A healthy gut is the foundation of a healthy body. Unfortunately many of us feel less than vibrant and vital and struggle with digestive issues or food sensitivities and a tendency to catch every cold that pass us by. Interestingly about 70% of the cells that make up our immune system are in the wall of our gut. Yet a sluggish digestion, poor diet, stress (a big trouble maker!), environmental toxins and food toxins can really take it's toll.
That's when it's time to clean up your act and lighten the load on your system. Making sure to include some gut-cleansing herbs to your diet along with the following gut-cleansing foods can really help boost the cleaning of the gut. The hope is that all this will indeed flush the colon of any toxic build-up, help you lose weight, improve your digestive function and re-energize you.
1. Dark, leafy greens
These fibrous and bright plants are great for sweeping clean the gut. They are also full of minerals and antioxidants that can help our body protect itself from the toxins we get exposed to. Keep in mind that if you have a lot of digestive issues it might be best to eat cooked vegetables, as these are easier to digest. Try simple soups, sautéing your greens or steaming them. Always add some healthy fat (butter, olive oil or avocado) and acid (lemon juice or vinegar) to support proper absorption of the vitamins in the greens.
2. Chia seeds
These tiny power seeds are the perfect gut cleansers. When soaked in water for a few minutes they plump up and turn into a jello-like substance. They help flush out the stomach and especially great for those prone to constipation. They also contain anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids which your body will thank you for! You can simply add a spoon of chia seeds to a glass of water and drink it down, or make a pudding using nut milk and some cacao. You can also add it to your smoothies, morning porridge or even sprinkle them on salads!
3. Psyllium husk
This is another powerful seed with serious cleansing potential! It's a very potent and as with chia plumps up in water and turns into a gelatinous soup. Because it's so powerful I always recommend people start very easy with a low dose and see how their body reacts. And make sure to drink plenty of water to support the gut cleansing.
There are lots of herbal supplements on the market that can be used to support a gut cleanse, but there are also great 'everyday' herbs you can add to your food that will help support cleansing of the gut. Try fennel seeds, which aid in the elimination of mucus buildup and relieves gas. Peppermint is soothing for any digestive upset and helps alleviate bloating (just beware that peppermint could possibly also aggravate heartburn or acid reflux). Oregano has both antiviral and anti-fungal properties. If you suspect you may have an overgrowth of yeast or fungus (a common issue!) it's important to address it by including some herbs to your gut-cleansing plan.
Cayenne does more than just adding some heat to your meals. It's a mucous dissolver and help loosen any mucous build up in the body. The stomach uses mucous and stomach acid to boost and ease digestions and cayenne may even fight symptoms of indigestion. It's not a coincidence that's it's one of the three things you're allowed to consume on the intense Master Cleanse.
Did you know that we are in fact more microbe than we are cells? Our gut contains 100 trillion microorganisms and these little guys play a crucial role in digestive function, protection against infections, nutrient absorption and immune function. Wow! Prebiotics are indigestible fibers that these microbes feed on. Try leeks, onion, garlic, apples, almonds, bananas, sweet potatoes and yams.
Probiotic foods are fermented foods that contain beneficial bacteria. They tend to have a slightly (or intense) sour taste and are also known for helping to curb cravings! Try sauerkraut, kimchi, natural yogurt and kefir! These foods help populate the gut with more good bacteria, giving our gut a stronger fighting power and ability to function well. It's also a good idea to take a probiotic supplement. Switch up the brand (and strains of bacteria) from time to time to give your body a variety of bacteria.
For more on optimizing your gut health, check out our top signs of an unhealthy gut, plus what to do about it.
Katrine van Wyk is a Brooklyn-based certified holistic health coach, yoga teacher, and author of the books Best Green Drinks Ever, Best Green Eats Ever, and Super Powders: Adaptogenic Herbs and Mushrooms for Energy, Beauty, Mood, and Wellbeing. She has a bachelor's in media and culture from New School University, and became a certified Holistic Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Van Wyk later received her RYT-200 Yoga Teacher certification at Yoga Works in New York City.
She moved to New York from Norway in 2006 as a model before beginning her career in wellness. She works closely with Dr. Frank Lipman at his practice in Manhattan, helping to guide his high–profile patients through dietary changes to fit them into their demanding and busy lives. Van Wyk is the nutrition adviser for The Juicery and her advice has been featured in Vogue, Prevention and Forbes.