For the past 7 days I was on an ayurvedic cleanse in preparation for my Panchakarma treatment with Dr Lad at the Ayurvedic Institute in ABQ, NM. It is the beginning of my month-long detox journey that will come to an end on May 6th. This week all my detox food was made by the ayurvedic chef Divya at Bhagavat Life. My boyfriend and a few of my clients were doing the same cleanse for 5 days. After the 5 days were over, I cooked all the food myself.
The idea of an ayurvedic detox is to take the load of digestion by eating mostly soup based, easy to digest meals and veggies. No frozen, canned, old, or cold food. No dairy, wheat, bread, eggs, coffee, chocolate (anything with stimulants) meat, strong spices like chilly, onion, garlic, nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers), creamy or hard-to-digest food. Oh, and very little salt and oils! You can read more about cleanse-facilitating Ayurvedic diet here.
Veggies, kitchari with kulthi beans, pureed veggie soups, soaked almonds, apricots, prunes, and figs, and steamed apples were the core of my diet this past week.
For the most part this transition was pretty easy for me because I like soups and love my veggies. Some things that I missed were macaroons from Lifethyme and raw acai pudding from Juice Press. Thankfully, the cravings went away within a few days and now they don’t even sound appetizing. Instead I m craving limes on everything, baked bitter melon, and Moringa soup. Sounds crazy but it’s true! Our cravings can shift quite when our body is cleaner and taste buds are more sensitive.
There have been quite a few realizations along the way that might be helpful to you if you are embarking on a cleanse or a detox program this Spring. Some of them I knew before and they just become more ingrained through a deeper personal experience and some were new.
10 Valuable Tips For Your Next Detox/Cleanse
- Get clear on the ‘why’ of you detox and remind yourself about it when you want to give up/cheat – my goal is to renew, to nourish my body and my digestive system. As long as I keep in mind that this month is all about nourishing my body and giving it what it needs vs using it solely to experience pleasure (as from eating sweets), it helps me to stay on track. We are in the utilizing mode our entire life, taking a few days to reverse the trend and do things for the body is a compassionate thing to do.
- Clear the house of temptation – The first few days are the most challenging because you are changing your diet and our body and mind try to resist change. If you have cookies, crackers, ice cream, or even pickles at home, you will be more likely to reach for them. Be kind to yourself and don’t rely on the willpower, just give whatever is not a part of your cleanse away.
- Adapt your movement/exercise routine but don’t stop it – Your energy levels might change depending on the cleanse that you are doing. If you don’t feel like doing your regular 40 min cardio or 60 min yoga routine, do less or choose a gentler way to move. I walked outside a lot, did yoga every day, and couldn’t get enough of my trampoline. Pushing your body to do heavy weight training or too many HIIT workouts will only deplete the body during the cleanse time.
- Do an oil massage at least every other day – Oil massage is great to optimize blood circulation, lymph drainage, and reduce any fatigue and soreness that might appear on day 3 or 4 of the cleanse. You can use sesame or almond oil. I used Lymphatic massage oil. I wrote about oil massage in more detail here.
- Take hot bath to feel less toxic – Try adding Epson salt, baking soda, and ginger powder. It helps to reduce all the detox side effects that can range from fatigue, soreness, crankiness, and feeling spacey. I usually take a bath after my 5-10min oil massage.
Use functional veggies to stimulate detox through liver and kidneys – asparagus, daikon, kulthi lentils, beets, taro root, bitter melon, dandelions, fresh sprouts all are wonderful detoxifiers. I had a rotation of each one of the above throughout the week. Bitter melon is one of my favorites! It has a bitter taste and helps to balance out insulin levels and prevents sugar cravings. It is great baked or sauteed with some lime sprinkled on it. You can find it at any Asian store.
- Have a tasty gentle laxative such as prunes and apricots (soaked over night and sweet water drained) or a lightly steamed apple with cloves – It helps to keep things moving out of your body and provides for a sweet taste that you might be missing.
- Use smart spices to improve digestion – fennel, coriander, cumin, ginger, turmeric. Try fennel, coriander, cumin tea in between meals. It is very soothing for a bloated or sensitive tummy. If you want a step by step guide on how to reduce bloating and gas with Ayurveda, you can download it here.
- Use increased sensitivity to notice trends – when your body is cleaner, you become more sensitive to the effects of food. This is a great time to create your mental map of the emotions that certain foods can create. I, for example, became highly aware of the grounding and calming nature of grains, the liveliness of a small quantity of sprouts but almost anxiety with too many, the heating effect of salt and a cooling effect of fennel seeds. So when I felt a bit unstable Monday morning after having a bit too many mung bean sprouts and baby kale for Sunday dinner, I used a thin oatmeal with zucchini and ghee to pacify my nervous system.
- Keep dinner your lightest meal with mostly veggies and/or a soup – this is one is one of the key elements of my daily life both on a detox and in regular life. I find that having a light dinner, helps me to wake up early and feel very energetic in the morning. It is a key to weightloss according to John Douillard. Cate Stillman of Yoga Healer is also a fan of a light dinner. If doing it every day is unrealistic, start with 3-4 days a week. Focus on eating a bigger and more filling lunch.
Get Help With Self-Sabotaging Behaviors
If you feel that you want to implement changes that will benefit your body or maybe even do a detox at home to reset your metabolism, but feel that you need support and guidance, my friend Dana, the creator of Food Coach NYC is doing a group program starting April 23rd.
Dana was instrumental in helping me understand the craving and food sensitivity connection and ways to help my body heal. This 6 week program would be great for anyone looking to jumpstart weightloss and to feel more empowered and at peace with food. You can learn more about Dana and Body Project program here.