• Marissa Mekelburg Functional Medicine Dietitian

The Best Gut Healing Protocol to Resolve Your Symptoms

Do you feel like you’ve tried everything, but your darn digestive symptoms keep rearing their ugly heads? And most doctors come up empty for a gut healing protocol that will actually keep your symptoms at bay?


Ugh! That is so frustrating! And I’m afraid it is really common in my clients’ experiences before working with me. Most doctors tend to approach gut health as something to manage with medications vs. getting down to the root cause.


We can do better than that, together. You deserve better than just symptom management.



wooden scrabble pieces spelling out make and plan

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash



The truth is that there are many things that you can do to optimize your digestion so that your symptoms can diminish or even go away completely. But without getting down to the root cause, you won’t have that opportunity and those symptoms are not going to go away.


The gut healing protocol that I recommend is not a quick fix, but it can be a lasting fix. It allows you to identify the root causes of your symptoms and achieve lasting remission.


Did you know that there are many possible root causes of digestive issues such as IBS? Here are the Top 5 Root Causes of IBS That You Should Know About.


Ready to hear about gut healing? Let me introduce you to the 5R gut healing protocol.



What is the 5R gut-healing protocol?


The 5-R Protocol is a systematic and comprehensive approach to maximizing gut health. The 5R gut-healing protocol is used by functional practitioners, such as myself. We use the protocol to get to the root of symptoms. (This is in contrast to many traditional medical professionals who tend to focus more on symptom management).


Because of its comprehensive nature, the 5R protocol is deep, therapeutic work that is best accomplished with a savvy functional nutrition guide. I wouldn’t recommend the 5R protocol as a first-step response, rather, entered into after other things have been ruled in/out/tried and ONLY with a practitioner to serve as a guide.


In my experience, people trying to undertake a 5R approach by themselves, just find themselves with a very limited diet and still suffering from symptoms. Many of my clients have been in these shoes before our work together.


The 5 steps of the 5R protocol


What is it like to work through the 5R protocol with me? While everyone’s needs are different, the 5R protocol allows us to create your personalized path to wellness, starting with getting those things out of your diet that are causing you symptoms.


Step 1: Remove


This is the part of the plan that is probably the least surprising to anyone who is working through gut issues: we need to start by removing anything that could be irritating to the gut. But good news: this is temporary!


What are we removing? Things like alcohol, caffeine, food additives, as well as any foods that are causing a food sensitivity reaction.


Now, who wants to guess which foods or chemicals are causing a reaction? I sure don’t! This is where my work as a Certified Leap Therapist (CLT for short) really shines. As a CLT, I am able to offer MRT testing to my clients. MRT tests 140 foods AND is the ONLY test that also looks at food chemicals like food colorings and caffeine, as well as naturally occurring food chemicals like solanine.


It is hard enough to have to take a break from some of your favorite foods, let’s not eliminate anything unless we absolutely have to (as evidenced by a high-quality test). MRT testing affords my clients the opportunity to forgo the trial and error rollercoaster of starting an elimination diet, such as the AIP, and hoping for the best. For more on that, check out this post: AIP Elimination Diet: It Won't Work For Everyone.


We also get to think beyond the plate. Remove also pertains to stress, gut infections, medications, or even supplements that you might be taking that could be causing undesirable side effects. (Note: do not make any changes to your medications without first speaking to your doctor).


Now that we’ve talked about things to remove, the next step is to add a few things back in. This is the Replace step of the 5R protocol.



Step 2: Replace


Sometimes the digestion issue isn’t about something that is needing to be removed, it is about something that is missing.


Replace in the 5R protocol refers to bringing back things that might be missing in a normally healthy, efficient digestive system. This might include digestive enzymes or replacing specific micronutrients that might be lacking due to malabsorption issues.


When utilizing supplements, I believe in a deficiency to sufficiency approach, meaning most supplements are typically temporary; similar to how a cast supports the healing of a broken bone. Your digestion is unique and your plan to optimize it should be too!



Step 3: Repopulate & Reinoculate


Did you know that your microbiome – the community of bacteria and other organisms living in your gut – is intimately connected to your overall health and wellness?


If you have too few or too many of the most important community members, your digestion and overall health can suffer.


The repopulate and reinoculate step of the 5R protocol refers to replacing and rebalancing the microbiome through the use of pre and probiotics. Probiotics are the living organisms that you might think of from eating yogurt. Prebiotics are fibers that are digestible by those probiotics, i.e., their food. Well-fed probiotics = happy and thriving probiotics.


Repopulate and reinoculate can also refer to the reintroduction of foods that you’ve taken out. For example, higher FODMAP foods, such as fructans and galactooligosaccharides (GOS) foods since these are primarily prebiotics. This is an exciting example of seeing how your gut has healed so far and what you’re able to better tolerate.


But we’re not done: the 5R protocol continues with the next step: repair.



Step 4: Repair



The truth is, our guts are a bit “leaky" (or semi-permeable). This is normal digestion and absorption in action. In order for our bodies to be able to utilize the nutrients from our food, the food needs to be broken down and get from our digestive tract to our cells via the bloodstream.


But, when our digestive tract is healthy and in good repair, it is quite selective about what it absorbs and what it keeps contained within the “tube.” But in the case of leaky gut, the openings that are supposed to manage what gets absorbed are not working properly and so things can sneak in...things like food fragments, bad bacteria, and more. These rogue particles can cause inflammation and other symptoms in your body.


The repair step is about cultivating the gut lining so that it is able to work at its best. In part, this is about including specific foods that provide needed nutrients. It may surprise you that there are specific Foods for Leaky Gut that help.


The repair step might also include certain nutrients like vitamins A, B, zinc, essential fatty acids, amino acids, and other targeted supplementation recommendations.


Last step of the 5R protocol? Rebalance.



Step 5: Rebalance



There are far more things that impact digestion beyond food, which surprises a lot of my clients.


Did you know that sleep impacts digestion? A good night’s sleep allows your digestive tract to rest and digest. We can also promote good sleep with the foods that we eat, including pistachios! Do Pistachios Help You Sleep? Yes!


As part of the rebalance stage of the 5R protocol, we will also look into things like what movement do you actually enjoy doing. Do you enjoy an evening walk? Riding a bike? Swimming or hiking? We’ll keep optimizing your wellness plan so that your body feels good doing the movement that you enjoy. No more chronic fatigue, joint pain, or planning your activities around bathroom breaks.


Movement also has the added benefit of reducing stress and promoting good quality sleep. We might talk about other techniques as well to further reduce stress. Maybe you’ll find that you enjoy journaling for 10 minutes each evening and that, for you, it is a great way to wind down and let the day go.


There is no right or wrong answer here: it is all a matter of what truly supports your ability to have the energy and vitality to live the life you wish.



a woman with arms raised in victory after reaching the top of a beautiful mountain

Photo by Charlotte Karlsen on Unsplash



Key takeaways: gut-healing protocol


What is the best gut-healing protocol? The one that offers you the fastest, most complete remission from your symptoms so that you can live your best life, without worrying about where the next bathroom is or asking the server a zillion questions about what is really in the food.


I’d love to help you get there. If you’re ready to work with a knowledgeable guide to work through your best gut health protocol, schedule your complimentary clarity call. This lets us both feel confident that we’re the right fit to partner together to achieve lasting results. I can’t wait to chat!



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