Today we hear a lot about toxins. There are many chemicals in the air and in the work-place. We are also exposed to chemicals through drugs, and refined foods we eat. This leads to obvious stomach problems for some people, while others simply have a gut full of toxins without really knowing it. Toxicity has been associated with a number of diseases including cancer and cardiovascular disease. For this reason detoxing and cleansing have become very popular, but if you aren’t careful, trying to clean out your gut can be harmful.
What Detox Does for Your Gut and Digestion
In simple terms, to detox or cleanse the body means that you are removing all the toxins and poison from your system. The theory is that this will lead to better digestion and better overall health. The idea of a good detox or cleansing is to eliminate harmful foods from your diet for a certain period of time and eat pure, natural foods that will help your kidneys, liver, and other vital organs function well. Some detox programs focus on a specific part of the body such as the liver or the bowel. In some cases the cleansing process can eliminate food from your diet all together. The juice cleanse is one example.
Concerns Regarding Better Digestion
If you aren’t careful in the way you detox and cleanse doctors say you won’t solve your stomach problems or attain better digestion; you could end up facing a number of unexpected problems. The duration of detox diets vary; however, gastrointestinal specialists say the longer the program, the greater the risk. They say people who conduct detox and cleansing on a repeated basis also run into problems.
A detox diet is typically slim on solid food, protein is often lacking, and sugar intake is very low. If a cleanse lasts more than a few days you can run into muscle breakdown, blood sugar problems, as well as vitamin deficiencies. Dehydration is another pitfall associated with long-term detox programs. According to the Mayo Clinic’s top nutritionists, colon cleansing can lead to cramps, nausea, vomiting, and bloating. Fatigue has also been linked to a number of fasting-type diets. Studies show it is due to a lack of protein.
Many nutritional experts agree that liquid or juice cleansing is one of the riskier ways to eliminate toxins from the body. They say that by day 3 the brain enters a “semi-starvation mode” so you become unfocused and irritable. Your brain is also lacking amino acids at this point so if you are prone to depression, you might start feeling down. Over the next couple of days the extra carbohydrates from the juice causes the water to flood your gut so you will likely have diarrhea. When you start to eat again by day 8 you’ll have less muscle mass to burn calories so you could end up gaining weight.
So if detoxifying or cleansing is risky then why do so many people do it? Not everyone believes that the process is hazardous when done carefully and correctly. Fasting has been around for centuries. It is rooted in religious traditions. Fasting rituals include: Lent, Ramadan, and Yom Kippur for example. The Chinese have been using fasting techniques as a part of preventative healthcare for hundreds of years. Today, many health conscious North Americans do seasonal detoxification programs. They say their summer, winter, spring and fall cleansing has the following benefits:
- Increased energy
- Weight loss
- Stronger immune system
- Improved liver function
- Improved mind and spirit
A more natural way of detoxifying is to eliminate or reduce foods that may contain toxins. If you want better digestion, it is also a good idea to remove any foods that are normally difficult for you to digest. Avoiding wheat, dairy, eggs, processed foods, red meat, and soy products would also be part of the process. Some holistic nutritionists also suggest that if you eat too often it takes energy away from your body to digest when it should be working on detoxifying. The following food items are recommended by nutritionists if you are considering a detox/cleansing.
- Raw Vegetables
- Fresh fruits
- Nuts and seeds
The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health studied detoxification quite intensely. Their research team suggests that supplements including magnesium, milk thistle and probiotics provide benefit during the cleansing process. The team also suggests moderate exercise and massage can help.
There are a myriad of detoxification and cleansing kits on the market, as well there are lots of online recipes to choose from but if you plan of doing a detox, don’t just go with your gut; talk to your doctor first.