How I Got My Gut Health Back On Track After A Long Hiking Trip
Last week I went on an elk hunt in the high country of Colorado.
The guides served only seriously tasty and balanced foods, but this isn't always the case. Usually when I return from an outdoor adventure I feel thoroughly "gut" abused.
Between the massive packs I carry and the endless miles of rugged terrain I cross, my bones and muscles are seriously stressed out. But what I'm most concerned about is the less-than-optimal food and water supplied on most hunts and during most backcountry outings. Even when my feet ache, it's my gut, liver, and kidneys that I tend to first.
Because, come on, who wants to feel bloated and plain old crappy when there's an easy way to poop like a rockstar and get that supple leopard and vital feeling back again?
Here's how I detox after a trip to the backcountry.
As soon as I return from any "off-grid" adventure or race in an exotic land, I immediately get down and dirty with what I like to call my "man spa" reboot and detox.
Believe me, I have no problem admitting that after an epic outdoor adventure with a bunch of gnarly dudes, a week of natural detoxification, clean eating, restorative stretching, daily exercise, and recuperative rest is preferred above almost everything else.
After years of research, I know how healthy and important rebooting and detoxification is for my body—especially after a hunt where I might have picked up an intestinal parasite or two.
In case you're wondering, my current man spa detox doesn't include any fancy-schmancy potions or expensive treatments. All I'm using is NatureCleanse, some chlorella, a little milk thistle extract, daily enemas, and plenty of time in my sauna.
The facts on detoxification.
If you read my blog at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, you might remember an article I published in 2015 when I was hell-bent on discovering detox fact from fiction. In doing so, I dissected vaults of scientific literature relating to bodily detoxification and came across an article claiming that the entire idea of a detox was a myth.
"Detoxing—the idea that you can flush your system of impurities and leave your organs squeaky clean and raring to go—is a scam," the author Dara Mohammadi wrote. "It's a pseudo-medical concept designed to sell you things."
Her simplified assessment of detoxing stumped me. It failed to mention any of the scientific research supporting the use of properties such as spirulina and milk thistle extract, which, many researchers argue, aid the body while naturally cleansing organs.
"Proponents will tell you that mischievous plaques of impacted poo can lurk in your colon for months or years and pump disease-causing toxins back into your system," she went on to say. "Pay them a small fee, though, and they'll insert a hose up your bottom and wash them all away."
This got me thinking. Physicians often use rectal suppositories to rapidly administer drugs into the bloodstream. Which poses the question: If our body is able to soak up drugs from rectal suppositories, wouldn't our bodies be able to soak up toxins from crappy foods coursing through our intestines in the form of fecal matter?
The colon is equipped with myriad natural mechanisms that work to mitigate toxins such as natural bacteria and mucus membranes, leading many to believe that substances such as chlorella and milk thistle extract or enema use is unnecessary.
But in our modern world, who doesn't ingest any chemicals, pesticides, artificial colors, dyes, or overly chlorinated water or partake in occasional bouts of gluttony or drinking, all of which impede said "natural mechanisms" working to keep toxins at bay? My answer is simple. Why not err on the side of caution and use supportive measures to keep your body running and feeling well?
Some natural detox products don't "detox" the gut directly, but they do activate specific reflexes in the gut that cause the nervous system to relax and stimulate bile production by the liver, which causes a laxative effect. And, come on—the desired end of any gut detox is a poop and that glorious "after" feeling, right?
So, is a detox right for you?
If you've been living a fairly "clean" lifestyle and practice disciplined self-care, like proper nutrition, ample exercise, solid rest, and manage your stress, your body will probably activate these methods without the use of any fancy diets or detox spa visits.
But keep in mind that these natural detox methods are primarily delivered from your liver and your kidneys.
Your liver is designed to prevent pathogens from passing into your bloodstream, process environmental toxins for safe removal, and help rid your body of excess nitrogen that results from the breakdown of proteins and amino acids. Your kidneys are designed to filter blood, remove excess water, pass urea (which is a toxin that builds up as a by-product of protein breakdown), and to send all of this out of your body through your urine.
If you eat foods and drink tonics that support your liver and kidneys, or avoid foods and alcohol products that stress your liver and kidneys, you're already detoxing every day.
But if you expose yourself to less-than-optimal foods, drink alcohol now and then, and go on gritty adventures where access to super-healthy foods and water will be limited, supporting your body's natural detoxification system with a few natural supplements won't hurt.
Truthfully, the bottom line is this: Unless you’ve gone through something like a serious bout of heavy drinking, you don’t really need any over-the-top Hollywood-level detoxification protocols. You just need to dial in your diet and add a few natural products.