Updated: Jan 22
A properly functioning digestive system is critical to good health. In the UK more than 4 million people suffer with digestive problems such as stomach ache, bloating, wind, constipation, diarrhoea, cramping - these symptoms are often referred to as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
However, gut issues may also underlie other health conditions that seem unrelated to digestive health including autoimmune disease, skin problems and diabetes.
In Functional Medicine we use the 5R Program to systematically tackle the key areas needed to restore proper gut function. When applied correctly, this program can lead to dramatic improvement in symptoms and sometimes even complete resolution.
This first step essentially wipes the slate clean before you can start to implement the repair process. It involves removing anything that may be negatively affecting the gut lining such as allergic and processed foods, parasites and potentially problematic bacteria or yeasts.
One of the most powerful tools you can use during this process is the Elimination Diet, the gold standard in identifying food intolerances or sensitivities.
Over time, things such as medications, poor diet, chronic disease or infection, and even ageing can compromise the body's ability to produce the digestive secretions necessary for proper digestion. These include stomach acid, bile acids and digestive enzymes.
Making sure you take time to chew your food thoroughly and consuming specific foods such as bitter leaves, lemon water, dandelion tea, artichoke beetroot and celery can all be helpful in supporting good digestion.
One of the most important roles of our gut bacteria, also known as the microbiome, is to form a physical barrier in the gut to defend against harmful pathogens entering the body. This is only possible if a careful balance of beneficial bacteria, such as Lactobacillus, is maintained. This delicate balance can be destroyed by things such as antibiotics and poor diets.
Consuming probiotic foods such as raw fermented vegetables, kefir, yoghurt and miso, or probiotic supplements help to re-establish a balanced gut microbiome. Equally as important is the consumption of prebiotic foods which feed the good bacteria and stimulate their growth in the gut. Examples of prebiotic foods include artichokes, garlic, leeks, onion, flax, barley and oats.
Your body is designed to heal itself given the right environment. Support the natural healing process of your gut lining by supplying key nutrients that can often be in short supply in an inflamed gut such as zinc, vitamins A, C and E, fish oil and the amino acid glutamine from bone broth.
Complete the holistic approach to healing by addressing the remaining lifestyle factors that can also affect your gut health. These include managing emotional stress and building resilience through specific relaxation techniques such as meditation, getting adequate exercise, allowing time for cell repair, proper absorption and utilisation of nutrients through restorative sleep.
The results of following these steps can be life-changing once you've discovered the underlying causes of any issues. I provide detailed support and guidance on how to carry out each of these steps as part of my personal and premium plans.