The Detox Dilemma

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An effective meal plan is all about good microbes. Celebrity nutritionist Shonali Sabherwal guides you to the perfect probiotic formula for good health

Living in the age of the six-pack has its upsides as well as downsides. The idea of looking good having acquired a new meaning, people are chasing after newer and quicker ways of being fit and looking it, and one consequence of this is the notion of ‘detox’ being severely misunderstood. We should be detoxing from everything on a daily basis: negative thoughts, situations, people and most importantly, foods that do not make for stronger immunity.

One of the aims my idea of detox has at its core, is to replenish the body with good bacteria, thereby strengthening the inner ecosystem and building up gut biodiversity. While this might sound complicated, it really isn’t. If you understand what ‘probiotic’ means (that which stimulates the growth of good bacteria) then you know what I am talking about.

Go probiotic

Macrobiotics (‘macro’ meaning large, and ‘bios’, life) makes probiotics the foundation of its dietary approach. As Indians, when it comes to dairy products, we tend to focus on yoghurt alone. However, dairy comes with its own ramifications – casein (a protein that does not assimilate), and homogenisation and pasteurisation that strip milk of its good qualities. Every culture has fermented food: kanji (North India), sauerkraut (Germany), kimchi (Korea), miso (Japan), kvass (Russia) and so on. Most of us tend to neglect the art of including it in our daily diet.

Microbe mathematics

We must remember the forgotten entity called the human microbe – those small microorganisms that make up our gut – the good, the bad as well as the neutral ones together making up the ecosystem. While we feed our organs with the foods we eat, we forget to feed these microorganisms. Just remember – it is when the bad microbes outnumber the good microbes that trouble starts brewing and a downward spiral of ill health happens. A system where the bad bacteria crowd out the good ones can manifest anything from a migraine, allergy or food sensitivity to a leaky gut (junctions of the intestinal lining getting more permeable, allowing undigested food and toxic particles to escape into the bloodstream), ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, autoimmune conditions and more.

The solution

Begin by removing trigger foods that cause bad bacteria to multiply such as sugar, white refined flour, food with additives, sweeteners, alcohol and meats. Consume carbohydrate-rich foods that help good microbes to multiply such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits and quality fermented foods for every meal. To curb sugar cravings, add a whole grain to your daily diet – brown rice, jowar, barley, ragi, and/ or other millets. Chew these well. Eat one portion of protein, drink carrot juice daily and add sprouts and sweet vegetables to your diet. And most importantly, try and stay stress-free. Also, remember, jaggery is sugar in raw form, so it is a simple sugar that will convert slower but will still affect insulin levels. It should be a luxury food and diabetics should avoid it.

Fermentation and superfoods

Detoxing is meant to put you in a healthier space by restoring your body’s acid-alkaline balance, rewiring your digestive system and helping you jump off the diving board into a pool of good bacteria. And without including fermentation, any detox plan will fall flat. If you manage to do all of this while adding to your diet a few superfoods that are rich in antioxidants, the result can be exemplary.

The writer is a macrobiotic nutritionist. The views expressed in the article are her own

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