The 4Rs in functional medicine is the cornerstone for understanding how things like processed foods and stress wreak havoc on our bodies. Once we know how to identify the 4Rs, we can take steps to remove and repair the damage they cause. If you are unsure of what the 4Rs of Functional Medicine are, check out my recent post, The 4 R Protocol: How To Increase Your Functional Health Span.

To give you a quick recap, the 4Rs are:

  • Remove – Remove the offending agent(s)
  • Replace – Replace nutrient deficiencies
  • Reinoculate – Support the microbiome
  • Repair – Repair damage

This post will focus on how to use the 4Rs to remove and repair the damage caused by processed foods and stress.

It’s only right to combine the two. Removing things that cause inflammation, stress, and even nutrient deficiencies and then repairing the damage they’ve done can be a game changer for your health.

Let’s look at the things to focus on removing.

Disclaimer: I am not a physician. I am providing content for information purposes only based on my own personal experience and research and my clients’ experience. Always seek advice from your practitioner regarding medical conditions or treatment options, and never delay due diligence in taking care of your body.

Processed Foods

The standard American diet is full of processed foods high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, unhealthy fats, and artificial ingredients. These foods often lack vital nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants essential for good health.

Processed foods can cause inflammation, weight gain, insulin resistance, and other chronic health conditions. They are also a significant source of toxins that can damage our cells and contribute to disease.

To make matters worse, many of us eat processed food without realizing it.

Many “healthy” packaged foods are full of hidden ingredients that can sabotage our health. This applies to every lifestyle, including vegan. Society toots veganism as being a healthy lifestyle choice for better health. I believe it can work, but it doesn’t mean that one who eats meatless meals is entirely exempt from eating processed foods.

Just because it’s vegan doesn’t make it healthy. Some of the vegan products are nothing but processed substances. In my opinion, if you don’t stick to whole foods, you’re wasting your time and possibly your health. I say this with personal experience of eating “fake meat” and the experience of getting sick more often and taking longer to recover.

Other processed foods include:

  • Snack foods like chips, crackers, and cookies
  • Baked goods like cakes, pies, pastries, and breads
  • Fast food and take-out meals
  • Processed meats like bacon, sausage, and deli meat
  • Canned soups, sauces, and beans
  • Certain dairy products like cheese, cream, and milk
  • Anything that has ingredients that you can’t say or spell or never heard of
  • Dairy
  • Non-dairy health foods with added sugar

Replacing Processed Foods

The best way to kick processed foods is to eat a whole food, plant-based diet. It means eating mostly lean meats, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

Implementing the elimination diet is the most practical, no-nonsense way to do this. The elimination diet is a two-edged sword. It is my number one recommendation for this process. It can help you heal and feel better, but it is also a substantial challenge.

The first few weeks are the most difficult as your body is detoxing and withdrawing from all the foods you’re used to eating. Some start to feel better instantly, while others deal with those withdrawal symptoms. The key is to stick it out. Let your body reset itself and detox its dependence on unhealthy foods.

It will remove processed foods and any others that cause inflammation, including dairy, gluten, soy, eggs, corn, nightshades, and sugar. At this stage, you’ll be eating a lot of meat, vegetables, and some fruit. You can also have healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado.

Once you’ve removed the offending foods, you can start to slowly add them back in one at a time to monitor how your body reacts. But in this case, you won’t be adding processed foods. But you can experiment with others to see how your body reacts.

If you have any adverse symptoms when eating a particular food, it’s best to avoid them. Some people can tolerate foods that others can’t. It varies from person to person. The goal here is to eliminate inflammation and heal your body so you can feel your best. When you feel your best, you can function at your best and make better choices for your health.

Eliminating processed and unnatural foods from your diet is a major step in the right direction for good health. But it’s not the only thing you need to do.


We, as humans, face different levels of stress each day. Our fight or flight response is intact when we sense danger, but it’s also activated when we’re just worrying about an upcoming meeting or presentation. If you lose a loved one, are dealing with financial troubles, or even a breakup, you will likely worry most of the time for a while. When you do this, your fight or flight switch is always on.

The stress response is meant to be short-lived, but in today’s world, we’re constantly faced with stressful situations. This chronic stress leads to health problems like anxiety, depression, and insomnia. It can also weaken our immune system, making us more susceptible to illness and disease. It causes hormonal imbalances that can lead to weight gain, and it’s a significant contributor to inflammation.

Replacing Extreme Stress

The first step in better managing stress is to identify the source. Once you know what’s causing your stress, you can start to work on a plan to remove or reduce it.

There are also many things you can do to help your body cope with stress, including:

  • Getting regular exercise
  • Practicing meditation or mindfulness
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Spending time in nature
  • Doing things you enjoy
  • Connecting with loved ones
  • Distancing yourself from people that are not in your best interest

These are just a few of the many things you can do to help manage stress. It’s essential to find what works for you and make it a part of your daily routine.


We’re exposed to all types of toxins every day, from the air we breathe to the food we eat. They’re in our homes, workplaces, and personal care products. Toxins can come from many sources, but they all have one thing in common: They can cause inflammation.

Some of the familiar sources of toxins are:

  • Pesticides and herbicides
  • Heavy metals like mercury and lead
  • Chlorine and other chemicals in our water
  • Benzene and other chemicals in petrol and diesel exhaust
  • Formaldehyde in furniture, carpeting, and insulation
  • Bisphenol A (BPA) in plastics

Replacing Toxins

The first step in lowering your exposure to toxins is to become aware of the sources. Once you know where they’re coming from, you can start to make changes to reduce your exposure.

There are also many things you can do to help your body detoxify, including:

  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Eating plenty of fiber
  • Eating detoxifying foods like cruciferous vegetables and liver-supporting foods
  • Exercising regularly
  • Sweating regularly
  • Getting enough sleep

The Gut

All of these things impact the gut. Processed foods cause the gut to become inflamed, which in turn creates an imbalance of good and bad bacteria. Stress causes problems in the gut by negatively impacting the nervous system.

Toxins damage the gut by causing inflammation and destroying good and bad bacteria balance. It can lead to various problems, including:

  • Digestive issues like bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Skin conditions like acne and eczema
  • Mood disorders like anxiety and depression

Healing the Gut

To heal the gut, it’s essential to remove the things that are damaging it. Add digestive enzymes with each meal to help with the breakdown of food. Eat plenty of fiber to keep things moving along. And take a probiotic supplement daily to restore the balance of good bacteria.

There are also several things you can do to repair the gut. Bone broth is rich in collagen, which helps to heal the gut lining. Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi are also great for healing the gut. Adding supplements like glutamine and zinc can also be helpful.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequent inquiries on gut health regarding the 4Rs in Functional Medicine.

What Foods Heal the Gut Lining?

Several different foods can help to heal the gut lining. These include bone broth, fermented foods, and glutamine-rich foods.

What is the Gut-Brain Connection?

The gut and the brain connect through the nervous system. The gut is often referred to as the “second brain” because of how closely they are connected.

What is the Cause of Leaky Gut?

A leaky gut happens as a result of inflammation in the gut. It can be due to many different things, including processed foods, stress, and toxins.

How Do I know my Gut is Healing?

There are a number of different ways to know if your gut is healing. These include improved digestion, less bloating, and more regular bowel movements. Some notice more energy, clearer skin, and a better mood.

Wrapping Up the 4Rs in Functional Medicine

Removing and repairing is a crucial part of the 4Rs in functional medicine. By eliminating the things that are causing damage and repairing the things that have been damaged, you can overcome dis-ease and restore balance in the body.

What are some things you’ve removed from your diet or lifestyle in order to improve your health? What repairs have you made to heal your gut or other areas of the body? Share in the comments below!

And Remember, Don’t Play With Your Body. You Only Get One!