Some people claim that following a special diet for a short period of time can dramatically improve gut health. An example of this is the 3-day gut reset, which aims to increase the amount of beneficial bacteria a person has in their digestive tract.
While changing the diet and taking steps to lead a healthful lifestyle does benefit gut flora, there is little evidence that 3-day gut resets have lasting health benefits.
This article looks at what a 3-day gut reset is, what it might do, and how to try it.
A 3-day gut reset is a short diet that aims to improve digestive health by increasing the amount of beneficial bacteria in a person’s large intestine.
Bacteria and other microorganisms in the large intestine help break down food. This in turn helps the body absorb nutrients and eliminate waste.
However, research has shown that gut bacteria influence many other aspects of health, such as immunity and inflammation. This influence can be positive or negative, depending on the species of microbes a person has in their gut.
Gut resets aim to restore the balance of the microbiome by:
- removing foods that feed harmful bacteria and cause inflammation
- introducing plenty of prebiotic foods, which feed beneficial bacteria
- encouraging healthful practices, such as getting enough sleep and exercise and staying hydrated
Oftentimes, 3-day gut resets involve adopting habits that are generally beneficial for human health. Eating a healthful, balanced diet and eliminating potentially harmful foods may help people feel better in a variety of ways.
However, scientists have not investigated whether a 3-day gut reset can permanently change a person’s microbiome or create lasting health improvements.
Research has shown that short-term dietary changes do alter a person’s gut flora. In a 2013 study, researchers found that bacteria responded rapidly to a sudden change to a plant-based diet.
This suggests that a 3-day gut reset may positively influence the microbiome during the diet. For lasting benefits, however, it may be necessary to implement longer-term changes to diet and lifestyle.
According to a 2017 review, the Mediterranean diet can increase the amount and diversity of beneficial bacteria in the gut, whereas other types of diet may decrease it. The latter include:
- the Western diet, or Standard American Diet (SAD)
- gluten-free diets
The Mediterranean diet includes many of the features of a gut reset, focusing on healthy fats, vegetables, and other sources of fiber. A 3-day gut reset may help a person transition to a diet that includes more of these foods.
If a person wants to try a 3-day gut reset, it is a good idea to plan ahead. Gut resets often require sudden and significant changes to the diet, so it can help if a person prepares by:
- clearing out from cupboards or the refrigerator any foods they are trying to avoid
- planning meals for the next 3 days
- making a grocery list and shopping for the ingredients beforehand
- making or freezing dishes ahead of time
- making sure they have time each day to prepare homemade meals, exercise, and rest
Eat anti-inflammatory foods
On the first day of a gut reset, the focus is on eliminating inflammatory foods and drinks from the diet. These include:
- added sugars, such as table sugar, corn syrup, or ingredients ending in “-ose” (such as fructose)
- refined carbohydrates, such as pasta, pizza dough, cakes, and pastries
- foods high in saturated fat, such as processed meats
Instead, a person should eat plenty of fresh produce and healthy fats, including:
- leafy green vegetables, such as spinach or kale
- brightly colored vegetables, such as peppers, carrots, or eggplant
- fruits that are lower in sugar, such as berries, apples, or avocado
- olives and olive oil
- nuts and seeds
- oily fish and lean protein
Complex carbohydrates can provide slow-burning energy throughout the day. A person can try moderate portions of foods such as brown rice, quinoa, oats, or sweet potatoes.
Adequate water intake is essential for the body to function. A person can tell if they are drinking enough water by the color of their urine, which should be the color of pale straw.
During the gut reset, it is best to avoid caffeine and alcohol and replace them with water or herbal teas, such as peppermint, chamomile, or fennel.
Get adequate sleep
Some evidence suggests that sleep can impact the microbiome, as well as cognitive function. A person can try making time to wind down in the evening and establish a regular time for sleeping and waking.
Add more high fiber foods
Adding additional high fiber foods to the diet can provide beneficial gut flora with more to eat. Examples of high fiber foods include:
- raw vegetables and salads
- green juices or smoothies
- ground flaxseeds
- beans and lentils
A sudden increase in fiber intake may cause temporary bloating or gas. If this occurs, it is best to follow the diet from day one instead.
Try regular exercise
A small 2014 study found that exercise can have a beneficial effect on the diversity of the microbiome. Regular exercise can also help people relieve stress and maintain a moderate weight.
Gentle exercise is a good way to start. A person can try:
- tai chi
Try fermented foods
Fermented foods contain probiotics, which are live bacteria. A person can include in their diet:
As with high fiber foods, probiotics can cause side effects, such as bloating or gas. This may resolve on its own after a few days. If it does not, a person may want to reduce the amount of fermented foods they are consuming or stop eating them altogether.
Try relaxation techniques
- affect the speed of digestion
- increase the sensitivity of the intestines
- increase intestinal permeability
- negatively affect gut flora
A 3-day gut reset can be an opportunity for a person to introduce relaxation into their daily routine. This may involve:
- meditating or practicing mindfulness
- taking a warm bath
- getting a massage or doing self-massage
When the 3 days are over, a person may consider continuing some or all of these practices for long-term benefits.
Breakfast options include:
- coconut yogurt with blueberries and flaked almonds
- smoothie with coconut water, spinach leaves, an apple, a handful of blueberries, and a tablespoon of ground flaxseeds
- oatmeal with cinnamon and grated apple
Some lunch options include:
- salad with rocket, watercress, tomatoes, cucumber, and peppers, topped with hummus and green olives
- a chickpea flour wrap stuffed with salad, sauerkraut, and sliced tofu
- a vegetable soup
Dinner ideas include:
- lean chicken breast and vegetables stir-fried in coconut oil, fresh ginger, garlic, and tamari
- salmon and steamed green vegetables, such as kale, cabbage, or pak choi
- zucchini noodles and lentil bolognese sauce
Short-term gut resets may not be suitable for people who have certain health conditions, take medications, or are pregnant or breastfeeding. Additionally, because gut resets involve dietary restrictions, they may not be helpful for people recovering from eating disorders.
It is important to speak to a doctor or dietician before making any sudden dietary changes. It is also advisable to let a healthcare professional know about any persistent or troubling symptoms, as these could indicate an underlying health condition.
A 3-day gut reset may be beneficial as a way of transitioning to a more healthful diet or lifestyle. However, there is a lack of evidence supporting the notion that it can dramatically change the microbiome or a person’s overall health within a 3-day period.
Longer-term changes to the diet may have a positive impact on a person’s gut health and some chronic health conditions. A doctor or dietician can advise on the best approach for this.