Can you actually clean your gut, and what does this phrase mean?
We're sure you have heard the buzz of “clean eating” and the effects it can have on your health and microbiome.
But, does it improve your health? And what even is clean eating?
The definition of "clean eating" may depend on who you ask because it is not a regulated term. That being said, we will dive more into this topic in today's article.
Keep reading to learn the importance of gut health, what clean eating truly is, and the best ways you can clean your gut in a sustainable way. We'll even provide some of my top gut-friendly recipes for you to recreate.
Want more information on gut health? Check out our blog post on how to heal stubborn gut issues!
What Does "Clean Your Gut" Mean?
A "clean gut" typically refers to a digestive system that is free from excessive toxins, harmful bacteria, and waste build-up. It is characterized by a balanced and healthy gut microbiome, which consists of a diverse community of beneficial bacteria that aid in digestion and support overall well-being.
The word "clean" basically replaced the word "balanced" or "healthy".
To remind you, here are some key aspects of a happy gut:
1.) Balanced Microbiome: A happy gut is home to a well-balanced microbiome, which includes a variety of beneficial bacteria. These microbes help break down food, absorb nutrients, and protect against harmful pathogens.
2.) Efficient Digestion: It signifies efficient and effective digestion, where nutrients from food are absorbed optimally, promoting overall health and vitality.
3.) Regular Bowel Movements: A happy gut is associated with regular and healthy bowel movements, avoiding issues like constipation or diarrhea.
4.) Reduced Inflammation: It is often linked to reduced inflammation throughout the digestive tract, which is crucial for preventing gastrointestinal disorders and maintaining overall health.
5.) Improved Immune Function: A properly working gut contributes to a stronger immune system, as 70% of your immune system resides in your gut!
6.) Enhanced Mental Health: Emerging research suggests that the gut-brain connection plays a crucial role in mental health. A happy gut may contribute to improved mood and reduced risk of mood disorders.
Some may describe a digestive system with these traits as a "clean gut," but we prefer to use the terms balanced or happy, as the word "clean" doesn't tell us much about what's actually going on.
What is a Gut Cleanse?
A gut cleanse is the idea that we periodically need to clean our gut for it to function at its best.
Over time, your gut can accumulate waste, toxins, and harmful bacteria, leading to issues like bloating, gas, constipation, and even more serious conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or leaky gut syndrome.
However, typical gut cleanses, such as juice cleanses and restrictive diets, may not be the quick fix you need. Instead, it takes time to properly eliminate and reintroduce foods to see what your issue may be.
We highly recommend working with a qualified professional before deciding to do a "gut cleanse" of any kind. Head to our services page for more information on how to work with us!
What is Clean Eating?
Clean eating is generally a concept used to refer to eating foods as close to their natural state as possible.
This means prioritizing whole, unprocessed foods, choosing fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains over packaged, highly processed alternatives. This approach to nutrition steers clear of artificial additives, excess sugar, and unhealthy fats.
A "clean eating" diet may also promote organic, plant-based, grass-fed, sugar-free, or gluten-free alternatives in an effort to promote overall health and wellness.
The Darker Side of Clean Eating
It may sound great, but there is a darker side to clean eating. So, what could be wrong with this term?
What most people fail to recognize is that “clean eating” is a buzzword; a marketing tool used to attract your attention.
The idea of clean eating can take on a whole new meaning when it introduces unrealistic expectations of what it truly means to be “healthy.”
While the main idea around clean eating, as it embodies filling your diet with lots of whole, unprocessed foods, is valid, it can create a very restrictive approach to eating.
Clean eating imposes that certain foods are deemed “clean” or okay for you to eat, while others are “dirty” or bad for you to eat.
Yes, certain foods are more nutritious than others, but ALL foods should be able to fit into a balanced diet!
Should I Be Clean Eating?
The short answer is that while your diet should center around a balance of whole, unprocessed foods, this does not mean you cannot enjoy some of your favorite foods that aren't considered “clean.”
You should prioritize a diet filled with lots of diverse plant fibers in order to support a healthy gut microbiota; however, a strict “clean eating approach” is not the best way to clean your gut.
Clean eating can create an obsessive and restrictive mindset around food, which can lead to further gut issues because of the stress this diet can cause.
Working With a Gut Health Dietitian: The Best Way to Clean Your Gut
The best way to clean your gut is to get to the root cause of what is causing your gut issues in the first place!
How do you know the root cause of your gut issues? By working with a gut health dietitian.
Our skilled dietitians at New York City Nutrition can run functional lab tests, like the stool test, that show a snapshot of what is going on in your gut.
From here, they can read and analyze the results of these functional tests and provide you with an individualized plan to address your root cause.
While balanced eating can help to support a healthy gut microbiome, it will not uncover the cause of your issues, which is why your symptoms may still persist even if you are eating healthily!
If you have tried everything and still struggle with stubborn symptoms, there may be a deeper issue that only "clean eating" will not fix! Check out our last blog post for more help on healing stubborn gut issues.
For even more support, schedule a discovery call with one of our gut health dietitians. This is the easiest and most effective way to get to the root of your issues!
My Top Gut-Friendly Recipes
While we have uncovered the fact that clean eating can be an unsustainable diet that alone will not clean your gut. This does not mean that you shouldn’t be following a diet loaded with nutritious and whole, unprocessed foods!
Here are a few of my favorite gut-friendly recipes:
Salmon and Asparagus Foil Packets
Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help to lower inflammation in the gut. Asparagus is a form of prebiotic that is used to feed the probiotics in your microbiome. Paired together, this meal serves as a powerhouse of nutrients for the gut!
Chia Seed Pudding with Berries and Greek Yogurt
Chia seeds are high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. When paired with Greek yogurt, it serves as the perfect balanced meal high in protein, probiotics, and fiber for your gut.
Turmeric Roasted Vegetable Bowl
One of the easiest ways to increase your fiber intake is by throwing a bunch of veggies on a sheet pan and roasting them in the oven. In this recipe, turmeric and black pepper are used to season the veggies, which serves as a great anti-inflammatory spice. Serve the veggies with quinoa and your favorite protein, and you have the quickest gut-cleansing meal!
Gut Healing Green Smoothie
Smoothies are a great way to pack a ton of nutrients into one drink. Adding a handful of leafy greens, greek yogurt, frozen berries, and a liquid of your choice will create an easy on-the-go breakfast your gut will love. For more smoothie recipes, check out our high fiber smoothie blog!
The Takeaway: Can You Clean Your Gut?
You may be wondering what is the best diet to follow for gut health, but the truth is that diet is often so different for each person.
What some people may be able to tolerate when repairing their gut may be different from what you can tolerate.
The best diet to follow is simply the one that is most sustainable for you! Your diet should aim to focus on the ideals of healthy eating, such as eating mostly whole, unprocessed foods high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats.
However, you also need to allow yourself "fun foods" and treats that you enjoy! Life is too short not to eat foods that make you happy or go out to eat with your loved ones.
Giving yourself permission to eat a mostly balanced diet and also indulge in sweets on occasion is what makes any diet sustainable, no matter if it's for gut health or other health concerns.
If you are serious about repairing up your gut, head to our services page to schedule your FREE discovery call today!