‘Detox’ is a fashionable word in the wellness world. But what does it really mean?
With a modern lifestyle, you end up ingesting substances that may be toxic to the body. For example:
- Your fruits and vegetables are covered with insecticides and pesticides;
- Traces of cleaning products such as detergents and bleaches stay on your clothes;
- Processed foods have preservatives, thickening chemicals, flavouring agents, food colours, and trans fats;
- Power plants and industrial activities cause heavy metals to get into your soils. Along with wastewater irrigation, they end up in your food and then accumulate in your body;
- Air pollution and smoking can cause many pollutants to enter your lungs, and then through your blood, liver, and bile end up in your digestive tract;
- Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical used for making plastics that you use daily; and
- If your body produces oestrogen hormone in excess, traces of it can accumulate in your gut and cause toxic effects.
Your body has natural ways of getting rid of toxins. For example, some enzymes convert many toxic compounds into less harmful substances, which are then eliminated through stools.
However, if your intestines gather too much of these toxins, they may overwhelm your body’s detox mechanisms. But how can you find that out?
Signs and Symptoms of Toxin Buildup
Toxins in the gut broadly do two things. They:
- Damage the protective inner lining of your gut, which leads to their entry into your bloodstream and then spread all over the body; and
- Alter the composition of the bacteria in the intestines—reduce the good ones and encourage the bad ones to grow in numbers.
Both of these can lead to the following signs and symptoms:
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Bloated feeling, diarrhoea, or constipation
- Skin rashes, boils, acne, or eczema
- Mood swings, stress, anxiety, depression, or inability to concentrate
- Disturbed sleep or insomnia
- Cold or sinus problems
- Headaches or migraine
- Food cravings
- Swollen joints and aching muscles
- Bad breath or body odour
- Cellulite or obesity
Do you notice any of these? It does not automatically mean that you have a toxic overload. But recurrent problems of these types would indicate that you need a gut detox.
Digestive system detoxification aims to achieve two things:
- Removal of toxins from the intestines, which improves food digestion, helping better absorption of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients; and
- Elimination from the intestines of harmful pathogens that cause various diseases and restoration of healthy gut bacteria to adequate numbers.
The gut detoxification process involves many aspects such as:
- Less or no processed foods, sugar and salt, which protect your good gut bacteria as well as the liver and kidneys—the main detoxification organs;
- Regular exercise, which improves the body’s detoxification system;
- Alcohol reduction, which allows the liver to detoxify better;
- Better quality of sleep, which improves your body’s natural detoxification system; and
- More clean drinking water, which helps eliminate toxins faster.
A Quick Fix
There are many articles, websites, and companies promoting a 3-day or 7-day gut detox program called colon cleansing. But these are quick fixes and you can expect just that: stopgap solutions.
For me, the real gut detox is a lifelong process because we don’t live in a perfect world. There will be birthday cakes, alcohol parties, and polluted air; a few nasty infections will need antibiotic treatments. Each will worsen your gut health needing you to nurse it back to normal. This has to be a continuous task and not a short detox course.
Role of Dietary Fibres in Gut Detox
Increasing dietary fibre consumption is the bedrock of many detox programs. Different types of dietary fibres play varied roles in the intestinal detoxification process.
- Soluble fibres dissolve in water and form a gel-like suspension.
- They pass through the intestines unchanged but mop up many toxins.
- You get them from legumes such as beans and lentils, apples and citrus fruits.
- Insoluble fibres bulk up the food in the intestines.
- They speed up the elimination of toxins from the digestive tract through faeces.
- In the process, they also reduce the risk of colorectal cancers.
- You get them from whole grains, nuts, corn, vegetables like spinach, cauliflower, green beans, and fruits with skins.
- Prebiotics are a special type of fibres (scientifically, this is not accurate but can suffice for the purpose of this article) that are food to healthy bacteria in your intestines.
- They help increase the population of good bacteria in your gut.
- They are found in vegetables such as green peas, onion, cabbage, and garlic, fruits such as apples and pomegranate, legumes such as chickpeas and lentils, wheat, and cashew.
To Read More
- Healthpath: Gut Health Cleanse: Should You Detox Your Gut?
- Read on this website: How Dietary Fibers Can Help With Liver Detoxification?
- Michigan State University: In the news – Heavy Metals in Food
- Premier Health and Wellness Center: The Best Things for Your Gut Health
- MedicalNewsToday: 3-day gut reset: Does it work?
First Published on: 30th July 2023
Image Credit: Image by Freepik