From food triggers to uncomfortable digestive symptoms and chronic inflammation, I’m covering everything you need to know about the 5 steps to heal your gut.
I’m passionate about gut health. From a personal perspective, I’ve experienced first-hand the debilitating symptoms associated with a severe case of infectious gastroenteritis and the subsequent struggles with IBS. And as a result, you bet I’ve done a whole lot of gut healing myself!
The digestive system is one of my favourite parts of the human body as it’s truly the basis for whole body health. It’s where we digest, absorb, and assimilate nutrients and it’s the major home of our immune system, protecting us from harmful pathogens, foreign particles and toxic substances entering our body. Our digestive tract is the primary barrier between us and the outside environment, and that my friends, is why gut health is so critical!
In a perfect world our gut would be happily metabolizing the food we eat, removing waste efficiently and fighting off illnesses effectively. And while many people go through most of their life without much complaint (#jealous), many aren’t experiencing the luxury of a robust digestive system and are instead experiencing food triggers, uncomfortable digestive symptoms, unusual bowel habits, and chronic inflammation. The list goes on, really.
The solution is to heal your gut. And while it definitely involves patience and diligence, it’s absolutely possible to get better. Each of the steps listed below were all things that I did when my digestion was an absolute disaster a few years ago, and some of them are still part of my life to this day.
5 Steps to Heal Your Gut
Healing your gut involves a few specific steps. Removing triggers, replacing your digestive system with factors that help it to function optimally, reinoculating your gut with the bacteria it needs to thrive, repairing tissues with specific types of healing nutraceuticals (supplements), and rebalancing the body with new lifestyle habits. These steps are collectively known as the 5 R’s (remove, replace, reinoculate, repair and rebalance).
This first step involves removing 3 main categories from your body/diet:
- pathogens (if present)
This means removing triggers in the form of offending foods (food sensitivities, intolerances, allergies), highly processed foods, items that promote inflammation or gastric irritation such as alcohol, and removing any existing pathogenic infections such as bacterial overgrowths or candida. Antimicrobials such as black walnut, oregano oil, grapefruit seed extract, olive leaf extract, berberine, caprylic acid, and garlic can help eradicate these infections.
A food sensitivity elimination diet is helpful for determining your unique sensitivities. This is a period of about 4-6 weeks where common food triggers are avoided such as gluten, dairy, corn, soy and eggs, and then re-introduced.
Eliminating common food triggers to give our digestive systems a chance to rest and reset is one of the things we cover in my 4-week Digestive Reset Program! If you’re looking for guidance on how to improve and support your digestive health, this program is a great place for you to start. This program was created out of my own experiences overcoming chronic IBS symptoms. Learn more below!
Note: It’s best to work with a qualified healthcare practitioner for any kind of elimination diet or when undergoing antimicrobial therapy.
Step two is to replace the factors that are lacking or not functioning optimally in our digestive system so that we can restore the proper function of our stomach and organs such as our liver, gallbladder, and pancreas.
This is achieved via supplements and include stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) support, digestive enzymes, bile salts and/or digestive bitters. These types of supplements are very useful for easing the burden on a poorly functioning gut, enhancing our ability to break down and extract nutrients from food, and reducing symptoms.
Everybody’s requirements are different. Speak to your healthcare practitioner if you have questions about taking these kinds of supplements.
Step three is to reinoculate! It’s a fancy word, I know, but it simply means to reintroduce, and in this case reintroduce bacteria. This is done after the use of antimicrobial therapy (in step 1), if that’s something you’ve needed to do.
Bacteria play a very important role in what’s known as our microbiome, and disruptions in this delicate bacterial balance from things like antibiotics, stress and food triggers (the ones we talked about in point 1) can lead to an array of symptoms and conditions (such as IBS).
Probiotic-rich foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and yogurt (dairy-free coconut yogurt is my personal favourite), as well as good quality probiotic supplementation is important here.
At this point we’ve discussed eliminating triggers, replacing factors that are lacking, and taking probiotics. The repair phase is where you really begin to put an emphasis on repairing the gut even further.
This is done through specific types of nutrients that have very therapeutic uses such as tissue-repairing glutamine (a favourite of mine), zinc, soothing deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) and other mucilaginous herbs, and anti-inflammatories such as turmeric and omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil.
The fifth step is to rebalance the body with supportive lifestyle habits that help with things such as reducing and managing stress and getting proper sleep. These are often overlooked when we think about healing because they don’t always feel like they impact us directly, but indeed they do.
Meditation, deep breathing and adaptogenic herbs are all things that can support this rebalance phase.
It’s important to remember that healing takes time. There’s no magic formula to improving your health nor is there a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s also important to remember that many of the lifestyle changes we make to better ourselves should be part of our lives long-term to continue to support our body (and to prevent us from slipping back to where we were before).
If you have any concerns, always speak to your healthcare provider.
Questions? Got an experience to share? Leave it below in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.