Detox, cleanse, gut health, probiotics, and prebiotics. We are inundated with these words and the associated quick-fixes that promise to help our body get rid of toxins, bloating, and gas and improve digestion. But, why are we so interested in our gut? Or how healthy it is? And detoxing it? I’ll start with a quick science lesson. When we talk about the gut, we are referring to the digestive system and its accompanying organs. The digestive system is the second line of defense for our immune system (after the skin), and it is where most of our immune system is housed. Think about it: most of the “toxins” we ingest will be ingested via our food or drink. The digestive system has to be ready to fight off those toxins. The bacteria located inside the intestines work in conjunction with the liver to capture and destroy pathogens. The liver requires adequate nutrients to function properly – nutrients that include protein, vitamins, minerals and water. Following restrictive cleanses and detoxes actually prevent your liver from getting the nutrients it needs to do its job.
So, you’re probably asking: “if detoxes and cleanse hinder my body’s ability to digest food, absorb nutrients, and fight off pathogens, then why do I still feel bloating, gassy, and have abdominal pain? Isn’t it better to let the system rest?” Instead of thinking “I need to give my digestive system time to rest”, focus on providing it with quality nutrients. What does that look like?
· Protein at every meal to provide the amino acids your liver needs to run the detoxification process.
· Limit your added and/or processed sugar intake.
· Aim for 1-2 servings of vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables at each meal.
· Aim for half of your body water in ounces each day (i.e. 75 oz. for a 150 lb. person).
· Get enough sleep! Adults need between 6-9 hours per night.
· Break a sweat! Remember, our skin is the largest organ and sweating gets rid of toxins!
If you are following a healthy diet and you still experience digestive discomfort, it may be time to talk to your doctor or dietitian about an elimination diet. An elimination diet is a type of diet that eliminates typical digestive triggers from your body; it also gives your digestive system time to heal from any possible damage. After a specified length of time, you reintroduce each type of food one at a time to see what, if any, responses you have to the food. Because you may have to eliminate nutrient-rich foods (foods like dairy or grains), this type of diet should always be done under the supervision of a dietitian, physician or other qualified health professional.