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The gastrointestinal tract is where we ingest and process everything we eat. It’s also the primary garbage chute for toxins; it partners with the liver to bind and flush them out through the stool. “The No. 1 way to support detoxification, outside of avoiding exposures, is with regular bowel movements,” says Sara Jean Barrett, ND, a Minneapolis-based integrative practitioner who treats patients with chronic health conditions.

Fiber is crucial here — particularly the soluble type found in legumes, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds. Not only does fiber help prevent constipation, but it binds to toxins, cholesterol, and waste products and prevents them from being reabsorbed by the body. “If you’re not having at least one well-formed bowel movement per day, you’re having some reabsorption happening, and your poor liver is having to deal with things twice or more,” says Barrett.

Fiber also feeds our beneficial gut flora. These microbes help break down fiber into beneficial compounds and produce short-chain fatty acids that support the intestinal lining. A healthy gut lining is crucial for nutrient absorption; it also acts as a barrier against harmful substances. When the gut is leaky, these substances can leach into the bloodstream and increase our toxic load.

Some gut bacteria are even involved in detoxification directly. “Certain strains of Lactobacillus bacteria prevent the tag on estrogen [that marks it for elimination] from being removed,” Barrett explains. “If those strains aren’t around, that tag can get cleaved, estrogen gets reabsorbed, and the liver has to process it all over again.”

Signs of GI trouble might include constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, or cramps. Systemic issues, such as inflammation, autoimmunity, joint pain, skin problems, migraines, and fatigue, can also be indicators of leaky gut, an imbalanced microbiome, and likely a toxic overload.

How to Support the GI System:

Daily habits to support gut health include:

When things are significantly out of balance, working with a functional nutritionist or doctor on a more rigorous gut-healing protocol may be in order.

Go Deeper

The body already knows how to clear toxins — but you can give your detoxification system a helping hand. Learn more at “How to Support Your Body’s Natural Detox Organs,” from which this article was excerpted.

Mo Perry

Mo Perry is an Experience Life contributing editor.

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