The Gut Solution: A Detox Plan

Daily Health Solutions, Digestive Health, Featured Article, Healthy Living
on May 11, 2012
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In his book, No Guts, No Glory, Dr. Steven Lamm, who regularly appears on ABC’s The View, lays out a three-step program to preventing and reversing gastrointestinal conditions that affect millions of Americans. Here, Lamm details how to detox your gut of substances that may keep your system from functioning at its best.

I don’t think it’s necessary for everyone to go through a formal detox program. Don’t get me wrong; they’re not likely to be harmful. I’ve known plenty of people who feel dramatically energized after participating in one, and I’m all for that. Some of us need a more radical start to mark the beginning of our new lifestyle. We want a clear break from our old habits, and that’s perfectly OK … as long as we don’t delude ourselves that we can go back to our old way of life and maintain all the positive health improvements we’ve initiated.

But the fact is, detoxification doesn’t just happen during a single week every 10 years. It’s got to become a lifelong habit, part of your daily health regimen. My detoxification plan involves many of the same steps as more formal detox programs, except that you can begin following these recommendations right now, adding them into your life in a way that works for you.

RELATED: Do You Need to Detox?

Eliminate What Ails Your Gut

Reduce everyday harm. Read labels when you shop for cleaning products, shampoo, toothpaste, food, house paint, furniture, plastic cookware and pretty much anything else you use in your everyday life. Most contain hazardous chemicals that drive up your toxic body burden. Consider buying “green” alternatives that harbor few or no toxins. This includes selecting organically grown fresh vegetables and fruits whenever you can. If you can’t go organic, be sure to wash produce thoroughly. Also, buy meats, chicken and seafood from animals that aren’t fed hormones or antibiotics. You won’t be able to rid your life of every hazardous substance, but you can cut the amount that your liver has to contend with. Every little bit helps.

Lay off alcohol, tobacco and drugs. Tobacco and recreational drugs are absolute no-no’s when it comes to gut health—both can lead to serious gastrointestinal disorders (not to mention disorders throughout your entire body). So can alcohol, a particular problem for your liver if you overindulge. However, an occasional drink can be fun and relaxing, and probably won’t hurt your gut if done in moderation.

Take a stress break. I know this is easier said than done, but it’s critical to protect your gut from the chaos of modern life. Ongoing stress signals from the brain are behind all sorts of gastrointestinal upsets. Stress boosts your cravings for junk food that hinders proper gut function and packs on the pounds, plus it increases the likelihood that you may turn to addictive substances like alcohol and cigarettes. In turn, the rising toxic load as you attempt to deal with stress adds even more stress to your body. Figure out what’s causing the stress, avoid situations and people that add to your anxiety level and look for healthier ways to cope.

Cut down on medications. Maybe you need to take pharmaceutical drugs for a particular illness, and can’t cut down or stop taking them. That’s OK. Your liver is the chief processor of drugs and should be able to handle a reasonable amount, especially if you boost its health. You might also talk with your doctor about alternative medications that are easier on your gut. What you do have control over, though, is how many over-the-counter drugs you take. Consider easing up on gut-injuring medications like NSAID painkillers, which can irritate the stomach lining and lead to ulcers, as well as antacids, which often lead to constipation and promote overgrowth of bad gut bacteria.

Adopt Gut-Promoting Detox Habits

Eat more fiber. This means more plant foods, including green vegetables, bran, beans and peas, brown rice, and nuts and seeds. Interestingly, most of the fiber you eat is roughage (stems and skin) that isn’t digested. But it’s incredibly important for detoxification because it adds bulk to your stool and holds moisture to help more waste through your colon and out of your body.

Drink water … then drink some more. Keep yourself hydrated with tap, distilled, filtered or non-carbonated mineral water—at least two quarts a day—to help ferry nutrients into cells and aid your liver, colon, and kidneys as they flush toxins from your body. Drinking a cup of warm lemon water daily can relieve gut problems like constipation, heartburn and nausea. What’s more, it promotes bile production in the liver and cleanses the gallbladder, further helping digestion and elimination of wastes. Plus, the acid in lemons also keeps down the growth of unhealthy gut bacteria.

Exercise regularly. Working out brings more oxygen to your body’s tissues and organs (including gut organs) so they function more effectively. It also burns fat, which reduces the amount of storage area available for fat-soluble toxins. Studies show that when you get moving, so does waste in your colon, preventing constipation and aiding in swifter excretion of toxins.

Sleep more—and better. Lack of sleep causes a disruption of hunger hormones that signal your brain that you need to eat more. Unfortunately, the foods you end up craving are usually chemical-laden junk foods that unleash more toxins into your body.