When we've overdone it on a night out, we vow to take part in a liver detox, if we're feeling overworked and exhausted, we book in for a spa detox as a "treat", and if we've over indulged on the weekend, a food detox is often necessary. What we rarely find on our list of priorities, is a gut detox. Maintaining a healthy gut is paramount to our health and wellbeing, as a well-functioning gut helps to prevent a range of digestive problems and conditions including diabetes, insomnia, fatigue and even anxiety. Naturopathic Nutritionist Julie Haigh shares her exclusive step by step guide to help you cleanse your gut the healthy way this summer.
Step One - Stay Fresh: Avoid processed foods containing high amounts of additives, sugar and saturated fats during your gut detox as they will deplete the good bacteria in your gut. Sugar feeds the bad bacteria in your gut which can lead to a candida overgrowth. This overgrowth is often the cause symptoms of IBS and other digestive discomforts. To combat this, it is essential to tweak your diet to reduce your sugar intake. Check out Candida Diet Foods (candidadietfoods.co.uk), a brand new online platform which provides recipes and nutritional advice on the best ways to reduce a candida overgrowth, as well as an online shop to purchase gut friendly ingredients directly.
Step Two - Get your full seven hours sleep: Stress and lack of sleep can result in terrible consequences for your gut, and this, coupled with the average modern lifestyle which typically consists of poor diet, long working hours and excessive mobile phone use can result in the worst possible environment for the growth of the diverse gut bacteria our bodies need. Although at times, our sleeping patterns and stress levels are out of our control, try to pack your diet with plenty of fibre, proteins, fruits and vegetables which can help you feel, and sleep better. Still struggling to fall asleep? Try a drink of slippery elm powder in warm water or a mug of peppermint tea before bedtime to settle your stomach and ensure a sound night's sleep.
Step Three - Keep things green: Now that you've had time to get used to a fresh-food diet, it's time to step it up and maximise your gut detox by following a plant-based diet. A plant-based diet, rich in green leafy vegetables will help the good bacteria grow in your gut. Green leafy vegetables act as a prebiotic, the food source for the good bacteria in your gut, helping them grow and flourish. The easiest way to ensure you stay on track is preparing your week's meals in advance, giving you ample time to carefully select every ingredient you add to your meals and ensure you consume fresh food full of nutritional benefits.
Step Four - Get creative and colourful: Green isn't the only colour that should be present on your plate. By increasing the amount, and variety, of coloured fruits and vegetables in your diet you're also increasing the amount of polyphenols and prebiotics, which good bacteria feeds on. Incorporate these fruits and vegetables with other probiotics, found in fermented foods such as live yoghurt, sauerkraut, miso and kefir, to ensure a healthy dose of gut flora with every meal.
Step Five – Stay hydrated: Start every day off with a large glass of pure filtered water before you have anything else to eat or drink. This should be followed by a cup of herbal tea or warm lemon water with a dash of apple cider vinegar which can help restore the fluids lost overnight. Keep drinking water throughout the day to ensure your gut remains hydrated, but remember not to drink water with meals, or less than half an hour before as they will dilute digestive juices.
Step Six - Embrace the great outdoors: Get outside, soak up the beautiful summer rays and do some gardening to expose yourself to different types of microbes in the air and soil, whilst also getting your recommended daily dose of Vitamin D. Trillions of strains of bacteria live in soil, so it's a great excuse to get outdoors and start a new hobby. Why not build your own greenhouse or plant your own fruit and veg to coincide with the new, healthier you? If you're a beginner to gardening, try growing strawberries, rhubarb, currants or apples, which are the easiest fruits to start off with. Where space is limited try growing your fruit trees in containers, you can even grow strawberries in hanging baskets.
Step Seven - Avoid unnecessary antibiotics: This is another important fact to remember when undergoing a detox. Antibiotics can wipe out all of the bacteria in the body and it can take weeks, sometimes even years, for the microbial community in the gut to recover. Always seek the advice of your GP before taking antibiotics and any over-the-counter medicines.