THE 5-R PROGRAM
A properly functioning digestive system is critical to good health. In functional medicine we use a program that goes by the simple acronym of the ‘5Rs’: remove, replace, reinoculate, repair and rebalance. When applied to various chronic problems, the 5R program can cause dramatic improvement in symptoms, and sometimes even complete resolution of the problem.
This cuts to the core of the functions of the gastrointestinal tract. It is becoming increasingly recognized that disturbances in the function of the GI tract can result in a number of symptoms and conditions. These range from symptoms such as fatigue, joint pain, muscle pain, and headaches, to medical conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, asthma, autism, ADHD, and chronic skin conditions. It is this association between GI function and ill health that the 5-R Program is intended to address.
5-R Program Goal
- To address dietary and lifestyle issues, and to begin the process of dietary education and change.
- To normalize digestion and absorption.
- To normalize the balance of gastrointestinal bacteria.
- To promote a balanced system of detoxification.
- To promote gastrointestinal healing.
5-R Program Elements
- Remove: Remove stressors: get rid of things that negatively affect the environment of the GI tract including allergic foods, parasites or other bad bugs such as bacteria or yeast. This might involve using an allergy “elimination diet” to find out what foods are causing GI symptoms or it may involve taking drugs or herbs to eradicate a particular bug.
- Replace: Replace digestive secretions: add back things like digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid and bile acids that are required for proper digestion and that may be compromised by diet, drugs, diseases, aging, or other factors.
- Reinoculate: Help beneficial bacteria flourish by taking in probiotic foods or supplements that contain the so-called “good” bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacillus species, and by consuming the high soluble fiber foods that good bugs like to eat, called “prebiotics.”
- Repair: Help the lining of the GI tract repair itself by supplying key nutrients that can often be in short supply in a disease state, such as zinc, antioxidants (e.g. vitamins A, C, and E), fish oil, and the amino acid glutamine.
- Rebalance: Pay attention to lifestyle choices – sleep, exercise and stress can all affect the GI tract.
THE FUNCTIONS OF THE GASTROINTESTINAL TRACT
- DIGESTION- This is the process whereby our food is broken down into smaller portions that are more easily absorbed by the intestines.
- ABSORPTION- This is the process whereby the digested food is taken up by the intestine and delivered to the body for utilization as energy, nutrition, and other cellular functions.
- EXCLUSION- This refers to the barrier function performed by the GI tract as it appropriately excludes substances from entering the body.
- DETOXIFICATION- This is the complex process involving the liver and GI tract whereby toxins are metabolized for elimination from the body. Toxins include such things as medication we take that must be metabolized, to pesticides, preservatives, dyes, and flavor-enhancers we ingest knowingly in our food, as well as the over 4 million chemicals present in our environment not intended for use in our bodies.
- ELIMINATION- After digestion has occurred, and the metabolic phase of detoxification is complete, the GI tract must then eliminate the digestive and metabolic wastes of these processes. Some refer to this as excretion.
Use the 5-R Program and the information given to restore your digestive health.