In a sluggish colon, undigested proteins, fats, and starches can become toxins; if the intestinal wall’s protective barrier of good bacteria is compromised and toxins enter the bloodstream, they tax the kidneys and other organs and can cause more serious conditions, says Brenda Watson, CNC, author of The Detox Strategy (Simon & Schuster, 2008).

EAT

Fiber. Include both soluble fiber (apples, beets, carrots, oats, legumes), which soaks up toxin-infused bile and ushers it out, and insoluble fiber (whole grains, flaxseed, fruit skins), which scours intestinal walls. Aim for 35–45 grams of fiber daily. 

Omega-3s. These essential fatty acids help lubricate the colon and support beneficial gut bacteria. Get 2 grams daily or more from fatty fish, flaxseed, or supplements, says Watson.

AVOID

Colon-cleansing herbs. Wormwood, rhubarb, cascara, and senna can aggravate chronic diarrhea.

TAKE

Probiotics. To build up “friendly” bacteria weakened by long-term constipation or a round of antibiotics, choose a probiotic with ten or more strains, including about 40 percent lactobacillus and 60 percent bifidobacteria, recommends Watson.

Digestive enzymes. Look for a plant-based product with amylase, lipase, and at least 75,000 to 100,000 HUTs, indicating content of proteases, which break down proteins. Take one capsule with each meal until GI problems resolve.

DO

Chew food well. Try 30 times before swallowing. “If food isn’t chewed thoroughly, saliva enzymes aren’t in contact with it long enough to begin the digestive process,” says Watson.