In my past blog, I introduced the concept of leaky gut, or “gastrointestinal (GI) permeability.” Many patients present to me wanting to fix/heal the condition—they want to strengthen their gastrointestinal foundation which I compare in my book, Your Longevity Blueprint, to the foundation of your home. You must have a healthy foundation (healthy gut) on which to build good health.
The Institute for Functional Medicine teaches clinicians the 5-R Protocol for Gut Healing. This is what I use with my patients. These steps include:
- Reestablish or Reinoculate
The two main triggers or irritants in the gut that can weaken/damage the foundation are (1) food allergies and sensitivities, and (2) gastrointestinal infections that stress the immune system and cause inflammation. In the Remove phase, both are eliminated. I’ve had several patients spend hundreds of dollars on gut-healing bone broths or collagen proteins online (which are great products), but have never invested in seeing a functional medicine provider, and thus they have never been able to identify and remove their triggers. Until the triggers are removed, gut healing won’t occur. Foods truly can make a person feel ill. I’ve had patients who were waking up daily with symptoms such as nausea that were entirely resolved simply by changing their diet. Many individuals assume that diarrhea or constipation are the only symptoms of food sensitivities, while I’ve had many patients with food sensitivities that have no gastrointestinal issues. They, however, have other, atypical symptoms instead. I listed many symptoms in my past blog. In this blog I want to share ways to heal the gut. Using the IFM protocol in this phase patients should removes the common allergy producing foods, including grains containing gluten and dairy products. In my practice, they also need to remove the foods they react to, identified through testing.
Additionally, if the patient is suffering from chronic infections of the sinus, oral cavity, or intestinal tract, these also need to be treated. These infections can be assessed through various testing options discussed in chapter 1 of my book. The most common infection I treat in my patients is yeast overgrowth. (To learn more on yeast overgrowth, watch for my upcoming blog on yeast).
During the Replace phase, the patient is evaluated for their sufficiency of digestive enzymes and proper stomach acid—again, through testing, as well as through symptom review (such as bloating, gas, and reflux). If these are identified as being a problem, digestive aids such as digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid, or bile may be recommended with meals.
During the Reestablish or Reinoculate phase to improve intestinal immune function and thereby improve whole body function, the patient is typically recommended a therapeutic dose of a combination of probiotics. Additionally, these may be taken with a prebiotic supplement such as inulin, fructooligosaccharides, or arabinogalactans.
The patient’s actual needs can be evaluated through testing. The reinoculate phase is usually started over a two-week period, during which doses are slowly increased to allow the intestinal tract to adjust. This method can help keep the patient from suffering from excessive intestinal gas formation and discomfort.
During the Repair phase, the patient adds nutrient supplements to promote proper repair of the intestinal lining. These typically include the amino acid L-glutamine (6–10 grams per day), zinc citrate (10 mg per day), and omega-3s (1–3 grams per day). Supplements can also involve taking natural anti-inflammatories like turmeric.
During the Rebalance phase, additional lifestyle choices are addressed. Sleep, exercise, and stress can all affect the gastrointestinal tract. Taking the time to exercise, considering yoga and meditation for stress reduction, and optimizing sleep are important here.
Think of these five R steps as the footings for your healthy home foundation. This regimen is typically applied for a minimum of twelve weeks. According to the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM), this regimen “has resulted in tens of thousands of positive outcomes in patients who suffer from many health problems that have resulted from alterations of immune system function and increased inflammation” (www.functionalmedicine.org). If you are a provider and this is new to you, I highly recommend you join the IFM and learn this protocol.
So how is the 5-R Protocol applied?
Chapter 1 in my book, Your Longevity Blueprint, is all about gut health and contains 75 pages of gut healing goodness!
Below I have created a quick “Go to list for gut healing.”
Longevity Blueprint 5-R Nutraceutical Products
- Probiotic Complex (20 billion CFUs)
- Advanced Probiotic (100 billion CFUs)
- Probiotic Ultra (225 billion CFUs)
- Beneficial Yeast
- Gut Shield (glutamine, zinc, aloe vera, DGL)
- GI Support (glutathione, natural anti-inflammatories, prebiotics, and GF/DF protein powder)
- Zinc Chelate
- Turmeric Support