Nicola Parker, medical herbalist and columnist, writes about detoxing and eating food that cleanse the gut
Many people decide to undertake a detox over January.
This can be as simple as trying to eat healthier or as complicated as juice fast or raw food diet.
The problem that I have with complicated detox programmes is that they are usually marketed as a one size fits all plan.
As we get older, our bodies change and what suits one person will not suit another.
A raw food diet would be unsuitable for someone that suffers with indigestion for example and a diet high in fruit or fruit juices might trigger loose bowel movements in someone prone to bowel irritation.
Instead of choosing a diet or healthy eating plan that looks impressive or makes bold claims, speak to someone in the know about your health goals and request advice tailored to you.
Many diets around this time of year focus on weight loss or liver cleanses, but be careful what you buy into because sometimes these strategies can do more harm than good.
Many fad weight loss tablets are sold alongside laxatives, for example.
The word laxative will be replaced by something clever sounding, like “colon cleanse” but make sure to check the ingredients before taking it.
Laxatives like senna are designed for short term use and any weight loss attributed to cleanses containing it is more likely to be poop you’ve passed rather than fat you’ve burned.
In contrast, taking liver herbs while your bowel isn’t moving regularly could have a negative impact on your wellbeing because your body isn’t eliminating what your liver is breaking down.
In my practice, I help people build healthy eating plans tailored to their needs, be it lowering cholesterol, improving blood sugars, relieving IBS or just helping to lift energy.
If you’re thinking about revamping your eating habits, look at your bowel for clues on how to go about it.
If you’re prone to constipation or suffer with conditions like diverticular disease, then you want an eating plan that will act like a sponge.
What I call “the sponge diet” involves eating foods that clear your gut safely.
Certain fibres act like sponges, soaking up water and fluid, then moving into the bowel to wipe it clean, picking up unpleasant things like cholesterol along the way.
The types of fibres that act like sponges are generally any fibre that gets bigger when you cook it.
Lentils, beans, pulses, oats, nuts, apples, peas and ground seeds.
This list isn’t exhaustive but it’s a great start.
Simply swapping out bran flakes for porridge or adding chopped apple to your yoghurt can all have an impact on your gut health.
One thing to remember with these spongey fibres is that a dry sponge won’t clean anything.
Ensure you’re drinking around 6 cups of water per day and not relying on fizzy drinks, fruit juice or tea and coffee to hydrate you. Tea and coffee affect your absorption of minerals, including magnesium which keeps the muscles of your bowel healthy.
Signs of low magnesium are cramp, restless legs, headaches, muscle pain and incomplete emptying when you go to the loo.
Cutting down on tea and coffee while taking a course of magnesium will usually resolve these issues in a couple of weeks.
On top of that, you might be surprised at how much more waste you get rid of, leaving you feeling less bloated and more comfortable during daily life.
I once met a lady who wanted a flatter tummy in time for her holiday.
Initially asking for weight loss advice, in our first meeting together she told me that she drank in excess of eight cups of coffee a day, very little water and she only went to the loo every four days.
Needless to say that the weight around her middle was more waste than fat and with a course of magnesium, better hydration habits and plenty of soluble fibre she proceeded to loose her bloated stomach within the week.
If you want to eat healthier, drop the fancy detox and just look after your gut.
You might be surprised at how much better you feel.
For more information on this topic or to request an appointment contact Nicola at Health and Herbs, Pedder Street, Morecambe, on 01524 413733.