When it comes to healing your body, the first step is always to improve your digestive health. This is most effectively done via a cleanse or detox where the gut health is improved and you’re supporting and improving the function of your detoxing organs (liver, kidney, lungs, skin, and of course the colon).
Our bodies are detoxifying every day! We expose our bodies to various toxins throughout the day whether it’s via our food, beverages, breathing, to even what we put on our skin. During a cleanse or detox, we want to reduce the stress that we’re putting out bodies through on a daily basis and support our detoxing organs.
The first step in any effective cleansing protocol is to cut out the “bad guys” in your diet. These bad guys are often common irritants (foods/beverages) that slow up your digestive system or increase the toxic load that your body then has to process.
When it comes to the “bad guys” there are 8 common things that everyone should cut out.
Here’s what’s got to go:
GLUTEN – pasta (gluten free is okay), bread, cereal, baked goods, and whole wheat products
DAIRY – milk, cheese, yogurt, cream
SUGAR – all processed sugars
PROCESSED FOODS – canned/boxed foods, if it has any ingredient you don’t recognize or can’t pronounce, don’t eat it
ALCOHOL – this one is self-explanatory 😉
CAFFEINE – coffee, black tea
HIGH FAT FOODS – anything deep fried (bad fats)
RED MEAT – unless it’s grass fed beef/hormone-antibiotic free
OK, now just to go a little more in depth on the WHY… As a Holistic Nutritionist, my mission is to help educate and inspire you to take control of your health. This is why I love to explain the why. The education piece is key to not only explain the why on the things that I recommend but it’s also been my experience that when you know why you’re doing the crazy things it is that you’re doing, you’re more willing to be compliant and even continue on with it!
So, the why’s…
This one has gotten so much press in the last decade that I’m not going to go too much in depth. Ultimately gluten is the protein in certain grains that is the “glue” that holds it together. And what happens is that this glue makes your digestive system very sticky and slows everything down.
So whether you’re gluten intolerant or not, cutting out gluten for a short period of time is a great way to help push through all the gunk that is stuck in your digestive system.
If you’re actually gluten intolerant or have Celiac, then gluten also creates a lot of internal inflammation which makes healing the digestive system almost impossible.
Like visuals? Remember when we were kids, we used to mix water and flour to make paper maché paste which acted like a glue. Then we’d do all kinds of crafts with it (such as newspaper strips on balloons to make a piñata!) and then it would become hard like a rock when it dried. That’s ultimately what’s happening on your insides!
When it comes to dairy, there are various reasons for cutting it out. First, along with gluten, dairy is one of the top allergens in today’s diets. So removing it from our diets for a period of time allows the body to heal from the inflammation it might be causing.
Dairy is also very mucous forming. So an excess of dairy creates an excess of mucous in the body which makes it very difficult for your body to absorb the good nutrients you’re eating when everything is coated in a mucous film.
Good news is that there are a ton of great milk alternatives on the market. Just make sure that you’re buying the unsweetened version because they tend to add in a lot of sugar otherwise!
Sugar. This is another biggie that deep down we all know that it’s not good for us. But why is that?
There’s a lot of common knowledge on the big topics with sugar: increasing risk for diabetes, heart disease, increases cholesterol, impairs learning and memory, as well as even increasing the risk for depression. But there are a lot of less common effects of sugar as well.
The two biggies for me are the effect it has on our immune system directly, and its effect on our digestive system and gut flora (which also affect our immune system).
When it comes to sugar’s direct effect on the immune system, we have to look into Vitamin C. It’s well known that Vitamin C is needed by your immune system. This is because Vitamin C is needed by the white blood cells to engulf and absorb viruses and bacteria. However, sugar’s structure is very similar to that of vitamin C and it can get absorbed by the white blood cells by mistake severely slowing down the process.
FUN FACT: Eating any kind of sugar has the potential to reduce your body’s immune system by75% of more for 4-6 hours.
You know that sticky feeling you get on your hands if you’ve been in contact with sugar or sugary food items? Imagine that feeling on the inside of your body. That’s pretty much what it’s like for your immune system. A slow, sticky process…
Now when it comes to sugar’s effect on the digestive system, there are various aspects on how it creates problems. The biggest one I’ll mention here is its effect on our gut flora. We have a huge number of bacteria in our body, and a very large amount in our digestive system. If we have too many sugars in our system, they start to feed the bad bacteria that we don’t want to thrive which start to starve out the good guys.
One category of bad bacteria is called Candida. When these bacteria start to increase in numbers (ie. more than 5%) then it will start to affect your gut flora’s balance and ultimately your immune system. 75% of our immune system is in the gut. When our gut is imbalanced our immune system starts to go on overdrive and this is when allergies (especially food allergies) start to increase.
Sugar alternatives? I recommend Stevia and Xylitol. Stevia is a plant extract which although tastes sweet is not sugar nor does it affect your sugar levels. Just make sure there I no added sugars like Maltodextrin or dextrose. Xylitol is the only alcohol sugar that doesn’t spike your blood sugar.
If you want to eliminate the amount of toxins your body has to process, stopping putting more into your body is first step. All the food additives, chemicals, and preservatives that are put in packaged foods that are needed to keep them shelf stable are all stressors to your body.
I love the slogan from Sean Croxton: JERF. Just Eat Real Food
Although this one can taste good and make a party a bit for fun, it’s terrible for your body and we all know that! Alcohol is ultimately poison and not only will kill your liver with long term consumption, but it also kills off the bacteria in your digestive system. If you’re wanting to reset your body and improve your detoxing organs, cutting out alcohol is a must.
This one is always a biggie for my coffee-loving clients. When you consume coffee, it kicks up the glucose and insulin levels in your body as well as adrenaline (creating that alert feeling) because your body is now entering the “Fight or Flight” state. This is because coffee is viewed as a toxin to your body and your body is doing everything in its power to get rid of it.
Once you enter the fight or flight state, your adrenals produce epinephrine which leads to the production of cortisol which then increases your blood pressure, blood sugar levels, suppresses your immune system, and shuts down all secondary systems – like digestion.
Regular coffee intake then drains your adrenal glands, which of course not only affects your energy levels but your hormone production. This then leads to symptoms like weight gain, mood disorders, and poor sleep amongst other things.
When you’re trying to reset your digestive system, balance blood sugar levels, and support your hormones, coffee is not your friend.
In this high stress world we live in, coffee and caffeine is fuel to the fire for your adrenals (ie. adrenaline and cortisol). Unless you’re a buddha and living a Zen-style life, you shouldn’t be having caffeine on a regular basis (if any at all).
Looking for alternatives? Try Chicory Coffee (made with Chicory root), Teeccino Herbal Coffee (mix of carob, barley, and chicory), or even Dandy Blend (Dandelion Root mix).
I’m a personal fan of herbal tea. They’re a great substitution, especially those with antibacterial and antifungal properties. Good options include: Nettle leaf, P’au D’Arco, Rooibos, Camomile, Peppermint, Ginger, and Licorice tea are all great options. Licorice tea is great for adrenal support as well.
High Fat Foods
Now I’m not talking about Avocado’s here. Those are on the HECK YES list. I’m talking here about the bad fats such as deep-fried foods.
There are many different types of fat, here are the ones you should stay away from:
Trans Fats/ Hydrogenated Fats: These fats are heated to extreme temperatures and processed to make liquid fats into solids. They’re actually only 1 molecule away from being a plastic on a chemical level. One of the big reason why this is so bad for our health is that the increase in viscosity of the oil actually increases the viscosity of our blood which increases the pressure in which our heart needs to pump.
Saturated fat: You want to limit this type of fat (except Coconut Oil!). Saturated fats have been shown to increase total cholesterol and LDL, and may boost your type 2 diabetes risk. Meat, seafood, and dairy products are sources of saturated fat. Some plant foods, like palm and coconut oil, also contain it. Coconut oil however has been shown study after study on it’s great health effects. I highly encourage coconut oil!
The oils you want more of in your diet are:
Unsaturated fat: These are mostly good guys and are liquid at room temperature. There are two main types of unsaturated fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats raise HDL (good cholesterol) and lower LDL. Good sources include: olive oil, nut and seed oils, and avocados. Polyunsaturated fats are found in nuts, seeds, and fatty fish. These include Omega 3 + 6 fatty acids which fight inflammation, help control blood clotting, and lower blood pressure and triglycerides.
Red meat isn’t all that bad as long as you’re getting a good quality cut. Buying grass fed and hormone/antibiotic free is ideal. However, in general, red meat is harder to digest. Especially if you struggle with stomach acid imbalances, red meat can be a trigger.
When we’re looking to ease up the stress on our digestive system, cutting out red meat is often very helpful.
As you can see, there are no big surprises on this “Bad Guys” list. We’re often very aware of the foods we’re eating that we shouldn’t, but sometimes we need reason or motivation to stop.
Although I run my Candida Crush 30-Day Digestive Cleanse every January, come September, my body often feels like it needs a mini reset from the summer indulgences but I’m not really for a full Candida Cleanse. This is why I put together my 10-Day Detox.
I’m running my 10-Day Detox starting on Monday, September 24th. The detox includes of course the guide, meal plan and recipes, along with additional handouts and email support, as well as my top picks for supporting products/supplements that I think are most needed, along with other suggestions if you’re looking for more.
These 8 “Bad Guys” I talked about in this post are ultimately the main things you will be removing from your diet in the detox.
Wanting to Detox with me? Get more information on the Detox below!
Food for Thought:
“If you plant Twinkies in your body garden, how do you expect to harvest health?”Terri Guillemets