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- Cleveland Clinic: Constipation
- MayoClinic.com: High-Fiber Foods
- MayoClinic.com: Over-the-Counter Laxatives
- Harvard Medical School: The Dubious Practice of Detox
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Detox supplements, kits and diet programs can get spendy. According to the Harvard Medical School website, the cost of bowel cleansing products can range from $20 to $70 for a month's supply, and other supplements and kits sold online are priced in triple digits 5. A home remedy to "detox" your gut is quite simply performed. However, first assess your need to "detox."
Detox Not Necessary
Detoxifying and cleansing the bowels may seem like a modern-day necessity, given the types of foods you eat and the environmental pollution you're exposed to every day. The theory of autointoxication has been around for thousands of years, resurfacing at certain points throughout history. The American Cancer Society traces the theory back to the days of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, who believed that fecal waste accumulated in your gut, where it lingered and spread "toxins" into the rest of your body 1. These toxins were purportedly responsible for poor health and disease. In the United States, "detoxification" treatment was made popular by Dr. James Kellogg, who advocated colonic cleansing coupled with surgery. However, the Cleveland Clinic points out that the theory of autointoxication fell out of favor by the early 1900s, when doctors and scientists presented conclusive evidence to disprove it 2. Your liver renders potential "toxins" harmless and your intestines make bacteria that "detoxifies" waste.
Normal Bowel Function
Before you go on a detox diet or bowel cleansing program, consider if you need to do so. According to the Cleveland Clinic, all you need to do to detox is to have regular bowel movements 2. Number and frequency of bowel movements can vary from one person to another. You may have three a day or one twice a week. However, going without a bowel movement for more than three days is indicative of constipation. The Cleveland Clinic points out that after this time, your stools get hard and dry -- and difficult to pass 2. The simplest way to address irregular bowel function is to take a close look at your diet.
A simple, easy way to encourage regular bowel function is to get an abundance of fiber in your diet. According to the Cleveland Clinic, focus on vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole-grain foods 2. Any fruits that have seeds, such as strawberries and raspberries, are fiber-rich. Particularly high on the fiber spectrum are peas and beans, according to MayoClinic.com data: split peas, lentils, black beans, baked beans and lima beans give you more than 10 g of fiber per 1-cup serving 34. Drink plenty of water or other fluids -- between 1 1/2 and 2 qt. each day; dehydration can make you constipated. However, if constipation is a problem, limit milk and anything with caffeine, like coffee, tea and cola soft drinks.
To encourage regularity, the Cleveland Clinic advocates getting regular exercise and going to the bathroom when you need to, rather than putting it off 2. Detox kits that purportedly cleanse your bowels typically contain a fiber supplement, herbal laxative and support supplement, notes Harvard Medical School 5. However, you don't need these if you have regular bowel movements. Fasting "detox" diets and other "gut cleansing" techniques put you at risk for electrolyte imbalance and dehydration, the Harvard Medical School website cautions 5. They can also disrupt the balance of bacteria in your bowels and even change the way your bowels function.
Use With Caution
Do-it-yourself home remedies -- diet, fluids and exercise -- can promote regular, healthy bowel functioning. MayoClinic.com underscores using these techniques to address constipation before resorting to using laxatives 34. But occasionally you'll need to see a doctor rather than self-treat at home, says the Cleveland Clinic 2. If you usually don't experience constipation and it has become an ongoing problem, talk to your treating physician. Also see your doctor if you see blood in your stool, lose weight without intentionally trying to do so, or if having a bowel movement causes you pain.
To encourage regularity, the Cleveland Clinic advocates getting regular exercise and going to the bathroom when you need to, rather than putting it off 2. The Cleveland Clinic points out that after this time, your stools get hard and dry -- and difficult to pass 2. According to the Cleveland Clinic, all you need to do to detox is to have regular bowel movements 2.
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