Cleanse? Detox? What?

I recently completed a 30 Clean Eating/Body Cleanse Program, and the idea of “cleansing” and “detox”is very much at the forefront of my awareness. Some people consider occasional detoxing essential for our bodies, others maintain that our bodies have built-in filter systems -the liver and kidney- so there is no need to do a detox or cleanse. So with this conflicting info, what is the message we are to take away?

I like the Ayurvedic concept of ama. Ama is roughly translated as toxins, but it is really a much broader term than that. Ama in the body is the build-up of undigested foodstuffs. This can happen when an individual’s digestive fire is weakened, or perhaps there is disruption in the functioning of the intestines and other digestive organs, or perhaps there is an underlying disease. Essentially it’s like a freeway: on a healthy freeway the cars are moving at optimal speed. But when something happens, like an accident or construction, the cars slow down and perhaps even stop. More cars get on the highway, then the jam becomes bigger.

The same thing happens in our gut. When digestion is moving optimally, we digest our food with no issue and absorb all necessary nutrients, eliminating what we don’t need. But when something goes wrong – weakened digestive fire, an illness, eating the wrong foods – then things get, well, backed-up and we have a traffic jam of foodstuffs in our gut. Sometimes things move through, but they leave a residue. To continue with the traffic example, it’s like the oil residue on the pavement left behind from leaking cars. Ayurveda proposes that, though our bodies are great at flushing out what we don’t need, it sometimes needs some help eliminating accumulated ama.

So, it’s probably obvious that a person eating junk food may have a build up of ama in their body. But a person who eats healthy (think vegan, whole food diets) can also have a build up of ama if their digestion isn’t functioning optimally. A gentle cleanse can help alleviate that build up.

The key here is gentle. A simple diet of kitchari, whole (think directly from the plant) foods, introducing complementary spices can help. Eliminating foods that are known to be irritants to the human digestive system, or common allergens is also a good practice. If you are considering doing a regimented program, seek the advice of a professional (modern or traditional) who can guide you to, and through, the best program for you. If you’re looking for something Ayurvedic-inspired, consider a Panchakarma retreat or the program that I cently completed. And, of course, you can contact me here to schedule your appointments.

For information on the program that I completed, click here.

Here’s to your best health!

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