Keeping your gut healthy is the basis for overall bodily well-being. When it comes to our immune system, heart health, brain optimization, mood, and digestion; they all stem from gut health. Maintaining a healthy gut can be accomplished through various areas of your life such as lifestyle, the foods we eat, and avoiding toxins that can disrupt our digestive function and the gut microbiome. Let's dive into signs of an unhealthy gut and the steps you can take to properly detox and cleanse your gut naturally.
An unhealthy gut can dictate the health of our entire body and the way it functions. Below are common signs and symptoms that could indicate an unhealthy gut (1):
- Stomach discomfort
- Skin irritations (including acne)
- Autoimmune conditions
- Unintentional weight changes
- Food intolerances
- Mental health conditions
- Leaky gut
- Nutrient malabsorption
- Joint Pain
Let's check out the 7 best practices to optimize and naturally cleanse your gut. We will begin by optimizing your gut with healthy lifestyle practices, and then introduce some natural colon cleanses that can assist you on your journey to optimal gut health.
Avoid Added Sugar
As most are aware that consuming sugar has negative effects on the body, it is important to know the major health effects it has on the gut. Our gut is home to over 100 trillion bacteria that live in our digestive system. They make up our gut microbiota and are essential to many of our daily functions. So when our gut microbiota are not healthy, the rest of the body suffers.
Sugar has a direct impact on the trillions of microbes that reside in our intestinal tract. Sugar disrupts the gut microbiome and can result in serious gastrointestinal disorders. Studies have shown that continuous consumption of sugar affects the production of proteins that assist in the growth of healthy bacteria (healthy bacteria is vital in proper gut digestion). Another study was done that compared a group of people who consumed high amounts of sugar, and one that eliminated sugar. It was found that high sugar consumption significantly reduced healthy gut function and slowed down the mouth-to-anus transit time, which impairs your bowel movements and the overall metabolism of your gut (2). After a breathing test was done on these two groups, those who consumed high amounts of sugar also showed elevated levels of H2 in their breath. This indicates that you have unhealthy bacterial growth occurring in your small intestine (otherwise known as SIBO) and can cause a variety of uncomfortable symptoms and health concerns.
Added sugar in your diet is food to the bacteria in your digestive system, so the more added sugar they get, the more bacteria you are going to have. Other health concerns that can happen from over-indulging in added sugar include obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, and of course, tooth decay. Below are common foods that are high in added sugar and offer little nutritional value (3):
- Baked goods
- Soft drinks (sports drinks, energy drinks, juice, soda)
- Dairy desserts (ice cream, fortified yogurt)
- Processed foods
When pinpointing foods that you should avoid that contain high amounts of added sugar, it is important to read the nutrition facts label and understand the ingredients. Sugar is shown on an ingredients list in various names, so knowing these names can help you better avoid:
- Brown sugar
Sleep is an important factor in maintaining a healthy gut. Studies have shown that sleep has a major impact on the gut microbiota. Getting adequate amounts of sleep aids in the production and balance of beneficial gut bacteria. Sleep deprivation has been shown to increase your chances of gut dysbiosis, which is the imbalance of microorganisms within your digestive tract. Not only does sleep give us a chance to rest, but it also gives our digestive system time to rest from breaking down food all day. When your digestive tract is not well-rested, it can result in various health concerns. For example, our body will look for any source of energy they can get its hands on, which will result in hormone changes. It can cause our leptin levels (a hormone that controls appetite) to reduce and change the way you crave foods. It will also affect your decision making in regards to food. Studies have shown that a lack of sleep causes individuals to crave high sugar foods and increase the chance of you picking an unhealthy snack versus a nutrient-dense snack (5). Below are ways you can improve your sleep to improve gut health:
- Avoid carbohydrate foods before bed
- Turn off your phones/TV 30 minutes before bed
- Avoid caffeine close to bedtime
- Only use your bed for sleep
- For additional resources to assist you with getting adequate sleep, watch this video by Dr. Zyrowski.
Supplementation can be a big part of cleansing your gut naturally. As mentioned before, our digestive tract is filled with both good and bad bacteria. Probiotics are filled with live microorganisms that work to maintain the healthy balance of good bacteria, support the cells in the lining of your gut to ward off bad bacteria, and cleanse the gut. In doing so, probiotics help boost your immune system, improve digestion, and even reduce inflammation throughout your body (6). When choosing a probiotic supplement, it's important to remember that they are not all created equal. Many probiotics are not shelf stable or in clinically relevant doses. We recommend Probiotic Strength. You can also find benefits from fermented foods that contain probiotics. Fermented foods that naturally contain probiotics that assist with gastrointestinal health are as follows:
- Some cheeses
Gut Healthy Foods
What we eat has a major impact on our gut, it is important to incorporate foods that will help detox and cleanse the gut. A high-fiber, low-carb, and anti-inflammatory diet is key to follow when working on your gut health. Check out some of the best foods to consume to improve gut health (7):
- Avocados: Avocados are high in fiber which will promote regular bowel movements, which will assist in detoxifying the gut and reduce toxin-build up. This fruit is also a healthy fat filled with electrolytes and vitamins.
- Dark leafy greens: Leafy greens are filled with antioxidants that help our body avoid toxin build-up and maintain a healthy, cleansed gut. They are also a good source of vitamins and minerals that help regulate bowel movements. Examples of these veggies include arugula, bok choy, kale, and collard greens.
- Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is an antimicrobial, this means it helps reduce the overgrowth of bad bacteria which will assist with inflammation in the gut. Apple cider vinegar contains healthy bacteria and enzymes that help promote good digestive health.
- Garlic: Garlic is a versatile spice that can be incorporated into many dishes and meals. Garlic feeds and promotes the growth of the good bacteria in the gut which will aid in healthy digestion. It is high in fiber and works to flush out pathogens from the colon and cleanse the digestive tract.
- Lemon Juice: Lemon juice is another great way to feed healthy gut bacteria. Lemons are high in citric acid which assists in detoxification to reduce waste in the gut and limit the growth of harmful bacteria.
- Chia Seeds: Chia seeds are high in fiber and contain a quality dose of omega 3 fatty acids. This will reduce inflammation in the colon and help remove toxins.
Drinking water is a common rule of thumb when it comes to overall health. One of water's benefits is its ability to help digestion. Water works to help the breakdown of food so our body can properly absorb nutrients. It also helps soften your stool, which decreases your chances of constipation and regulates bowel movements. When it comes to how much water you should drink daily, it varies from person to person depending on lifestyle and genetics (8). While it is suggested to drink eight 8oz of water a day, this should be increased if you have high levels of physical activity.
Intermittent fasting is a diet technique that yields many benefits to the gastrointestinal tract. Fasting is when you refrain from eating for a set period of time. For example, common fasting times are
- 16/8 method - eating only during an 8-hour window
- OMAD (One Meal a Day) - restrict your eating to one meal per day (or less than a 2 hour feeding window)
- When you restrict food for a set amount of time, it helps give your digestive tract a break from breaking down food all day. During fasting, the body’s enzyme system can focus on detoxifying and breaking down toxin build-up (9).
Performing a colon cleanse/flush is a great way to help detox your colon, and improve digestion. There are a lot of questions in regards to how effective a cleanse can be, which flushes are safe, and how to perform a flush. Below are great options for flushes you can do to detox and cleanse your digestive system:
Vitamin C Flush
Doing a vitamin C flush provides benefits for digestive cleansing, immunity, and assists with oxidative stress. A vitamin C flush is a simple and quick detoxification method that helps remove toxins and excess fluid from the body. Along with the cleansing properties of this flush, it is also used to calculate your vitamin C requirements as well. To do this flush, follow the instructions listed here. Not only does this flush help detoxify your body and remove waste in your colon, but it also works in figuring out the accurate amount of vitamin C you should have daily for optimal immune system function. It is important to note that when you are performing a vitamin C flush, try and do it when you are near your bathroom for a few hours as you will be using it frequently.
Salt Water Flush
A salt water flush
is another cleansing technique that is growing in popularity. This flush is designed to have a laxative effect and push excess toxins and waste out of the body by excreting them. By this process, the colon is cleansed, digestion is improved, and excess bloating and constipation are alleviated. To do this flush, you will dissolve two teaspoons of non-iodized salt (such as pink Himalayan salt or pure sea salt) in four cups of warm water. You will want to drink this mixture first thing in the morning on an empty stomach for the best results. It should take 30 minutes to 1 hour to start feeling the laxative effect of the salty drink. Again, you will want to be in a comfortable setting near a bathroom during this flush, as the first hour following the drink will be filled with bathroom breaks. The laxative effect of this flush is a great way to clear fluid retention, reduce inflammation in the body, cleanse your colon, and remove toxins in your digestive tract. For further details on this flush, read this article.
GI-Clear Shake Cleanse
This cleanse is a gentle way to detoxify the body and support your health goals with high-density nutrition. GI-Clear
is a fructose free, low – allergy potential supplement that is designed to offer metabolic, gastrointestinal, and balanced detoxification support.It supports mitochondrial energy production to give a boost for biotransformation (chemical breakdown through enzyme activity) and detoxification. The formula is specifically engineered to support the moderation of phase one of detoxification and the up regulation of the phase two pathways of detoxification all while pushing antioxidants for extra support. It is very important to remove the toxic buildup that has accumulated in the liver and intestines over time. The food that the average person is consuming is loaded with preservatives, herbicides, heavy metals and all the ingredients to create an enflamed and unhealthy gut. These toxins bio accumulate in the liver and gut creating an environment impossible for healing and restoration. GI Clear is a highly nutrient dense meal replacement shake that gently cleanses the colon naturally, without the need to "run to the bathroom".Conclusion
Cleansing your gut naturally provides many benefits to not only your digestion but overall wellness. If your gut is not healthy or overloaded with toxins, it can result in numerous health concerns, symptoms, and disease. It is important that positive lifestyle factors and a healthy, nutrient-dense diet are incorporated. Hopefully, this article sheds some light on the ways you can cleanse and improve your gut in natural, sustainable ways.