By Dr Julie Durnan
Your digestive tract, or as we lovingly like to refer to it at the clinic – your GUT, is the foundation for great health.
So it makes sense that in order to connect with health, we must first heal the gut.
There have been numerous articles written on the subject of the 4Rs of digestion – but in my practice, I’ve added an extra R. To find out what the 5th R is, please make sure to read through to the end of this article.
Here is my simple 5 step process to healing your gut and finding great health:
- REMOVESimply put – the first step involves removing the triggers that are aggravating your digestive tract so your gut can heal.This is done in one of two ways – by following an Elimination Diet for 3 weeks or by having a food sensitivity test (IgG ELISA blood test) done and eliminating only those foods that you are sensitive to.If you are following an Elimination Diet, this involves avoiding all common food allergens including:
- All processed foods containing artificial ingredients or preservativesThese foods much be strictly avoided for 3 weeks to ensure that all the allergens have cleared from your system.
It takes some effort, but it’s healthy eating and most of our patients who have done an elimination diet report feeling better than ever. It’s well worth it!
If you choose to have the blood test done, this is a quick and easy test done in our clinic. The test starts at $275, and the cost depends on number of foods tested. If you go this route, then your removal phase will involve only avoidance of those foods found to be a problem for you on the test.
Your digestive system is your barrier between your internal body and the external world.
Your gut can be easily damaged by toxins, chemicals, and any foods that cause your immune system to overreact.
But the good news is that once you avoid the overall load of triggers, your gut can heal
Once you have removed all the aggravating food culprits from your diet, it’s time to boost your gut’s natural digestive abilities, by replacing enzymes and acid.
Start taking a good quality digestive enzyme with each meal.
Enzymes help you to digest food, they reduce inflammation in the gut, they neutralize bacteria and viruses, and they ensure that what you eat, you actually absorb.
Depending on your gut health, you might also require some added hydrochloric acid (HCl). Speak to your naturopathic physician to see if you are a candidate for this.
After you have removed trigger foods for 3 weeks and replaced with enzymes for one week, you are now ready for reinoculation of healthy bacteria.
What this means is that you are now ready to take a good quality probiotic supplement to optimize your healthy gut microbial balance.
Healthy gut bacteria is one of the most essential components to a health digestive tract so this step is not to be missed.
Did you know that our natural gut bacteria becomes damaged when we eat food allergens, consume pesticides and food additives, and are stressed?
Gut bacteria is crucial not only to good digestive function but also to whole body health including fertility, prenatal health, cardiovascular health (heart health), mood balance, hormone balance, and immune system function. It is one of the most underestimated components of the human body and something we talk about at length in visits with our patients.
As a side note: a good probiotic supplement is something that you can take ongoing for great health.
Lactobacillus ramnosus is one of the most well-studied probiotic strains around. Look for this bacteria on your probiotic’s ingredients label. Aim to get between 50 to 100 billion colony forming units (cfu) per day when healing your gut. Maintenance doses can be less.
I also recommend reinoculating your gut bacteria by using food-based medicine. Fermented foods are a wonderful way to restore healthy bacteria in the gut and to maintain optimal bacterial balance. Foods such as kefir, saurkraut, miso, kombucha, and kimchi are all superfoods that can restore healthy levels of beneficial bacteria.
You have removed irritants, replaced with digestive enzymes, and reinoculated with nourishing healthy bacteria – it’s now time to repair that gut lining to truly heal your whole digestive system.
A few of our favourite gut healing remedies are:
Turmeric: an anti-inflammatory herb that has been well researched and shown to quickly and safely reduce overall inflammation and heal the gut lining. Can be taken in powder form with a bit of pepper and olive oil, or in a supplement form. Aim for 1500 to 3000mg daily.
Fish Oil or Algae Oil (vegan): this anti-inflammatory food powerfully reduces inflammation but also benefits heart health, brain function (memory + mood), skin, and more.
L-glutamine powder: 5-10 grams of powder daily will help to feed those enterocytes (cells that line your entire digestive tract) to keep them strong and the lining healthy.
Soothing (demulcent) herbs:
- Marshmallow root (Althea officinalis)
- Slippery Elm bark powder (Ulmus rubra)
- DGL (deglycyrrizinated licorice)
The last step of the 5Rs is crucial in maintaining a health digestive system. Relax.
If you are stressed or anxious, your gut health suffers. Period.
Blood is literally shunted away from your gut when you are under stress. In order to heal, it’s necessary that you relax, so that blood flow may return to the digestive system, bringing with it a healthy dose of nutrients and minerals for healing.
Take the time to rest, restore, to sleep, and to breathe. Your healthy gut will repay you a thousand times over.