Whenever I come home from traveling I like to do a gentle cleanse. I find that it helps me get back on track to my normal at-home diet. It’s also a great way to give my digestion a little break from all the hard work of eating food in a foreign country like India.
There are many different ways to cleanse so it’s important to find what’s right for your body, environment and the current season. I personally can’t do intense stripping cleansing like the Master Cleanse or multi-day juice fasts. I get terrible headaches, anxiety, chills and totally spaced out from these kind of cleanses. I’m not a health expert, but in general I do not recommend people try these long intensely restrictive fasts while maintaining their regular work/home life – this can be too stressful and that would be counterproductive! In certain controlled environments, under guidance and for a specific health condition, more restrictive cleanses can be incredibly healing, so I’m certainly not writing those off completely, I just don’t find they are the best choices for householders of good health.
So then how do I “cleanse”?
I eat simple cooked foods in moderate amounts, hydrate like crazy, take extra good care of myself and supplement with cleansing herbs and extra fiber. I sometimes use those 365 brand “Complete Body Cleanse” kits or take capsules of the Ayurvedic medicine, Triphala, as well as detoxifying herbal teas.
The method for cleansing I want to share with you today is a mono-diet. This means you eat only one type of food for each meal. The recipe I use for this cleanse is called kitchari. It is a staple of Ayurvedic diet and healing. It’s a wonderful meal for cleansing, but also for any time you are feeling a bit under the weather. It is nourishing and very soothing. Kitchari is served in India to people who are sick because it is so simple and easy to digest. The vegetables, legumes and rice provide a balanced meal of an easily assimilated protein while the spices are full of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and digestion-boosting properties. Onions, garlic and ginger –the trinity of roots, as Yogi Bhajan called them – are stimulating to the digestive fires and beneficial to the immune system.
A kitchari cleanse can be done for one day or many. I’ve done this mono-diet for up to a week before and I felt amazing afterwards. For severe illnesses, people have done kitchari mono-diets for weeks on end with very positive results. I find that even one day of kitchari makes me feel very light and balanced. Kitchari is very good for cleansing the colon so it’s especially beneficial for people with trouble digesting and eliminating their food in a healthy manner.
Each time I make kitchari it’s a bit different depending on whether I use brown or white rice and what spices and vegetables I use. Kitchari doesn’t’ have to be boring – mix it up!
If you are totally turned off by the idea of eating the same bowl of food multiple times a day, here’s a great modification:
Eat kitchari for lunch, dinner and an afternoon snack. In the morning, eat a bowl of cooked gluten-free cereal such as a steel-cut oats or millet. I flavor and supplement my hot cereal with warming spices such as cinnamon, cardamon and nutmeg and sweeten it with cooked fruit like apples or pears and a dash of molasses, maple syrup or brown rice syrup.
Mung Beans and Rice Kitchari
2 tablespoons of ghee or coconut oil
1 cup of mung beans
1 cup of basmati rice
9 cups water
4-6 cups chopped assorted vegetables (carrots, celery, kale, broccoli, sweet potato, zucchini, etc.)
2 onions, chopped
1/3 cup minced ginger root
8-10 cloves of minced garlic
1 heaping tsp. of turmeric
1 tsp. of black pepper
1 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. crushed chiles or cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. of coriander powder
1/2 tsp. of cumin powder
1/2 tsp. of mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. of cardamon powder
2 bay leaves
sea salt to taste
Soak beans and rice for at least 2 hours and then rinse. Add water to beans and rice and boil over a medium flame. Add vegetables to cooking beans and rice. In a large frying pan, heat ghee/oil. Add onions, garlic an ginger to hot oil and saute. Add spices. When done, combine onions with cooking mung beans and rice and continue to cook until well-done, stirring often. The consistency should be rich and thick. Add salt to taste when finished cooking.
How to make the most of your cleanse:
Get some extra Zzzzzs – Switch off and get a little more rest. Be lazy – your body and mind will benefit from the extra sleep.
Sweat and soak – End your day by soaking in an Epsom salt and essential oil bath. If you have the opportunity to go to a sauna, steam bath or hot spring, go soak your bones and sweat yourself clean.
Move your body and breathe deeply – Cleansing is not the time to bust out Third Series or run a half-marathon. Take it a bit easy in your exercise routine but still get some good movement. Perhaps a gentle yoga session, a good walk, some tai chi – something to move your blood and lymph and keep the joints lubricated will make you feel better as you’re cleansing and processing.
Start your day right by tongue-scraping to clear off the amma that collected overnight, detox your skin by dry-brushing before you shower and be sure to drink a big glass of warm water to encourage elimination before eating.
I like to take a cold shower in the morning to dilate the blood vessels, flush my body of toxins and wake up. After yoga practice I normally take a hot shower to soap/shampoo etc. and then I rub my skin with a vata-pacifying oil like sweet almond or sesame.
Drink herbal tea – Make a large pot of Yogi Tea which is a blend of boiled cinnamon, ginger root, cardamon pods, black peppercorns, turmeric and cloves. I drink this tea multiple times a day with a splash of unsweetened almond milk. It’s very detoxing and beneficial for the digestion. It’s also warming so I find it to be very comforting when I am cleansing. I’m also a huge fan of tulsi tea. Tulsi (holy basil) is warming as well, so it’s a great choice for the cooler months. It is incredibly healing and great for building a strong immune system.
Stick clear of all intoxicants/stimulants – This means no coffee, booze, or drugs (except for necessary rx, if you take any), no caffeine or sugar. Give your body a break from these substances that are so hard on your liver and adrenals.
Break your fast intelligently – Don’t go out and order a big pizza and ice cream! Stick with a low-inflamation and healthy diet. Slowly introduce more diverse foods. Use your cleanse as a way to bring healthier, plant-based foods into your routine.
Hope you find these suggestions helpful.