Is Your Gut Happy? The Five “Rs” for a properly functioning digestive system
A digestive system that functions properly is a happy one. The majority of us at one point in our lives has or will suffer from problems with their GI tract from bloating, diarrhea, gas or constipation. There are strong links to poor digestive health and other chronic diseases like autoimmune diseases like Rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, chronic fatigue and more.
Under the functional medicine paradigm, the 5R’s are an important acronym which stands for Remove, replace, reinoculate, repair, and rebalance. This paradigm when used appropriately can help improve and even resolve many common digestive related complaints.
Remove stressors: get rid of things that negatively affect your GI tract including allergic foods. This might involve using an allergy “elimination diet” to find out what foods are causing GI symptoms and will need the help of a health care practitioner.
Replace digestive secretions: add back things like digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid, and bile acids that are required for proper digestion and depending on what your health care practitioner thinks will involve changes in diet.
Help beneficial bacteria flourish by ingesting probiotic foods or supplements that contain the so-called “good” GI bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacillus species, and by consuming the high soluble fiber foods including “prebiotics.”
- Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms found in the gut that are also called “friendly bacteria.” Use of antibiotics kills both good and bad bacteria. Probiotics in the form of supplements or food are needed to re-inoculate the gut. Fermented foods, such as yogurt, miso, and tempeh are food sources of probiotics.
- Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that selectively stimulate the growth of beneficial microorganisms already in the colon. In other words, prebiotics feed probiotics. Prebiotics are found in foods that contain a fibre called inulin, including artichokes, garlic, leeks, onion, chicory, tofu, and other soy products. Grains such as barley, flax, oats, and wheat are also good sources of prebiotics.
Help the lining of the GI tract repair itself by supplying key nutrients that are often low when we are not functioning at our optimal state including zinc, antioxidants (e.g. vitamins A, C, and E), and fish oil.
Try to focus on work life balance – sleep, exercise and stress can all affect the GI tract.