Here is how to detox after an indulgent Christmas and New Year

Bloated stomach
Bloated stomach

Medical herbalist and columnist Nicola Parker writes about health remedies to assist with weight loss, detoxing and cleansing.

Detoxing is really common this time of year and we get plenty of requests in our health shop for various remedies that are purported to assist with weight loss, detoxing and cleansing.

Many of these advertised products have very little research behind them, and are often designed to do nothing more than encourage the consumer to part with their cash.

On the flip side, there are people that will tell you that all detox programmes are nonsense and that our bodies are perfectly capable of detoxing themselves. While it is true that we have a natural ability to clear out unwanted waste, this clearance system is not always in peak condition. If this is the case, you’ll probably feel sluggish, bloated, lethargic and as though some kind of detox would do your body some good. The difficulty comes in choosing which kind of detox will help. This is where it’s always best to ask an expert.

If you think you are holding on to water and feel puffy and bloated, you probably want a detox that looks after your kidneys. If you get stomach cramps, feel lethargic and have trouble emptying your bowel every day, then you’ll likely want a programme geared towards supporting your digestion. While every person is different, there are a few types of detoxes that almost anyone would benefit from.

The key ones are detoxes that target gut bacteria. Bloating after eating is a sign that your gut bacteria may not be as healthy as you’d like. Unfriendly bacteria trigger bloating, especially after food and getting rid of these bacteria can help rid you of this problem swiftly. This type of bloating gets worse as the day goes on and especially after eating a meal. It’s commonly triggered or aggravated by bread and starchy foods. While bloating is the main symptom, an overgrowth of these unfriendly bacteria can also cause lethargy, sluggishness, skin problems and make us prone to infections like cystitis or thrush.

The question I often ask, to clarify if there is bacteria overgrowth, is whether or not the belly distends outwards like a pregnant tummy. If the answer is a resounding yes, I know I’ve hit the nail on the head. If they are unsure but there are other symptoms from the list above present, then I feel confident that the bloating detox will help them anyway.

The first thing that needs to be done is to kill off the unfriendly bacteria that are causing the sluggishness and the bloating. To do this I use a herb called goldenseal, a beautiful, bitter herb that people either love or hate. Being bitter, many complain about its taste, but anyone who has used it will ask

eagerly at later dates, telling me how incredible it is.

While I’d say that goldenseal is one of the more powerful herbs I have at my disposal, it’s not enough just to use that alone. As these bacteria die off, it’s really important that you are drinking plenty of water, or you could end up feeling worse before you feel better. It’s also important to cut out sugar. Sugar creates a perfect environment for these unfriendly bacteria to thrive, so cutting it out is essential to getting rapid results. It doesn’t have to be forever, but for at least two weeks. Enough time to let the goldenseal get on with its work.

Alongside the goldenseal, I usually recommend a high strength probiotic that provides the friendly bacteria that help prevent the bloating and the other bacteria from returning.

Some years ago, I introduced this regime to a gentleman looking for something to help stimulate his appetite. He was concerned that he could only eat tiny portions before he became too full. He assumed he was tired because he wasn’t eating enough, imagining that his stomach was too small.

It turned out, his digestion was completely normal, other than this bacteria imbalance. He wasn’t full, he was getting bloated and the discomfort was stopping him from eating, even though he still felt hungry.

After a couple of weeks on my bloating detox, with no sugar and lots of water, his tiredness was gone, his belly was flat and he was back to eating full meals beside his wife again.