Digestion 101: The 4R Protocol
Note: This series was originally posted to the blog in 2017, but has been updated to reflect new information.
In the previous two posts in this digestion series, we covered what proper digestion looks like, what can go wrong, and how to fix it.
Today, we'll be covering one of the best ways to heal your gut and digestion: The 4R Protocol.
This is often the outline that I use with clients when assessing their gut issues. Often, I’ll include testing as well to further gather more information about what is going on in the gut. In my practice, I use the GI-MAP Stool Test and MRT Food Sensitivity Test.
The GI-MAP is a stool test that uses DNA analysis to collect the most accurate data about the various microorganisms living in your gut (both good and bad). The test uses quantitative findings, beyond just positive and negative results which is helpful in building a target protocol as some pathogens might not be harmful when present. Plus, there are no chemical reagents used in the collection that could influence results as in conventional stool testing.
What can this test tell you? A lot, trust me. The GI-MAP will reveal if you have an imbalance of good to not-so-good bacteria, or if you have an overgrowth in any particular parasites, fungi, or yeasts that might be causes of host of issues beyond just the obvious digestive symptoms. Anyone with hormonal imbalances, stress, food sensitivities, bloating, undigested food in the stool, unexplained weight loss or weight gain, or autoimmune conditions will benefit from the results from the GI-MAP.
On the other hand, the MRT Food Sensitivity Test allows you to see which foods out of 170 total you might be sensitive to, especially if you have any of the issues listed above. It is important to note that we NEVER order a food sensitivity test alone. It must always be done alongside of a stool test to help point to the true root cause of the food sensitivities. The results categorize the foods into groups of low, moderate, and high sensitivity, and then I work to help you determine an elimination and reintroduction cycle for those foods flagged as potentially harmful.
As I've discussed in the past, the importance of proper digestion canNOT be understated, which is why I love having these two additional tools to add to my arsenal to help my clients heal.
Now, onto the 4R protocol to tie it all together.
The 4R Protocol has four steps:
Common dietary irritants, like processed and refined foods, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, refined seed oils, and sugar
If you have already removed these foods, remove nuts, seeds, coffee, and eggs to test the next steps
Anti-inflammatory medications, specifically NSAIDs - work on preventing the need for NSAIDs via diet and lifestyle
Eat adequate omega-3 fatty acids to balance out the naturally high omega-6 diet that most of us eat (this does not mean to only supplement with a high-quality fish oil; rather, eat foods like salmon that are naturally rich in omega-3 fatty acids on a regular basis)
Eat adequate amounts of soluble fiber from starchy veggies or fruits like sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and plantains
Drink adequate amounts of water
Eat plenty of gut healing foods, like bone broth, salmon, and liver
Eat probiotic foods like raw sauerkraut or other fermented veggies
Drink kombucha or kefir
Supplement with probiotics (see will discuss in the next post)
Eat one of the eliminated foods at each of your meals after the 2-4 week elimination and not any changes to mood, energy, mental clarity, digestive function, and your skin
Repeat the reintroduction of one eliminated food every 3 days to discover which foods are problematic for you
It can be daunting to start this process on your own, so I recommend trying either the Whole30 or The 21 Day Sugar Detox if you feel like you need a group program and support to help guide you through the process. Or, if you are here in Lincoln, NE, come find me, and we can go through the process together!
Healing the gut isn't easy, especially in a society constantly surrounded by processed foods and stressful situations. However, most chronic disease (diabetes, inflammation, mental health disorders, autoimmune diseases) begin in the gut - so it is critical that we take control of our gut health and digestion now before it's too late!