Did you know that the cleaning crew is waiting to clean your gut? Yes, it’s ready several times per day to sweep the sides and the space inside your intestines to leave them nice and clean and healthy! Considering that very often disease begins in the gut, this is a critical part of our health maintenance.
Cool, right?! You have this internal cleaning crew that works without you even noticing and you don’t have to pay for its services either. While this is true, your crew can only do its job under one condition and that is totally in your hands. It only starts moving when you are not digesting any food. In other words, it gets active between meals. So when you are eating a meal or even just munching on a snack, it doesn’t even think about starting its job.
It’s a little like wanting to clean your house when there are kids’ toys, school artwork, clothes, paperwork and unwashed dishes cluttering the floor and other surfaces you want to clean. It’s hard getting down to the dust, crumbs and grime that way, so you may know the feeling that you don’t even want to start cleaning because you know you first need to tidy up. If you have a cleaning lady you might do the tidying up the night before to make sure that cleaning efforts can be effective.
When you are not eating, the ‘floor’ is tidy for your cleaning crew to sweep small, undigested food particles as well as bacteria and potential foreign substances all the way from the stomach into the colon. And of course at the end of the colon the ‘trash’ is taken out with the stool. The cleaning action happens with a wave-like movement called peristalsis. These waves are quite strong even if we don’t feel them. Peristalsis is also what allows you to drink through a straw while you are in a handstand position (give it a try if you feel up to it :-)). The waves are stronger than gravity.
So here is how you can get your gut-cleaning crew moving on a regular basis giving it a hand in your health maintenance:
Leave two, or best three hours between eating, to make sure the clutter is out of the way. If you suffer from small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)*, leaving 4 hours between meals is recommended as this gives you the biggest change for a full cleaning cycle. This will help pushing the bacteria from your small intestine back into the colon where they belong and where they can do their good work for your health maintenance. It’s not that you cannot have healthy snacks in between big meals; just plan them to leave enough time before the next time. Grazing, eating a little bit of something whenever you walk by food, is what we want to avoid. An extra tip: leave 12 or, if you can, 14 hours without eating between your last meal in the evening and your breakfast for an extra thorough clean at night.
Next time you feel tempted to nibble on something, ask yourself what’s more important: giving in to the craving or keeping the ‘floor’ clear from clutter for your cleaning crew to sweep through and keep your gut healthy.
By the way, your cleaning crew is called ‘Migrating Motor Complex’ in medical terms in case you want to find more information on it.
*Please note that when you do suffer from IBS/SIBO you will very likely need to implement more interventions than spacing out your meals. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.