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Heal Your Gut in 5 Steps

Healthy digestion is the foundation of great health.
Jul 17, 2015 | Elaine Brisebois

Healthy digestion is the foundation of great health. It’s estimated that over 80% of our immune system resides in our gut lining, so it’'s only logical that we would want to keep it functioning as optimally as possible.

Our digestive tract is the main barrier between us and our outside world. It's job is to keep undigested food particles, toxinsand other foreign invaders out of our body where they don’'t belong. Overtime though this barrier can become damaged due to such factors as poor food choices, chemical irritants, alcohol, medications, cigarette smoke, pathogenic bacteria and fungus, and even emotional stress.

As the gut lining becomes damaged, a condition commonly referred to as “Leaky Gut Syndrome” ensues, allowing substances to pass through that wouldn’t normally be allowed to enter our bodies otherwise.

Not only can this contribute to or exacerbate a number of digestive problems such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), but it can also set off autoimmune reactions leading to health complaints such as joint pain, fatigue, depression, allergies, and skin conditions such as eczema that people don’t often associate with poor digestive function.

5 Steps To Heal Your Gut Naturally

This approach has it's rooted in functional medicine, and is what’'s known as the “5 Rs.” Keep in mind that each step will need to be tailored to your individual situation, and although almost anyone can follow this approach, it can be quite helpful to work with a health practitioner who is familiar with the protocol and can help guide you through the steps!

1. Remove

Remove anything in the diet that’'s negatively impacting your gut. This includes allergenic foods or foods you may be sensitive to, highly processed foods, and gastric irritants such as alcohol and coffee that you may be abusing. If you’'re unsure about which foods might be causing a reaction for you it can be helpful to remove some (or all) of the top allergenic foods for a set period of time (at least 4 weeks) and then add them back in one at a time to see how your body reacts.

These foods include dairy, wheat, gluten, soy, peanuts, corn, citrus, and eggs. If eliminating so many foods at once feels daunting to you, you may just choose to give up 1 or 2 possible triggers at a time and go from there. Of course, this is going to look a little bit different for everyone and the severity of your symptoms will determine how strict you’ll be in the elimination phase.

The second part of this equation includes the removal of any infections, such as an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria, fungus (i.e. Candida ), or parasites that may be contributing to poor gut health. In addition to removing their main food sources (i.e. sugar), antimicrobial agents such as oregano oil, olive leaf extract, berberine, caprylic acid, and garlic can help eradicate these organisms.

2. Replace

Replace those factors that may be lacking in your body to help restore proper digestion. In order to digest our food well, we need sufficient amounts of enzymes, bile, and hydrochloric acid (HCL) that may have been depleted due to poor diet, medications, disease, or aging.

If we can’t break down our food we won’t be able to absorb the nutrients needed for great health.

Taking supplemental digestive enzymes with or without added HCL or bile salts can be helpful for some people. Bitter herbs can also help to stimulate digestive secretions and help us digest our food better. You can eat them with your meal or supplement with a herbal preparation in tincture format up to 20 minutes before your meal to ignite digestion.

3. Reinnoculate

Reinoculate your gut with healthy bacteria ( probiotics ) to restore balance. Our gut is a host to over 500 different types of bacteria, and in fact we have 10 times more bacteria in our bodies than our own cells. Our gut flora is easily disrupted by the use of antibiotics and other medications, poor food choices, alcohol, and stress . Probiotics help to repopulate our gut and crowd out unhealthy microorganisms, while also helping us digest our food.

Supplementing with a good quality probiotic is the best way to get a therapeutic amount of healthy bacteria down to the gut, but we can also include fermented foods in our diet that are probiotic-rich like kombucha, sauerkraut , kimchi , miso, cultured nut cheese and yogurt, and kefir as long as you'’re not sensitive to dairy.

4. Repair

Repair and protect the gut lining through the use of select nutrients, amino acids and herbs such as zinc-carnosine, l-glutamine, deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL), slippery elm bark and marshmallow root, and natural anti-inflammatories such as omega-3 fish oils, curcumin, and quercetin. Regularly consuming gelatin-rich bone broth is also very healing to the gut lining and therefore a great addition to the diet.

5. Rebalance

Rebalance your body through deep breathing, yoga, meditation and other mindfulness-based practices that can help you rejuvenate and relax. Getting adequate sleep every night, managing stress, getting out in nature, spending time with loved ones and making time for play can all help restore hormonal balance that will not only keep your gut healthy, but also your whole body.

Have you suffered from digestive issues? Share your story and what you've done to heal yourself in the comments section below.

Joanna   •   July 18, 2015

What test do you recommend to check for leaky gut/sibo/candida???? I have had acne for years so I took antibiotics for 5 years (eek I know). Now I eat the paleo diet and have been for a year (no grains/beans/dairy/soy) and Im on day 160 totally off sugar but I still have a candida rash on my chest (small skin colored bumps. I know its a candida issue bc I got a prescription for candida fungus to apply and the rash went away. When I stopped using the cream it came back). Now Im just eating meat+veg for the past two weeks, as I was recommended to try FODMAPS (so now Im literally just eating meat+salads). My acne on my face has mostly gone away. Im considering seeing a functional medicine dr because I also have constipation/bloating... Im taking a powder biffido which is high quality, 6 supplements of L-glutamine a day (all based on my own research). Im thinking I have candida or SIBO because even on meat+veg Im still getting bloating after I eat. Still constipated. Thanks!

Khava   •   July 19, 2015
Khava   •   July 19, 2015

Rose Jost   •   July 29, 2015

I second every point mentioned in this article. Many a times important nutrients aren't provided by food we eat so we can take supplements for problems like gut and inflammation. I have taken health supplements from and they are actually beneficial.

Joy McCarthy   •   July 29, 2015

Mark   •   August 6, 2015

Hi, Ellaine, what do you think about beneficial yeast instead of probiotics? I mean Saccharomyces boulardi. Some swear by its effectiveness because it is supposed to attack the Candida and other yeasts in the gut. This post even says that probiotics are useless for purpose they are generally used. Wikipedia also lists its positive effects in various ailments -

Elaine   •   August 10, 2015

Ashley   •   January 4, 2016

What type/brand of probotic do you recommend generally? I know in your book it says that it is dependent on the person let's say for a 30 year old female who eats many raw fruits and vegetables and drinks a lot of water throughout the day. What do you recommend I purchase?


Dina   •   February 26, 2016

Any combination supplements you would recommend for gut repair without having to take several different ones each day (zinc, l-glutamine, DGL etc? I've tried to look but haven't come up with very many. Thanks!


qiaraau   •   May 28, 2018

Thank you for sharing about probiotics.Probiotics are often called "good" or "helpful" bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy and also to keep your skin healthy.


Stephen   •   December 4, 2018

Thanks for sharing! I never felt so alive and refreshing without my comfort food--probiotics and veggies. A wonderful healthy living experience!

Joy McCarthy   •   December 4, 2018

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