It’s the time of year when we return to the gym full of New Years resolution!

We read up on all the articles dissing “Detox plans” and feel smug that our colon, liver, skin and kidneys will make us feel better if only we eat right, rest well and exercise properly. And for most of us that is enough.

The “Detox” myth

The word “Detox” has become inflammatory for people that value science everywhere, because it is used in a set of pseudo-scientific theories which claim our systems have become toxic for some reason (select chosen explanation from the following: cooked food, meat, alcohol, parasites, PCBs, heavy metals), and need to undergo some unusual treatment (which usually makes a lot of money for someone) to “cleanse” the system.

I recall when doing my first HND at Westminster University, our Phyiology lecturer commented that the people who undergo these “cleanses” to clear “toxins” and increase beauty are often the very same people that have Botulism toxin (the most powerful natural toxin known) injected in their faces – sometimes at the same clinics!

But we feel “Toxic”

However, this pseudoscience and strange treatments are grabbed by desperate people who experience chronic malaise, who may value the scientific approach, but use the term “toxin” because it reflects how they feel: poisoned somehow, and they find treatments like colonic hydrotherapy seem to give them at least temporary relief. The words “toxin” and “toxification” have entered common usage to describe how people feel, even if it is not used in the scientific sense.

For maybe 20% of us, following government guidelines on good diet, good rest and good exercise may not have sorted out our digestive upset and lethargy. We may be feeling crampy and bloated, with a poor core and struggle through our workouts as well as our day jobs.

We may even decide to be gluten free, dairy free and popping the acidophilus hoping a “broad spectrum placebo” (thanks Lee Evans for the term!) effect will kick in. But for some people that also is not enough.


New Scientist magazine (18th November 2017) article “Gluten-sensitive? It may actually be a carb making you ill” introduced the work done by Australian Monash University to develop a food plan to minimise intake of indigestible sugars that they call FODMAPs. Even the term is an indigestible mouthful: Fermentable Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides, and Polyols.

So what is the big deal about them?

It is thought many of us have an altered micro biome (gut bacteria) which may ferment these sugars and give us gas, cramping and erratic visits to the lavatory.

First, we all have problems with beans because they contain galactans – long chains of galactose, which we cannot break up.

Many of us have problems with lactose, either an inherited genetic intolerance or an acquired condition (from giardia infection, for example).

And up to 30% of us even have fructose malabsorption. Fructose malabsorption turns the usual dietary advice upside down – all the things we are advised to eat become a problem: many fruits like apples, pears, stone fruit such as peaches and cherries will set off gas, bloating and diarrhoea. The wholegrain cereals like wheat, rye and even oats can cause 24 hours of upset. And all those winter warmers we normally eat every day – onions, beetroot, cabbage, mushrooms – become little concentrated balls of discomfort in the belly.


About 20% of us have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It is described as a “functional disorder” rather than “inflammatory disease” because people with it are not prone to cancer or other pathologies, though there is an inflammatory component, as anyone with it will testify! The cause of it is unclear, but it can be genetic, or early diet, or even a course of antibiotics can set it off. Stress plays a big part in setting off the symptoms. If we have a food intolerance as well, then the bowel can go haywire, cramping and causing diarrhoea or just losing tone and giving constipation. Or even alternating between the 2! This discomfort can set off an inflammatory response, and we can feel lethargic and sore inside. The inflammatory response can cause reflex muscle weakness, and it may be we lose our core strength, and become vulnerable to postural issues.

FODMAPs can have a big effect on people with an irritable bowel. Monash University researchers suggest up to 75% of people with irritable bowel will get significant relief of symptoms if they miss out FODMAPS for a time. Also, according to specialists at Guys Hospital in London, people with more serious inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis can benefit from this regime.

Why not try a “Detox”?

So this January, it couldn’t hurt to take a rest for maybe 3 or 4 weeks from the foods you normally eat every day: meat, wheat, apples, chocolate, sugar, whatever…. You can download an App from Monash University which details which foods contain FODMAPs and which are free, as a guide.

Maybe even practice some routines to stimulate the organs of elimination? Brushing/massaging the skin? Self massage of the belly? Drinking plenty of water?

All these things are considered good practice, and funnily enough, they are the stock in trade of patented Detox regimens!

It is worth considering in addition gentle bodywork to relax stress, and it may be worth thinking about some specific abdominal massage to normalise muscle tone in an upset system.

Ask Martin on 07710 314432 for details!