Is your gut in bad shape right now? If so, detox is much more important than you think.
Detox is not the first thing that springs to mind in relation to gut health. Naturally we think of changes to our food or supplements, and maybe lifestyle changes such as more exercise and less stress.
What we may not realise is that – because our gut isn’t functioning properly – we are carrying around a bunch more toxins on a daily basis than we should be. These toxins can drastically affect the way we feel, lowering our defences to illness and contributing to inflammation in our body.
First of all, what do we mean exactly when we talk about ‘toxins’? We mean chemicals inside our body that are harmful and need to be got rid of.
A well known example of poison in the air is lead, which for many years was added to fuel to make cars run better but which is toxic for us and makes us sick.
Sometimes these chemicals are waste products from our metabolism. Other times they are poisons that we consume by mistake because they are in the air we breath or food we eat, such as lead in petrol.
Other times they are toxins manufactured by bacteria in our gut (more on this below).
When the body is working well, we can clean out these unwanted toxins by excreting them in a variety of different ways, such as through urine, sweat and bowel movements.
However when our gut isn’t working properly, toxins can build up quicker than the body is able to clear them away. This can contribute to:
- Inflammation, which sets the stage for chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
- A weakened immune system.
- Difficulty losing weight.
- Autoimmune conditions like multiple sclerosis and psoriasis.
- Brain problems such as moodiness, brain fog, anxiety, depression, autism and Alzheimers.
Increased Toxic Load
Why are people with gut problems likely to have more toxins inside them?
Our bodies are full of trillions of bacteria, known as our microbiome. Don’t take it personally, all animals and plants are! Although we’ve been taught that bacteria generally make us sick, in fact most of the bacteria inside us are extremely helpful.
These friendly bacteria are little factories busily making products, many of which are vital for us, like vitamins and neurotransmitters.
However a certain amount of the bacteria in our microbiome are unhelpful or downright dangerous. One thing they do is create nasty toxins, sometimes as waste products and sometimes as a self-defence mechanism.
When these bad critters get the upper hand in our microbiome, our body has a lot more mess to clear up every day! This is a state known as dysbiosis.
Another problem is that, without enough good bacteria, we struggle to digest our food fully. This leads to more undigested food particles floating around than normal.
These undigested food particles wouldn’t necessarily be considered as toxins but when they pass into our body through our leaky gut lining, we’re into a world of problems. They’re treated as ‘foreign’ and dangerous by our immune system, which switches on the body’s defence and healing mechanisms, including inflammation.
This can trigger food intolerances and allergies as well as symptoms all over our body far away from our gut, such as skin conditions, headaches, chronic fatigue and weight gain.
To recap, if our microbiome is out balance (in dysbiosis) this leads to more bacterial toxins and undigested food particles floating around in our gut.
Normally these bothersome substances would stay safely in our gut and be pooped out at the next toilet visit.
However if we have leaky gut, the gut wall becomes full of holes – like a sieve – allowing particles to pass through that would normally stay inside the gut.
These particles are then able to pass from the gut into the body, where they don’t belong, upsetting our immune system, causing chronic inflammation and making us sick.
What causes leaky gut in the first place? There are many factors that can contribute to this but the single biggest one is too many bad bacteria and not enough good ones. If you’d like to learn more about the different factors in play and find out how likely it is that you have leaky gut, take our Leaky Gut Quiz
Some toxins even pass through the blood-brain barrier and mess with our delicate brain chemistry, causing havoc with our mood, memory and perception!
5 Steps to Detoxify
Here are 5 steps you can take today – and every day – to clean out the crap:
1. 12-hour fasting: the body needs a few hours each day to focus its energies on cleaning house. It can’t do this until it’s finished digesting the last meal. Make sure you allow at least 12 hours between finishing your dinner and having breakfast the next morning. 24-hour fasting is also very detoxing and beneficial.
2. Juicing: the body’s detoxification system needs nutrients to work, such as zinc and magnesium. Unfortunately we are often sorely lacking in these nutrients, particularly if we have gut problems. Juicing provides a huge payload of valuable nutrients and is a time-honoured method of detoxing. Make sure the juices are freshly made, or failing that, are cold-pressed (not pasteurised, as this removes many nutrients!)
4. Sweat every day: this helps to ensure that toxins are being shown the door every day, instead of being allowed to build up. Saunas have been shown to have many health benefits. Also if you sweat through exercising, this will have an anti-inflammatory effect on your body, an extra bonus!
5. Remove chemicals from your house: unfortunately our homes are full of toxic chemicals, from laundry detergents to cosmetics. People with gut problems are much more sensitive to these chemicals, because their detoxification systems are already overloaded. Switch bleaches and chemical detergents for biodegradable cleaners, and find cosmetics made from natural plant products!
Detoxing will give you more energy, make you stronger and help you you feel positive and stable. It may even – quite literally – keep you sane!