The Importance of Detox Support During SIBO Treatment (And Four Easy Ways to Get Started Right Now)
Oh, detox. It’s such a buzzy word these days. Just a quick Google search will have you wanting to try the latest detox tea, drink only lemon and cayenne pepper water for three days, or consume olive oil and Epsom salts before going to bed. None of those are backed by science, by the way, and can actually cause way more harm than good.
The liver (along with almost 500 other processes) is the master of all detoxification in your body, and rarely needs your help to do so.
However, there are some situations in which the liver’s ability to complete proper detoxification gets impaired – which is mainly brought about by an over-accumulation of toxins.
“Toxins” is another popular word today, with everything from gluten to sugar being named the next big toxin.
But, toxins that actually put a burden on your liver are more likely to come from things like taking prescription medications, byproducts of gut bacteria fermentation, exposure to mold, chemicals or heavy metals in skin care products, or simply breathing in car exhaust on your way to work.
Our modern world is filled with toxins, and while we can make a conscious effort to reduce our exposure, there’s no way to eliminate all of these sources from our lives.
And for many people, these toxins never pose an issue – their liver is able to handle the load and their body can successfully excrete them from its system.
Gut Infections, Chronic Illness, and Toxins
But, for people with chronic illnesses, gut infections, autoimmune disease (all conditions that increase the liver’s toxic load), the liver can get a little busy, and actually become overburdened.
I started noticing signs of a overburdened detox system after I took the antibiotics xifaxan and neomycin to treat my methane dominant SIBO.
Now, I don’t think that these two antibiotics alone caused my liver to be overburdened and were the only cause of my detox issues - but they were definitely what pushed it all over the edge.
Prior to taking those two medications, I had been on way too many round of herbal antimicrobials, a few courses of antibiotics for SIBO, as well as several rounds of two different prescription antifungals - which are known for being tough on the liver.
The thing was, in my 3+ years of using antimicrobials and antibiotics to treat my SIBO no one ever mentioned to me that all of these pills might be affecting my liver’s ability to detox.
What happens when you take these supplements and prescriptions to kill bacteria in your gut is that those bacteria release toxic byproducts while they’re being eradicated - they don’t like to go down without a fight!
So, for years my gut has basically been a breeding ground for toxins that get sent straight to the liver to clean up and remove from my body. This crucial organ had been working in overdrive for a while before I decided to throw it it’s most recent blow by doubling up on my prescription antibiotics.
After finishing my course of xifaxan and neomycin, I had no appetite, was super nauseous after eating even the smallest amount of food, couldn’t tolerate fatty foods at all, was having diarrhea multiple times a day, and would have heart palpitations after eating.
These were symptoms I had NEVER experienced before, and truthfully I just thought they were related to stress. It wasn’t until I landed my dehydrated self in the ER after weeks of non-stop diarrhea (plus I wasn’t drinking very much water since I was so nauseous), that I realized there had to be something else going on here.
Thinking it was only another digestive issue, I took a GI-MAP stool test - which uncovered some parasite overgrowths as well as dysbiotic gut flora.
And because all I knew was to treat gut issues with antimicrobials, I started on yet another round of herbal supplements to deal with the parasites. However, after about a week on these supplements I started to break out in itchy rashes and hives after eating, and my gut issues weren’t any better.
It wasn’t until I switched health care practitioners that I learned these hives were a detoxification reaction - one that only an overburdened liver would give.
With this new nutritionist, I also learned that the majority of my fat digestion issues (and most of the symptoms I’d been experiencing) stemmed from sluggish bile, and a gallbladder and liver that were just so worn out from my years of unknown abuse to these crucial organs.
Since I’ve found out that these digestive issues weren’t actually related to the overgrowth like I thought they were (shout out for working with someone who knows what they’re doing!), I’ve started some really gentle detoxification methods (and stopped taking antimicrobials) that are actually making a huge difference in how I feel.
Unlike rounds and rounds of antimicrobials, these detoxification methods are extremely gentle and healing to my body, and I can definitely tell a difference.
My skin (I’ve struggled with acne for years) is the clearest it’s ever been, I’m sleeping so much better and not waking up as much at night, and I’m beginning to see my ability to tolerate fats increase again.
Since I’ve had so much success with these relatively simple and inexpensive detox methods, I wanted to share them with you!
So, get ready, and get detoxing!
(And just as a disclaimer: all of these detoxification methods are extremely gentle, however other detox methods can cause a lot of harm if your detox pathways aren’t open and your body isn’t healthy enough to support a detox. I wouldn’t recommend attempting any sort of detox without the guidance of a trusted medical professional.)
Easy Detox Tip #1: Drink More Water
I know, I know, you’ve heard this a million times - drink more water. But, seriously this one’s a game changer.
Toxins are carried out of the body in a few different pathways - one of which is through the kidney’s ability to filter toxins from the blood and excrete them through the production of urine.
When you’re not well hydrated, you don’t expel those toxins as readily through urination, and they have a better chance of getting reabsorbed into your body.
Another way toxins leave your body is through your intestinal tract. And staying hydrated is a key way to help your keep your bowels moving regularly so that those toxins don’t have time to re-enter your body.
I know this tip sounds boring and way too simple to actually be worth anything - but trust me, I’ve been seriously upping my water intake for the last few months and I can see a difference.
And if I don’t get enough to drink one day, I’m usually so thirsty when I wake up in the morning - a sign that my detox organs are loving that extra hydration and are missing it when it’s not there.
So, just try it - work on drinking half your body weight (in ounces) of water every day. There won’t be any magical moment when you know it’s working, or a drastic decrease in symptoms like we’re all used to on antimicrobial protocols. But, I bet that over time you’ll start to feel better and some of those small annoyances (like headaches and that afternoon energy crash) might just disappear.
Easy Detox Tip #2: Eat More Bitter Foods
As far as the best foods to support detoxification go, the more bitter the better.
Bitter foods help to stimulate the liver to release bile - and bile is the vehicle by which toxins in your gut are stored and excreted from your body.
Which is maybe one reason why detoxification issues are so common today - bitter foods just aren’t that pleasant to eat.
Bitter leafy greens (like beet greens, turnip greens, or mustard greens) are especially powerful in helping support our detoxification pathways, and they contain so many key nutrients that also support proper liver functioning (like B vitamins, folate, and magnesium).
This article from The Paleo Mom does a great job of describing the phases of detoxification, which nutrients are essential for each phase, and what foods can support these processes.
To help support my liver and detox pathways I’ve started including leafy greens each night with my dinner, and I make sure to eat plenty of servings of sulfur and phytochemical rich veggies (like broccoli, brussel sprouts, and asparagus) with every meal.
It’s not a change that you’re going to be able to make overnight, but slowly adding in more of these nutrient rich vegetables into your diet will do wonders for your body’s ability to detox properly.
Easy Detox Tip #3: Use Castor Oil Packs
Castor oil is readily absorbed through the skin and is extremely high in ricinoleic acid which gives it amazing antiinflammatory and lymph stimulating properties.
The idea behind a castor oil pack to support the liver and gallbladder (which in turn supports detox) is that you keep the castor oil in contact with the skin directly over the liver (just under your right rib cage) for at least an hour with a heat source (like a heating pad).
When I first heard of this method of detox, I’ll admit I was pretty skeptical - I mean how can an oil on your skin help your liver and gallbladder to function better and improve your detoxification?
But, as I began to incorporate this method into my daily routine, I noticed a few things.
First, my gallbladder would gurgle and make noises like crazy almost as soon as I put the castor oil and heat on my right side. If I put my hand over my gallbladder (just under your right rib cage, close to the center line of your body) I could feel fluid moving - it was pretty cool, and as you can imagine my skepticism quickly disappeared.
And now that I’ve been doing castor oil packs for a few months, my fat digestion and nausea have slowly subsided, and I have to believe that this pretty far-out detox method is actually doing some good.
Not to mention that laying down in a quiet, dark room for an hour does wonders for relaxation and my stress response!
All you need to get started is some castor oil, an unbleached flannel, a heating pad, and an old towel. And, The Wellness Mama has a great article on how to do castor oil packs, you can check it out here.
Easy Detox Tip #4: Take Epsom Salt Baths
Epsom salt baths have been something I’ve been doing for years, but I had no idea that they actually help support my body’s detoxification processes.
There are a few reasons why soaking in a hot bath are great for getting all those pesky toxins out.
First, although you cannot “sweat out toxins,” sweating and increasing your internal temperature helps to improve fluid and lymph flow through the body - which can help to remove toxins.
Also, epsom salt (also known as magnesium sulfate) is an antagonist to toxins in the body. So, when you absorb this form of magnesium through your skin in a bath, it basically takes up all the space in your cells that was once held by the toxins and forces them out.
To make your epsom salt bath even more detoxifying, you can add a binding agent like bentonine clay to soak up all the toxins that the epsom salts displaced.
I love the detox bath recipes from Grass Fed Salsa, which you can try here.
Incorporating these baths into your weekly routine is not only a great way to support detoxification, but it also helps you relax and wind down after a stressful day, and the hot bath water and calming magnesium will help you fall asleep more easily too.
The Bottom Line
I’ve experienced first hand the ramifications of only focusing on removing unwanted overgrowths with a barrage of antimicrobials and/or antibiotics.
Your body may be able to keep up with the extra burden of removing the toxic byproducts of both the bacteria and the antibiotics for a little while, but I’ve learned that sooner or later you’ll start to feel the effects.
If I were to do it all over again, I would focus heavily on supporting my liver, and other essential detox organs before, during, and after my SIBO treatments.
But, now since I know that detoxification support is critical to maintaining good health of all body systems while treating overgrowths and gut infections, I’ve developed some simple but effective detox methods that I absolutely love.
To get started on your detox journey you can work on incorporating these four, easy methods into your weekly routine.
And just know, improving your body’s ability to detox is a slow process, change and noticeable improvements won’t happen overnight. But, if you’re consistent and faithful to these methods, your body’s ability to detox will improve - and your liver will love you forever!
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