Good health begins in the gut.
The digestive system regulates vital functions such as hormone production, immune cell activity, and neurotransmitter production.
Frequent digestive symptoms such as gas, bloating, acid reflux, indigestion, diarrhea, and constipation are signs of a compromised gut. What’s more, gut-related issues may manifest in other parts of your body, leading to symptoms such as acne, eczema, anxiety, autoimmune conditions, fatigue, joint pain, muscle pain, and more.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you may benefit from this 4-step protocol to alleviate digestive symptoms with long-lasting, sustainable results.
Step 1: Remove
One of the first steps to a healthy digestive system is to identify and remove food intolerances from your diet.
Despite the beneficial effects of gut-healing supplements and foods, when you continue to eat inflammatory foods or foods that you are intolerant to, these foods will hinder your efforts to heal your gut.
If you’re not sure what foods you are intolerant to, you can get a genetic test or a food sensitivity test to identify whether you have intolerances towards substances such as lactose, gluten, alcohol, and more.
Be aware of other sources of inflammation that might be taxing your digestive health. Other inflammatory sources include pharmaceutical drugs like antibiotics, NSAIDS, (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), and birth control.
Digestive problems could also be a result of bacterial overgrowths like h.pylori. Intestinal parasites or fungal infections may also be a cause of your digestive issues. Identifying and removing potential irritants and infections is the first step to a healthy digestive system.
Step 2: Replace
A healthy digestive system requires an adequate amount of stomach acid, digestive enzymes, and bile. During this step, replenish the gastrointestinal tract with the vital nutrients it needs to function optimally. Work with your health practitioner to discuss tests and supplements that can support the healing of your gut.
The Importance of Stomach Acid
Adequate levels of stomach acid are the foundation for optimal digestion. Stomach acid is responsible for the breakdown of food, activating the protein-digesting enzyme, pepsin, and killing harmful bacteria to protect the body against pathogens ingested with food or water (1).
Maintaining a stomach acid pH of 1 to 2 is vital to support these functions. On the other hand, low stomach acid production leads to reduced absorption of vital nutrients and vitamins.
The Importance of Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes are required to break down food particles for easy absorption. Digestive enzymes exist in your mouth, stomach, and small intestine. Though, the majority of your digestive enzymes come from the pancreas.
Three main enzymes released from the pancreas include lipase (breaks down fat), amylase (breaks down carbohydrates), protease and peptidase (breaks down proteins) (2).
A deficiency in the production of digestive enzymes can slow the digestive process, ultimately leading to digestive discomforts such as gas and bloating. We often see genetic variants in lactose, that indicate intolerances to dairy products such as milk, cream, cheese, and ice-cream.
The Importance of Bile
Bile is critical for the digestion and absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins. It is also responsible for removing toxins as they are secreted into the bile and then eliminated in feces. Insufficient levels of bile may exhibit symptoms like diarrhea, bad-smelling gas, stomach gas, erratic bowel movements, and pale-coloured stools.
Step 3: Reinoculate
At this stage, reinoculate your gastrointestinal tract with good bacteria, also known as probiotics, and foods that feed the probiotics, also known as prebiotics.
Both probiotics and prebiotics are vital to a healthy digestive system, though they play different roles. Probiotics are live bacteria found in food or supplements that provide numerous health benefits. Prebiotics comes from indigested fibres found in carbohydrate foods, such as apples, asparagus, banana, potatoes and more (3).
A balanced amount of pre and probiotics play a crucial role in regulating digestion, benefitting the immune system and other aspects of health.
Include more dietary forms of probiotics found in fermented foods like these:
- kefir yogurt
- kefir water (dairy-free option)
- amazake (natural Japanese probiotic from fermented rice)
Don’t forget to feed the probiotics with prebiotics. Eat more prebiotics found in foods with high amounts of undigested fibres such as:
- guar gum
We recommended introducing probiotics and prebiotics to your body slowly. The body needs time to adapt to new bacteria in the gut. Otherwise, you may feel adverse effects such as increased flatulence and gas.
Step 4: Repair
The fourth step to a healthy digestive system is to repair pre-existing damage in the gut lining. Maintain a diet free of processed foods and avoid food intolerances to repair your digestive tract. Address lifestyle habits such as stress management, improving your sleep, and exercising regularly (but not excessively). These lifestyle habits play an essential role in digestive repair.
Support the healing process with nutrients and vitamins known to assist in repairing the gut lining. Here is a list of nutrients that promote gut healing:
- Nutrients high in vitamins A, B, C, D, E, selenium, and zinc.
- Foods rich in amino acids such as bone broth and collagen.
- Foods to reduce inflammation such as aloe vera juice and essential fatty acids.
- Gut healing supplements such as l-glutamine, marshmallow root, and slippery elm.
This 4-step digestive healing protocol is designed to yield long-lasting and sustainable effects. The process may take weeks if not months. Therefore, be mindful of providing the time for the body to repair itself.
One of the very first steps to healing the digestive system is to identify and remove food irritants or intolerances. Lactose and gluten are common food intolerances that can be identified through a genetic test. Click here to learn more about genetic testing for food intolerances.
Optimal digestion involves multiple components such as adequate levels of stomach acid, digestive enzymes, and bile, all of which help to break down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
A balanced amount of pre and probiotics play a crucial role in regulating digestion, benefitting the immune system and other aspects of health. Support the digestive healing process with nutrients known to promote healing of the gut lining. Gut healing nutrients include high antioxidant vitamins and minerals, bone broth, collagen, aloe vera juice, essential fatty acids, l-glutamine, and more.
Your Unique Nutritional Needs
You may have genetic markers that indicate a higher need for certain macronutrients, micronutrients, and vitamins. Genetic testing can tell you how well your body manages these nutrients vital to digestive healing. It can also tell you how you are likely to react to substances such as lactose and gluten that may impede your digestive health.
Not only can DNA testing provide insight on your unique nutritional needs, but it can also identify your body’s ability to manage stress, hormones, and detoxification, all of which are crucial components of digestive healing.
Download our e-book Eat For Your DNA to learn how you can take power over your health by knowing your DNA.