What Is An Ayurvedic Cleanse?
Have you heard of the Ayurvedic cleanse? Cleansing is a part of Ayurvedic traditional medicine. Ayurveda views digestive health as key to overall health and longevity. This is because, according to Ayurveda, “you are what you digest.” Every cell in our body uses nutrients from our food for energy and nourishment. When digestion is weak or disrupted, whole-body health may decline. This can ultimately lead to disease.
To promote digestive health, Ayurveda recommends cleansing. Cleansing gives the digestive tract an opportunity to rest, renew and reset. Cleansing is recommended in the spring and fall to help your body adjust to the change of season. On the other side of an Ayurvedic cleanse, you may experience more balanced digestion and elimination, increased energy, clearer skin, and a stronger, more resilient constitution in general.
An Ayurvedic cleanse involves eating mostly a single food: kitchari. Kitchari is a one-pot, spiced stew of rice and soaked legumes that is very easy for most people to digest. It offers your body complete, accessible protein, and is considered gently detoxifying and toning to the digestive tract. In addition to kitchari, you should drink lots of warm water and, if you like, herbal teas. In this article, we will talk about ways to add variety to your cleanse, practices that can enhance the effects of your cleanse, and tips for having a more comfortable cleansing experience.
Our Three-Phase Guide to a Simple Ayurvedic Cleanse
Your cleanse can last anywhere from one day to one month. If you are a beginner, start small, with a one- to seven-day cleanse. Please note, cleansing is not recommended if you are weak, debilitated, convalescing, pregnant, breastfeeding, menstruating, or have an eating disorder. If you aren’t sure if cleansing is right for you, talk to your doctor before undertaking a Ayurvedic cleanse.
Ayurvedic Cleanse Phase One: Prepare
- Time It Right. You may experience headaches, fatigue, or other uncomfortable symptoms after a day or two of cleansing. If possible, plan your cleanse for a time when you will be able to take extra rest if needed, such as over a weekend. Avoid cleansing during extremely busy/active times in your life. Make sure you get sufficient sleep during your Ayurvedic cleanse.
- Begin Eliminating Foods. You may have a more comfortable cleanse experience if you eliminate certain foods and substances gradually before beginning your cleanse. Try eliminating dairy, wheat, meat, sugar, and highly processed foods from your diet, as well as caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs. When your Ayurvedic cleanse begins, you will not be consuming any of these items, but it can be uncomfortable to suddenly eliminate them all at once — especially substances that cause cravings, like caffeine and sugar!
- Grocery Shop. Obtain the following ingredients that you will cook with for the duration of your cleanse:
- Ingredients for Kitchari and Carminative Spice Blend (see Kitchari Cleanse Recipe)
- Ghee (Order Full Moon Ghee online!)
- Favorite seasonal vegetables
- Fresh lemon and ginger for tea
- Favorite herbal teas
- Dried herbs for infusions
- Dandy Blend or other herbal coffee substitute
- Fresh seasonal fruit
- Nuts and seeds
- Make Carminative Spice Blend. Carminative herbs and spices stimulate and soothe the digestive system, encouraging balance and healthful function by relieving gas and cramping. You will use this spice blend liberally each day of your Ayurvedic cleanse. Get the recipe here.
Ayurvedic Cleanse Phase Two: Cleanse!
- The night before the first day of your cleanse, and every night during the cleanse, prepare your mung beans or lentils to soak overnight. See our Kitchari Cleanse Recipe for instructions.
- Start your mornings with a cup of warm water with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, ginger tea (either fresh or bagged), herbal tea, or your herbal coffee substitute of choice.
- Make sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of warm water. Avoid cold water and cold foods in order to promote balanced digestive fire.
- Each morning, prepare a fresh batch of our Kitchari Cleanse Recipe, which you will eat throughout the day. Eat kitchari until you are satisfied, whenever you are hungry or for three meals a day.
Spice It Up: Adding Variety to Your Cleanse
- You may find it easiest to prepare kitchari and nothing else for the duration of your cleanse. Or, you may prefer to eat cooked vegetables with your kitchari most meals. Prepare your vegetables by steaming, roasting, or sautéing in a little ghee with herbs and spices.
- Enjoy hot water with fresh lemon juice, fresh ginger or ginger-lemon tea,
- Herbal teas and infusions may be drunk freely throughout the cleanse.
- If you desire, snack on fruit, nuts or seeds between meals of kitchari.
- Instead of kitchari, have a bowl of oatmeal with cooked fruit, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, and ghee.
Lifestyle Practices for Enhancing Your Ayurvedic Cleanse
- Get gentle to moderate exercise daily.
- Practice yoga and meditation.
- Drink teas or infusions of nourishing and/or detoxifying herbs such as dandelion, nettle, red clover, and oat straw. For infusion instructions, see our Kitchari Cleanse Recipe page.
- Attune to the rhythms of nature: go to bed by 10pm and wake up at 6am. Try eating your morning meal by 8am, lunch around noon, and dinner by 6pm.
- Before your daily shower or bath, try dry brushing and oil massage. For dry brushing, use a clean body brush to make small circles all over your body, brushing in the direction of your heart. For oil massage, use organic olive, coconut, jojoba, sesame, or grape seed oil to moisturize your skin. Rub oil into your skin in long strokes along your bones/muscles, and in small circles at your joints. Try Sore Muscle Rub or Breast Massage Oil from Sweet Birch Herbals!
- Stay warm. Dress warmly, and take hot baths, hot tubs or saunas if possible.
Ayurvedic Cleanse Phase Three: Reintroduction
Once you have finished your cleanse, gradually add more variety back into your diet. If you feel significantly better by the end of your cleanse than you did before, it could be useful to reintroduce the food groups you eliminated one at a time to notice if and how they affect you.
Sources for This Article:
An Introduction to Ayurvedic Cleansing – Banyan Botanicals
What is a Carminative? – The Naturopathic Herbalist