Think you know all there is to know about detoxing? Our Naturopath Renae dishes the dirt on detoxification, and why it begins with the gut.
Detoxification may seem like a new health ‘fad’ touted by alternative health professionals, wellness advocates, bloggers and the like, but it isn’t actually a new health concept at all. Historically, cultures around the world have been fasting or cleansing for centuries, in some way or form.
Unfortunately, what is different in our modern society compared to our ancestors’ is our exposure to toxicity through our environment. We are exposed to the residual burden of 2000-3000 new-to-nature chemicals that are released into the environment each year. It is also emerging that our toxic burden through pollutants, specifically persistent organic pollutants (POPs), is underlying some of our chronic health issues like obesity, diabetes, endocrine disorders, cancer, cardiovascular disease and dementia.
So, what can we do about this?
We need to enhance our natural built-in detoxification mechanisms to ensure they are functioning optimally through reducing burden and building resistance.
A regular biannual or annual detoxification program helps build our resistance to the toxicity that we are exposed to in our daily lives.
So, where do we start?
Many think detoxification starts with the liver. Surprisingly, a detox should start with the gut. Our digestive tract houses our microbiome; the bacteria that act as our first line of defence against toxicity. An intact, healthy gut barrier is a physical layer that helps to stop toxins from entering our circulation en route to the liver.
A healthy functioning gut needs certain conditions to function optimally and assist with our natural detoxification. Some of the ways to optimise conditions for our gut include:
1. A PLANT BASED DIET
This is really a no brainer. When it comes to your microbiome, ‘you are what you eat’! Unhealthy conditions from poor food choices lead to detrimental, bad bacteria overgrowth in the digestive tract, and this, in turn, increases our toxic load.
Some of the healthiest, longest living communities in the world – aka ‘the blue zones’1 – have a plant-based diet high in fibre, and rich in vegetables, salads, herbs, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds and fruits.
Even the World Health Organisation agrees that a minimum of 400 grams of vegetables and fruit per day is one of the ways you can prevent chronic health disease. So rethink your meal planning and make sure vegetables/salad greens are forming the basis of all of your meals, and build up from there.
2. BITTER FOODS
Bitter foods have prime the digestive system by increasing saliva production, gastric acid production and bile flow. They also help us to feel full, and stimulate protective mechanisms in our liver – pretty amazing!
Bitter foods include dandelion root/leaves, rocket, cos lettuce, radicchio, lemon, grapefruit, endive, chicory, silverbeet and mustard greens. Some of these leafy greens can be harder to find, but check your local farmers market or green grocer. Or, better yet, grow your own and pick as you need. You can find dandelion root as a tea, which makes a nice coffee alternative with milk and honey.
3. APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
This enzyme-rich medicinal vinegar, made from fresh crushed apples, is matured in wooden barrels allowing natural fermentation. Apple cider vinegar contains a ‘mother’: a cloudy, cobweb-like ferment that enhances our digestive processes and diversifies our microbiome through malic and tartaric acids. Apple cider vinegar also contains pectin, a fibre that acts like an intestinal broom. To take apple cider vinegar, mix 1-2 teaspoons in water before your meals, 2-3 times a day.
Even taking some simple steps in your daily routine will assist your body’s own natural detoxification processes, and your body will thank you in the long run!
Renae is available for consultations at West Perth Osteopathy on Fridays,
and offers both Naturopathic Consults and Clinical Detoxification programs.
1. Buettner, Dan. (2012) The Blue Zones, 2nd edn. Washington: National Geographic. This is a highly recommended read!