Did you know that almost 70% of our immune system is anchored in our gut? Yes, we’re talking about our stomach, colon, and the rest of our gastrointestinal tract.
Our gut plays a key role in ensuring our immune system maintains its balance. A huge amount of our immune cells can be found in our gastrointestinal system. The gut is also filled with trillions of microbes and bacteria that have important roles in maintaining our overall health.
Our gut does all that on top of its primary function of breaking down the food we eat and absorbing all the nutrients and minerals to support all our bodily functions. This includes hormone balance, energy production, and even skin health.
Due to all that, we must take care of our guts. Keeping our gastrointestinal system in top health can help address a myriad of health symptoms and issues.
One increasingly popular and effective way to maintain gut health is through a gut cleanse.
Below, we will explore everything about gut cleanses — from what it is and how it works to the best and safest way to do it.
Before we dive into how to plan and execute a gut cleanse safely and correctly, we should first understand what it is.
As healthy living and eating became trendy over the past several years, cleanses and detox diets became equally as popular. But what do these words mean?
Detox diets and cleanses can be considered short-term dietary interventions. Their aim is simple: to eliminate toxins and flush out unhealthy components in our bodies.
This generally means removing fatty and processed foods from our diet. Detoxes and cleanses focus on increasing our intake of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients by eating more fruits and vegetables.
A gut cleanse is essentially a detox that specifically aims to improve our gut health. Its goals include the following:
- Heal and seal the gastrointestinal tract
- Ensure high-fiber intake for bowel health
- Flush out harmful toxins
- Improve probiotic intake
In addition to flushing out fats, processed foods, and harmful bacteria, a gut cleanse also aims to restore and improve the state of our gut microbiome.
This type of cleanses aims to reset our gut microbiome or bacteria and other microbes that reside in our gastrointestinal tract. Since the majority of these gut microbes are found in the pocket of the colon or large intestine, gut cleanses are also sometimes referred to as colon cleanses.
Gut cleanses do all these by increasing our intake of prebiotic foods, which serve as fuel for the good gut bacteria, and reducing our intake of foods that may feed the bad gut bacteria and result in inflammation.
A natural gut cleanse is generally safe — provided we do it correctly and do not undergo gut cleanses frequently. Many nutritionists and health practitioners recommend gut cleanses to boost their patients’ overall well-being and achieve optimal gut health.
Yes, gut cleanses work and are generally beneficial for our gastrointestinal and overall health.
There has yet to be any conclusive study on the permanent effects of short-term gut cleanses. However, data suggests that short-term gut resets or dietary changes can positively alter our gut microbiome.
Undergoing a gut cleanse for a few days may help us address chronic health problems and underlying reasons for digestive upset. Resetting our gut health is believed to flush out toxins that can lead to various health conditions, like arthritis and high blood pressure.
A gut cleanse can provide several other health benefits, including:
- Improve water intake
- Avoid constipation
- Provide healthy, prebiotics for our gut microbiome
- Prevent bad gut bacteria from feeding and growing
- Boost the immune system
- Allow the organs to rest, thanks to fasting
- Enhance circulation
- Improve digestion
- Increase intake of nutrients and minerals
- Potentially reduce colon cancer
Just as there are benefits, gut cleanses also have their downsides. It is important to be aware of and understand the potential risks of gut cleanses to avoid serious adverse effects.
The cons and risks of gut cleanse include:
Moreover, going from a high-sugar, low-fruit, and low-vegetable diet to the complete opposite may cause the following:
- Mental fogginess
- Skin problems
- Change in bowel motions
Take note that a gut cleanse can both potentially improve our water intake and cause dehydration. This is because the cleanse would generally cause more frequent bowel movements, thanks to an influx of water, fiber, fruits, and vegetables.
Yes, but it isn’t anything overly complicated. The recommended foods to eat for a gut reset can be found in local markets and groceries.
A gut cleanse diet mainly involves unprocessed, unrefined, and gut-friendly foods. This means a lot of fresh fruits, vegetables, fiber and grains, and water.
Undergoing a gut cleanse still requires ample preparation due to the potentially significant change in diet. Individuals whose diets revolve around sugary foods, high-preservative or junk food, and few fruits or vegetables are likely to experience a few side effects.
Let’s take a look at the various foods to eat and avoid during gut cleanses.
The best foods for a gut cleanse and to achieve optimal gut health are those that:
- Stimulate digestion
- Contain probiotics
- Promote a healthy balance of good gut bacteria
- Aid in digestion
- Are rich in fiber
- Have anti-inflammatory properties
All fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices automatically go on the list. However, there are some fruits and vegetables that are more beneficial for gut resets.
The same goes for sources of carbohydrates or grains. Complex carbohydrates are necessary for a gut reset but make sure the grains are gluten-free.
Foods to include in a gut cleanse diet include:
- Green leafy vegetables, particularly spinach, kale, and broccoli
- Bright colored vegetables, like peppers and carrots
- Low-sugar fruits, such as avocado, berries, and apples
- Ginger and turmeric
- Fermented foods, such as kombucha, kimchi, and sauerkraut
- Nuts and seeds, including psyllium husk
- Olive and olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk
- Lean proteins, including white meat, white fish, and Greek yogurt
- Complex carbohydrates, like brown rice, oats, and quinoa
- Apple cider vinegar
- Fresh fruit juice
- Herbal tea and green tea
Foods that are counterproductive for gut cleanses are those that may feed our bad gut bacteria and cause inflammation. This means foods that are:
- High in sugar
- Contain lots of preservatives
- High in saturated or unhealthy fats
- Processed or highly refined
Make sure to avoid the following foods for an effective gut reset:
- Milk and dairy products, except for natural unflavored yogurt
- Gluten products, such as wheat bread, couscous, and pasta
- Red meat, including bacon and sausages
- Breakfast cereal
- Canned foods
- Cookies, muffins, and other pastries
- Fruit spreads or jams
- Margarine, flavor enhancers, and most commercial sauces or dressings
- Soft Drinks or pop
- Sugary fruit juices
Supplements are not required. We can successfully conduct a gut cleanse without supplements and improve our gut health by eating the right foods.
However, taking supplements can boost the benefits and overall effectiveness of all the food we eat during our gut cleanse.
When choosing supplements for a gut cleanse, it is often best to focus on fiber and probiotic supplements. Some nutritionists recommend taking a mix of up to six different supplements.
If that is too much for you or you can only take one health supplement, go for probiotic ones. Aside from promoting healthy gut flora, studies showed that probiotic supplements may also help prevent gastrointestinal inflammation and other digestive or intestinal issues.
Here are other supplements ideal for a gut cleanse:
- Aloe vera and green spirulina
- Digestive enzymes
- Fish oil
There are different ways to do a gut cleanse. We can undergo a natural gut cleanse, which involves changing our diet for a short period, using a colon cleansing product, or getting colonic hydrotherapy.
Nutritionists and other health practitioners agree that a natural gut cleanse is the best way to do a gut cleanse. It is generally easier to do, more economical, and has fewer major risks or disadvantages.
There are also a variety of options available if you are interested in undergoing a natural gut cleanse. The best method for natural gut cleanse may vary for each individual, depending on our overall health and constitution.
There are different ways to do a natural gut cleanse, they all generally follow the same concept. They mainly involve following a prescribed diet that is rich in probiotics, fiber, and other healthy foods.
However, an equally important part of gut cleansing involves encouraging healthful practices and following healthy habits. These include practicing meditation, exercising, and getting enough sleep.
If you are determined to try gut cleansing and improve your gastrointestinal health, here are three different methods you can try and step-by-step guides on how to do them properly.
A three-day gut reset is an ideal method for beginners who are still apprehensive but interested in trying out gut cleanses. Meanwhile, those who are more experienced or used to gut cleanses may find a 14-day gut cleanse more beneficial.
It is important to properly prepare for the three days of gut cleansing, rather than simply jumping into it.
Here are some preparation tips for a 3-day gut reset:
- Remove the foods you should avoid from the cupboard, pantry, and refrigerator
- Create a meal plan to make the next three days easier
- List down all the approved foods for gut cleansing and shop for everything
- Make dishes ahead of time and freeze them to minimize the temptation to order in during busy days
Aside from preparing meals, it is also important to prepare your body and mind. A gut cleanse doesn’t only involve your diet. It also requires exercise, meditation, and proper sleep.
So make sure to set aside time each day for meal prep, meditation, and exercise. A study suggested that exercising positively affects our microbiome diversity while other findings noted that poor sleep can alter microbiome composition.
How to Do a 3-Day Gut Cleanse:
- Practice intermittent fasting the day before you start the gut cleanse. Plan to fast for 12 to 16 hours overnight. This can mean having your last meal at around 7 P.M. then only eating breakfast on or after 7 A.M.
- On day one, focus on eating anti-inflammatory foods. This includes leafy green vegetables, low-sugar fruits, white fish and meat, other lean proteins, and moderate portions of brown rice or quinoa.
- Make sure to drink enough water throughout the day. Herbal teas are recommended as well.
- On day two, add more fiber-rich foods to your diet. This includes beans, lentils, raw veggies and salads, and green juices or smoothies.
- If the increase in fiber-rich foods causes bloating or gas, follow your day one diet instead.
- On day three, add probiotic-rich foods to your diet. This means adding fermented foods like kimchi, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, and plain yogurt.
Juice cleanses may follow the same principle as 3-day or 14-day gut cleanses. A typical juice cleanse takes between 3 to 10 days. However, juice cleanses are generally more controversial as they require only consuming juices for a set amount of time.
One of the main draws of juice gut cleanses is that they can result in rapid weight loss. It may also help improve kidney health and function. It is also said to help boost antioxidants and reduce risk factors for chronic diseases, particularly for those who are overweight or obese.
However, consuming juice for an extended period exposes us to more potential risks and health or eating disorders. A main point of contention regarding juice cleanses is that they may lead to insufficient calorie and protein intake.
How to Juice Cleanse for Five Days:
- Prepare a menu of fruit and vegetable juice blends to make the cleansing week or days easier.
- Avoid adding sugar or artificial sweeteners to the juices. Fruit is naturally high in sugar so choose which fruits to juice. Apples and berries are great options.
- Drink only fruit or vegetable juices for the first three days of your juice gut cleansing.
- Drink at least six of the juice combinations to get around 1,310 calories each day.
- On days four to five, slowly transition back to solid foods by continuing the juice gut cleanse for breakfast but eating lean proteins, leafy vegetables, and unprocessed foods together with your juice for lunch and dinner.
- For more consistent results or to minimize side effects, try intermittent juice gut cleansing for three days (and transition for the next two days) every few weeks.
Our gut or gastrointestinal tract has an incredible impact on our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Maintaining a healthy gut strengthens our immune system and ensures whole-body health.
As such, undergoing a short-term gut cleanse not only positively affects our gut health but also helps improve our overall quality of life and happiness.
If you find yourself suffering from constipation, upset stomach, bloating, skin irritation, chronic fatigue or stress, and frequent sugar cravings, you may have an unhealthy gut and need a quick gut cleansing.
When doing a gut cleanse, always remember to inform your physician first and consult them on the best way to do it. Consulting a professional dietician is also advisable. Make sure to inform them of any underlying health issues or troubling, unknown symptoms to prevent any adverse effects.