One Size “Detox” Doesn’t Fit All
There is a growing desire among aware and health-conscious people to "cleanse" themselves of toxins in order to become healthy. So, detox has become a trendy, household term. Ayurveda, unlike many other healing practices, has a very systematic, well-structured and clear-cut understanding of removing toxins from the body.
Technically speaking, Ayurveda talks about ama, the result of incomplete (poor) digestion, as the root cause of all illnesses. When agni (the digestive fire) goes out of balance, it leads to impaired digestion, and this in turn contributes to ama being produced. Ama is a sticky, greasy substance that, when accumulated, blocks the channels (srotas) of the body, thereby impairing communication within the body's various systems and creating imbalance in the doshas (three bodily constitutions). These obstructions can lead to the undernourishing of the dhatus (bodily tissues) and impair the flow of malas (excreta). A key focus of Ayurveda is the balance of agni and removal or cleansing of ama from our bodies.
Every individual is a unique entity in the very personalized system of healing, Ayurveda. Ayurvedic routine, diet, practices, and even cleanses are designed per the individual. The state of a person's ama, agni, imbalance(s), and constitution, and even the time of the year, are all factors given consideration when tailoring a detox regimen. This individualized approach is either not present, or often overlooked in other non-Ayurvedic cleanses -- which results in inefficacy and even undesired side effects of the therapies. Thus, the question, "Is this cleanse really for you?" should always be asked. In Ayurveda, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach, even if there is a similar constitution and imbalance.
The following points may come in handy when considering whether a cleanse is right for you.
Define the purpose: Although the common goal of all detox techniques is to purify the body, before we plan we should have a specific goal for doing it. For example, some people may want to lose weight, while others may have bowel problems they want to correct. Hence, it is very important to find out what purpose this cleanse is meant to serve. One benefit of defining a purpose is to make the whole process more systematic. It will give us the guidelines on when and how to proceed to the next step, and a plan in case something doesn't work out. Planning will also help us keep a positive attitude -- we should always keep our spirits high during a cleanse, as this has a great impact on the results. Having a road map of how to proceed and what to expect goes a long way in taking the fear and guesswork out of a cleanse.
Are you eligible for it; is the cleanse suitable to you? In the Ayurvedic system, you have to find out your eligibility or the suitability of the program, before you choose it. Always keep in mind that we all are made differently, and that makes a difference. No one program suits everyone. So, no matter how effective the detox program is, it should suit you. Thoroughly research the program you opted for and its possible side effects. A little bit of creativity and care may be needed to modify the program to make it more suitable to you. Experts' opinions, other people's experiences, reviews and detailed information on the program make it easy to decide if it's right for you, or not. If it is a systematic cleanse program, like Ayurvedic Panchakarma, the eligibility criteria should be considered before deciding to start the program. Contact a respected, experienced Ayurvedic physician; or in the US, an appointment at The Raj Ayurvedic Health Spa is a great start.
Self-reference: At every stage of a cleanse, we should rely on our own experience. It's very important to move forward, slow down, or stop the cleanse based on our experience. In general, no program should make us seriously uncomfortable or put us in a situation where we are debilitated. Self-referral at each and every step determines the success of the detox.
Hydration and digestion: Many detox programs include certain drinks and/or fasting as a regimen. While doing so, care should be taken so that we do not become dehydrated, or depleted of electrolytes due to excessive fluid use or loss. When a detox program involves a lot of water, chances are good that we may lose electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, etc. In Ayurveda, we associate this with the imbalance of Rasa dhatu. Another area we want to have our attention on during detox is diet. In general, during a cleansing program, our digestive system (agni) usually slows down and functions with less efficiency. It's ideal if we don't eat any heavy food items like fats, red meat, or heavy proteins. Favor simple, well-cooked, easy-to-digest foods in smaller portions. Ayurvedic cleanses favor simpler foods, such as Kitchari, which is easy to digest. See our recipe for a 10-minute Ayurvedic Lunch: Thermos Kitchari.
Moderation brings balance: Ayurveda does not encourage extremes. Intense, beyond-capacity therapies or activities in life are not favored. It is said that over-use (ati yoga), under-use (hina yoga), no-use (a yoga) or wrong-use (mithya yoga) of mind, body, senses, herbs and treatments create imbalance, and their proper use (sama yoga) brings balance. This is a golden, universal rule of Ayurveda which equally applies to detox programs.
Spring is the perfect time to detox, according to Maharishi Ayurveda. If you don't know much about Ayurveda or your body type, consider taking our Dosha Quiz and learn more about your unique doshic constitution.
Home Detox - Maharishi Ayurveda Herbal Detox
Maharishi Ayurveda has four different kinds of herbal formulas to help you receive the benefits of a cleanse without big demands on your time or lifestyle. These herbal formulas are conveniently available in compressed tablets: Organic Genitrac, Elim-Tox, Elim-Tox-O and Herbal Cleanse (also Organic Digest & Detox Tea) and are formulated to eliminate ama from the body. Abhyanga oils (Moisturizing, Soothing, and Stimulating), Men's and Women's specific Youthful Skin beauty line massage oils and Garshana Gloves are all available to complement your ayurvedic detox.
Wishing you all a very pleasant and fruitful spring detox.
Dr. Dinesh Gyawali is a Vaidya and Ayurvedic Physician with extensive knowledge of herbology. He studied Ayurvedic medicine and surgery at the Institute of Medicine at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, Nepal, and worked at various private and government clinics in Nepal. He has a Master's Degree in Medical Anthropology from Tribhuvan University, and a post-graduate diploma in Social Health and Counseling from Macquarie University, Australia. He is working on his PhD in Physiology and Health from Maharishi University of Management (MUM). Dr. Gyawali currently resides in Fairfield, Iowa and offers Ayurvedic consultations at the Integrative Health Clinic at MUM.