A properly functioning digestive system is critical to good health. According to Dr. Mark Hyman, "The health of our gut impacts every other part of the body—even the brain." 

By the time Springtime arrives, many people have strayed from their New Years Resolutions and fallen back into old, unhealthy habits. This makes it all the more important to conduct a Spring Cleaning of your gut!

Most Functional Medicine practitioners use the 5R Program to systematically tackle the key areas needed to restore proper gut function. When applied correctly, this program can lead to dramatic improvement in symptoms and sometimes even complete resolution.

1. Remove 

This first step essentially wipes the slate clean before you can start to implement the repair process. It involves removing anything that may be negatively affecting the gut lining, especially processed foods, parasites and potentially problematic bacteria or yeasts. 

One of the most powerful tools you can use during this process is the Elimination Diet, the gold standard in identifying food intolerances or sensitivities. An Elimination Diet isn't like other fad diets. It simply involves removing foods from your diet that you suspect your body can’t tolerate well. The foods are later reintroduced, one at a time, while you look for symptoms that show a reaction.

It only lasts 5–6 weeks and is used to help those with a sensitive gut, food intolerance or food allergy identify which foods are contributing to their symptoms

2. Replace

Over time, things such as prescription medications, poor diet, chronic disease, and even aging can compromise the body's ability to produce the digestive secretions necessary for proper digestion. These include stomach acid, bile acids and digestive enzymes.

Making sure you take time to chew your food thoroughly and consuming specific foods and drinks such as pickles, lemon water, dandelion tea, artichoke, beetroot and celery, as well as a probiotic supplement like Nella, can all be helpful in supporting good digestion.

3. Repopulate

One of the most important roles of our gut bacteria, also known as the microbiome, is to establish a physical barrier in the gut to defend against harmful pathogens entering the body. This is only possible if a careful balance of beneficial bacteria, such as Lactobacillus, is maintained. This delicate balance can be destroyed by things such as antibiotics and poor diets.

Consuming probiotic foods such as raw fermented vegetables, kefir, yogurt and miso, or probiotic supplements like Nella help to re-establish a balanced gut microbiome. Equally as important is the consumption of prebiotic foods which feed the good bacteria and stimulate growth in the gut. Examples of prebiotic foods include artichokes, garlic, leeks, onion, flax, barley and oats.

4. Repair

Your body is designed to heal itself given the right environment. Support the natural healing process of your gut lining by supplying key nutrients that can often be in short supply in an inflamed gut such as zinc, vitamins A, C and E, fish oil and the amino acid glutamine from bone broth. Sounds like a lot, right? With a high quality multivitamin and a colorful, whole foods based diet, you can get all the nutrients needed with ease.

5. Rebalance

Complete the holistic approach to healing by addressing the remaining lifestyle factors that can also affect your gut health. These include managing emotional stress and building resilience through specific relaxation techniques such as meditation, getting adequate exercise, allowing time for cell repair, proper absorption and utilization of nutrients through restorative sleep.

A thorough spring cleaning that covers the whole body is a great opportunity to establish ongoing habits, which can make the next spring cleaning even easier. For instance, don't try to do all of the above in one day or even one weekend. Instead, tackle items on your spring cleaning to-do list each day over the next month. That will help to get you get the full benefit of your gut restoration and keep you going strong for the rest of 2022. 

March 20, 2022 — BRENT DRAKE