4R – Replace what’s missing to optimise your digestion

by | Nov 12, 2023 | gut health and digestion

This is the next in a series of blog posts about the 4R program that describes how you can optimise your digestion. Read the first two in this series by following the links:

Part one: Optimise your digestive health
Part two: 4R program – Remove the triggers

The next R in the 4R program is for replace.

The digestive tract breaks down food into smaller units that are easily absorbed. Breaking food down in to carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Then further into much smaller molecules. The digestive process is not a simple one. It requires a wide range of substances from the mouth to the small intestine to perform this task.

These substances include various digestive enzymes, stomach acid and bile. Yet, our bodies don’t always make enough of these secretions to digest our food properly. So, if we don’t have enough digestive juices our digestion can be severely impaired. It can also mean that even though we might eat a healthy diet we can’t absorb the nutrients from our food.

Factors such as certain nutrient deficiencies can influence the production of digestive secretions. Also, the ability to produce enough enzymes and other secretions decline with age.

Low stomach acid creates a wide range of symptoms and impairs absorption. Also, stomach acid kills off invading microbes in our food. So, a lack of acid increases the risk of gut infections.

We have several types of digestive enzymes. Each designed to break down specific molecules in food. So, symptoms depend on which enzymes are deficient.

A lack of digestive enzymes and other secretions can create a wide range of symptoms. Digestion can slow down, causing food to sit in the stomach. This can create a build-up of acid that backs up into the gullet causing intense burning pain. Or, the food can decompose releasing gases that cause pain with bloating and belching.

Also, if food is not well broken down, larger molecules remain intact. These can damage the lining of the intestine. They can also leak across a compromised gut lining and into circulation.

Symptoms that digestive supplements may help:

  • bloating, belching and flatulence
  • acid reflux, indigestion or heartburn
  • nausea
  • borborygmi
  • constipation or diarrhoea
  • painful defecation
  • undigested food in the stool
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • food cravings

We can use lab testing such as stool analysis to identify possible enzyme deficiencies. However, it can be worthwhile to try a course of digestive enzymes or other supplements to optimise your digestion. So, in this part of the 4R program, we replace some of the substances that the body should make with supplements.

Taking digestive enzymes for 2 to 4 weeks can give your digestive organs a break. Breaking down the difficult to digest foods. Allowing the organs to recover and improving gut health. Later on, we can replace supplements with apple cider vinegar or bitter herbs. These stimulate the body to produce its own digestive secretions.

The next R in the series is for Reinoculate.  This post will discuss why and how to reinoculate the gut with probiotics. As well as how to feed your microbiome with prebiotics. You can sign up for my monthly newsletter to be sure not to miss the next in the series.

Read the next post in the series – 4R – Reinoculate with probiotics


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