Ayurvedic detox diet - A step-by-step guide to cleansing your body

Posted on: Sunday, January 19, 2014


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Detoxing your body helps in a number of ways. It strengthens your immune system, helps your body function better, gets rid of toxins and helps you function much more efficiently. But there is a fine line between detoxing your body and starving it. We interviewed Dr. Nisha Manikanthan, Ayurvedic expert at The Art of Living, and asked her about the Ayurvedic way to detox. Here are excerpts from the interview.

What is the Ayurvedic detox diet?

It is a particular type of diet which allows your body to detox on its own. It is lighter on your digestive system, and is easier for your body to cope since it gets time and energy to perform its regular healing and detox processes. Apart from that, an Ayurvedic detox diet has a cleansing effect on your entire body.

Is it different for different people? On what basis is the diet decided?

Yes, it is different for each person. There are two types of detox diet. One is a general detox diet which is common for everyone. The second type, is a detox diet which is customized to a particular person’s body and needs. This type of diet is decided according to the amount of toxins the person has in his or her system (termed as ‘aama’ in Ayurveda). The factors that we look into, is how much aama a person has and which organ system it has affected. It is also decided based on the type of constitution the person has – vata, kapha or pitta – making the kind of toxin buildup of either vaat aama, kapha ama or pitta aama type. Lastly, we look into the personality of the person.

All this can be found by a simple procedure – by checking the person’s naadi (pulse). A practitioner may prefer to opt for other methods as well in order to be sure of the patient’s type of aama.

Why does one need to detox?

We live in an environment where we are exposed to different types of toxins, frequent change in the weather and different types of food. The environment, the radiation within it and the stress we experience every day, has a role to play in the accumulation of toxins in the body.

In general the body has the capability to flush out these toxins. In fact the detox process occurs in our body on a daily basis. But this may not happen effectively and sometimes one may not be supporting the body sufficiently to allow it to happen efficiently.

How often should it be done?

It depends on how much of toxins one has. For some people, they may need to detox once in a year and for others more frequent detox cycles may be required. But generally it is good to plan a detox once in three months.

What is the diet like?

When people have chronic diseases, a general detox may not be of much help. They will need a specific detox diet. There is a programme called Panchakarma. It includes certain types of diet processes, but the focus is not on diet alone, it is also on other processes that aid in the detox process.

In the case of a general detox diet, it is very safe and anyone can follow it, except for diabetics who should consult their diabetologist before starting any diet.

The best part about the Ayurvedic way to detox is that one may make a few changes in the diet according to their specific conditions and preferences.

Here is a sample diet:

For the first three days, have fruits, fruit juices, vegetables and vegetable juices. All the fruits and vegetables must be raw and have properties that help with detoxifying the body. Almost all fruits can be included and seasonal vegetables are optimal for this plan. The rule is that these fruits and veggies must be easy to digest and light on the stomach.

One can follow this diet for three days and then gradually switch to cooked foods like soups, cooked moong dal or moong-daal soup. You can then gradually add khichadi to your diet for the next three days. Apart from all this you can also have fruits, vegetables and their juices as well.

The best part about this diet is that the person is not starving and will get enough nutrition while allowing the body to get rid of toxins efficiently.

If you are a diabetic, the only change you need to make is to avoid having fruits and fruit juices. Instead eat only vegetables and vegetable juices. Apart from that if you are required to eat any specific foods as a part of your diabetic diet, you can incorporate them into your diet as well. Consult your doctor before starting with this.

Make sure you drink a lot of water and exercise sufficiently — it supports the detox process, and flushes out toxins.

The general rule about this diet is that you have to learn about your body. If you feel discomfort, excessive hunger or weakness, make sure you eat as often as you require.

For how long or how often should a person do this diet?

You can go on this diet once every three months. That is, approximately four times in a year. It is always good if you can go on the diet at the junction of seasons, like when summer changes into the monsoon season. This is especially good because when the climate changes, the body, and your diet goes through a lot of changes too, which is ripe for the buildup of toxins.

What should a person do after they have finished the course?

It is always good, after the ten days, to slowly go back to your old diet. It in fact makes sense to follow and stick to a healthy diet pattern throughout. But if you cannot, then wait for another session of detox.

The rule of thumb while choosing healthy foods is to pick those foods that the body can absorb and digest. When you plan your meals, have foods which are local, seasonal, natural, freshly-cooked, and organic.

Because India is a country where we have fresh produce throughout the year, we do not have to rely on imported or tinned/canned foods. That is also one of the reasons that as Indians we should avoid such foods. Because our bodies are not made to absorb nutrients from such foods, it leads to an accumulation of undigested toxins. Flash freezing, canning, curing etc — all process that are used to preserve foods — change the very composition of the food and its internal nutrients.

What are the benefits of this diet?

This type of diet is great to rebalance your body. It improves digestion, helps you sleep better, improves your skin tone, makes the skin clearer and helps improve your energy levels.

If you suffer from a chronic condition like diabetes or hypertension, there may be times when the diet may lead to what is known as a ‘healing crisis’ (where the method might cause more harm than good), if this happens you can go back to your normal diet and consult your doctor for a better suited plan. In such cases it is always better you follow such plans under the guidance of a professional.

How do you know you need a detox?

You may have digestive problems, sleep disturbances, skin problems or you may feel bloated, or have back-pain, joint-pain, hair-loss, irritability, or eye-problems (mostly cause due to pitta toxin). These are clear signs that you have some accumulation of toxins.

In Ayurveda, a person’s naadi or pulse is a good indicator of these toxins. It tells the practitioner exactly where the toxin is built up and which organ would be affected by it. It is also a great way to predict any future health problems you might suffer from.

Please give us some tips on healthy living in congruence with the ayurvedic way of life:
Three factors contribute to healthy living: diet, a healthy lifestyle, and state of mind.

Diet:

What we eat plays a major role in our state of health. That is why eating local, seasonal, freshly-cooked natural and organic food gains so important. Your body can easily digest such food, as it is lighter on the digestive system; This kind of food also contributes to your health, and does not go against your bodies constitution.

Lifestyle:

Nature has a rhythm. The day is for activity and night is for resting. The body-clock or bio-clock follows the sun, and knows when it should be active and when it should rest. Again in the day, the body acquires nourishment, is active and it uses the night to detox itself, especially for vital organs like liver and gall-bladder, which detox only at night. If the person is not in deep-sleep then, the detox does not happen.

Living according to the body-clock is very important. This aspect is so important that it forms a huge topic in Ayurvedic medical literature, known as ‘Dinacharya’.

Those, whose career disallows them from following their body-clock, can be helped with professional guidance so as to compensate for the alteration in their life-style. A simple professional consultation can guide them in this.

State of Mind:

Ayurveda believes in the mind-body connection, and that it has a huge role to play in living a healthy life.

When you are peaceful, you do not get angry or upset very often. But if your mind is not at rest, you tend to be more irritable and quick to get upset. When you get upset or angry, your body temperature increases, while it decreases when you are sad.

When this change in temperature happens throughout the day, the body is undergoing constant physical alterations. Therefore, it is important to know how to handle the mind since it has such an impact on the body.

Yoga and meditation can teach you how to handle the mind better. Yoga and meditation, help you gain control over your energy-level and on your mental and emotional levels, anger and stress levels drop and quality of life improves.

Source: Health Today

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