By now you've heard how connected our gut is to our overall health. It is estimated that up to 80% of our immune system is in the lining of our large intestine. Therefore, any health condition can first be treated by looking at the health of our gut. What is the condition or your gut? And how can you improve it to then potentially improve your overall health or treat any number of illnesses you may be struggling with?
The 5R approach to balancing and resetting your digestive health - and therefore the health of your whole body - is as follows:
Remove the stressors. This means getting rid of things that negatively affect the environment of the GI tract including allergic foods, parasites or other 'bad' bugs like bacteria or yeast. This might mean trying an “elimination diet” to find out what foods are causing your negative symptoms or it may involve taking drugs or herbs to treat a particular infection or presence of a bug in your gut.
Replace: Sometimes you are not making enough of your own digestive secretions, so we add supplements like digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid and bile acids that are required for proper digestion and that may be compromised by diet, drugs, diseases, aging, or other factors.
Reinoculate: We can help beneficial bacteria flourish by taking consuming probiotic foods or taking supplements that contain the so-called “good” bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacillus species. We can support the 'good' bacteria in our gut that are essential to our immune system by consuming the high soluble fiber foods that good bugs like to eat, called “prebiotics.”
Repair: Help the lining of the GI tract repair itself by supplying key nutrients that can often be in short supply in a disease state, such as zinc, antioxidants (e.g. vitamins A,C, and E), fish oil, and the amino acid glutamine.
Rebalance: Pay attention to, and then make small changes to lifestyle choices that can affect the GI tract. In particular:
Improve the quality and quantity of your sleep,
Start moving your body daily in ways that feel good; increase type/intensity/breadth of exercise,
Decrease stress in your life (often by saying NO when you mean it),
Actively balance the stress you can't avoid: how can you deflect the stress so that your body does not absorb it? Yoga, Thai Chi, Meditation are all proven to improve relaxation and balance your nervous system.
I highly encourage you to see your local Functional Medicine provider (coach, doctor, etc) to create your own unique plan for taking these ideas and making a personalized action plan. Don't delay to find your best health in this one life we've been given!