The 4 ‘R’s to building a healthy gut

Did you know there are 7 basic body processes that you need to balance so you can heal your body?

It wouldn’t surprise me if you didn’t. No one taught us that when I was in medical school. It took me years of study with functional and alternative medicine to truly learn to heal my patients instead of just “treat” them.

The first basic healing process is to heal your gut. Why start there?

Because if you compare your body to a 7 story building, a healthy gut is the first floor — or foundation. Without a proper and strong foundation, all other floors of this building may come crashing down.

When that happens, you’ll first begin to see the immediate effects in your gut. You may experience these common symptoms of an unhealthy gut

  • Reflux (GERD or Gastro-Intestinal Reflux Disease)
  • Gas, Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Food allergies or sensitivities

But it may not be long until you notice these lesser-known widespread symptoms:

  • Anxiety, Depression, Mood imbalances, irritability
  • Skin problems like eczema, rosacea, psoriasis
  • Asthma, Allergies, Inflammation
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Frequent Infections
  • Poor memory and concentration, ADD or ADHD
  • Headache, Joint Pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Poor Vision

To heal the gut you should focus on restoring function of the stomach, small intestines and the colon…

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Assimilation – Elimination

The gut’s underlying physiological process is Assimilation — Elimination. And this is where we begin…

Assimilation is getting enough healthy nutrients (not junk food ingredients) into the cells of the body. This makes the cells, tissues and organs of the body happy. This also makes the brain content. This also contributes to satiety (to satisfy fully). Let’s agree right now that when we eat we deserve to feel full and content while giving our cells what they want in order to be healthy, balanced and to function properly.

Assimilation requires good digestion which begins in the mouth with enzymes that break down the healthy carbohydrates that we eat. In the stomach, the proper pH must be present to break down different kinds of macronutrients.

Protein for example requires a much lower pH (or more acidic) environment, for a much longer period of time, than say vegetables. Vegetables require a higher pH (or more alkaline) to properly digest (break down into smaller particles) to later be allowed to cross the gut lining into the bloodstream, and eventually into the cells (assimilation).

Fats require more time than even proteins to be digested with enzymes secreted from the gall bladder and pancreas. The duodenum also contributes hormones and enzymes to balance this process.

On the other end, elimination is where all of the unused food gets released via the urine or feces. Proper elimination is essential to a clean, efficient, healthy gut.

The basic steps to heal the gut

To balance the Assimilation-Elimination process we use the 4 R’s of Healing the Gut:

  1. Remove
  2. Replace
  3. Restore
  4. Repair

1 – Remove – In this first step we remove offenders that bring down a healthy gut by cleansing and then reintroducing food groups less likely to cause inflammation and sickness.

For at least a month remove the following from your diet:

  • Gluten grains
  • Casein protein (dairy products)

Remove permanently:

  • GMO Soy, Corn, Wheat
  • Artificial Sweeteners
  • MSG (monosodium glutamate) (including processed food and restaurant sources)
  • HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup and other forms of processed Fructose)
  • Trans Fats (all Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils including Canola oil)
  • Processed foods

Remove for a period of time: (See Re-introduction of Food Groups in next article)

  • Peanuts
  • Eggs
  • Shellfish
  • Sugar
  • Fermented Foods (for now)
  • Animal Fats and Protein
  • Antibiotics, Acid blockers, Anti-inflammatories

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2 – Replace – Take digestive enzyme supplements between meals (1-2 hours after a meal) to digest bio-film. Bio-film grows in the small intestines as a matrix layer right next to the gut lining. This occurs from unhealthy food choices, high-acidic diet, or not enough good bacteria. This film in the gut can trap infectious bugs like viruses, bacteria, mycotoxins, yeast, fungus and parasites.  Digestive enzymes are also needed to digest the meal. Take these 20-30 min before meals.

Replace the poor quality food with healthy fiber-rich, whole foods compatible to the individual GI system. Support with nutraceuticals in the interim while the gut heals (see #4 below). Dosage may depend on the individual and their present state of gut health.

3 – Restore – Ramp up your prebiotics over 2 – 3 weeks to 3g/day. Probiotic with multiple strains of minimum 2 Billion probiotic count. (ie. Phlora-Syn for 1-3 mos.) Take only upon waking in the AM (so put it by the bed with water) and at least 20 min before eating.

4 – Repair – to repair your gut look to healing nutrients: Di-Gessta (herbal formula to heal the small intestines), Col-Trax (herbal formula to heal the colon). Zinc, Copper, Magnesium, Selenium, Potassium, Manganese, Chromium, L-Glutamine (10-40g per day) to heal the gut lining, Omega 3 (2-3gms/day), B’s especially B5 + Biotin (1-2 mos). If you test positive for MTHFR gene mutation, then take MethylFolate (Methylated B9) and Methylcobalamin (Methylated B12). (See article on MTHFR). Take Col-Trax, Di-Gessta (1-2 mos).

In my next article I will make life simple and spell out exactly how to do the cleanse. I will give you a method to re-introduce the food groups. Follow-up articles will include the crucial information of what works and what doesn’t in our diet and why. Because individuals respond uniquely, you may benefit from a relationship with a Functional Medicine Practitioner.

I have found that results come from enthusiastically focusing first on what works – what is good for our body. Later, it is important to know what doesn’t work and why. This knowledge will provide guidelines and awareness for making a personalized health management plan that will serve you for years to come.

Editor’s note: Did you know that when you take your body from acid to alkaline you can boost your energy, lose weight, soothe digestion, avoid illness and achieve wellness? Click here to discover The Alkaline Secret to Ultimate Vitality and revive your life today!

1.  Sandin, A., Bråbäck, L., Norin, E., and B. Björkstén. 2009. Faecal short chain fatty acid pattern and allergy in early childhood. Acta Paediatr.98(5): 823–7.
2. Weinstock, L.B., Fern, S.E., and S.P. Duntley. 2008. Restless legs syndrome in patients with irritable bowel syndrome: response to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth therapy. Dig Dis Sci. 53(5): 1252–6.
3. Aglaée Jacob, MS, RD. Gut Health and Autoimmune Disease – Research Suggests Digestive Abnormalities May Be the Underlying Cause. Today’s Dietitian, February 2013 Issue, Vol. 15 No. 2 P. 38
4. Pimentel, M., Wallace, D., Hallegua, D., et al. 2004. A link between irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia may be related to findings on lactulose breath testing. Ann Rheum Dis. 63(4): 450–2.
Dr. Brad Cutler

By Dr. Brad Cutler

With over 30 years of clinical nutrition experience, Dr Brad Cutler has been a well-respected authority in digestive health, nutrition and natural anti-aging protocols. In 2014 Brad certified in Functional Medicine. His life is all about health, fitness, and what works nutritionally in the body. He coaches individuals in essential lifestyle principles as a part of his ongoing functional medicine practice. Brad’s mission is to inspire others to purposefully create thoughts and emotions that support wise food choices and lifestyle changes that improve health. Individual focus may include balance of digestion, detoxification, immunity, hormones, cardio-metabolic health, cognitive function and mood.

Brad may be reached for Health Coaching at