A New Way to Approach the 4Rs - Digestive Health
by Andrea Maxim, ND
Healing Journey Naturopathic Clinic
25 Caithness St W
In order to effectively optimize your digestive health, it is imperative that you approach this systematically to ensure long-term results. My four-tiered approach to optimal health is to Remove any possible triggers causing the digestive disturbance in the first place, Repair the intestinal lining, challenge the digestive tract by Reintroducing different food groups and observing the body’s reaction to identify possible food sensitivities, and Reinoculate the healthy bacteria in order to support the body’s immune system and maintain digestive function.
Remove the Triggers
More and more people are developing digestive disturbances, symptoms that have gone unaddressed for years. Poor digestive health is often the root of most other chronic illnesses, so it is imperative to start your treatment focusing on healing the digestive system and promoting healthy detoxification before focusing on the symptoms themselves. Some symptoms of digestive disturbances are listed below, but certainly not limited to:
|Localized symptoms of poor digestive health
||Systemic symptoms of poor digestive health
|Gas (belching or flatulence)
||Inability to eat any foods, even water
|Difficulty passing stool
|Mucous or undigested foods in the stool
|Cramping or sharp pains of the abdomen
||Nonlocalized itching of the skin
|Chronic diarrhea or loose stool
||Acne along the jaw line or around the mouth
|Headaches following a meal
Without removing the root cause of the illness, there is a high likelihood that your symptoms will return. These triggers can include anything such as environmental toxins, underlying infections, heavy metals, chronic stress, and acid burden in the body. Food sensitivities, however, are the fastest triggers to identify and remove.
Repair the Digestive Tract
If you want to repair the digestive tract, you need to work your way from top to bottom. Most people do not have adequate stomach acid; again, something that often goes overlooked in most treatment plans. Adequate stomach acid is the body’s first line of defense against nutrient malabsorption and infections. It is a very energy-costly process to create and maintain adequate stomach acid, especially when assessing all of the other stressors in a person’s daily life. Energy is used up thinking, working, talking, exercising, recovering, and repairing. If you are already in a diseased state, it is almost a guarantee that you are not creating adequate stomach acid.
The following symptoms could mean that you have low stomach acid:
- Bad breath
- Sore tongue
- Stomach bloating
- Foul-smelling gas
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Heartburn or GERD
- Metallic taste in mouth
- Belching right after a
- Undigested food in stool
Heartburn is highlighted because it is often hard to understand why heartburn could be caused from low stomach acid. Up to 69% of people are inappropriately prescribed an acid blocker or proton pump inhibitor (PPI) medication  and do not know how detrimental these are to long-term health. Instead of treating the root cause of the issue, which for 80% of the population is low stomach acid, medical doctors prescribe something that wipes out stomach acid entirely. Stomach acid maintains healthy function of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The sphincter opens to allow food into the stomach, and the presence of stomach acid signals the sphincter to close. The key point here is that stomach acid needs to be present to close that sphincter to prevent regurgitation of acid into the throat. Without the proper signaling, stomach acid can go anywhere it pleases, and that is why most people suffer from heartburn and GERD. What stomach acid there is may also get secreted at the wrong times, causing heartburn between meals or at night. This happens because the stomach falls out of sync with ingestion of food, again because we are not interacting with our food the same way we used to. Simply using a digestive enzyme that includes a small amount of hydrochloric acid and ox bile are the best to use before a meal. This will help support proper digestion and assimilation of nutrients.
To heal the digestive tract, you must also identify your individualized food sensitivities and remove from their diet anywhere from two to six months. The most common food sensitivities are gluten, cow diary, and eggs. Most often, naturopathic doctors will initiate a hypoallergenic diet to determine which major food allergens are the root causes of a patient’s digestive disturbance. Certainly, testing with a IgG Food Sensitivity Test is another possibility for those patients to determine the exact food to eliminate, but I find even the results of these tests to fall short. The IgG test is only going to measure a person’s immune response to those foods being analyzed. Tests I have run have come back absolutely negative for an identifiable IgG reaction, and yet the patient feels much better avoiding certain food groups. Engaging and educating yourself on your bodies’ likes and dislikes as opposed to relying on lab work usually offers the most success.
7-Day Intense Digestive Detox Program
A very successful program, adapted from Dr. Robert Rakowski, DC, is a detoxification program that takes the ideals of the hypoallergenic diet, but instead will use the medical food detox powders and only green organic vegetables. No one should have a food sensitivity to a green vegetable, but patients can discover food sensitivities to almonds, fructose in fruits, onions and garlic, and other items not normally thought to cause a reaction. Completing the typical elimination diet would not have identified these sensitivities because you still would have been eating them. The 7-day program is as follows:
- 3 medical detox shakes per day
- 5 g of l-glutamine powder minimum per day, which is crucial for healing the gut lining and preventing leaky gut syndrome.
- At least 3,000 IU vitamin D, which is also critical and an anti-inflammatory, as well as to help preserve and heal the intestinal tract.
- 1000–1500 mg EPA fish oil per day. An essential fatty acid that is important for reducing inflammation, among other amazing mechanisms it has on improving your health.
- Unlimited consumption of any organic green vegetable, healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, balsamic vinegars, all-natural herbs and spices, and sea salt.
Other nutrients can certainly be added, but type and dosage should be left to the discretion of your health-care practitioner. The medical food detox shakes will provide you with all of the proteins, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients you need, and the organic green vegetable eliminate any possible food allergen, as no one should be allergic to a green vegetable. The value of this program is that it accomplishes many foundational treatments at once. We remove all possible food triggers and heal the digestive tract with all of the missing herbs, nutrients, and vitamins, so that when we challenge the body, the reactions should be strong and identifiable.
Reintroduce Variety Back into the Diet
After the 7-day detoxification program is completed, you will then start reintroducing foods back into the diet again. Start by introducing monomeals. Monomeals are an isolation of one food group at a time with a four-hour observation period in between each. Feel free to consume the same green vegetables, herbal teas, and water as before, but you can now be reintroducing variety to the diet, making sure not to mix more than one food group together at a time. During those four hours, about 98% of people will react to a food they should not be eating. Foods like gluten, cow dairy, eggs, soy, or nuts can be reintroduced in any order desired. The patient may even want to breakdown cow dairy into milk, cream, yogurt, and cheese, or nuts into almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and cashews, as all separate monomeals. This phase is where you will really become engaged in the foods you are eating and noting how you feel afterwards. A basic rule of thumb is that if you do not feel well after a monomeal, in any way, that particular food group may be a possible allergen. The food reactions can happen quickly, or they may take place over a few days.
Reinoculate with Healthy Bacteria
Now you can use probiotics to help restore the mucosal barrier and support the immune system. It is often dysbiosis that initiates illness in the first place. In fact, the interactions between the natural microflora and the intestinal lining are critical for normal intestinal absorptive and immunological functions. That is why adding probiotics into the treatment plan last is more valuable than when symptoms are present. If you would like further clarification on how to heal your digestive tract, be sure to visit my website, www.TheMaximMovement.com, and to purchase a copy of my book, MAXIMized Health, which goes into great detail about how you can detox and heal your body, once and for all!