Blog & Updates
The 4 'Rs' Program to Improve Digestive Health
Friday 27th October 2017
Digestive problems are very common today. Many doctor's visits are due to digestive issues. many people suffering from gas, boating, cramps, nausea, reflux, indigestion, constipation or diarrhea. Unfortunately, in conventional medicine if the problems are not caused by a specific disease like Ulcerative Colitis, Crohns Disease etc most people are labelled to have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and told there isn't much they can do and must 'live with it'! People who suffer with IBS or other digestive problems may find this Nutritional Therapy advice helpful
Your digestion is very important for the absorption of nutrients and elimination of waste and is a vitally important part of the immune system. Along with the digestive symptoms above, poor digestion can also cause other non-digestive issues, e.g. fatigue, skin problems, low mood, weight gain and many autoimmune conditions.
I have often used the '4 R's Gut Healing program' with clients and had some great success. It has been extremely successful with IBS sufferers.
The program involves 4 stages.
This phase is removing the things that negatively affect your digestive tract. This can often mean removing the allergenic foods like wheat, gluten, dairy etc. It also means eradicating pathogenic bacteria and yeast. This means all simple sugars should be removed from the diet as they feed pathogenic bacteria and yeast, thus you are removing their food source. Along with starving the pathogens of their food source anti-bacterial/fungal supplements can also be used to remove these maladies. Examples of these are oregano oil, caprylic acid, wormwood oil, cinnamon, grapeseed extract and garlic.
The 'replace' phase is were nutrients required to improve digestion are added if necessary. To digest food properly sufficient amounts of stomach acid, digestive enzymes and bile are needed. Poor food choices, medications and aging are just some of the factors which can compromise these secretions. Raw vegetables are rich in digestive enzymes and therefore can be added to the diet, however some individuals can find these irritate the gut. This is where supplementing with digestive enzymes can be helpful a long with stomach acid if needed. Sometimes digestive bitters can also be used in this phase.
The 'Reinoculate' phase is where you add in 'good' bacteria to the gut. You have more bacteria in the gut than cells in your body, so it is no surprise that when the gut bacteria become out of balance problems occur. A healthy gut should have a ratio of around 4:1 of good versus bad bacteria. Poor diets, overuse of antibiotics and environmental stress are some of the main factors which upset this ratio. This step involves replenishing the gut with good bacteria. This is done by adding good sources of probiotics into the diet in the form of fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, miso and live yoghurt. Supplementing with a good quality probiotic is also very beneficial at this stage. For the probiotics to flourish they need the right substrate, this comes in the form of prebiotics (food for good bacteria) Foods rich in prebiotics are leeks, garlic, onions, Jerusalem artichoke, oats and asparagus.
The 'Repair' phase is where you heal the gut wall. Once your diet is improved and stressors eliminated or reduced, you can repair the mucosal lining of the digestive tract. The lining of the digestive tract becomes damaged due to all the irritants and stressors mentioned in the 'remove' phase. When the gut wall becomes damaged the integrity of the lining is lost causing the gut to become more permeable, this condition is called 'Leaky Gut Syndrome'. This condition allows substances such as large undigested food particles and pathogenic organisms to pass through the barrier into the bloodstream. These substances shouldn't be in the bloodstream and therefore are recognised as 'foreign invaders' by the body. This can trigger an autoimmune response causing some unpleasant symptoms including fatigue, brain fog, depression and anxiety. It can also worsen IBS symptoms, Crohns disease and skin conditions like eczema.
There are various supplements that can be used to help heal the intestinal tract lining. One of the best supplements is L-Glutamine as it is the preferred fuel source of the cells of the small intestine. Other useful supplements which support mucosal barrier healing are Vitamin A, C and Zinc. The herbs Slippery Elm and Deglycyrrhized licorice also have healing properties and have been shown to help soothe the gastrointestinal tract.
The 4 'Rs' approach can be followed by most people; however, this is just an overview and each step needs to be specifically tailored to an individual. Therefore, working with a fully qualified Nutritional Therapist who has experience using this protocol is recommended. If you would like further nutrition advice on this program or anything else, please get in contact via the website.