In case you haven’t noticed, dieting is out and cleansing, detoxing, juicing and even “souping” is in. This interest is fueled by a movement away from eating highly processed and packaged foods toward eating clean, whole based foods. In a nutshell, fruits and vegetables are hot right now.
If you’ve considered a cleanse, you may be wondering if there is some truth to Dr. Oz’s 3-day detox cleanse. Or questioning if a cleanse can restore your digestive health and jump start weight loss?
The answer is yes based on a 2014 study conducted by the American Gut project.
The American Gut Project like other microbiome projects worldwide, have laid an important foundation for understanding the collections of microbes that inhabit all of our bodies. Of particular interest has been the role that the gut microbiome – the collection of microbial species in our digestive tract – has on obesity.
Over the past decade, multiple studies have demonstrated that diet influences the bacterial species that thrive in our gut. And, it seems that a diet high in fruits and vegetables, especially fiber promotes the development of “lean” bacterial species whereas a diet high in fats and sugar (the typical American diet) promotes the development of “obese” bacterial species.
Most recently, scientists at the American Gut Project wanted to see how diet affects the gut microbial community after a cleanse. Nineteen volunteers were given one of three diets, all lasting three days: a cheese and yogurt heavy diet, dietary cleanses (only fruit & vegetable smoothies; or only water with lemon, maple syrup and cayenne pepper – the Master Cleanse) and fasting (water only or minimal calorie intake).
Stool samples were used to determine each participant’s gut bacterial community. Samples were collected 3 days before, during the 3 day dietary intervention and about a week after. The bacterial species were then analyzed by the researchers to detect changes in the bacterial community.
What the researchers found is that extreme or moderate changes to an individual’s diet changed his/her microbiome, although how much it changed depended on the participant. The more extreme cleanses and fasts induced significant changes but not the same way in all participants.
The plant-based cleanse they used was the Dr. Oz 3-Day Detox Cleanse. For these participants, they consumed only fruit and vegetable smoothies plus a multivitamin along with a probiotic supplement.
During the cleanse, each participant’s bacterial community shifted. But, within a week of returning back to a more “normal” diet or “Western” food, the bacterial community shifted back to its original state.
Of particular interest were the specific microbial groups that changed during the dietary intervention. Participants following the 3-day cleanse saw an increase in the microbial groups Enterobacteriaceae and Akkermansia. The genus Akkermansia is thought to help ward off obesity and diabetes.
A small 2015 study showed that the strain Akkermansia muciniphilia may affect how your body processes food and affects your weight.
In the study, almost 50 participants started a six-week, low-calorie diet that included extra protein and fiber. At the start of the diet, people with a lot of A. muciniphila in their gut had lower blood sugar, and lower insulin levels, smaller waists and fewer fat cells under their skin than those with low levels of the bacteria.
After six weeks of calorie restriction, those who started with the most A. muciniphila had the biggest improvement in their blood sugar, insulin levels and body fat distribution.
What’s the main take away from this cleanse study? That diets high in fiber help to foster microbes that keep the gut healthy and support a healthy weight. The good news is that a dietary cleanse can jump start your gut microbiome to a favorable state. But, in order to maintain this beneficial balance, you need to continue to eat plenty of fiber – or lots of fruits and vegetables!
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.