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How to do a gut reboot—and why you might need one

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By now you probably know: What’s going on in your microbiome matters. The makeup of the trillions of microbes that live in your body controls everything from how well you may (or may not) be sleeping to your mood—and of course, any imbalance can lead to digestive problems.

Eating fermented foods, cutting out sugar, and adding a daily probiotic to your wellness routine all promote a healthy relationship with your bacterial guests—but sometimes you have to go all-out and do a total gut reboot, says Prudence Hall, MD.

“It’s not just about the foods we eat, but also the parasites we have.”

The former gynecologist and surgeon has made it her mission to help women figure out their gastrointestinal issue (reminder: ladies often have more gut drama than guys)—and she’s now a pioneer in regenerative medicine, conducting blood tests for patients that often expose complex issues.

According to Dr. Hall, even if you avoid any foods that have been linked to inflammation, you might still need to take extra steps to bring your system back on track.

“It’s not just about the foods we eat, but also the parasites we have,” Dr. Hall says. “We have to understand what’s actually in the GI tract. Even if someone isn’t eating dairy or sugar, it doesn’t mean they don’t have parasites.” Um, yikes! But how exactly do you find out? And then what do you do once you have that intel?

Here, Dr. Hall explains everything you need to know about doing a gut reboot—including why you might need one in the first place.

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The new annual exam?

Just like going to the gyno once a year, Dr. Hall is a firm believer that women should add a digestive checkup to their yearly schedule. Typically it involves blood and stool samples (hey, no one said this was glamorous)—and the intel these tests provide is extremely valuable.

“Usually performed by a naturopathic, functional, or regenerative doctor, [they] can reveal what parasites and probiotic strains are in your gut,” Dr. Hall says. “And that is linked to having good immunity, nutrient absorption, and even preventing cancer.”

Just like going to the gyno once a year, Dr. Hall is a firm believer that women should add a digestive checkup to their yearly schedule.

Once you know where your GI tract stands, your doctor can personalize your regimen, recommending enzymes and probiotics that have more of the bacteria strains you need (yes, even if you have parasites).

But besides once a year, there are other times when doing a reboot is a good idea: if you’re experiencing things like belly bloat on the reg, or you keep getting sick. “There’s a huge part of our immune system which lines the entire gut,” Dr. Hall says. So if you feel run down way too often, there could be some unwanted parasites in your microbiome.

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Your GI Rx

After getting your gut checked out, the next step is to detox anything that might be causing your body distress: namely gluten, dairy, sugar, eggs, soy, processed food, and alcohol. “Gluten is the most important to weed out,” Dr. Hall says. “It’s a huge inflammation causer—even if you don’t have a sensitivity to it.”

Dr. Hall says replacing these foods with whole grains, healthy protein, and plenty of greens gives your GI tract a chance to heal itself. Ideally, this will become your new normal. Want to take your cleanse to the next level? Eat only greens for a week, and then slowly add in whole grains and protein.

If you’ve been experiencing gastro distress beforehand, however, don’t expect your symptoms to magically clear up after a week or two—you might have leaky gut, in which case giving your digestive system the time to repair itself is crucial for long-term health.

“When the cells are less burdened by toxicity, the metabolism is more effective.”

“Then you’ll be reacting badly to all foods,” Dr. Hall says, explaining why a gut cleanse won’t have miraculous benefits right away, if you have leaky gut. “Also, if you have a meat-heavy diet and switch to a plant-based diet, that could cause a lot of gas and bloating, too, because your body isn’t used to it.” Fortunately, she has a solution: digestive enzymes. (Yes, those again.) “They really help with the absorption of fiber and other nutrients,” she notes.

Ultimately, however, Dr. Hall stresses that avoiding inflammation-causing foods should really be an ongoing lifestyle. This helps boosts metabolism too, she explains, because fewer toxins means less stress on your adrenals. “When the cells are less burdened by toxicity, the metabolism is more effective,” Dr. Hall says.

The message is pretty clear: Doing this kind of reboot every now and then has some major benefits for your body. And when the microbiome is functioning as best as it can, so will the rest of you.

In other good-for-your-gut news, this eating plan is literally backed by science and these eight foods will give your microbiome a healthy boost.

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