| Andres Jimenez

The 4 R’s of Gut Health

You’ve been through countless trials and errors trying to find treatment for a leaky gut. You’re exhausted mentally and physically because nothing’s worked. How do you even know where to begin?

Several factors can affect the gut, including lifestyle, diet, sleeping habits, physical activity, and stress levels. Anyone experiencing IBS, Chron’s Disease, or other digestive issues may be able to treat or improve it by implementing the four R’s of gut health. Each step can take a few weeks, but with patience and persistence, you can restore your gut and get your digestive system on the right track. 


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Do You Have Gut Problems

Overlooking a stomach ache here or gas there may be a telltale sign of gut inflammation. Pay attention to how often this happens and what you ate or did before that may have caused irritation. Monitoring your reactions may help you isolate the problem. We’re all different, but a holistic step-by-step process may help ease discomfort. The goal is to help make things manageable long term.

One of the main issues when addressing gut-related symptoms is not knowing what to do first. When you tackle everything at once, the body tends to have adverse reactions that may cause further irritation. Following these steps, one by one can lead you toward the road of recovery. 

Relief may be closer than you think!

4 R Protocol

Step 1: Remove

Suggested Time: 3-6 weeks

The first thing you’ll want to do is remove anything that may be the root of your irritation. To do this, you have to consider more than your diet. It’s essential to look at anything that can affect your health. Stress, sleeping habits, and lack of exercise may be affecting you.

Inflammatory Foods: Following an elimination diet can help you pinpoint your triggers. Your doctor may recommend following a FODMAP or Whole-30 diet in this first phase. Common allergens include gluten, dairy, sugar, grains, legumes, and alcohol. 

Stress Levels: Stress can be hard to eliminate for good. When stressed, you’re more likely to overeat and indulge in “feel-good foods.” You may also eat at varying times which can stall digestion. Try to find ways to maintain low levels. Coming up with a system to combat stress can help you bounce back into a balanced state sooner. 

Pathogens: Yup, it’s more common than you think and is often a contributing factor to gut-related issues. “Bacterial and yeast overgrowth, viruses, fungi, parasites, and other toxic substances are common contributors to gut-related symptoms.” Ridding yourself of pathogens is possible with home remedies. However, recommendations from a doctor may be necessary. 


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Step 2: Replace

Suggested Time: 6-8 weeks

Now that you’ve gotten rid of anything that may upset your gut, it’s time to replace them with things to help support it. You may have removed essential nutrients during the first step, or you may have never had them to begin with. You’ll want to incorporate gut-healing foods that will nourish your body. Try these options when you’re ready for this step.

  • Fermented foods like kimchi, pickles, and kombucha
  • Bone broth
  • Foods rich in omega 3’s like wild-caught fish, nuts, and seeds 
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Kefir 
  • Cruciferous veggies 
  • Healthy fats like olive oil and avocados

Digestive Enzymes: There are several types of digestive enzymes. Each of them breaks down different types of food. Saliva and stomach bile are familiar examples. If you experience cramps, diarrhea, and bloating, there’s a chance it's caused by digestive enzyme deficiency. There aren’t enough studies to prove that enzyme-rich foods help with digestion. Yet these foods (apple cider vinegar, pineapples, avocados, kimchi, and kiwi) still have nutritional benefits. A varied diet with plenty of protein and alkaline foods can help with digestive enzyme production.1 At OWL, we created a blend of proprietary herbs called Digestive Bitters, that awakens the receptors in your mouth and throat, stimulating your natural digestive enzymes.

Hydrochloric Acid: Foods that contain probiotics have hydrochloric acid or HCL. HCL is what makes pepsin, the primary digestive enzyme. “Gastric fluids help us break down the foods we eat so we can absorb their nutrients and get rid of waste.” Hypochlorhydria is a condition caused by low HCL levels and can cause discomfort.

Step 3: Reinoculate

Suggested Time: 3-12 weeks 

To reinoculate the gut, you’ll want to create a healthy environment where good bacteria can thrive. Your gut needs to absorb nutrients and digest foods properly to perform well. To do this, you’ll need to strengthen your microbiome with the following.

Prebiotics: You’ll need to start with prebiotics to feed the probiotics. Leeks, oats, mushrooms, apples, and asparagus are good choices.

Probiotics: You can obtain probiotics through plenty of different foods, but a supplement may be necessary to get a larger dose. 

Fiber: nuts, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables

Fermented Foods (also contain probiotics): yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, etc


Step 4: Reintroduce/Repair

Suggested Time: up to 6 months

Hold on just a little longer. You’re almost at the finish line! This final step is the most important and can take the longest. Repairing your gut means giving it the fuel it needs to heal properly. Here, you’ll reintroduce foods rich in vitamins and nutrients to rebuild a healthy system. 

  • Omega 3’s 
  • Polyphenols 
  • Zinc 
  • Antioxidants 
  • Glutamine


Most practitioners will have you follow these four steps to achieve the results you want. Some add an optional fifth step to tie it all together.


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Step 5: Rebalance (optional)

Suggested Time: Endless 

This fifth step has to do with lifestyle habits. When thinking about the gut, we forget that it’s the center of our health. Treating this step with the same attention and care as the first four is equally important. In the end, it’s about whole-body health. Your mental, physical, spiritual, social, and emotional well-being are part of the journey. 

  • Sleep
  • Work-life balance
  • Time for self care
  • Exercise 
  • Stress
  • Managing your emotions

Chronic inflammation is no fun and can negatively impact your health and quality of life. With a bit of attention, you can heal your gut naturally. Taking control of your life lies within your hands (or gut), but don’t let it overwhelm you! Consult a functional medicine doctor or a health coach about ways to use the 4 R's of gut health to your advantage. Their expert advice can help you live your best life.


  1. Do Digestive Enzymes Prevent Nutrient Deficiencies & Boost Gut Health? Jordan Rubin

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Lilith Mesidor

Lilith is originally from The Hudson Valley in New York. Growing up in this area made it easy to access the outdoors, and having a healthy, active lifestyle has always been natural to her.  Her sense of adventure and curiosity has taken her around the globe, shaping her perspective on life and human connection.

After graduating from SUNY Purchase College in Westchester, NY, she moved to Brooklyn. From there, she got bit by the travel bug and spent three years traveling on and off all over the world, using NYC as her base. She backpacked solo through South America, Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and parts of the Middle East. After returning from a year-long stint overseas, she moved to Aspen where she spent a winter season on the slopes.

Lilith sees the value of art and incorporates it into her life by doing or seeing at least one artistic thing a week. When she's not geeking out over health and wellness, she can be found checking out a new restaurant, seeing live music, and petting every dog she sees walk by.

She currently resides in beautiful, sunny Los Angeles. 

Tags: diet, gut health