How to Take the Stress Off Your Digestive System
Spoiler: "We are consistently exposed to toxins through the air, water, and the food we eat," shares Paula Simpson, holistic beauty nutritionist and co-founder of Zea Skin Solutions. She explains that while our bodies can effectively neutralise and excrete these harmful substances, more and more research is suggesting that many of the chemicals we ingest daily can build up in our system. Yikes!
Fortunately, there are many ways to help reduce and eliminate harmful ingredients in our diet. To help support our body's natural detoxification system, we've asked five of our go-to nutritionists and healthcare professionals for their top tips on how to avoid certain ingredients like preservatives, hormones, and pesticides and which foods they suggest in place of them. Ahead, they share their expert advice on removing toxins from your diet and the seven foods you can add to your diet to help phase them out of your body.
SKIP THE JUICE CLEANSE
Kaitlyn Noble, Thumbtack personal trainer and wellness coach, doesn't recommend all-liquid diets like juicing and the master cleanse. "While it's true that green juice is full of important minerals and vitamins, the fiber has been removed, and it's too dense in sugar compared to a whole vegetable or fruit (especially if you're drinking five to six bottles for a cleanse)." Instead, she suggests trying to add six to 10 servings of non-starchy vegetables per day, like leafy greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and peppers.
REMOVE COMMON ALLERGENS
"Gluten and dairy are two common irritants to the digestive system," explains Noble. She recommends replacing processed wheat with starches like brown rice, quinoa, and sweet potatoes. "You'll get more fiber, which is important for moving waste through your system," she explains.
Noble also suggests going dairy-free for a week. If you see positive changes to your skin, reduced bloating, or better digestion, you may have an allergy or intolerance, she tells us.
Noble suggests reaching for water instead of alcohol, sodas, and fruit juices.
The Institute of Medicine recommends women to drink nine cups of water a day, shares Michelle Davenport, Ph.D., RD, a nutritionist and the co-founder of baby food startup Raised Real. "Staying hydrated helps our kidneys flush out urea, the waste product from the breakdown of protein that is found in our urine," she explains.
ADD SUPPLEMENTS TO YOUR DIET
"Your micronutrients should mainly come from an organic, whole foods diet," explains Noble. "Some supplements can help us detox more deeply, though." For instance, collagen powder can help repair intestinal lining to improve digestion. "Probiotics are another great way to encourage healthy bacteria in the gut, which is crucial for our immunity, mental health, and of course digestion. Always talk to a doctor before adding supplements to your routine."
EAT COLOURFUL FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
Davenport explains that one of the byproducts of a toxic environment in our bodies is increased inflammation, which is one of the root causes of many chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes. "To calm down inflammation, eat lots of fruits and vegetables in an assortment of colours. The colors found in these foods come from phytonutrients like anthocyanins and beta-carotene, which fight inflammation in the body."
STEAM, DON'T FRY
Before Davenport founded her baby food company, she researched various cooking methods. "It turns out that steaming (not sautéing or roasting) can prevent compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGEs) from forming. These compounds can attach and damage our DNA, causing organ aging, cancer, and diabetes. On the surface, they can even attach to our collagen and cause wrinkles."
REDUCE ANIMAL PRODUCTS
Eliminate animal products, suggests Nancy Steely, ND, MBA, Arbonne' senior director of R&D/Quality, Nutrition. If doing so is too difficult, she recommends eliminating red meats and looking for free range, hormone/antibiotic-free turkey or chicken, as well as cold-water fish known for healthy omega-3 fatty acids, like wild-caught salmon. "Remember that there are healthy vegan protein sources like pea and rice proteins," she says.
Eating organic is an easy way to reduce consumption of toxins like pesticides, such as methyl bromide used on strawberries, explains Rebeccah Shalev, ND, of Holtorf Medical Group.
AVOID COOKING WITH TEFLON
Another simple solution to reducing toxins in our diet is by replacing Teflon cookware, which contains fluorine, with cast-iron or stainless steel, explains Shalev.
ADD THESE FOODS TO YOUR DIET
- Broccoli Sprouts: Simpson suggests adding broccoli sprouts because they contain phytochemicals and are 10 to 50 times more sulforaphane than mature broccoli florets. "Sulforaphane has been shown to stimulate both phases of detoxification in the liver and support glutathione antioxidant defense in the body," she says.
- Kefir: "Kefir is one of the richest probiotic foods to promote and balance gut microflora," says Simpson. The healthy bacteria in kefir not only support gut health but are also clinically shown to support and strengthen skin barrier function, explains Paula. If you don't consume dairy, there are water- and coconut-based kefir too.
- Artichoke: "Globe artichoke is renowned for its ability to stimulate and improve the functions of the liver: the body's main toxin-fighting tool," explains Simpson. The vegetable contains antioxidants like silymarin, which helps your liver process and neutralise toxins, and it contains prebiotics (the main food source that flourishes healthy microflora, known as probiotics). "Probiotics are thought to aid in detoxification by preserving the intestinal lining's protective barrier and preventing harmful bacteria that produce toxins from growing inside the colon," Paula tells us.
- Lemon: Why are lemons a staple in many detox diets? Simpson explains it's because they're packed with antioxidant vitamin C, which is great for fighting damaging free radicals: "The citrus fruit also has an alkaline effect on the body, meaning that it can help restore the body's pH balance, benefiting the immune system." Her tip? "Try starting your day with hot water and a slice of lemon to help flush out toxins and cleanse your system."
- Flaxseed: Simpson suggests trying to consume two tablespoons of ground flaxseeds in lemon water every morning. "When detoxifying your body, it's essential to ensure toxins are eliminated properly. Ground flaxseeds provide a wonderful source of fiber that helps to bind and flush toxins from the intestinal tract. They're also a great source of health promoting omega-3 oils."
- Turmeric: "The ultimate inflammation fighter, turmeric is also a great detoxifier," says Simpson. "Curcumin is the active ingredient in the spice turmeric, which gives it its yellow color. Curcumin is used a lot in Ayurvedic medicine to treat liver and digestive disorders. Turmeric has specifically been studied in relation to the positive effect that it has on the liver and anti-inflammatory properties."
- Chlorophyll: Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, collard greens, and Swiss chard are full of chlorophyll, which binds to lingering heavy metals, chemicals, and pesticides found in your digestive tract, according to Simpson.
What's your go-to for detoxifying your diet? Share with us in the comments below