Leaky Gut or Healthy Gut? The 4R Approach to Gut Healing

Understanding Leaky Gut from a Functional Medicine perspective and a breakdown of the 4R Approach to Gut Healing.

Leaky Gut is one of the primary root causes of autoimmune and thyroid diseases. The 4R Approach is a systematic way of correcting gut dysfunction. If your gut has become leaky, it means the tight junctions that usually hold the walls of the intestines together have become loose, allowing undigested food particles, microbes, toxins, and more to escape your gut and enter your bloodstream. 

>>Read more about Leaky Gut from The Facility<<

You can think of your gut lining as a drawbridge. Teeny tiny boats (micronutrients in food) that are meant to travel back and forth are able to go under the bridge without a problem. But, things such as gluten, gut infections, medications, or toxins, can cause the drawbridge to go up, allowing bigger boats to cross over that aren’t meant to travel through. In this case, it’s microbes, toxins, pathogens, proteins, and partially digested food particles that are passing under the drawbridge and escaping into your bloodstream.

These escaped particles can wreak all kinds of havoc on your body. Once they enter your bloodstream, your immune system tags them as invaders and attacks them, causing a rise in INFLAMMATION.

As long as your gut remains leaky, these particles continue to enter your bloodstream and the attacks just keep on coming. These constant attacks can manifest in a huge range of symptoms.

Leaky Gut Diagram Infographic Image
GUT REPAIR focuses on healing the gut lining, producing intestinal mucus to protect it, and detoxing out the ‘bad’ while providing food for the good bacteria.

There are many factors that can cause a leaky gut, often a combination of factors initially cause gut issues. Functional Medicine investigates the root cause of a leaky gut and looks to correct from the bottom up. 


The Autoimmune Connection

Refined white sugar and too many fermentable carbohydrates can cause imbalances in the gut microbiome by feeding “bad” bacteria and promoting overgrowth. <<See also: SIBO>>

The chronic state of inflammation caused by leaky gut is what triggers and worsens autoimmune disease. As your immune system becomes more stressed, it is less able to attack pathogens and invaders with precision. Instead, it begins indiscriminately sending wave after wave of attack in a desperate attempt to fight off the invaders. 

Eventually, your body’s own tissues end up on the receiving end of the attack, and you end up with an autoimmune disease. Celiac Disease, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and Psoriasis are among common autoimmune conditions exacerbated by leaky gut. 


When applied systematically, the “4R Approach” defined by the Institute for Functional Medicine can lead to dramatic improvements in symptoms and sometimes even complete resolution. Work with a Functional Nutritionist to help personalize your 4R Approach with food choice and directed supplements. 


The goal is to get rid of things that negatively affect the environment of the GI tract such as inflammatory foods, infections, and gastric irritants such alcohol, caffeine or drugs. Inflammatory foods including gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs and sugar can lead to food sensitivities. Infections can be from parasites, yeast or bacteria. Removing the infections may require treatment with herbs, anti-parasite medication, anti-fungal medication, anti-fungal supplements or even antibiotics. 


Next, add back in the essential ingredients for proper digestion and absorption that may have been depleted by diet, drugs (such as antacid medications) diseases, or aging. This includes digestive enzymeshydrochloric acid and bile acids that are required for proper digestion. 


Help beneficial bacteria flourish by ingesting probiotic foods or supplements that contain the “good” GI bacteria, and by consuming the high-fiber foods that good bugs like to eat called prebiotics


Repair your gut by providing the nutrients necessary to help the gut heal itself. One of the best supplements is L-glutamine, an amino acid that helps to rejuvenate the gut wall lining. Other key nutrients include zinc, omega 3 fish oils, vitamin A, C, E as well as herbs such as slippery elm and aloe vera. 

Optimizing Your Diet for Healing a Leaky Gut

Optimizing your diet is the first step in healing a leaky gut. It is a two-part process that includes removing the toxic and inflammatory foods that caused your gut to become leaky, and adding in nutrients to help it heal. The 4R Approach gives you a systematic process for healing.

A gluten-free, sugar-free diet can be a good place to start. See Kate’s Top Foods to Avoid with Leaky Gut. You can easily replace these foods with nutrient-dense whole foods like fruits, vegetables, high-quality protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. 

My Leaky Gut Diet Guide walks you through the steps and provides a sample meal plan, recipes, and education to help you apply the 4R Approach:

Free Leaky Gut Diet Guide

A complete guide to healing Leaky Gut using the 4R Approach. Includes a sample 7-day meal plan and recipes!


What’s included in the Leaky Gut Diet Guide?

  • Evidence-based meal plan that includes essential foods for gut healing while excluding all damaging foods using the 4R Approach
  • Simple, easy to follow recipes 
  • An itemized shopping list
  • A prep guide to minimize confusion and time spent in the kitchen
  • Education on key nutrients like fiber, zinc, and probiotics.

<< Sample Recipe on the Gut Healing Diet: Green Smoothie >>

If you’re struggling with symptoms of Leaky Gut, jump on the 4R Approach to Gut Healing and take back control of your life! 

Want to work with a nutritionist to personalize your diet?

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