Every day we are bombarded by hundreds of environmental chemicals (from cleaning products in our home, to air pollution and industrial waste products in our water supply). While we should be mindful about avoiding chemicals when we can, the fact is we simply cannot avoid them all. 

The body already has its own clever system to rid itself of toxins. If it didn’t, we’d be in trouble. All over the body, work is taking place to keep out or eliminate toxins – from our skin acting as a barrier to the fine hairs in our respiratory system trapping particles in mucus so we can sneeze them out.

So what can we do to support our bodies in flushing out toxins?

Support natural detoxing pathways

Taking steps to support metabolic pathways to get rid of environmental chemicals while also binding them before they end up harming us, is vital to overall health. Certain foods are known to be particularly supportive in this manner.

Superfoods such as cereal grasses (e.g. wheat and barley grass) are known to chelate (bind in the gut) certain environmental toxins. Cereal grasses reduce gastrointestinal inflammation and help support proper bowel elimination. Wheat and barley grass are gluten free, because they’re harvested before the plants form a grain head.

Other foods such as the protein in green peas provide amino acids, necessary for detoxification pathways in the body.

Another magical vegetable such as broccoli sprouts help to turn on genes that support pathways that eliminate them, thereby telling the body to metabolize them in safer ways. 

Some of these superfoods are difficult to find naturally, so taking a superfood supplement is a good way to get these nutritious foods into your diet.

Eat nutrient-dense foods

One of the reasons we are seeing an increase in ailments is that our commercial vegetables and fruit have been bred for easy growing and sweet taste at the expense of the bitter alkaloids, antioxidants and phytochemicals that keep us healthy. Through the harvesting process, transport, storage and handling of the fruits and vegetables, a lot of the nutritional value is lost. We seem to be moving away from the traditional measurement values of protein, carbohydrates, fats etc, being the definition of what makes a food “good”, towards a more nutritional based value. We need to eat green foods that are still rich in these nutrients.

Baby plants and berries are particularly good sources of vitamins and minerals and other phytochemicals that aid digestion, such as sprouts and grasses which typically contain all, if not more, of the nutrition of a single plant in a smaller volume, as well as powerful berries such as blackcurrants and boysenberries. 

Probiotics and prebiotics

Bacteria living in the gut has a significant impact on our digestive health.

We know that our gut microbiome is impacted by our food choices, so eating real whole foods (including some fermented foods such as yogurt) to support and maintain healthy gut bacteria is a good idea.

Eat organic

Organic foods are thought to contain higher levels of nutrients than conventional food. But the real benefit of eating organic is that it’s estimated to reduce the toxins in our food by 90%. Harmful pesticides are often used in the growing of conventional food, whereas with organic farming this is not the case. As a rule of thumb, eating food that’s grown locally and from your own country will ensure you’re getting the best. Local produce means there's less handling of your food, lower road mileage and it's fresher.

Stress management

Stress can wreak havoc on your digestive system. It has been associated with stomach ulcers, diarrhoea, constipation and IBS.

Stress hormones directly affect your digestion. When your body is in fight-or-flight mode, it thinks you don’t have time to rest and digest. During periods of stress, blood and energy are diverted away from your digestive system. Additionally, your gut and brain are intricately connected — what affects your brain may also impact your digestion.

There are a number of stress management apps available if you don’t have time to attend a fitness or meditation class to help you manage stress. Sometimes a walk around the block is all you need to re-center yourself and manage those stressful feelings. 

Stay physical

Doing gentle exercise can help with digestion. Being upright and active allows gravity to help move food through the digestive system. A slow walk around the block, for example, may ease bloating and reduce feelings of fullness. Exercise is also known to help manage stress symptoms.

Up your fibre

It’s common knowledge that fibre is beneficial for good digestion. Soluble fibre absorbs water and helps add bulk to your stool. It also binds to toxic waste products allowing them to be eliminated efficiently. Insoluble fibre acts like a giant toothbrush, helping your digestive tract keep everything moving along.

Good sources of fibre include: whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and beans.

A person should also drink plenty of liquids to ensure that the fibre absorbs enough water to pass through the digestive system easily.

Drink lots of water

Drinking enough water also helps to promote healthy digestive function, and it reduces the likelihood of constipation, as one of the primary functions of the large intestine is to absorb water from digested food. When you don’t drink sufficient water and become constipated, the longer waste remains inside the body, and the more waste will be reabsorbed back into the bloodstream. Let your body guide you on how much water it needs. Typically, adults need 6 glasses of water per day to remain properly hydrated.

Many of us aspire to eating a healthy diet rich in a variety of plants in order to help us improve digestion and gut health, but often life gets in the way. Making small incremental changes are a good way to approach your gut health journey.

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