Written by Kyle Buchanan
Spring is almost here - the grass will be green, the flowers will bloom, and the weather will finally be warm! And with spring comes the idea of “spring cleaning” - a time to clear some things out, so our surroundings feel clean and refreshed for the warm seasons to come.
We may think of spring cleaning when it comes to our house, but spring is actually an optimal time to practice some ‘spring cleaning’ within and show our gut some love!
When you spring clean your gut, taking steps to reduce the things that can have a negative effect, and include things that have a positive effect on digestive health, you’ll not only feel better, but you’ll walk a little lighter and with a peppier step too!
Here are some strategies that support a good Gut-Spring-Clean!
Address stress and find ways to reduce it: simply put, stress destroys the gut.1So step one in gut spring cleaning is to sift out the real stressors going on, and either find a way to reduce them or, if you can’t, find a way to respond to them in a healthier manner. Whether you choose meditation, breathing techniques, holy basil tea, saying no more often, watching more comedy movies - or all of the above - find a way to calm your system down.
Remove inflammatory foods: if you’ve suspected that the foods you’re consuming could be negatively impacting your gut, NOW is the time to take that theory for a spin. From experience, I’d advise removing the following foods (known to drive inflammation) out of the diet for a period of 4 weeks: processed sugar, inflammatory fats found in vegetable oils (think soybean, corn, canola oil and generic vegetable oil), fried foods and finally, gluten and dairy - the two big culprits when it comes to food sensitivities that can wreak havoc on the gut.
I do realize it can seem daunting, but when it comes to a good gut-spring-clean, what you keep OUT of the gut is equally, if not more, important than the things you put in! To help in this transition, look for recipes that specify “paleo” - there are SO many wonderful ones out there that can easily fill you up for the month! As for sugar - fruit is absolutely okay, just steer away from any added sugar like sodas, juices or processed sweets.
Up the fibre with chia:you want to ensure you are eliminating effectively for a healthy gut, otherwise waste can start to accumulate and build up, affecting hormonal balance in the body. For your gut spring clean, include 1-2 tbsp. of chia seeds (or flax seeds if you prefer) into your day, whether thrown into a smoothie or by making a daily chia pudding. Be consistent with it, and you should begin to notice more regular and satisfying bowel movements.
Stop eating 2.5-3 hours before bedtime: your body does a lot of detoxing and recharging (including your gut) while you sleep. If you eat close to bedtime, 3-4 hours of your sleep time will be spent digesting your last meal and not repairing and recharging like it should. Plus, if you make this a habit, it’s much easier to incorporate intermittent fasting into your routine.
Incorporate Intermittent Fasting: this helps give your digestive system a break, and can help initiate a process called autophagy2 where your cells essentially start self-cleaning, clearing away gunk that can slow them down.*
What would this look like? Start small with a 12 hour fast: this would mean that you would finish your dinner around 8pm, and not have breakfast the next morning until 8am! And then gradually, if you like it (many report higher energy levels), you can incrementally increase your fasting window and delay your first meal until later in the day (ex. 10am, 11am or noon!)
While fasting allowable liquids include water, unsweetened teas and coffee.
*It should be noted that longer fasts (past 14 hours) are not recommended for anyone who is pregnant, who has a history of eating disorders, who is going through a stressful time or has a history of hypoglycemia.
Incorporate a probiotic: one the best ways to show your gut some love is to support your gut microbiome by adding in a probiotic to your routine. When you add in good bacteria while simultaneously removing factors that negatively impact your microbiome (like suspect foods and stress!), it can be a one-two move in the right direction!3
Experiment with gut-friendly ingredients:at a time when there is a removal of some foods that can harm the gut, add in foods that can soothe the gut and nourish it! Some of my favourites include marshmallow tea, chamomile tea, aloe vera juice (inner fillet), bone broth, ginger, asparagus, olive oil (which is actually rich in polyphenols which nourish your gut bacteria) and pineapple!
As amazing as it feels to give the house a good spring cleaning, it can feel equally if not more wonderful to take some time now to give your digestive system a little spring clean, so you’re refreshed for the summer ahead!
To a happy gut this spring!
- American Psychological Association. (2018, November 1). Stress effects on the body.http://www.apa.org/topics/stress/body
- 2010 Aug 16; 6(6): 702–710. Published online 2010 Aug 14. doi: 10.4161/auto.6.6.12376
- Taibi, A., & Comelli, E. M. (2014). Practical approaches to probiotics use. Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism = Physiologie appliquee, nutrition et metabolisme, 39(8), 980–986. https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2013-0490