Ayurvedic Ghee Cleanse
Well, I’m at the end of my year of “cleanses” and just finished my last one a few days ago.
For those of you just tuning in, I had a goal of trying a different detox every other month for a year. I noticed that when I did a small cleanse it reset my mind and body and got me back on track. Traditionally, detoxes are done with the change of seasons – in the fall preparing for winter and in the spring preparing for summer – not every other month!
This time I decided to try something very different – an Ayurvedic cleanse. In previous cleanses, I was generally eating closely to a vegan, with various juicing and green smoothie combinations depending on the detox (you can check them out here, here, here, and here). The purpose was to get in vegetarian nutrients. An ayurvedic cleanse, on the other hand, focuses on cleaning out our intestinal track.
Ayurveda medicine (the oldest known form of medicine) is a fascinating, ancient science of life that focuses on the subtle energies of all things – living things as well as our thoughts, emotions and actions. Ayurveda believes that each person has a specific constitution or type, and that this constitution depends on the relationship we have with three fundamental energies, or doshas. These doshas (vata, pitta and kapha) guide our health and our relationship with the world around us.
In ayurvedic medicine, it is recommended to do a “ghee” cleanse in the fall and springtime. This cleanse helps draw out the toxins as well as sloughs off the old debris caught in your intestinal track. In a ghee cleanse, you drink a varying amount of ghee in the morning and eat three meals of kitcheri thereafter.
Ghee is clarified butter (butter is boiled down and the milk solids and scum are discarded) and is drunk in the morning, warmed, on an empty stomach. The ghee lubricates the intestinal walls and helps loosen old, remaining food fragments from the intestinal villi.
After the morning ghee, the remaining meals are all kitcheri, a mixture of rice, mung beans, and spices (cumin, coriander, fennel, turmeric). You make a big pot at the beginning of the day and use it for all three subsequent meals. You are NOT to eat between meals, in order to give your digestive system a break and allow your body to enter fat burning mode.
The high fiber content of the mung bean helps scrape the loosened waste from the intestines and frees the villi to do their job: absorb nutrients. When these villi get mucked up and plastered down, no matter how well you are eating, they are unable to retrieve the vitamins and minerals from the food. We have to keep our digestive track happy and healthy in order to get the most out of what we eat.
Thankfully, I had a wonderful ayurvedic practitioner to help me through the process. Where the heck do you find mung beans, anyway? Stephanie Mohr received her ayurveda training at the Kripalu Center (a place I have already told you I am dying to go to someday!) and hooked me up with everything I needed and more. All I needed to do was cook the kitcheri and I was set.
But, cooking the kitcheri was the easy part. To my surprise, this was the hardest cleanse I have done to date. Two things made it very difficult for me. First, I was accustomed to eating 4 or 5 small meals so the longer stretched between meals was difficult. Second, after the first day of eating only the strongly spiced rice and bean mush, I could hardly get it down. I didn’t expect to be challenged by this. I thought drinking clarified butter may be a little gross, but I blew through the ghee with ease. Eating ONE distinctive taste and consistency over and over, however, about made be loony. I think if it was a bland taste, it may have been easier for me, but who knows.
As I was eating my fifth bowl of kitcheri, or more choking it down, I realized how deep my relationship with food is. There was no pleasure in eating this food, and having the fun taken out of eating made me depressed. In previous cleanses, the diet is varied and new flavor combinations interest me (even if they turn out unappetizing). What it would be like to live in a county where food is scarce, mundane, and merely a source of fuel? How much more time would I have if a great portion of my day wasn’t spent on the food relationship: buying, washing, cutting, cooking, serving and eating food. Part of me thinks it would be sad and part of me thinks the extra time would be liberating!
But, alas, I love food. I love real food that comes from God and the ground. I love cooking and trying new flavors. I love exploring new ways to get nutrients in my family and me. I wouldn’t give up pealing, chopping and sautéing for a few extra minutes. The time I spend preparing food is almost like a prayer of gratitude for the amazing bounty of healing nutrients we have at our disposal. This ghee cleanse did make me feel great when it was over, but more importantly it made me appreciate the time I spend with beautiful food.