Detoxification and digestion: The connection you need to know about for a healthy gut

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Detoxification and digestion: The connection you need to know about for a healthy gut

When we’re talking about ‘detoxing’ the body, we’re referring to the process of having an optimally functioning  stomach, intestines, and colon that actively clears out toxins. These digestive system parts process what we eat and drink by retaining only what our body needs and excreting waste. However, we mustn’t forget another vital organ in the detoxification process—our liver.

The importance of gut detoxification

Detoxification is the body’s natural ability to remove or break down specific chemicals which can become incredibly harmful if not excreted, or if their concentrations become too high (2). Health problems can occur if our livers fail to keep this balance check.

The liver, one of the largest organs in our bodies, plays a central role in gut detox. One of its primary functions is to produce bile, a digestive fluid that turns fat into fatty acids that our bodies can use in several processes. It also cleanses the blood of chemicals that flow through our stomach and intestines, converting harmful ammonia in our bodies into a substance that we naturally pass through urination.

In short, think of your liver as your body’s toxin excretion center when it comes to gut detoxification. It works alongside the intestines that absorb nutrients our bodies need, and the liver completes the picture of how to detox (1, 11).

If you feel inflamed, have skin breakouts, or even chronic illness you may have a sluggish digestive tract and your body may not be detoxifying efficiently. Fortunately, it’s possible to be proactive about how to detox. Though the liver naturally carries out detoxification processes, you can make several lifestyle and diet changes to further boost its efficiency and strength (3).

In the process, you can enjoy benefits such as improved gut health, smooth digestion, promotion of weight loss, and a holistic feeling of better physical health and overall well-being.

Below, we discuss some of the practical and manageable changes and steps you can take for how to detox and give your liver a helping hand in the detoxification process.

How to detox naturally

The important thing to understand is that there are no quick fixes, herbal teas, juice cleanses or crash diets that support detoxing. Our body already does all of this for us! Here are some handy tips to detox naturally:

Get a good night’s sleep

There are many benefits that come with having a regular sleeping schedule, and a healthy gut is one of them.

The body’s sleep-wake cycle, otherwise known as its circadian rhythm, has long been found to be aligned with when your gut is also “awake” and ready to perform its digestive and gut detox functions. The circadian rhythm is also aligned with when the gut is “asleep” and similarly at rest (4).

A disruption in the circadian rhythm might mean you’re awake at night or in the early hours of the morning (and possibly consuming a meal or snack), whereas your gut is at rest and unable to process what you’re feeding it. The opposite can also be true; you can be asleep during the day when your gut is naturally at its most active, but no food consumed when you’re asleep means your digestive system continues to work albeit with nothing to work on. You may end up with a disrupted metabolism.

Aside from this, constantly being sleep deprived could result in an alteration of the bacterial diversity present in the gut. The digestive system needs a healthy balance of good and bacteria to perform its functions properly, one of which is gut detoxification.

Sleeping at least six hours a night, making sure your sleep is undisturbed all night, and sticking to this habit can help your body detox effectively.

Say no to nicotine

Keeping away from nicotine products is one of the most effective ways to maintain gut health and help the process of natural gut detox. Smoking, though historically associated with respiratory health, also has implications on digestive health. The unhealthy habit can cause a myriad of life-altering, painful, and difficult to treat digestive issues, all of which severely hamper efficient functioning of the liver and other digestive organs. Smoking also disrupts the stomach’s microbial balance; it inhibits the growth of good bacteria necessary for detox, which could cause the proliferation of bad bacteria that can make you ill (5).

Get up and move

Regular walks with pets, allotting time in your day for a nightly stroll, or going outdoors during weekends are all things you can incorporate in your lifestyle to increase your level of physical activity (6).

Why physical activity is so important in our efforts to detox is because movement increases blood flow to all parts of our bodies, including our gut. When there is increased blood flow, organs perform better. When the gut receives ample blood flow, we can, quite literally, aid the intestines in “massaging” food as it passes through them, all the way down to the last step of waste excretion (12).

As for our liver, more physical activity equates to increased fatty acid oxidation, decreased fatty acid synthesis, and prevention of mitochondrial and hepatocellular damage. In other words, lessened chances of developing liver disease while increasing liver function efficiency (13).

Try out mindfulness

Mindfulness and physical activity combined makes a potent method of detox. Studies have shown that exercising can reduce stress-induced gut disturbances and stress-related digestive diseases (7, 8). Both mental and physical exercises are proven ways to control stress and its effects on the digestive system.

By doing them more often, you primarily reduce the amount of bad bacteria in your gut, encourage the production of healthy bacteria, and help strengthen your intestines, the digestive organ that is particularly sensitive to chronic stress (7).

Drink a glass of water

In the process of the body undergoing a gut detox, food moves through the intestines more smoothly and is excreted  when you’re sufficiently hydrated. Without proper hydration, you risk stressing your intestines or liver as they could struggle to cleanse the body of toxins and keep the level of chemicals in our bodies manageable and safe.

A hydrated digestive system also means stomach acids and enzymes are broken down properly, rather than left to stew in your stomach and cause discomfort (13). Hydration and liver functioning are also inseparable; the less hydrated you are, the more difficult it is for your liver to flush what needs to be flushed out from the body.

How to detox

The role of food and supplements in detox

Eating well

An unhealthy diet filled with synthetic ingredients and artificial flavours can decrease the number of bacteria present in your gut. If your diet doesn’t include foods from different food groups like meats, seafood, fruits, veggies, and even nuts, dairy, and whole grains, your gut could suffer adverse effects.

A meat-heavy diet with not enough fibre can make the passage of food more difficult. Excessive intake of alcohol is also hard on the liver as it needs to work double time to process alcoholic beverages and flush them from the body. Improper diets, if left unaddressed, could lead to complications for the digestive system (9).

Top nutrients for gut health

If you’re looking to support detoxification, there are certain nutrients that may help in ensuring a healthy detox process.

Zinc is an essential element that is needed in multiple processes in the body. It has an important protective effect on the epithelial barrier in the gastrointestinal tract, such that a deficiency in the nutrient can lead to digestive problems (16). A lack of zinc may also result in liver problems (10).

Curcumin is a polyphenol with anti-inflammatory properties. Following this, studies have looked at its role in addressing disorders of the digestive system, especially ones that result from inflammation. It may also help with liver problems because of its antioxidant effects (14).

Probiotics, such as Probiotics SB and Daily Probiotics, support and maintain digestive system health. They help maintain intestinal health and promote the growth of helpful digestive flora (15).

Keeping a healthy and balanced diet, supplemented by the right vitamins and nutrients, can ensure your gut’s health. It can ensure that the microbiomes in your body continue to thrive and produce beneficial bacteria to keep a fully functioning digestive system.

Having digestive problems can stop you from living life comfortably. You can avoid these problems by getting your own personalised vitamin pack from Vitable Australia. Our supplements are available as a monthly vitamin subscription, which also includes delivery to anywhere in Australia! The best vitamin packs are just a few clicks away.

Find out more about other areas that the above supplements can help you with:

Zinc plus copper | Probiotics SB | Daily Probiotics | Curcumin

*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.

References:

1. Ohtani, N. & Kawada, N. Role of the Gut–Liver Axis in Liver Inflammation, Fibrosis, and Cancer: A Special Focus on the Gut Microbiota Relationship. Wiley Online Library. Published March 1 2019 on https://aasldpubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/hep4.1331. Accessed September 17 2021.

2. Baird, C. How do your intestines detox your body? West Texas AM University. Published November 19, 2014 on https://www.wtamu.edu/~cbaird/sq/2014/11/19/how-do-your-intestines-detox-your-body/.  Accessed September 17 2021.

3. Klein, A. V. & Kiat, H. Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence. Wiley Online Library. Published December 18 2014 on https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jhn.12286. Accessed September 17 2021.

4. Wehrens, et al. Meal Timing Regulates the Human Circadian System. National Institutes for Health. Published June 19 2017 on https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5483233/. Accessed September 17 2021.

5. Gui, X., Yang, Z & Li, M. D.  Effect of Cigarette Smoke on Gut Microbiota: State of Knowledge. National Institutes for Health. Published June 17 2021 on https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8245763. Accessed September 17 2021.

6. Kates, et al. Household Pet Ownership and the Microbial Diversity of the Human Gut Microbiota. National Institutes for Health. Published February 28 2020 on https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7058978/. Accessed September 17 2021.

7. Konturek, P., Brzozowski, T., Konturek, S. J. Stress and the gut: pathophysiology, clinical consequences, diagnostic approach and treatment options. National Institutes for Health. Published December 2011 on https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22314561/. Accessed September 17 2021.

8. Clark, et al. Exercise and associated dietary extremes impact on gut microbial diversity. BMJ Journals. Published 2014 on https://gut.bmj.com/content/63/12/1913. Accessed September 17 2021.

9. Singh, et al. Influence of diet on the gut microbiome and implications for human health. BioMed Central. Published April 8 2018 on https://translational-medicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12967-017-1175-y. Accessed September 17 2021.

10. Mohommad, et al. Zinc and Liver Disease. National Institutes for Health. Published July 2 2018 on https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6027651/. Accessed September 17 2021.

11. Johns Hopkins Medicine. n.d. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/liver-anatomy-and-functions Accessed September 23, 2021.

12. AXA Health. Published on February 14, 2019. https://www.axahealth.co.uk/health-information/gut-health/exercises-to-improve-digestion/ Accessed September 23, 2021.

13. Windt et. al. The Effects of Physical Exercise on Fatty Liver Disease. Published on March 18, 2018. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29212576/ Accessed September 23, 2021.

14. Great Lakes Gastroenterology. How Hydration affects the Digestive System. n.d. https://greatlakesgastro.net/digestive-system/how-hydration-affects-the-digestive-system/ Accessed September 23, 2021.  

15. Dulbecco, P., Savarino, V., "Therapeutic potential of curcumin in digestive diseases". US National Library of Medicine: National Institutes of Health. Published July 2013 on https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3882399/. Accessed September 24, 2021.

16. Vitable. “Probiotics”. Vitable. Published (n.d.) on https://research.vitable.com.au/probiotics. Accessed September 24, 2021.

17. Skrovanek, S., et. al. "Zinc and gastrointestinal disease". US National Library of Medicine: National Institutes of Health. Published November 2014 on https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4231515/. Accessed September 24, 2021.