microbiology profile” by Doctor’s Data.  CLICK HERE for a sample report.

Supplementing with a good quality probitoic is especially important during and after antibiotic treatment. 

4. Repair

Once your diet is in check and lifestyle has more balance, you can begin to repair the damage done and work at regenerating the mucosal lining of the digestive tract with specific nutrients.

Overtime, the lining of the intestinal tract becomes damaged due to all the irritants and stressors mentioned in step 1.  As the integrity of the lining is lost, a condition called Leaky Gut Syndrome can ensue where the intestinal lining becomes permeable allowing substances such as large undigested food particles, pathogenic organisms and other chemicals to pass or “leak” through the barrier and into the blood stream at large. These substances are recognized as “foreign invaders” to the body and can trigger an autoimmune response, manifesting as a myriad of unpleasant symptoms, or contributing to or worsening a number of health conditions such as Crohn’s disease, IBS, chronic fatigue syndrome and eczema to name just a few.

We can also help you differentiate between irritable bowel disease and inflammatory bowel disease by testing your stool for levels of “calprotectin“.

There are a number of supplements that can be used to help repair the intestinal tract lining. Some of these supplements/herbs include: L-Glutamine, Deglycyrrhized licorice (DGL), Slippery Elm Bark, Zinc and N-Acetyl-D-Glucosamine.

Remember while the 4 R’s can be followed by almost anyone, the specifics of each step need to be tailored to you as an individual. This is why working with a naturopathic doctor familiar with the program is highly recommended, especially if you suffer from a more serious digestive disorder (such as Chron’s or Ulcerative Colitis or a stomach ulcer.)

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