How To Do a Gentle At-Home Ayurvedic Cleanse
Updated: Mar 14
Ayurveda has so many practical and powerful tools for overall health, wellbeing, and preventative medicine. The Kitchari Cleanse is one of these tools that can be pulled out time and again, anytime you need to reset digestion, avoid illness or basically simplify things.
The transitional time between seasons is an especially powerful time to do this cleanse. Here we have the opportunity to acknowledge the important concept of balance and realign our circadian rhythms as the seasons shift, which is a time of greater vulnerability as our systems work to reestablish footing with a changing environment. With this gentle cleanse, we are given the chance to interrupt the patterns that are no longer serving us, clear out some ama (toxins), and reset our digestive fire.
WHY WE NEED TO DETOX
Break Unhealthy Patterns & Reset Digestive Fire
Our patterns around eating and mealtimes ~ when, what, and how we eat are a part of our everyday life. In our modern culture, we are often guilty of not giving this sacred ritual appropriate attention and feeding ourselves low-quality nourishment. Who has the time to cook?! So many other things to do! Right?!
But! This one ritual is hugely important. How well we eat, what we eat, and how well we digest all of it is paramount to our health. In fact, if we were all better eaters and digesters, we could greatly avoid all the various conditions we see so prevalent today. Also, we would be happier.
A happy gut = a happy mind, and vice versa.
For more on this, see my post on Moods & Digestive Health.
Eating well and digestive health truly can’t be sidelined or demoted to mindless decisions. We need a strong digestive fire, called agni, to transform our food and thoughts - yes thoughts - into energy and vitality to make Prana, our lifeforce. That’s a big deal!
When our agni is weak or inefficient it results in poor digestion, and this causes us to create ama (accumulation of toxins and waste products). Ama is a thick, sticky, soft, messy leftover substance - I imagine it like tar - that sits in the stomach, smothers your agni and blocks your physical and energetic channels. It builds up like gook in your 'pipes' causing resistance, therefore slowing down and disturbing all digestive processes.
There is a direct correlation between a decrease in agni and an increase in the formation of ama. This perpetuates the creation of more ama from future meals because now digestion is further impaired. It becomes a futile cycle of building toxins. Think of a clogged pipe in your sink, or a dryer vent full of lint - things become less efficient and less powerful and this perpetuates more build-up and creates further stagnation and several more problems.
The Kitchari Cleanse is such a supportive way to give your digestion a break so that it can dedicate its energy to clearing out the toxins, plus it gives this extremely important daily ritual the time and attention it truly deserves. It temporarily replaces our habitual foods with a complete, healing, and easily digestible mono-meal called...you guessed it ~ kitchari. Eaten only when hungry and in portions that make you comfortably content, it gives your digestive system time to rest and reset, all the while clearing out the ama with the additional support from digestive spices and teas.
See my previous post for the recipe.
Support Mental & Emotional Health
In any Ayurvedic therapy or practice, we are thoroughly acknowledging all parts of our being - body, mind, and spirit, so the kitchari cleanse will also support detoxing of the mind and emotions. Because we are hitting restart on our digestive fire ~ which is the seat of our power of transformation, we are also going to remove old mental patterns and dislodge old molecules of emotion. As we are minimizing the complexity of inputs through our food, we are also led to minimize excess mental stimulation to further complement our goal of detoxing our whole being.
To facilitate this mental and emotional clearing, the best time to do the cleanse is when you have the time and space for it. Maybe it’s over a quiet weekend, or some less busy time during the week - whatever works best for your schedule, but it most often requires ‘creating’ the time - asking for help with responsibilities, learning to say no to social activities, or rescheduling things to open up space for deep self-care.
As a very busy single mom, I do know how challenging this can be, but making this a part of our regular seasonal self-care is how we keep going and doing what we have to do. Take time now to care for yourself before you need to take more time later because you’re sick and depleted. Taking a wellness break is so much more revitalizing than a sick break.
Set aside these days during the cleanse with little to no obligations or added stress. You want to be in an environment that allows for deep reflection. This is meant to be 'your time' as you can only really detox and release when your body and mind are relaxed. When you’re stressed, you constrict and hold on.
Following is a step-by-step process of how to perform a Kitchari Cleanse. Each individual is unique and will therefore need their own particular set of guidelines, so this is just the basic foundational format describing each phase and showing you how the cleanse should flow.
GENERAL HOW-TO STEPS FOR THE KITCHARI CLEANSE
1. Preparing for the Cleanse ~ Remove the Junk
(between 1-3 weeks before Active Cleanse, the longer you prepare, the deeper the detox)
About 1-3 weeks ahead of the active cleanse, it is highly beneficial and produces a deeper cleansing effect when you remove or dramatically lessen the following:
all processed foods
genetically modified foods
heavy, hard-to-digest foods (i.e. meat, dairy, fried foods)
yeasted, fermented foods
salt (other than Himalayan Pink Salt)
stimulants (caffeine, nicotine)
alcohol, recreational drugs
artificial ingredients, refined sugars & oils
medications - if you can do so safely
Eating a vegetarian diet and focusing on eating only whole, fresh foods like seasonal fruits, vegetables, light soups and dahls cooked with spices, and freshly made whole grains like quinoa a few days prior to the cleanse sets the stage for a more potent cleanse.
Mindfully planning out your grocery list, meal plans, and schedule ahead of time for this phase and the next ensures you will be more successful.
Another item on the 'lessen' list ~ technology. We all know how addictive those darn little devices are, and how much they can overstimulate us distracting us from really being present with ourselves. Make an effort to cut back where you can now so that you have more opportunities to soothe your nervous system and connect with your higher consciousness during the Active Cleanse.
2. Active Cleanse ~ Time to Slow Down (approximately over 2 - 7 days)
During this period, you will be eating the mono-meal kitchari along with fresh vegetables and detoxifying fluids. Eat kitchari throughout the day, as desired, allowing at least 4-5 hours between meals and aiming to have a total of 3 or 4 small meals per day. Eat enough to feel satisfied but do not overeat. Your biggest portion should be at lunch, lightest at dinner.
Drink at least 8-12 cups of room temperature, warm or hot fluids each day to ensure adequate hydration and further the cleansing effect. Appropriate fluids include water and some sort of detox tea like Cumin, Coriander, and Fennel tea.
Supplementing your cleanse with Ayurvedic lifestyle practices like abhyanga, gentle yoga, detoxifying herbs, meditation, and journaling are all supportive ways to further enhance your detox.
This mono-meal diet can be followed between 2-7 days, but it greatly depends on your dosha, your imbalances, your current state of health, and your unique situation. Vatas should do fewer days, Kaphas need more. Pittas are typically somewhere in the middle. Getting specific guidance from an Ayurvedic practitioner like myself to ensure you are honoring your needs appropriately is a great way to embark on this cleanse
3. Reintroduce Foods & Maintain the Good Work Done (about 3 - 7 days)
After you complete the cleansing phase, your body will still be processing the toxins that were stirred into circulation, and your digestive system will have become accustomed to a very clean diet. Therefore, you will be somewhat sensitive to overly stimulating or processed foods. I recommend a slow transition back into your normal routine over the next few days.
Eat primarily simple, whole foods, diversifying your menu very gradually. The more committed you can be to maintaining a diet of simple, whole foods, the stronger your agni will be well after the cleanse. Maintaining a very simple diet through this phase of the cleanse buffers your system, strengthens your agni, and prepares your digestive system to successfully receive more complex foods after the cleanse is complete.
4. Rejuvenation Phase (the following 3 months)
Now that you've cleared away some ama and disrupted your unhealthy patterns, your digestive system is better primed and ready for deep nourishment. Keeping up these digestive health practices and sticking to a whole-foods diet as long as possible will greatly enhance your energy and immune health and help carry you to the next season with strength and vibrancy. You will have a new appreciation for food ~ it will taste sweeter and be more enjoyable. Here is where you can really reap the rewards of all your work.
By gently detoxing the mind, body, and spirit with a Kitchari Cleanse, we can start the season more centered and stronger with a bolstered immune system, a strengthened digestive fire, and a refined sense of mental hygiene. The more you make this seasonal cleansing a part of your life, the more opportunity you have to lighten your load of toxins, so naturally, the healthier you can be.
For more guidance on how you do a Kitchari Cleanse to honor your unique constitution and set of circumstances, schedule a consultation with me.