The digestive system is a hot topic these days...and for good reason! The health of your gut affects your overall health, so it’s no wonder many of us are trying to get our gut game on point.
But...is a gut cleanse really the answer to improving your digestion, skin, and immune system?
Let’s figure it out together.
What is a Gut Cleanse, Exactly?
There’s really no set definition when it comes to a “gut cleanse.”
In fact, there are many different iterations, and they’re certainly not all made equal.
Types of gut cleanses include juice cleanses, specialized diets that incorporate “colon cleansing foods,” popular cleanses like the Master cleanse, and even things like coffee enemas and probiotic enemas.
Cleanses advertise pretty much any benefit -- that they’ll make your skin glow, “clean you out,” boost your immune system, help you lose weight, and more.
Unfortunately, not only do most gut cleanses not provide any of these benefits, but they may also do more harm than good.
Is a Gut Cleanse Good or Bad?
We’re not big fans of the common gut cleanses out there...not only are they super low in calories (you need those, remember?) but more importantly, they don’t actually help your gut.
Most gut cleanses are simply a version of fasting.
While fasting can temporarily reduce digestive problems, it doesn’t actually do anything to prevent digestive issues in the future (once you go back to eating food...which, you definitely should.)
Fasting also won’t really help your skin, your immune system, or help you lose weight over the long term...all the benefits most cleanses promise.
Our overall take on gut cleanses is this: not worth it.
A New Take on Gut Cleanses: Balance is Best
Instead of thinking about “cleaning out” your gut, you should think about balancing your gut.
More specifically, balancing your gut microbiome -- the collection of bacteria, viruses, and yeasts living in your intestines.
It might be strange to realize that you’ve got a whole bunch of critters living in your gut, but these little guys are actually incredibly important in not only the function of your gut, but also in how well the rest of your body functions, too!
There are “good” and “bad” bacteria that live in your gut and you want the good to outweigh the bad.
But sometimes, the bad start to overgrow or your numbers of good bacteria dwindle.
When this happens, you have an imbalanced gut microbiome (also known as gut “dysbiosis”).
So here’s our new take on gut cleanses: instead of focusing on “cleaning,” we should focus on balancing those good and bad bacteria.
So...How Do You Balance Gut Bacteria?
One of the best things you can do to rebalance your gut bacteria is to incorporate prebiotics and probiotics.
But hold up, let’s define what those are!
Probiotics: Live, beneficial bacteria. These usually come in supplement form, or can be found in foods like yogurt or kombucha.
Prebiotics: Probiotics lesser-known friend, prebiotics can be thought of as “food” for good gut bacteria. When probiotics “eat” (metabolize) prebiotics, they produce helpful compounds like short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that are great for your gut.
By incorporating prebiotics and probiotics into your routine, you help bring up counts of good bacteria in the gut.
These good bacteria can produce antimicrobial compounds that then help to kick out the bad guys.
The result, over time, is a more balanced gut microbiome -- one that helps keep digestive problems in check and helps to keep you healthy overall! (Psst...this includes benefits to your skin, too.)
The Bottom Line: Are They Worth It?
The quick answer is -- no!
Not only are they starving you of calories you need to function, but gut cleanses don’t actually provide the benefits they promise.
The next time you’re tempted to cleanse your gut, think about balancing your gut microbiome -- the organisms living in your intestines -- instead.
By balancing your gut microbiome, you’re helping to cleanse it of overgrowing bad bacteria and increase your counts of good bacteria.
A balanced gut microbiome is a healthy microbiome. And one that can help support your digestion, your immune system, and pretty much every other body system you’ve got!
Taking prebiotics and probiotics will help balance your gut microbiome, so do that instead of the next trendy cleanse you come across.