Gut Healing: The 4R Approach

Jun 17, 2024
The 4R method for improving gut health.

This month in our membership spaces we are focusing on a popular topic that I receive a lot of questions about from clients, and that topic is gut health. 

So far, we’ve been diving deep into understanding how to improve and optimize our digestive health.  More specifically, we’ve been teaching about the crucial roles hydrochloric acid and the microbiome play in regulating the digestive system.  We’ve also been discussing solutions for managing gut issues such as SIBO, chronic bloating, and sensitivities, delivering practical tips for dealing with constipation and diarrhea and achieving overall gut wellness.

The 4R Approach: A Holistic Framework for Gut Health and Beyond

In the nature of staying on the topic of gut health, I wanted to dedicate this week’s blog to reviewing an easy-to-follow framework that I use every day in my practice and within my own life for healing the digestive system and maintaining a healthy gut. This framework is called the 4R approach to gut healing (with a little twist).

You may be surprised to know that many other professionals in my field tell me that I was one of the first therapists to recognize the impact of the microbiome on children’s health and development when it comes to speech and language disorders.  For years, I was guiding parents through a version of a 4R approach to gut healing. I was seeing progress at the time, but this was only a small piece to the puzzle and was mainly happening because I was helping kids to come off of inflammatory processed foods.

In the beginning, I was using the functional medicine 4R approach to help my clients, which is slightly different than the framework I follow today.

The version of the framework functional medicine practitioners generally use is built around the idea that stomach health is responsible for symptoms and also relies on the idea that intestinal permeability or “leaky gut” can cause imbalances within the body/brain.  This version of the 4R approach includes 4 steps.

Improving digestion

The 4R Method Steps

1. Remove

This first step involves identifying and removing the “bad” or removing allergenic foods and other factors contributing to symptoms.  The goal here is to eliminate things that actively harm the delicate environment of the GI tract.  These troublemakers include known inflammatory and processed foods, infections (viral, bacterial, parasitic or yeast), chronic stress and digestive irritants like drugs, caffeine and alcohol.  While following this first step, practitioners often recommend doing an IgG food sensitivity test to determine the presence of food sensitivities, as well as a comprehensive stool analysis to determine the health of the microbiome. 

2. Replace

The second step involves replacing the “bad” with the “good” by adding in supportive nutrition.  During this step, digestive supporters that may have been depleted by diet, drugs, aging or disease, but are the essential ingredients for proper digestion, are added back in.  These include digestive enzyme, bile acids and hydrochloric acid. 

3. Reinoculate

The third step involves reinoculating the gut with beneficial bacteria and addressing deficiencies.  This is normally accomplished by taking a probiotic supplement and other high-quality supplements. 

4. Repair

The fourth and final step involves strengthening digestion by providing the body with the nutrients necessary to repair the mucosal lining of the digestive tract.  The nutrients are generally introduced through various supplements and powders. 

If you’ve been following me for a while, then you know that I now base much of my practice around Anthony William, the Medical Medium’s information.  And so, you can probably guess that I no longer fully subscribe to the functional medicine version of the 4R approach.  It was through my own observations and through actively applying Medical Medium information in my practice that I began to realize and see the limitations and pitfalls of functional medicine.  This is why today, I still do use the 4R approach to gut healing, but I’ve tweaked it a little bit to fit the mold of MM information AND, more importantly, to better serve my clients! 

Removing dairy, gluten, egg, pork when improving gut health.

Addressing Root Causes of Gut Health Issues

To begin with, understanding that chronic symptoms are caused by toxins and pathogens (according to MM information) means that, while gut health is extremely important, it’s not the full picture and it is generally not the root cause of downstream health issues.  Let’s now take a look at the below four steps, which encompass the new and improved version of the 4R approach as it fits within MM information. 

1. Remove/Reduce

This first step involves removing the “no foods” and allergenic foods and actively working to reduce pathogenic load and stress.  Many of the “no foods” include:

• Dairy

• Gluten

• Eggs

• Pork

• Corn

• Tuna

• Industrial oils (vegetable oil, palm oil, canola oil, soybean oil)

2. Replace

The second step involves replacing the troublemakers with foods that actively heal.  Focus is placed on consuming an abundance of fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, herbs, wild foods, celery juice and the Heavy Metal Detox Smoothie. 

3. Reinoculate

The third step involves addressing deficiencies and lowering pathogenic load with high-quality supplements.  Consider bringing in zinc, vitamin b12, vitamin C, licorice root, lemon balm, lysine, EPA/DHA, cat’s claw, probiotics, barley grass juice powder and/or periodic goldenseal.

4. Repair

The last step involves drinking celery juice, blended papaya, aloe water, or cucumber juice to increase hydrochloric acid levels in the stomach and improve digestion.

And I want to make a quick note about bone broth. Consuming bone broth is a trend that has gained popularity over the years, and many people do it in hopes that it will help heal their gut.  But the truth is that it does nothing to address the root cause of digestive issues and chronic health conditions in general.  Bone broth does not lower pathogen load in the body and it does not support the liver in removing toxins.  Therefore, it is not an appropriate solution for digestive issues. 

At the end of the day, digestive issues can improve if the proper steps are taken.  Every week I work with clients who seek my help with healing their gut and over time, they are successful.  If you are experiencing issues with your gut health, consider the above modified 4R approach and you too should eventually see results.

If you would like more direction on gut health and nutrition for yourself, or your loved ones then join us for a month of valuable learning and supportive community engagement in our membership spaces

If you feel you need 1-1 support, you can book an appointment with our Holistic Nutritionist and Women’s Health Specialist, Sonja.

Empowered Women
Join Today!

Empowered Women a 3 Week Course, is designed for women of all ages (including moms and moms-to-be) to access healing tools and key information about women’s health and wellness.