Considering that the digestive tract which includes the gut begins at the mouth and ends with the anus; a lot could go wrong in between. And it does. Often. The gut does have the capacity to right itself. The adage “ignore something long enough and it will fix itself” does ring true for the gut. However, this works only for so long and for so many times. If your gut is asking for some TLC (tender loving care), you should look into it – pronto.
You may be surprised to learn that the gut influences almost every other biological system in the body. And it isn’t the organs but microscopic houseguests that live in your intestines. These microbes – mostly bacteria, influence your health to a large extent. There are beneficial bacteria and harmful bacteria. Good gut health results from the balance that is maintained in the gut between these two, namely healthy gut bacteria and pathogenic bacteria. This balance can be disturbed by several factors and especially when the pathogenic bacteria overpower the good bacteria. You now have dysbiosis. Dysbiosis can mostly right itself but if left unchecked for long, digestive health begins to disintegrate and you have the start of numerous problems. Because the gut has several responsibilities in your body, dysbiosis affects them all.
- The gut plays a role in the absorption of nutrients from the food that you consume. When the bacteria themselves are unwell, the digestive system cannot harvest nutrients and utilize them for the body.
- Another gut responsibility is the expelling of toxins from the body. Ideally, the gut absorbs toxins from the intestines and prepares for the release of the same through urine or stool. An unhealthy gut is incapable of doing that and as a result, the toxins are left in the body and sometimes released into the bloodstream.
- The imbalance in gut microbial diversity leads to leaky gut syndrome – a condition in which the mucosal barrier in the intestines is compromised. The tiny spaces in the intestines that could initially only let water and nutrients through (intestinal permeability), will widen letting undigested food, pathogenic bacteria, and toxins into the bloodstream. This causes widespread inflammation resulting in joint pains, skin breakouts, disturbed sleep, candida infections, food intolerances, and autoimmune diseases.
- 80% of your immune system is housed in the gut. The immune cells interact with the gut bacteria and the healthier and more diverse the intestinal bacteria the more resilient the immune system. If the gut is not healthy, your immunity suffers and you will find yourself falling ill more often than before.
- Almost all of the serotonin that runs in your body is produced in the gut and the gut bacteria help to do that. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that helps you breathe, maintain body temperature, and regulate satisfaction, motivation, attention, and mood. With an unhealthy gut, you will begin to experience brain fog, fatigue, and depression.
- The gut-brain axis is the communication network that physically and biochemically connects the two systems through the vagus nerve. The gut microbes produce many of the compounds that affect brain functionality and health. Your brain is affected when the gut microbiome is out of whack.
- Mental Health and cognitive ability also fall under the purview of the beneficial bacteria. Both are affected by dysbiosis.
Try to recall the last time you had an upset tummy. The constant runs to the toilet, an ability to concentrate on work or play, nausea, bloating, feeling hungry and full at the same time, and other unsavory symptoms. Terrible way to live which is why a gut cleanse is in order.
Is a Gut Cleanse Necessary?
Short answer – yes. Sometimes the gut needs a helping hand in getting back into shape and any support you give to the gut, it appreciates. What is a gut cleanse though?
Also known as a colon cleanse, a gut cleanse is a practice of removing waste and toxins from the body. It is a beneficial process as it helps with problems like constipation, diarrhea, and irregular bowel movements and it may even reduce the risk of colon cancer. Cleansing the gut has several health benefits like weight loss, improved digestive health, supported nutrient absorption, increase energy output and a clearer mind for better cognitive functioning. However, engaging in a cleanse for too long can negatively influence gut health. So, a cleanse must last for no more than 2 weeks at a stretch.
Not everyone needs a gut cleanse. The human gut microbiome is not always in trouble. You may need to reset your gut only if you have the following symptoms and if you have had them for a while.
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Gas and bloating
- Food allergies that have recently sprung up
- Joint pains
- Disturbed sleep
- Headaches and the inability to concentrate
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Mood swings
Do keep in mind that the above symptoms could be a result of any number of medical conditions; not only is it always gut microbiota imbalance. However, if you have these symptoms and have been cleared by wellness professionals for no significant medical problems, you may have a gut issue. A gut reset causes no harm but does check with your doctor before you begin one.
How Do You Cleanse the Gut?
There is no one certain method that provides results as each body is different, and one single approach does not work for all. There are four steps to every gut cleanse protocol –
- Gut reset diet,
- Supplements, and
Gut Reset Dietary Restrictions
Diet plays a central role in maintaining gut microbiota balance. That is because what you eat is what the gut bacteria eat. Certain foods feed the good bacteria and others the bad bacteria. As long as you choose a diet that benefits your health and that of the beneficial bacteria, you’re all set. The Western diet is meat heavy and does not support digestive tract health. The general idea is that the more diverse your food, the more diverse and healthier the gut bacteria. When trying to begin a gut cleanse, there are certain steps you need to take first.
- Avoid processed foods. The dependence on canned, processed meats and pre-cooked and frozen meals is what probably led to a gut imbalance in the first place.
- Artificial sweeteners are not your friends. Non-caloric sweeteners may reduce your calorie intake but they feed the pathogens in the digestive tract.
- Alcohol and tobacco hurt the body and the gut. Indulgence in either will not help the gut-cleansing process.
- Stay hydrated. Water allows the body to remove waste and toxins from the blood. You may need bathroom breaks more often but it is worth the effort.
Once you have the above steps in place, you can move on to the next phase – changing to a healthy diet.
Changing diet rapidly can do more damage than good. Also, dietary extremes impact the way your body digests food. Therefore, make small changes every day and work your way towards a balanced diet. The Mediterranean diet is considered to be the healthiest and the goal should be to get as close to this diet as you can.
Here are the basic highlights of a gut-healthy diet:
- A plant-based diet is always a better choice. Not only are plant foods rich in vital nutrients, but they also contain plant compounds like polyphenols, that benefit the digestive system and the body as a whole. Moreover, plant foods are rich in fiber. As the human body cannot digest fiber, it is sent to the intestines where the gut bacteria break it down for nutrition. You would be helping gut bacteria by keeping them fed and healthy by including high-fiber foods in your diet. This category of gut-friendly foods includes Jerusalem artichokes, carrots, sweet potatoes, radishes, jicama roots, onions, garlic, apples, bananas, and many others.
- For the digestive system to function properly, the consumption of high-fiber foods alone is not enough. The system has to be reinforced with probiotic foods as well. Probiotics are another term used for friendly bacteria. Probiotic foods are mostly fermented foods that contain live bacteria. When you eat fermented foods, the bacteria enter your system and bolster the number and diversity of the bacteria already present in the gut. These fermented foods have many health benefits, providing the body with key nutrients. Beneficial fermented foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, kombucha, miso, kvass, and a lot more. To learn about more Probiotic Foods, visit now!
- Even if you are health conscious, your body needs fats. They are one of the 3 macronutrients in food and it is crucial for the absorption of certain vitamins and the production of hormones. Also, the right sort of fat can help reduce gut inflammation. Polyunsaturated fats like omega-3 fatty acids are the best for the gut. Fats don’t always mean oils. You can get these healthy fats from natural sources like oily fish, nuts, chia and flax seeds, avocadoes, and olives.
- Some drinks are essential for gut health. When trying to cleanse, you can opt to start the process with variations to your liquid intake. It would be easier for your gut to adjust to the changes. You could include kefir – a probiotic drink to your breakfast, juice celery, apples, blueberries, and other prebiotic foods as a quick snack, switch out wine for kombucha – another probiotic drink and add nutritious bone broth to your dinners. These liquids not only support healthy weight, but they also ease the load on the digestive system.
A poor diet is the foundation of failing gut health. When trying to cleanse the gut, diet is the first thing to change. Some healthy things you could add to your diet are apple cider vinegar, dark chocolate, extra virgin olive oil, herbal teas, and natural sugars instead of artificial ones. The more plant-based foods you add to your diet, the greater the benefit to overall health.
Gut Reset Exercise
The root of many problems (gut and otherwise) is the sedentary life you may be following. A study conducted over six weeks concluded that there were noticeable changes to the gut microbiota composition when subjects engaged in physical exercise and that these changes were good ones. However, when subjects stopped exercising, the gut microbiome reverted to what it was previously.
Exercise does not always mean hitting the gym or pumping iron. A healthy gut only requires that the food you eat is used up as fuel rather than stored away as body fat. If you wish to live a healthy lifestyle, getting up and moving is key. You can start simply and at home. Take the stairs more often, do some planting and gardening, swab the floors, clean the windows, or you could even dance when no one is around. When you want to leave the house, walk instead of taking the car, squeeze in a jog before your day begins, take a walk in the park or you could even go for a hike.
When you start to exercise, your body will see the benefits pretty soon – you start to lose excess weight, blood pressure and blood sugar levels begin to settle, your immune system is reinforced and the risks of heart disease are reduced significantly. All of this happens because of the gut microbiome. The gut bacteria influence the way your body reacts to diets and the amount of energy expelled and what amount of fat to store. When you exercise, you make these decisions easier for the gut microbiome to make.
An added incentive is the endorphins. The gut is responsible for serotonin and dopamine production. Every exercise session is followed by a rush of elation and motivation and this is the dopamine rush. The gut microbiome increases its production while you exercise. When you begin to exercise, you will begin to see a change in mental health as well.
Gut Reset Supplementation
There is yet another option for sustaining a healthy gut – taking probiotic supplements. For a gut reset, the gut microbiota must be bolstered with beneficial bacteria, and consuming a probiotic supplement ensures that your gut receives a healthy dose of diverse strains, here are the 10 Best Clinically Proven Probiotic and Prebiotic Supplements you can take a closer look at. You must be patient and choose a supplement that supports your diet and lifestyle. Bombarding your gut with random probiotic strains can do more harm than good. When looking for a supplement, take the following factors into account.
- The supplement must contain a diverse range of bacterial strains from the Lactobacillus and/or Bifidobacterium families. These strains are the most beneficial to the gut and also help to maintain a healthy immune system.
- CFU – colony forming units, is a good way to check whether the probiotic supplement is capable of making a difference to the digestive tract. The higher the CFU count, the better.
- Choose a supplement that includes prebiotic content so that you do not have to take a separate supplement for that as well.
Sleep to Reset the Gut
No one pays much heed to sleep because it’s just sleep. But not getting adequate sleep has several clinical consequences. The actual “how” is still a mystery but some studies have suggested that sleep deprivation causes changes in gut composition and diversity. This could be because the lack of sleep causes stress and stress influences gut health. It is a cycle. A healthy gut contributes to better sleep and therefore reduces stress. An unhealthy gut disturbs the cycle and contributes to yet more unrest in the gut.
Because of the gut-brain axis, the situation in the gut affects sleep patterns. The gut follows a circadian rhythm similar to yours so when you don’t go to bed on time, the gut bugs don’t either. Neither you nor the microbes get rest which leads to stress.
When trying to cleanse the gut, you must make a few lifestyle changes and a major one is the amount of rest your body gets. Ensure that you give your body enough time to recuperate from the physical and mental stress of the day. You will see a change in mood, motivation, and energy once this sleep pattern becomes a habit. Many health conditions result from sleep deprivation or the inability to get restful sleep. Healthy older adults need at least 6 to 8 hours of rest. Make sure that you get them. There are certain steps that you can take.
- Eat at least 2 hours before you go to bed. Don’t hit the hay stuffed or on an empty stomach.
- Make sure that dinner is the lightest meal of the day.
- The room that you sleep in should be cool, dark, and quiet.
- If you have started an exercise routine, this should help you fall asleep quicker.
- Limit your daytime naps.
- Calm your mind before you go to bed – meditate, read, listen to some music or talk to a friend. A restful mind is a rested one.
When you begin the gut cleanse journey, don’t jump right in. Make some gradual changes and work your way to the full spectrum. Your overall health will begin to improve and you will notice that your gut is starting to feel better.
Gut Cleanse Plans
Several plans have been proposed to reset the gut and the duration ranges from 3 to 15 days. Again, some habits from the gut cleanse can be carried over to normal life like exercise, sleep habits, and a healthy diet. However, forever restricting your intake of food and overcompensating with supplements is not healthy.
The 3-day gut cleanse is a drastic step and it is recommended only if you have mild symptoms of dysbiosis. If you suffer from conditions of the gut like irritable bowel syndrome or celiac disease, the 3-day gut cleanse should be given a miss as this gut reset plan calls for a sudden overhaul of diet and lifestyle patterns. A sensitive stomach would take a turn for the worse.
The second plan is a 7-day reset plan that is a more gradual system. This plan consists of a gentle detox and steady subtractions and additions to your diet. It also includes exercise routines you can follow. The point of the 7-day plan is to help you make a habit of these changes which would make it easier for your gut to adjust to the changes.
A 15 -day gut cleanse aims to fortify the gut against future ill health while fixing whatever distress it is going through now. Some plans call for intermittent fasting, the use of supplements, and making slower and healthier changes to your diet and lifestyle. There are several plans available.
Whichever plan you wish to follow, the idea of doing a gut cleanse is a good one. The benefits you reap from such a cleanse would stay with you for as long as you keep up a healthy diet, a healthy lifestyle, and some exercises, here are some Gut Health Exercises you can check out.