Fall Detox with the Wisdom of Ayurveda
Is it really that time again? Fall is creeping up on us already! If you’ve been following bits about Ayurveda, you already know that seasonal changes are the best time to cleanse and detoxify so that you do not manifest strong illnesses when the season is in full swing. As the qualities of nature change, so do our bodies’ qualities, because we are linked to our environment. Fall is a tough time for Vata imbalances, so we try to preempt Vata-type conditions like joint pain and cracking, sciatica and arthritis, insomnia, and especially constipation and other digestive disorders. All dis-ease begins in the digestive system; and anything other than solid, complete, and regular daily bowel movements indicates trouble in paradise. If you are a busy person--multitasking, keeping a full schedule, juggling work or school and family, driving or flying all over all the time, hardly ever stopping to breathe and relax--you are very likely to manifest the imbalances of the Vata dosha, especially as the weather turns gusty, dry, and colder.
Before diving deep into your cleanse, start to change your diet. The classic cleansing food of Ayurveda is Kitchari. Recipes should include white basmati rice which is easily digestible, split mung dhal, gentle spices, ghee, and seasonally appropriate vegetables. Dial back meats, dairy, and of course sugars and caffeine. Also start to focus on warm foods, not raw cold foods at this time. Great spices include trikatu (ginger, pippali, and black pepper), turmeric, curry leaves, cumin, fennel, coriander, mustard seed, asafoetida (hing) and a sea or mineral salt. Some companies offer cleansing packets with all this included! (Banyan Botanicals) For fall cleansing, include Vata balancing vegetables like root vegetables, garden fresh peas, grated horseradish, and hard winter squashes. Try to maintain this dietary regimen for 1-2 weeks.
If you are brave and seeking authenticity, how about internal oleation? It’s a crucial part of traditional Pancha Karma, or Ayurvedic cleansing practices. You can buy ghee in many stores now, warm it to liquid state, and take 2 tablespoons each morning on an empty stomach. Sipping hot water with it can help, or tea made of ginger or trikatu if this mixture makes you a little nauseous at first. Those with high cholesterol should use flax oil instead. After three days of this, you can add external oleation, or Abyangha.
If you are typically Vata with a thin frame, fast movments, and rapid speech use sesame oil as a base. If you are Pitta with warm body temperature, easily flushed skin, and a moderate build use sunflower or coconut oil, even olive. If you are Kapha with a cool body, slow metabolism, and don’t get in a hurry about much, use a lighter oil like almond or mustard seed. Essential oils may be a part of these blends, and some companies make Dosha-specific blends. Massage the warmed oil into your whole body daily before showering or bathing. Include your scalp if you can. Do this every day of your cleanse. (Instructions: http://www.naturesformulary.com/Content/Images/uploaded/pdfs/Abyanga_techniques_1-_2012.pdf,
Triphala is a long-trusted and well researched three-fruit herbal combination vital to cleansing and tonifying the digestive system. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2249739/, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15673991, http://www.academicjournals.org/article/article1381930040_Deepa%20et%20al.pdf) It can be taken as a tea steeped from powder or in capsule form found from many Ayurvedic herbal companies. This should be consumed daily at least one hour after supper. If bowel movements are still a problem, you can add freshly ground flax or a psyllium seed drink to your meals of Kitchari. Try to take in 1-2 TBS of flax daily to get the fiber and the hormone detoxifying benefits.
For additional aid to the liver, some may wish to add detoxifying or balancing teas. There are teas made for each dosha (Maharishi), and general detox assist teas (Pukka, Yogi). In addition, you may look into the herbs Phyllanthus and Pichrorrhiza, especially for the stronger Pitta or Kapha dominant individuals. Following the cleanse, rebuild the body with a balanced whole foods diet (kitchari with vegetables is quite balanced, but some people need more), and rejuvenative herbs. For each dosha the favorites are: Ashwagandha for Vata, Shatavari for Pitta, and Purnarnava for Kapha. Most all of us can use a little Ashwagandha for energy and stress management (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23439798)
Be sure to rest more, slow down your schedule, and take time to breathe and meditate during your cleanse! If your menses start, wait until three days after the cycle ends to begin cleansing. Take this time to pay attention to how your body is connected to nature and her cycles, and reconnect with life that is happening all around you all the time.
Originally published for, Taste For Life Magazine August 2014