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Ayurvedic cleansing explained: Is it for you?

Ever wondered why you always feel so tired and wrung-out? Everyone’s heard of toxins, but what if there’s more to it than just a boxed detox solution?

Woman drinking tea for cleanse

Try this centuries-old ayurvedic method to return you to a healthier, more balanced state of body and mind!

What is ayurveda?

A holistic method to strengthen your health, ayurveda has been around 5,000 years in India, and is gaining popularity in the West. Panchakarma, a Sanskrit word meaning “five actions” is the ayurvedic approach to cleansing your body. It is intended to eliminate ama, or toxins, and undigested food that block normal body functioning.

When to do it

Particularly when the seasons change, ayurvedic educators say it’s important to take stock of not only the foods you eat, but the amount of time you spend using electronic devices or watching TV.

First, identify your body type, called a dosha, to help define your diet during a cleanse. There are three main doshas: pitta, vata and kapha, related to fire, air, and earth, respectively. Your body type depends on your preferences for sweet or salty foods, your energy levels, sleeping patterns and other behaviors.

What it does

In a full panchakarma, toxins are eliminated from both the digestive tract and the respiratory system. Medical oils are given as a nasal spray, and the treatment also includes massage and enemas to cleanse the body. However, each person’s treatment should be designed according to their individual strengths and challenges, says Dr. Claudia Welch, doctor of Oriental medicine, ayurveda practitioner, and author of the book Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life. “There is no one diet routinely prescribed for all people. Cleanses are at least initially depleting to the body and should be undergone with care and caution.”

Three-phase cleansing with ayurveda


Purva karma: The preparation stage

Several weeks before the cleanse, eliminate coffee and/or tea, sweets and dairy products from your diet.

A week before the cleanse, cut your diet down to mostly whole grains and vegetables.

Make time in your day for meditation, private time and walks. Practice deep breathing to help clean your body of negative emotion.


Panchakarma: The cleansing stage

This phase incorporates three practices: cleansing, enemas and laxatives. You can buy enemas and laxatives at your local pharmacy or you can go for a colonic. Take the laxative at night; enemas can be done in the morning or at night.

Follow the food guidelines for your dosha, or body type. Eat fresh, whole, organic foods if they are available. Make sure food is cooked and eaten at room temperature. A sample dish might be basmati rice and spiced mung beans. Drink lots of warm water throughout the day, even with meals.

Eliminate foods that contain preservatives, additives or lab-produced chemicals. Junk food, heavy desserts, cheeses, meats, deep-fried foods and carbonated drinks are also out. Do not eat raw food since it is harder on the digestive system. Avoid iced water and cold beverages.

Do this cleanse for up to 10 days, but remember to take some vitamins and mineral supplements. Continue meditation and deep breathing throughout your day.


Rasayana: The rejuvenation phase

The final step in the ayurvedic cleanse is rejuvenation, which lasts about a week. This is where you end the cleanse and return to the diet that you followed during the preparation phase. Focus on eating whole grains and vegetables, and drink plenty of water.

It is also important to continue meditation throughout this phase.

Your body has now been cleansed, and it is during this period that your mind will start to be healed, too. It may be a very emotional time, too, so consider taking time off work or schedule this part over a long weekend.

The results

Woman doing yoga

Once you have completed your cleanse, your digestion will improve, and experts say that you may also become more aware of what’s been keeping you stuck in unproductive habits. Homeopathic doctor and nutritionist Sunita Mohan recommends the following to continue optimal health:

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Exercise; take a walk whenever you can.
  • Enjoy breakfast every day.
  • Eat six small meals per day and opt for a vegetarian diet.
  • Drink more herbal teas than coffee.
  • Meditate or practice yoga to reduce stress.
  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables at all meals and as snacks.
  • Spend less time watching TV and playing computer games.

More healthy tips

4 Weekend detox diets that work
The 21-day diet for your mind
Why Americans are malnourished

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