Written by Dr Ese Stacey
MBBS, FFSEM(UK), MSc (Sports Med),
The diet to detox approach is important because the gut is one of the main places that the body uses to detoxify harmful substances.
There are many different ways to bind toxins that have been deposited into the body’s tissues, however effective elimination of these toxins requires a functioning gut.
This includes the gallbladder, which together with gut microbes helps the body to break down harmful substances so that they can be eliminated from the body.
Sugars and toxins promote ‘bad’ microbes.
‘Bad’ microbes promote inflammation and inflammation leads to disease.
The Culprit inflammatory foods are to be avoided for 6 weeks. This will give time for the gut microbes to recover and for the immune system to stop reacting to toxins presented with the foods.
If your issues are due to inflammation caused by food toxins you should feel a big difference within 2 weeks of strictly following this diet, but you should continue for the full 6 week course to completely reset your system.
Most of the foods on the Culprit list are there because they will be subject to either mould or toxins (pesticides) or both. Add to that their carbohydrate content and you have a double ‘whammy’.
I must stress that you should avoid even small amounts of the Culprit foods.
This is because, in order for the immune system to stop reacting to the toxins, they need a complete break from them.
What can I eat?
This is the next question I get asked after detailing the Culprit list.
Let’s take a look at the good stuff.
Many people live normal fulfilled lives without many of the foods on the Culprit list - you only need to do it for 6 weeks!
Let’s remember the ‘good’ tree - ‘bad’ tree analogy.
What can be done to feed the ‘good’ tree?
The ‘good’ tree represents our ‘good’ gut microbes.
These grow in the large intestine (the colon). To promote good colon health, we need to nourish our colon cells.
Colon cells like prebiotic foods.
Prebiotic foods are not the same as probiotic foods. Probiotic foods refers to microbes that are taken in from foods (or supplements).
Prebiotics refers to nutrients that promote good colon health.
Vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and sprouts are good prebiotic foods which will also fill you up. It is advisable to either ferment or cook these prebiotic foods. Juicing creates sugars out of carbohydrate foods.
There are numerous tutorials online on how to make your own fermented foods.
Mushrooms are also a powerful anti-inflammatory, prebiotic food. All varieties of edible mushrooms both cooked and raw will have a beneficial effect on the colon.
Sweet potato and potato are root vegetables and good colon food. However, be careful, just because they are on the ‘good’ list, doesn’t mean that you should eat lots of them.
If you are starting on this journey and you are overweight, eating lots of the root vegetables will lead to weight gain. Avoid these if you are overweight. If you are slim or underweight you may need to eat more of these types of vegetables to maintain your weight.
What about fats?
Are they ‘good’ or ‘bad’? Well both! Avoid fats that come from an animal that has been fed grain. This type of saturated fat is ‘bad’ and will cause inflammation.
Most meats on sale will not detail what the animal has been fed unless it has been fed a grass diet.
Saturated fat (lard) from a grass-fed animal has health giving properties and will help to lower inflammation.
Fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K) are essential for health including for bones, brain and the colon.
Most of us know that eating a diet rich in vegetables will provide us with plenty of good nutrients including vitamins,
however, what many do not know is that the vitamins, particularly the fat soluble variety, need to be eaten with fat in order to be absorbed and available for the body to use. Eating a salad without any oil isn’t a great idea if you want to absorb the fat soluble vitamins.
Your meals should ideally be mainly vegetables (both fermented and non-fermented) with a garnish of meat/fish and plenty of good fats.
Whilst we’re talking about vegetables: Carrots are said to be a good source of vitamin A (the one that helps you to see in the dark).
However, did you know that unless the carrot is grated into small strips and covered in oil, the fat soluble Vitamin A will not be available for the body to use?
A better source of vitamin A is from oils and animal meats - apologies to vegetarians but this is true.
Having said that sustainable raw red palm oil is rich in vitamin A which offers a non-meat option.
The more commonly appreciated polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids:
Omega 3 oils from fish are particularly helpful at reducing inflammation.
Before the days of ibuprofen, cod liver oil was a treatment for painful joints.
Lard (from a grass fed cow) and virgin coconut oil for can be used for cooking including frying, as they are stable at high temperatures. Vegetable oils and most olive oils are not stable at high temperatures and therefore should not be used for high temperature cooking.
Cholesterol is required to transport fats and other nutrients around the body. It also forms part of the wrapping around nerve sheaths.
Eggs and liver are a rich source of cholesterol. Eggs should be from chickens that have roamed outside and can peck and eat worms. Chickens are not vegetarians.
Olive oil and avocado oil are on the ‘good’ list. But be careful not all olive oil is ‘good’. Olive oil, being a polyunsaturated fat is quite unstable and doesn’t like sunlight and extremes of heat and cold. Under these conditions, the fragile bonds between carbon atoms easily break and create free radicals. Free radicals create inflammation.
Bones in particular need a good source of Vitamin D and Vitamin K2 - more so than calcium. Vitamin D, K2 and A are friends and work in tandem. Vitamin D and A cause absorption of calcium from the gut. In order to get calcium into the bones we need vitamin K2.
A rich source of viitamin K2 is foie gras (force fed goose liver)! Don’t shoot the messenger! I hear that there are now ethical sources of foie gras. Another very rich source of vitamin K2 is a Japanese dish called Natto, which is made from fermented soyabeans. Fermented soyabeans are ‘good’, non-fermented soyabeans are not so ‘good’. Natto is not to everyone’s taste and consistency but with imagination it can be incorporated into the diet.
A quick word about cholesterol
When you have a blood test and the ‘bad’ cholesterol is raised, most doctors will tell you that this is because you are eating too much fat.
This is not true! Most research also proves this.
Cholesterol is an anti-oxidant which responds to inflammation.
When the ‘bad’ cholesterol is raised it means that you have inflammation.
The response therefore should be to deal with the inflammation rather than deal with the cholesterol.
Dealing with the inflammation, will mean that you won’t need to take cholesterol lowering drugs for the rest of your life.
And now to detoxification!
It is important that the body has a way to eliminate toxic waste.
This is a normal part of body metabolism.
Regular exercise within your level of functioning will help detoxification through breathing and sweating.
Pre- and probiotic foods, as mentioned earlier, will assist in the elimination of toxins. The optimum number of bowel opening episodes should be 2-3 per day of soft, reasonably large stools.
If your stools are loose, this could represent a need for a more diverse population of gut microbes.
Drinking water will assist urine detoxification.
Saunas (particularly infrared) and ionic footspas will free up toxic substances that rest in adipose and connective tissue and these substances are then excreted through sweating or urination.
Showering and towel drying after exercise and saunas is important as toxins left on the skin will re-enter the body if not removed.
Specific supplements can be taken to further assist detoxification. These need to be taken under supervision as the results can be variable.
Good gut microbes promote ‘good’ gut health.
Once you have eliminated the 'Culprit' foods for 6 weeks, consume ‘good’ microbes in the form of either probiotics or fermented food.
If you have never eaten fermented foods, it’s sometimes best to start with a probiotic.
This way, you control just how many new microbes are entering your system.
When you first start either probiotics or fermented foods, you may find that they ‘upset’ the stomach. This may be because of the ‘Herxheimer’ reaction, otherwise known as the ‘die-off’ reaction.
This is the situation whereby, the new ‘good’ microbes cause the resident ‘bad’ microbes to die.
The immune cells try to deal with the ‘debris’ from this reaction, which in itself cause inflammation and sickness symptoms. If this reaction happens, stop the probiotics or fermented food and wait until the symptoms have settled.
Then start again but with half the amount that you tried before. The reactions can range from fatigue, upset stomach, chest infections, and flu-like symptoms.
Once you have become accustomed to the usual dose of probiotic, you are then ready to move onto fermented foods.
Please see the list of some fermented foods. These should be introduced gradually. If you suffer with acid reflux or indigestion, it is best to avoid the more acid foods in the early days. Build up the amount of fermented food gradually over a period of weeks or months until you can eat something fermented with each meal.
Electrosmog or electromagnetic pollution, is worth mentioning.
This comes from electromagnetic radiation from such things as WIFI, computer screens, electric cabling, fridges and lights.
In susceptible individuals electrosmog can have a destabilising effect on cells, and kills gut microbes. It may also interact with any heavy metals that may have built up in the body.
Electrosmog can therefore be an inflammation-causing factor.
Along with your WIFI router, your mobile phone is probably the most important cause of electromagnetic stress.
Think of turning off the WIFI router in your home at night or put your phone on ‘airplane’ mode if you tend to use it as an alarm clock. Do not carry your mobile phone in your pockets as electromagnetic frequency may have an effect on cells that are highly active such as breasts and the prostate gland.
Try to use your phone on ‘speaker’ rather than putting it up to your ear, as the further the source of EMF is from your body, the less likely you are to feel its effects.
You can now purchase electromagnetic shields for phones and electronic equipment.
Remember that wearable technology also uses WIFI.
Emotional or subconscious stress can have an effect on the gut microbes.
A gut-brain connection exists and anything that affects your emotions will have an effect on gut function and vice versa.
Paying attention to your emotional wellbeing will have a positive effect on gut function and therefore on your background levels of inflammation.
Poor gut function will also have a detrimental effect on how we perceive stress, as well as how well we sleep and concentrate.
I often find that attention to gut microbial function has a positive effect on stress perception and is often one of the first things to change when a good gut solution is found.
Consuming a diet rich in pre- and probiotic foods is expected therefore to have a positive effect on your mood.
What happens after the 6 weeks?
Most people who have been diligent with the first 6 weeks see an improvement in their symptoms or wellbeing.
However, not everyone responds in the same way and some tweaking may be needed depending on the immune response, body type, lifestyle, and palate.
If all goes well with the first 6 weeks, the next 6 weeks involves being more specific about eliminating toxins (these may have been identified on blood tests).
If significant improvement has occurred then this step would involve returning the culprit foods back into the normal diet, one at a time so that you can assess how your system handles it.
If you feel terrible within a day or two of eating a culprit food then you will want to remove it and wait for your pain/symptoms to settle down before trying a different food.
If after a couple of days of introducing a culprit food back into your diet there are no adverse effects, then you can then add another food.
The idea is to reintroduce them all back in again, minus any that trigger an inflammatory response.