.....Or How To Get Rid Of IBS!
Are you experiencing any of these common digestive tract symptoms like gas, bloating, reflux, indigestion, constipation, or diarrhea?
the chances are if you went to the doctor you would be diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
If the symptoms are bad enough you may be given a medication to reduce the acid, or something to help with the constipation or diarrhea .... but this is just addressing the symptoms and not treating the cause.
The 4 R's of gut healing is a step-by-step plan to improve your gut health.
Your digestion is important for the absorption of nutrients, and elimination of wastes, and it's a vital component of our immune system.
When things go wrong with our digestive tract it can cause widespread symptoms throughout our body like fatigue, aches and pains, skin problems, mood problems, and it can increase your risk of autoimmune conditions and cancer ..... so what can be done to improve our digestion?
- The 4 R's of gut healing is a comprehensive method to improve digestive health
- This approach addresses underlying issues in the gut by removing harmful substances and replenishing them with essential nutrients
- Following the 4 R's protocol can alleviate common symptoms and contribute to overall well-being
The Importance Of Gut Health In Overall Wellbeing
In recent years, the spotlight on digestive health has intensified, with research showing its pivotal role in our overall well-being.
Often referred to as our body's 'second brain', the gastrointestinal tract is not just responsible for digestion but plays a crucial part in our physical, mental, and emotional health.
The gut is home to trillions of microorganisms that influence our metabolism, immune system, and even our mood. Hence, nurturing a healthy gut is not just about alleviating digestive discomfort; it's about fostering a foundation of health that reverberates throughout our entire body.
Understanding the relationship between the gut and our overall health is crucial. It's a delicate ecosystem that, when balanced, supports our body's resilience against illness, aids in the efficient absorption of nutrients, and even contributes to mental clarity and emotional stability.
However, when this balance is disrupted, it can lead to a cascade of health issues, manifesting not just in gastrointestinal distress but potentially in chronic inflammation, weakened immunity, and a predisposition to a range of physical and psychological conditions.
That's where the 4 R's of gut healing come into play, providing a holistic approach to restore balance and help you reach optimal health.
Introducing the 4 R's of Gut healing
The 4 R's of gut healing is a general guide and does not necessarily have to be followed in this exact order, but if you have not done any advanced stool testing or you don't have a doctor supporting you this is a good formula to follow.
With my clients I generally recommend doing an advanced stool test like the Vibrant Wellness Gut Zoomer test or the Diagnostic Solutions GI-Map test - doing these tests helps to take out the guesswork so I can help you formulate a specific plan.
Whether you test or not these steps are often important things to focus on with your gut healing journey.
1/ R = Remove
Remove the foods that cause inflammation and create an environment for bacteria, parasites, and candida to thrive.
This may differ for everybody, but the first step requires the removal of the most common inflammatory foods, which are gluten, dairy, soy, and processed foods, this is to work out if food is the primary trigger or a contributing factor to your digestion problems.
If bloating and gas are your primary symptoms, then following a low FODMAP diet may be the best approach for you, this is a diet that temporarily removes certain carbohydrates that ferment easily in the small intestine allowing bacteria to thrive (and create the gas/ bloating).
One of the most common causes of IBS symptoms is small intestinal bowel overgrowth (SIBO) and a low FODMAP diet combined with a specific treatment plan is required to remove the bacteria and eliminate your bloating.
Doing a food sensitivities test like the Vibrant Wellness Food Sensitivity Complete is a good option if you find it too difficult to remove foods from your diet. This test also assesses common food additives.
2/ R = Replace
Replace the nutrients that are required for digestion to take place.
This includes improving stomach acid with Betaine HCL and Pepsin, because without sufficient hydrochloric acid, your food (especially protein) is not going to digest efficiently which can cause bloating, gas, and reflux (plus, affect the absorption of important vitamins like B12).
The stomach acid is also important to kill pathogens that come into our body through the food we eat, and insufficient stomach acid will create an environment for bacteria and candida infections to thrive.
It may also be necessary to replace pancreatic enzymes, also known as digestive enzymes which are important for fat, carbohydrate, and protein digestion, they also help gall bladder function.
The common medical approach is to give antacids or proton pump inhibitors like Somac or Nexium, these medications do help the symptoms like indigestion in the short term but they don't address the cause and can lead to more chronic IBS symptoms.
3/ R = Reinoculate
Reinoculate the beneficial bacteria! Once you have identified the triggers, eliminated any infections, and addressed the inflammation then it's time to improve the health of the gut bacteria.
There is so much research going into how important the health of our gut bacteria, determines our health. From allergies and fatigue to depression and anxiety the research shows how having the right bacteria can influence our health.
It's not just a matter of eating fermented foods or taking some probiotics, it's important to have prebiotic foods and quality fiber for the bacteria to thrive on.
If you are looking for a guide on the best probiotic supplements you can read this article.
It's also important to get out into nature and not be so obsessed with anti-bacterial soaps and wipes which can also affect our healthy levels of bacteria.
4/ R = Repair
Repair the damage that has been done to the intestinal lining!
Just removing certain foods and replacing the nutrients for many people means their symptoms have greatly improved but it is still important to address the inflammation and repair the damage that has been done.
The small intestine's job is to absorb nutrients, and due to food intolerances, stress, medications, bacterial overgrowth, and low stomach acid, the tiny microvilli can get damaged.
If the microvilli get damaged you will not be able to absorb your nutrients effectively, this can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, even if you are eating a good diet.
You may also need to address inflammation and leaky gut in the large intestine, otherwise, toxins will start to get reabsorbed into your body, rather than being eliminated (think leaking sewer you would call a plumber straight away!).
There is a connection between intestinal permeability, autoimmune diseases, and many other health conditions.
This creates an environment for parasites, unhealthy bacteria, and yeast to take over leading to inflammation, the high inflammation leads to high cortisol levels which can affect other hormonal systems like thyroid function and lead to an increase in belly fat
The high cortisol can lead to adrenal dysfunction and low Secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA), which is a prime component of our immune system, 75% of our immune system is based in the large intestine so dysfunction here can lead to many immune problems.
Pathology Tests for Digestion Function
SIBO Breath Test
Small intestinal bowel overgrowth (SIBO) is the leading cause of IBS symptoms. It is a condition in which bacteria that are normally found in the large intestine, have overgrown into the small intestine.
SIBO can be diagnosed with a simple non-invasive breath test.
Bacterial overgrowth can cause a rise in intestinal gas which is not produced by humans. The two types of gas are hydrogen and methane, the hydrogen gas is often associated with diarrhea and the methane gas with constipation.
You can predominantly have one type of gas which causes constipation or diarrhea or you can have fluctuating levels so that you sometimes have constipation and then diarrhea.
I recommend the Food Marble for SIBO testing - you need to be connected to a practitioner to do the SIBO testing, contact us to find out how to do this and get a 15% discount on the Food Marble device.
Advanced Stool Test
If I were going to start with one test it would be an advanced stool test like the Gut Zoomer.
The Vibrant Wellness Gut Zoomer OR the GI-Map test are the best tests to assess the health of your large intestine, while the SIBO breath test is a measurement of the health of your small intestine.
These stool tests are very comprehensive compared to the standard stool test done by your doctor which is just investigating the presence of a few pathogens.
The Gut Zoomer test investigates the digestion of food, metabolism, pancreatic function, the balance of good and bad bacteria, the presence of pathogenic bacteria, yeasts and parasites, gluten sensitivity, and inflammation levels which can be indicators of IBS and inflammatory bowel disease.
Parasites and Helicobacter Pylori
Both the Gut Zoomer and the GI-Map test assess for H.pylori, parasites, candida, and other pathogens.
If you are outside of the U.S., Canada, or Australia then the Gut Zoomer is the best option as it is easily shipped worldwide, Vibrant Wellness organizes international shipping.
Testing and not guessing is often the best option if you have had long-term digestion issues and you have already tried different diets without success.
But if your symptoms are recent, or have only just occurred after a particular trigger like antibiotics, or stress levels have been high then doing the 4 R's program could be a good place to start for you.
It is always best to be guided by an experienced health practitioner, at Planet Naturopath we provide online consultations with clients worldwide.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to complete each stage of the 4 R program?
This is going to vary from person to person but as a minimum, you would want to spend 3-4 weeks on each stage. It is also ok if some of the stages overlap, you might be focusing on the repair of the intestinal tract, or adding healthy bacteria while still removing potential trigger foods.
Are there any potential side effects or challenges I might face during the 4 R's program?
Some people can get die-off symptoms, especially if they add anti-fungal medications or anti-parasite medication in the form of herbal supplements. If you do too much too quickly this can lead to headaches, diarrhea, or a temporary flare-up in symptoms.
If symptoms occur consult with your practitioner.
What about alcohol consumption during the 4 R program?
It is best to avoid alcohol or greatly reduce it due to the negative effect that it has on intestinal health.
I have heard of the 5 R program, is that better than the 4 R Program?
The 5 R's approach adds the step of "Rebalance." This fifth step emphasizes maintaining overall balance in the body, including stress management, quality sleep, and regular movement, which further supports gut health and overall well-being.
This rebalance step is something that we do with all of our clients no matter what health issue they may have.
At Planet Naturopath we offer a wide range of functional medicine testing to help you get to the root cause of your health concerns, or simply help you optimize your health.
You can also check our All Tests Available page for the full list of available testing options.
Gut Zoomer is a detailed analysis of gut health, assessing pathogens, beneficial bacteria, and intestinal health markers for inflammation and absorption.
The Wheat Zoomer helps with understanding your reaction to wheat, but even more importantly it identifies leaky gut, high levels of lipopolysaccharides as these are associated with brain health.
Food Sensitivity Complete Test
Are common foods and food additives the underlying root cause of your body’s inflammation? Food Sensitivity Complete is your comprehensive, accurate bundle to detect inflammatory responses so you can individualize your nutrition needs.
Total Tox Burden
Environmental toxins can wreak havoc on our bodies and lead to inflammation, chronic illness, and more. Environmental Toxins from Vibrant Wellness uses the most advanced technology available to assess 39 different markers and see if excessive environmental toxin exposure is at the root of your symptoms.
This test also measures heavy metal levels and mycotoxins as mold toxicity can cause neurological symptoms.
- Immune system and digestion:
- Malabsorption of nutrients: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8070135/
- Proton pump inhibitor side effects:
- Impact of gut bacteria on health and disease: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4425030/