The 5 R's For Gut Healing


This week we continue our focus with the GUT. We know now that when our digestive systems become dysfunctional, the foundation for disease is laid. This week, we learn HOW to begin the gut healing process. From the start of my naturopathic training, I learned that unless there is a compelling reason otherwise, we start with the gut. This was further emphasized during my weeklong Functional Medicine training when I learned the 5 “R” Gut Healing Program. If you suffer from disease or gut issues, I encourage you to read on and GET STARTED! Follow me on Instagram where I will run through each of these 5 R’s with practical recommendations for implementation. Restoring normal gut function is FOUNDATIONAL to good health, and below are the steps for getting started.

Our digestion can malfunction due to a multitude of reasons: Stress, anti-biotic use, medications, environmental toxin exposure, poor diet, inflammation, medications, the list goes on.  Here is the program I utilize at my clinic and have found success.

The Five “R” Program: Remove, Replace, Reinoculate, Repair, Rebalance

  1. Remove - Remove the stressors that negatively impact the GI tract. This includes allergenic foods, parasites, problematic bacteria, and yeast. This often involves an elimination diet to identify foods that bother you or an IgG food sensitivity panel. I like to run the GI MAP that can identify parasites, problematic bacteria and yeast. Removing these stressors often involves medications or herbs to eradicate the particular problem.

  2. Replace - Replace digestive secretions: we support digestion through adding things like digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid, and bile acids. Good digestion is dependent on these secretions and can be compromised by diet, medications, disease, aging, etc. Stressed out rats with elevated cortisol levels had decreased digestive enzymatic activity and therefore compromised gut function (1).

  3. Reinoculate - Here we support a healthy microbiome by eating probiotic foods or supplements that have the “good” bacteria along with foods high in soluble fiber to feed these good bugs.  

    • Probiotics: Fermented foods like yogurt, miso, and sauerkraut are food sources of probiotics because they contain these “good” bacteria. We supplement with probiotics on an individualized basis, like if someone has a history of anti-biotic use or their GI MAP results call for it.

    • Prebiotics: These foods feed probiotics and are available in highly fibrous foods like artichoke, garlic, leeks, onion, tofu, barley, flax, and oats. A good prebiotic supplement is fructo-oligosaccharide or FOS.

  4. Repair - Here, we help repair the gut lining by supplying nutrients that support healing the mucosa. I tend to use a number of intestinal repair formulations based on my patient’s needs. They do all contain the amino acid l-glutamine that is an essential nutrient for gut cell growth and integrity (2).

  5. Rebalance - This step is SO IMPORTANT for maintaining results. Here, we look at lifestyle choices. Sleep, exercise, and stress all play a role in GI function and balancing these activities is foundational for optimal digestion (3).